Sharp Audio Expands Thin Soundbars

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Las Vegas - Sharp is expanding its selection of 1-inch-tall adjustable-width soundbars and launching its first microsystems with Apple AirPlay, Wi-Fi Direct to stream music from DLNA-equipped mobile devices, and iPad-compatible USB ports.

In all, the company is launching three new 1-inch-tall soundbars and five microsystems. All of the microsystems feature iPad-compatible USB port, and two offer AirPlay. The two AirPlay models also feature DLNA certification and Wi-Fi Direct to stream music wirelessly from non-Apple smartphones and tablets at a longer range than stereo Bluetooth.

The company is carrying over its iPod/iPhone-docking mini systems, a current 1-inch soundbar, and the current HT-SB600 3.1-channel soundbar, which at an everyday $299 features Dolby Digital/DTS 5.1-channel decoders, Dolby Virtual Speaker to deliver virtual surround sound, three HDMI 1.4a inputs, HDMI 1.4a output with audio return channel, wired subwoofer, and AM/FM.

All of the company's new 1-inch soundbars, like the carryover $299-everyday HT-SL70, come with replaceable inserts that expand or reduce soundbar width to match different-size TVs. The inserts can also be removed to turn the horizontal soundbar into two separate left-right vertical speakers sitting atop their own stands, said senior marketing manager Bob Pleyer.

The soundbars were designed to be compact in height so they don't block a TV's IR receiver or the IR blaster that a 3S TV uses to controls active-shutter 3D glasses, Pleyer said.

The carryover HT-SL70 comes with two inserts, one to size the soundbar for 46-inch TVs, and the other to size the bar for 52-inch TVs. It features wired subwoofer, automatic signal-sensing turn-on, HDMI 1.4a input, HDMI 1.4a output with audio return channel, and analog mini input. A TV's remote would be used to control soundbar volume via the TV's variable audio output. The TV could be used for all video switching, though a cable box or Blu-ray player could also be connected to the soundbar to pass through video to the connected TV. It's rated at 2x50 watts plus 1x100 watts and doesn't incorporate virtual surround processing.

The new HT-SL75, targeted to retail for an everyday $299, offers the same features but comes with inserts for 60- and 70-inch TVs. It's shipping.

The new HT-SL77 soundbar comes with four inserts to size the bar for 46-, 52-, 60-, and 70-inch TVs. It also adds wireless subwoofer but otherwise offers the same power and connectivity as the SL75. It's targeted to retail for an everyday $349 when it ships, likely in February.

Another 1-inch soundbar, the HT-SL72, also comes with wireless subwoofer but is packaged with inserts only for 60- and 70-inch TVs. It lacks HDMI input and output and connects to a TV via analog mini input and RCA adapter. It's also rated at 2x50 watts plus 1x100.

None of the 1-inch-tall soundbars features built-in Dolby Digital/DTS decoding dock or 30-pin iPod/iPhone dock.

Thirty-pin iPod/iPhone docks, however, are standard in five new microsystems, which are also Sharp's first audio products with Apple-certified iPad-compatible microUSB port on their back panel to stream an iPad's music and quickly charge an iPad via 5-volt, 2.1-ampere charging circuit. The microsystems also come with a separate stand to hold an iPad in landscape or portrait mode. All feature iPod/iPhone dock on top.

Two of the new microsystems are the company's first one-piece vertical-oriented models. They feature AM/FM, vertical CD mechanism that hides a spinning CD behind motorized metallic sliding doors, MP3/WMA decoders, and 2x25-watt amp. The vertical systems are the DK-KP80P at an everyday $149 and the DK-KP95P, which adds AirPlay and, via DLNA certification and Wi-Fi Direct, ability to push music from a DLNA-certified smartphones and tablets other than Apple models. It's targeted to homes lacking Wi-Fi, including second homes and motor homes. It ships in the spring at a price to be announced.

Three other microsystems with iPad-compatible USB port are three-piece executive-style systems, all with single-CD mechanism, AM/FM, MP3/WMA playback, iPod/iPhone dock on top, 2x50-watt amp, two-way speakers with dome tweeter, subwoofer preout, and composite-video output.

The three-piece systems start with the XL-HF201P, targeted to retail for an everyday $199 and targeted to ship in February.

The step-up XL-HF301P at a targeted $249 adds improved drivers and is targeted to ship in March. The XL-HF401P adds AirPlay, DLNA, and Wi-Fi Direct and ships in the spring.


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