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Wireless Speaker Systems Target Mass, Luxury Markets

NEW YORK – New tabletop wireless speaker systems that stream music wirelessly from mobile devices appeal to the mass market, the luxury market and everywhere in between.

At least that’s what audio suppliers must think based on the latest round of product introductions from the likes of McIntosh Laboratory, Soundfreaq, AQ Audio and others with the launch of a $69 Bluetooth speaker from G-Grip and a $3,000 wireless AirPlay speaker system from luxury brand McIntosh.

Here’s what they’ve launched:

AQ Audio: The Manchester, U.K.-based audio supplier turned up in the U.S. with a portable wireless speaker that streams music via Wi-Fi from PCs and from Android and Apple devices.

Unlike most other AirPlay- and network-enabled speakers, the AQ Audio SmartSpeaker also streams music directly from mobile devices via Wi-Fi when outside a home’s Wi-Fi network.

The speaker is priced at $179 each, $349 for two, and $675 for four at and Amazon. It is the company’s first consumer product, which joins AQ Audio’s PA speakers.

Each AC/DC speaker, which measures 9.65 by 5.3 by 4.3 inches, can be set to run in mono or as part of a left-right stereo pair.

Over a home’s Wi-Fi network, the speakers incorporate Apple AirPlay to stream music stored on Apple’s mobile devices and on iTunes-equipped PCs. Outside a home network, consumers can use wireless AirPlay capability via the speakers’ AQ Direct mode. AQ Direct’s range is up to 50 meters.

The speakers also feature DLNA to stream music stored on an Android phone via a home’s Wi-Fi network, and with a free app due about now, Android phones will be able to use AQ Direct to transmit stored music via Wi-Fi outside a home network.

To stream music from a PC’s iTunes player over a home Wi-Fi network, the speakers use AirPlay. To stream music from a PC’s Windows Media Player, the speakers are compatible with the Play To feature of Windows 7 and 8 PCs.

Each speaker features two flat-panel drivers, 13-watt RMS output, 87 dB output, and frequency response of 90Hz to 20kHz, the customer service rep said. Their rechargeable batteries deliver up to 10 hours of playback time.

G-Project: The company, founded by Soundfreaq founder Matthew Paprocki, launched the $69 G-Grip portable Bluetooth speaker, a ruggedized model with 8-hour lithium- ion rechargeable battery and on-board play, pause, and skip controls.

It’s available at Target’s stores and online store and joins the water-resistant G-Go Bluetooth speaker.

McIntosh Laboratory: The brand, recently purchased by Fine Sounds from D+M Group, has begun shipping its first AirPlayequipped tabletop speaker, the $3,000 McAire.

The single-chassis stereo speaker system joins a growing selection of very-high-end single-chassis AirPlay speakers, including Bang & Olufsen’s recently unveiled $2,699 BeoPlay A9.

Called an integrated audio system by the company, McAire features McIntosh’s component-audio cosmetics with black-glass front panel with blue output meters. Its component-size chassis packs a three-way speaker system and embedded Wi-Fi 802.11b/g. The product doesn’t include tuner or CD player.

With embedded Wi-Fi and AirPlay, the speaker streams music wirelessly from Apple’s mobile devices and from a networked PC’s iTunes application over a home’s Wi-Fi network. The speaker also features Apple-certified USB port with 1-amp charging to charge, and stream music from, connected iPods and iPhones. The USB port also connects to USB mass-storage devices, including Android devices, to play back their music.

The system features two 4-inch woofers, two 2-inch inverted-dome midranges, and two 0.75- inch dome tweeters. Power output was not disclosed.

NuForce: The Milpitas, Calif., supplier of consumer and professional audio products is rolling out a pair of performance-oriented Bluetooth- equipped bookshelf speakers.

The two-way S3-BT speakers, shipping Oct. 31 at $299/pair, stream the high-quality AptX and AAC audio formats over Bluetooth 4.0 and connect wirelessly to NuForce’s Air DAC. The Air DAC plugs into a PC to stream music at a higher level of performance. The speakers also have analog inputs.

The speakers, available in black or white leatherette, incorporate 1-inch soft-dome tweeter, 3.5-inch composite paper cone woofer, 2×18-watt maximum output, Class D amplifier, 50Hz – 20kHz frequency response, and 5-volt 1-amp USB charging port to charge mobile devices. The speakers measure 7.1 inches by 4.6 inches by 7.5 inches.

Soundfreaq: The company, which specializes in Bluetooth speakers, teamed up with home décor designers Robert and Cortney Novogratz to launch The Novogratz Collection for Soundfreaq.

The special edition collection, available in limited quantities for the holidays, is targeted to style-conscious consumers and will be available for purchase at on Nov. 15. All three models also come with Apple 30- pin dock connector.

The Novogratz Collection includes the $450 Sound Stack, which will come with either a snake-skin or floral print. The $150 Sound Step compact speaker will be available in gold or in sky blue with wood base platform. The $125 Sound Rise bedroom alarm clock/ FM radio will come in a hand-drawn lace pattern from textile artist Charlotte Lloyd and in a color-blocking design.