Soundfreaq Steps Up Docking Speaker Line


Los Angeles - Startup Soundfreaq is expanding its selection of tabletop docking speaker systems to four with the launch of its highest end product to date at a suggested $399, and it plans more line expansion in the coming months.

The line expansion will include the company's first AirPlay-equipped speaker system in the first half of next year.

All Soundfreaq systems are positioned as universal systems because they connect to almost any portable music source. All feature iPod/iPhone docking, 3.5mm aux in, and stereo Bluetooth streaming from smartphones, PCs and Macs. All but the lowest-priced model also feature a USB charging port to charge non-iPhone smartphones equipped with stereo Bluetooth.

In addition, all but the lowest-price model feature iPad docking and charging via a front-mounted pin connector.

The company also positions its systems as offering better sound quality and more features than systems priced the same or more because of low overhead and internal efficiency compared to larger competitors, said co-founder Matthew Paprocki.

As a result, the company's new $399 system sounds far better than a well-known $600 system and offers more features, he claimed.

The new $399 Sound Stack SFQ-03 joins the $179-suggested Sound Platform SFQ-01, launched late last year; the $139-suggested Sound Step SFQ-02, launched in the spring; and the $159-suggested Sound Step Recharge SFQ-02RB, an AC/DC version of the SFQ-02 that also launched in the spring.

All feature FM tuners.

The $399 Sound Stack steps up output and performance and adds an optical line input. The biamplified system features 80-watt output, two 3-inch full-range speakers, two ported 3-inch active subwoofers in push-pull configuration, and DSP to widen the sound stage.

Like the other models, the Sound Stack features Bluetooth's AVRC profile, enabling remote control of basic system features from a hand-held Apple, Android or BlackBerry device. The basic features are play, pause and skip. With a Soundfreaq app for Apple and Android devices, an Apple or Android device will use Bluetooth AVRC to turn on/off the Sound Stack, control the Sound Stack's volume level, access the systems' internal FM radio, and turn on/off the UQ3 spatial-enhancement processing.

Because Soundfreaq products are universal, Paprocki said, retailers and consumer benefit. Retailers benefit by having fewer SKUs, and consumers benefit because "we leave the consumers only with the question of where they want to use it and how much output they want."

Universal products are ideal for families whose members use a mix of Android, Apple and BlackBerry smartphones, said marketing director Amanda Coplan. And it lets users buy a docking speaker without precluding a switch to a different smartphone OS in the future, said Paprocki.

Even some Apple users prefer to use the systems' stereo Bluetooth function because they want to keep their iPhonein hand while around the house, he added.

Some companies offer Bluetooth-only speakers, and at least one competitor offers a system with Bluetooth and iPod/iPhone dock but no iPad docking, Paprocki said. Another company offers a Bluetooth speaker with no USB charging port. And one competitor is offering Bluetooth and USB charging in models targeted to Android owners, who can use an Android app to automatically pair the phone with the speaker when docked.

The price/performance ratio is another differentiating feature at Soundfreaq, thanks to the company's small size, Paprocki claimed.

"Our internal pricing model is very aggressive," yet the company's docks carry margins of around 40 points, in line with other docking speakers, he noted.

The small size of the company, which employs a couple dozen people, also enables Soundfreaq to reduce time to market, he said.

In launching the $399 model, Soundfreaq acknowledged that many suppliers have abandoned the $129 to $300 midtier price range because of low demand, but Soundfreaq is bringing out products in this range because, as a smaller company, "we can support smaller quantities and give the market time to move toward us," Paprocki said.

The company's retailers include Target, Crutchfield, BJs and smaller retailers.

In the first half of next year, the company will add AirPlay for the first time to a docking speaker, delivering multiroom distribution of PC-stored music to multiple docking speakers simultaneously throughout the house.

"With enhancements to AirPlay that include allowing us to offer our customers network setup through an app, we're excited about offering Soundfreaq products with AirPlay in the first half of 2012," Paprocki said.


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