Wireless Home Audio Is Growing Up

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NEW YORK — Demand for wireless-audio is growing, and so is the size of new wireless speaker systems.

By and large, wireless speakers have been tabletop models, but now dealers have more floorstanding models from which to choose. Bang & Olufsen, for example, launched a floorstanding Apple AirPlay speaker under the B&O Play sub-brand. For its part, Parrot launched a floorstanding Bluetooth/Wi-Fi speaker, whose single tower is packed with stereo drivers, and startup Nyne has shipped its own single-tower speaker with Bluetooth. Other companies continue to pursue the more traditional tabletop route, with direct-to-consumer marketer Aperion Audio shipping what it calls the industry’s first networked speaker compatible with the Play To feature of Windows 8 PCs. For its part, Nyne has begun shipping the first two portable AC/DC speakers in its Bluetooth series. And Denon plans late-October shipments of its $649-suggested CEOL Piccolo Network Music System, a three-piece desktop system with built-in Wi-Fi and AirPlay.

Here’s what the companies have announced:

Aperion Audio: The company has begun shipping what it calls the industry’s first networked speaker compatible with the Play To feature of Windows 8 PCs.

The single-chassis 100-watt $499 Aris is also Windows 7 compatible and DLNA certified.

The speaker is currently available with included wireless card for Windows and Windows Media Player compatibility, but the company plans in the first quarter to offer an AirPlay card.

Bang & Olufsen: The sixth product in the company’s B&O Play series of lower-priced A/V products is a floorstanding, 480- watt docking speaker with Apple AirPlay, DLNA networking and built-in Wi-Fi at a suggested $2,699.

The disc-shaped three-way BeoPlay A9 speaker system stands several feet tall on three wooden legs but can also be wall-mounted with an optional bracket. It streams music wirelessly from Apple and Android mobile devices and PCs, but it also connects to Apple’s devices via Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad USB port to charge them and stream their music content.

The new 32-pound A9 will be available in late November in B&O-branded stores, the B&O Play online store, select Apple stores, and Apple’s online store.

The A9 features a choice of solid-wood screw-in legs in oak, beech or teak. The stretchable fabric that covers the front of the 27.5-inch-diameter disc is available in silver, white, black, red, green and brown. The beech legs and white fabric cover are standard.

The Play series is designed to familiarize a broader consumer base with the B&O brand and eventually entice Play buyers into buying higher ticket B&O products.

Denon: The company plans late-October shipments of the $649-suggested CEOL Piccolo Network Music System. The 2x65-watt system feature two separate speakers and a center unit with AM/FM tuner, CD player and 30-pin iPod/iPhone dock connector. The system also features built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay and DLNA certification, which enables music streaming from networked PCs and networkattached storage (NAS) drives, streaming of Internet radio stations, and streaming of the Spotify, Pandora and SiriusXM services. It also features 30-pin iPod/iPhone dock.

Nyne: The start-up announced retail availability of the first two models in its Bluetooth speaker series. Both are AC/DC portable models. The NB-200 and NB-230 are available at Huppin’s retail stores and OneCall.com at a suggested $129 for the NB-200 and $149 for the NB-230.

The floorstanding speaker is the $999-suggested 32.7-inch-tall NH-6500, which features AM/FM tuner, CD player, iPod/iPad dock on top, stereo Bluetooth, USB port and SD card slot. The 2.1 system shipped in limited quantities, but larger quantities are planned for November.

Parrot: The company’s second-generation wireless floorstanding speaker, due in stores in December, is the $999-suggested Zikmu Solo. Its single speaker tower incorporates stereo drivers and DSP to deliver a wide stereo sound stage from Bluetooth-connected devices and from Wi-Fi-connected Android devices, PCs and NAS drives. The 100-watt tower also incorporates top-mount Made for iPod/iPhone 30-pin connector, RCA and optical S/PDIF input, and Ethernet port.

The speaker’s basic functions are controlled from an RF remote. An Apple app and a planned Android app deliver a higher level of remote control that includes source selection and adjusting imaging and response according to room size.

The Zikmu Solo will replace the two-tower $1,599-suggested Zikmu, which launched three years ago.

Besides delivering stereo from a single tower, the Zikmu Solo differs from its two-tower predecessor in other ways, including the addition of Bluetooth AAC streaming in addition to SBC streaming to improve wireless sound quality. The new model also adds nearfield communications (NFC) for tap-and-go Bluetooth pairing, Wi-Fi 802.11n to join the predecessor’s 802.11 a/b/g, and DLNA certification to join universal plug-andplay PC networking to enable networking with NAS drives.


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