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Suppliers Move To AirPlay, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

NEW YORK – The audio industry is expanding its selection of wireless alternatives to docking-speaker systems and docking A/V receivers (AVRs) by turning to Apple’s AirPlay for iOS devices and to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for Android devices.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are the options of choice for Android users whose devices lack the standardized pin outputs that would ensure music playback when an Android device is docked with a speaker system or AVR. A combination of Air- Play and Wi-Fi is the choice for iOS users who want to play back music but keep their iOS device in hand to take calls or simultaneously use other iOS applications.

One of the most significant introductions is coming from DTS subsidiary Phorus, whose wireless multi- zoneaudio system enables an Android tablet o r smartphone to stream music to up to four sound systems or tabletop speaker systems over Wi-Fi from the device’s music library or from the device’s Pandora Internet music app. The Phorus system also supports simultaneous music streaming from up to four Android devices to audio systems throughout the house.

Here’s what other suppliers are doing:

Acoustic Research: The Voxx Accessories brand has begun shipping a portable Bluetooth speaker whose appearance can be customized with a custom cover from SkinIt.

AR’s $129-suggested MVP portable wireless speaker features stereo Bluetooth, 3.5mm aux input, carrying handle and rugged exterior for indoor and outdoor use.

Bowers & Wilkins: The company will expand its selection of AirPlay-equipped tabletop speakers with the October availability of the $799-suggested A7 and $499 A5.

The pair will join the $599 Zeppelin Air, which features AirPlay but adds a 30-pin iPod/iPhone dock. All three have built-in Wi-Fi to stream music from Apple’s mobile devices and from iTunes-equipped computers.

The top-end triamplified 150-watt A7 features such audiophile- grade electronics as DACs that up-scale audio to 24bits/96kHz. The A7 also features dedicated 6-inch bass driver, Class D digital amp, two 1-inch Nautilus tube aluminum tweeters, two 3-inch midranges, embedded 6-inch subwoofer, and 40Hz to 36kHz ±3dB frequency response on reference axis. The A7 also has an Ethernet port, aux analog input and optical digital input.

The $499 A5 is a two-way biampified system rated at 80 watts with frequency response of 47Hz to 22kHz ±3dB on reference axis.

DBest: The Calabassas, Calif., company has begun selling its third Bluetooth speaker, the shape-shifting $249-suggested Transformative.

In the spring, the London-based company launched its first two Bluetooth speakers in the U.S. All three speakers are portable rechargeable models, and they are marketed exclusively in the U.S. by Smart IT USA.

The new model is called Transformative because its twists into different shapes, including circles and squiggles, via two flexible sections that rotate up to 180 degrees.

Onkyo: October shipments are planned for the $199-suggested DS-A5 iPod/iPhone/iPad docking station, which also adds Wi-Fi and AirPlay capability to Onkyo AVRs, to other-brand AVRs and to other audio products.

The DS-A5’s 30-pin connector captures audio via the digital PCM outputs of docked Apple devices excluding the new iPhone 5 and new Nano and iPod Touch. The new devices feature Apple’s new Lightning connector.

The station can be connected via Onkyo-proprietary RI port to Onkyo AVRs and stereo receivers going back many years, enabling users to power up the AVRs by selecting content on their iOS device and tapping the AirPlay icon. RI also lets users control playback of docked Apple devices from an Onkyo AVR’s remote.

The DS-A5 can be connected to non-Onkyo audio products but won’t be able to take advantage of RI features.

Other features include Ethernet port and composite-video output for viewing photos and videos on a connected TV.