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Tabletop Audio Gets CEDIA Expo Hearing

DENVER — A/V specialty retailers looking for something to sell over the counter rather than through their custom install division will find a variety of new, high-performance tabletop audio systems from Polk, Pioneer and Meridian.

They’ll also find a larger one-box home entertainment system from SE2 Labs, which said its solution is suitable for installed home theaters as well as over-the-counter sales.

For the table, desk or shelf,
Pioneer is unveiling its $1,799 X-Z9 networked shelf system, which is DLNA- and Playsforsure-compliant, streams music from PCs and streams MP3 and WMA music from Internet radio stations without a networked PC being turned on. It also plays back music from USB drives, USB-connected MP3 players and iPods docked in an optional Pioneer-brand dock. That dock enables the Z9’s remote to control the iPod, whose menu and song selection appears on the Z9’s display. At press time, it wasn’t certain whether the Z9 could access interactive subscription-based streaming services.

The Z9 boasts 2×50-watt amp and three-way speakers, with coaxially mounted tweeter and midrange. It ships in October.

Also for a shelf or desk, Polk is launching its second one-piece I-Sonic entertainment system, the I-Sonic Entertainment System 2 (ES 2). At an everyday $499, the ES 2 incorporates multicast HD Radio, integrated iPod dock, clock-radio functions, four-speaker array to deliver a stereo soundfield to any location around the device and Power Port venting to deepen bass.

Unlike its $599 predecessor, which continues, it lacks CD/DVD player, Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, and XM-ready port, but it adds the iPod dock.

Other features of the new model include S- and composite-video outputs to display iPod videos on a connected TV.

Polk deleted the XM-ready input, said president Jim Herd, because the company doesn’t know the outcome of the proposed Sirius-XM merger and because many consumers are disappointed that a product labeled XM-ready doesn’t get the service out of the box.

For consumers with fatter wallets, Meridian is displaying its first one-piece audio system, the $3,000 F80 designed in conjunction with Ferrari and available in five Ferrari colors. It’s available.

The transportable F80 is a 2.1-channel one-piece home entertainment system packing a CD/DVD player, AM/FM tuner, 80 watts of amplification, two satellite speakers and an integrated rear subwoofer but no HD Radio or satellite-radio capability. It also features digital crossovers and other DSP circuitry to deliver “full, rich sound,” a wide stereo stage and ability to let users fine-tune output based on its location in a room.

All that is packed in an enclosure sitting on a die-cast metal base, with custom-made magnesium-and-aluminum-alloy drivers mounted in separate, inert enclosures.

In an entirely different category of one-box solutions, the SE2 Labs Integrated Home Theater Console (ITC One) contains a custom-assembled choice of components in its 21-inch by 18-inch by 20-inch chassis. The components can include digital surround processor, Bryston preamp/processor, IcePower class D amps, a video processor, AMX Netlinx control system, power conditioner, iPod dock, X-Box 360, X-Box 360 HD DVD player, Nintendo Wii, DirecTV tuner, high-definition Tivo, Dish Netwok DVR and national cable provider DVRs.

The suggested retail starts at $19,000 depending on configuration.

The Draper, Utah, company said the system will cut installation time for custom home-theater installs and double the margin, after factoring in labor costs. Installers can custom order the devices for delivery in two to three weeks, and retailers can stock models in inventory.