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Yamaha Plans To Expand Soundbars, Headphones, Tabletop Audio

Purchase, N.Y. –
Yamaha will expand its selection of active soundbars, headphones and
iPod/iPhone-docking tabletop audio systems at January’s International CES,
Yamaha Electronics president Tom Sumner told TWICE.

In headphones, the
company launched its first model about 1.5 years ago and has since expanded the
selection to five models, including four ear buds priced from $29 to $149 and a
$149 pair of over-ear headphones, which come with multiple tip options to
ensure a tight fit that is as effective in blocking noise as earbuds with
active noise cancellation, he said.

In headphones,
Yamaha will focus on delivering “high quality” rather than delivering
endorsements from major artists, he added.

The headphone
business overall “is great,” Sumner said, noting that headphone sales growth
has attracted new headphone vendors to the market.

Sumner spoke with
TWICE here at a one-on-one meeting in which he also said Yamaha will go to CES with
an expanded selection of high-end active Digital Sound Projector soundbars,
which currently consists of three models priced from a suggested $999 to $2,199.
They deliver a “true” 7.1-channel sound field by creating focused beams of
direct and wall-reflected sound waves, he said.

The company also
plans next year to expand its selection of lower priced active soundbars, and
it might show new models at CES, Sumner said. That line, currently consisting
of two models at a suggested $299 and $599, uses proprietary Air Surround
Xtreme technology, which uses phase changes and equalization to create virtual
7.1-channel surround, he said.

Even though the retail-level
component-audio sales (electronics and speakers) have been flat in dollars and
up slightly in units so far this year, Sumner said, soundbar sales have risen
50 percent in dollars so far this year following a triple-digit percentage gain
in 2010. He attributed the gains in large part to the sale of flat-panel TVs
whose sound quality has thinned as such as their profiles.

In part for the
same reason, A/V receiver dollar and unit sales are also up this year at the
retail level, though at a low single-digit percentage rate, he said. A desire
to update existing A/V receivers with HDMI, networking and other connectivity
options, however, is also driving A/V receiver sales, he said.

iPod/iPhone-docking tabletop music systems, Yamaha will further expand its
already wide selection with “a couple of new looks,” Sumner said. The company
already offers six docking mini systems with separate stereo speakers at a
suggested $279 to $1,499 and seven single-chassis “desktop” docking speaker
systems, some with CD, at a suggested $149 to $449. But “there’s plenty of room
to innovate,” Sumner said.

 A case in point is a new docking speaker shipping
next month, he said. The two-way mono PDX-11, the company’s first AC/DC docking
speaker, is ruggedized and water-resistant for outdoor use and looks almost
like a hand-held spotlight. The $99-suggested device will be available to current
Yamaha current dealers but will be opened up to types of retailers not
currently in the company’s dealer base, Sumner said. The new types could
include dealers such as Target and department-store web sites, he said.

For 2012, Sumner
declined to say whether Yamaha would add Apple’s AirPlay music-streaming
technology to its home audio products. He did say, however, that the company
wanted to integrate AirPlay this year but was held back by the challenge of
integrating an AirPlay-equipped BridgeCo-developed networking chip into its
products. BridgeCo is the only chip maker authorized by Apple to offer AirPlay
in networking chips, and integrating the chip into products in a way that
provides stable performance without dropouts is challenging, he said.

Though expanding
its docking-speaker line, the company has no plans in 2012 to offer a dedicated
tabletop Bluetooth speaker, which would stream music in stereo from handheld
devices equipped with stereo Bluetooth. 
The company offered one a few years ago and dropped it, he noted.