Philips Bows Wireless Audio, iPod HTiB Dock - Twice

Philips Bows Wireless Audio, iPod HTiB Dock

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Audio marketers at Philips are coming to International CES with their second-generation wireless multiroom audio systems, their first iPod-docking home theater in a box (HTiB) and shelf systems, an expanded selection of HTiBs with 1,080i up-scaling HDMI output, and their first HTiB with 1,080p up-scaling output.

The iPod-docking models also charge Philips's GoGear MP3 players.

Also new is an expanded selection of virtual surround sound systems, including the company's first system to pack all speakers, DVD player and AM/FM tuner into a bar that mounts to the wall under a flat-panel TV. All system amplification is in a subwoofer enclosure.

And the company is showing its first video-playing MP3 players, complementing a portable media player shipped in December.

In wireless multiroom audio, two new wireless multiroom music systems and a stand-alone HDD wireless music server are on tap. The company's 2006 line included one wireless multiroom music system and one wireless stand-alone server.

The current wireless shelf system is the one-piece WACS700 AM/FM/CD microsystem with 40GB HDD, MP3 ripper/encoder, integrated flat-panel speakers, five-zone capability, and bundled amplified/speaker client. Its successor is the WACS7000, which features a 80GB HDD and allows for wireless transfers, not just wired-Ethernet transfers, of music files from a universal plug-and-play-equipped PC. The WACS7000 also adds increased screen resolution and direct playback and export of ripped music from and to a USB device. Connectivity to PC and home Wi-Fi networks has been simplified, allowing consumers to query CD information from the online Gracenote service. The WACS7000 is due in the first quarter at a suggested $999, while the WAS7000 amplified/speaker client has a suggested price of $299.

The 80GB WACS3500 is the company's first wireless music-serving shelf system in a more traditional three-piece configuration. The five-zone system features separate two-way box speakers and microsize main chassis to reach consumers with traditional shelf-system tastes and to reach a lower price point, the company said. Pricing wasn't disclosed, but the one-piece predecessor retailed for a suggested $999 with bundled amplifier/speaker client.

Compared to the WACS700, the 2x40-watt WACS3500 adds wireless Internet radio streaming and unprotected AAC playback, joining MP3 and unprotected WMA playback. Like last year's WAC700, the five-zone 3500 uses a wired Ethernet connection to transfer music from the PC for local storage, but the 3500 adds wireless downloading from the PC.

Another new feature for the WACS3500 is an optional charging/docking cradle, which accepts either iPods or Philips's GoGear-branded MP3 players, and a USB port to play back music from connected USB drives and from flash-memory and HDD-equipped MP3 players.

The WACS3500 is due in the second quarter, without client, at $399. It will work with separately sold universal plug-and-play clients: the $299-suggested WAS700 amplified/speaker client and the $199 WA5 client, which lacks speakers and amplifier and connects to any existing stereo system.

The next-generation stand-alone wireless server, replacing the 80GB WACS57, is the 80GB WAS5000, which is also a five-zone system but differs in its vertical flat chassis, larger screen and ability to transfer music — including protected WMA files — wirelessly from a universal plug-and-play PC. It doesn't include Internet radio functions. It will ship in the second quarter at a suggested $599 with bundled wireless client that incorporates amplifier but no speakers.

In new HTiBs, the company is increasing the selection with 1,080i up-scaling HDMI outputs to five from two. One is the company's first with 1,080p HDMI output. The company is also expanding its selection of virtual-surround HTiBs to three from one and launching its first three HTiBs with outboard iPod dock/recharger, whose pins can be swapped out to dock and charge Philip's GoGear MP3 players. They'll join two music systems launched last year with the iPod/GoGear dock.

In its line of virtual-surround Ambisound HTiBs, the company is expanding its selection to three from one, all with surround channels delivered through front speakers and all with 1,080i up-scaling HDMI output. One adds 1,080p HDMI output. The carryover model from 2006 is the HTS6500, re-priced down to a suggested $299 and featuring two satellite speakers and a subwoofer. It will be joined at CES by two wall-mountable models: the HTS8100 and HTS6600.

The HTS8100 is Philips's first bar-type virtual-surround system, which packs all speakers, DVD player and AM/FM tuner into a bar that mounts to the wall under a flat-panel TV. All system amplification is in the subwoofer enclosure. The system, at an expected everyday $999, is also the company's first HTiB with up-scaling 1,080p HDMI output.

The Ambisound HTS6600 system features a wall-mountable center chassis that can also be tabletop-mounted. It packs all drivers into two narrow, two-foot-tall speakers. Its HDMI output up-scales to 1,080i. The suggested retail is $599.

To deliver all five channels from an Ambisound system's front speakers, Philips said it doesn't rely on side-wall reflections, nor is any specific driver dedicated to reproduce a specific channel.

In its line of traditional 5.1-speaker HTiBs, Philips is launching its first three models with outboard iPod dock/re-charger whose pins can be swapped out to dock and charge GoGear players. All feature 1,080i up-scaling HDMI output and USB port for playing back music and viewing photos from USB drives or flash-memory MP3 players. They start at an expected everyday $249.

A new two-channel shelf system at an expected everyday $699 features a preamp section visible through a front window. It also features real-wood speakers.

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