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Wireless Multi-Room Audio Took Many Forms At CEDIA

INDIANAPOLIS –Wireless multi-room-audio technology took on multiple forms here at the CEDIA Expo, where wireless systems were displayed by SpeakerCraft, Proficient, Wasp Audio, Navvo, Monster Cable, and NuVo. 

SpeakerCraftandProficient, both part of Nortek’s Core Brands group, showed wireless transmitters that can simultaneously stream music from up to four connected sources, each source supplying audio to up to eight wireless receivers at a time. One receiver features built-in 2×35-watt amplifier, and another is a preamp-only model. Both receivers feature local inputs and stereo Bluetooth with the ability to receive AAC streams over Bluetooth. Ship dates will likely be early next year. 

SpeakerCraft will package a transmitter and an amplifier/receiver at $680. Additional amplifier/receivers will cost $430, and the preamp/receiver will be $280. 

Proficient’s product was delayed about a year to add stereo Bluetooth, the company said. 

For its part, startupWasp Audioshowed a single-source wireless transmitter that sends music wirelessly to up to three pairs of on-wall, in-wall and in-room speakers at a time. Up to three singlesource transmitters can operate simultaneously. Wasp plans three- and four-source transmitters in the second quarter of next year. 

Next month, Wasp plans to ship three wireless systems, each priced at $850. Each system includes a single-source wireless transmitter with both line-level and speaker-level inputs. One system, designed for on-wall speakers, consists of two wallmount brackets and two behind-the-wall wireless receiver/ amplifiers. Each receiver/amp gets low-voltage power via a DC wire that runs behind the wall to a DC connection plate installed close to the floor. On the front of the plate, a DC input connects to a wallwart DC power supply plugged into a nearby AC outlet. 

Another $850 Wasp package, designed for in-wall speakers, uses a similar configuration, and the system for floor standing and bookshelf speakers uses DC connection plates that also feature speaker terminals. 

All three companies point out that their transmitters can be connected to the zone outputs of networked A/V receivers to create a relatively sophisticated multiroom- audio system. Many such AVRs can be controlled via Wi-Fi from any room via tablets and smartphones equipped with the AVR supplier’s remotecontrol app, the suppliers explained. Consumers can then use the mobile devices from most any room in the house to turn on the AVR and direct the AVR’s music sources to different rooms. One of the AVR’s Internet radio services, for example, can be directed to one zone, music from a networked PC can be directed to another zone, and music from a USB-connected hard drive or iPod can be directed to another zone. Users can also set different volume levels in each zone. 

For its part,Navvoshowed working models of an under-TV speaker called V-Base and a soundbar called V-Bar, both incorporating the wireless-audio features of its tabletop $399-suggested V-Spot. The V-Spot, due to ship in October or November in limited quantities, streams music via Wi-Fi from a networked PC or Wi-Fi-equipped mobile device, streams multiple online music services and Internet radio stations, streams You- Tube, and plays back music from a USB-connected hard drive or iPod. Up to 10 separate music streams can be sent to 10 VSpots at a time. 

V-Base and V-Bar will ship in the first quarter, and the company plans to take orders at International CES. 

Monstercame to the show with plans for October shipments of its Streamcast HD wireless multi-room audio system, which uses PCs and other audio products as music sources. It also plans by year’s end to expand its Streamcast selection with three tabletop single-chassis speaker systems. 

Streamcast HD delivers up to four audio streams simultaneously to up to 12 zones, each zone capable of playing any one of the four streams. Range is up to 100 feet. The system consists of a $69 Streamcast USB-stick transmitter, a $99 receiver, and a $200 Bridge. 

The USB transmitter plugs into a PC that, when loaded with Monster Media Player software, lets users assign up to four playlists simultaneously from PC-stored music libraries. Internet radio services can also be streamed wirelessly. The system is controlled from the PC, from an Android app and from a planned Apple app. 

The $99 receiver plugs into the back of Monster’s already available $699/pair Clarity Model 1 powered bookshelf speaker pair. One speaker in the pair features a 30-pin iPod/iPhone dock and multiple analog and digital inputs. The receiver will also plug into three planned Katana single-chassis networked speaker systems that lack iPod/iPhone docks but feature built-in Wi-Fi. Pricing was unavailable. 

At $200, the Bridge features an analog and digital output to connect to legacy sound systems, enabling them to play back music streamed wirelessly from the PC. The Bridge, however, also has three analog inputs to connect music sources, turning them into wireless music sources for the Streamcast network. The Bridge’s built-in Bluetooth also turns Bluetooth-equipped mobile devices into sources that stream over the network. The Bridge’s Bluetooth transceiver streams AAC and the AptX music codecs over Bluetooth. 

Monster’s Streamcast HD receivers are compatible with Clearnet wireless technology, a four-zone singlesource wireless technology used in some laptops to stream wireless audio. 

At its booth,NuVoagain showed its NuVo Wireless Audio System, having previewed it last year and having said it would ship by the end of 2011. This time around, a spokesperson said, “it’s looking good” for shipments by the end of this year. 

At this show, NuVo added a rack-size three-zone Ethernet-equipped 6×20-watt amplifier/audio switcher, enabling installers to upgrade an existing homerun multi-room-audio system with the addition of networked sources. The hardwired component can also be integrated with the wireless receivers to create a system with a mix of wired and wireless zones. 

The amp/switcher distributes music from networked PCs and NAS drives, Internet music sources, connected USB hard drives and USB sticks, and three analog-input sources. It lacks embedded Wi-Fi but can be controlled from NuVo’s Wi-Fi remote and Apple and Android devices.