AirPlay, Bluetooth Gain In Tabletop Speakers

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AirPlay and stereo Bluetooth proliferated in powered tabletop speakers during International CES.

Suppliers ramped up their AirPlay introductions to leverage the installed base of mobile Apple devices and iTunesequipped computers. At the same time, more suppliers turned to stereo Bluetooth to connect with the growing installed base of Android smartphones.

TDK Life On Record cited Android’s rise as the reason for unveiling its first three Bluetooth speaker systems, which global brand manager Steven Swenson described as an “open audio solution” that also connects to Bluetooth-equipped Apple devices and to other Bluetooth- equipped devices, including MP3/video players.

At the show, at least five brands adopted AirPlay for the first time, while others expanded their selection. At least eight brands launched their first Bluetooth speakers, while others expanded their selection.

New AirPlay adopters include Acoustic Research, Pure Audio and Sharp, which included it in a CD microsystem. Other new adopters include House of Marley and Panasonic. Companies expanding their AirPlay speaker selections include Klipsch and iHome as well as Sony.

In the Bluetooth speaker segment, the following companies launched their first models: Coby, Energy, Eton, iLuv, and Spectra’s Jensen brand, as did House of Marley and TDK Life On Record. For their part, Soundfreaq and Philips Consumer Lifestyle showed their first Bluetooth-only speakers, which lack iPod dock. And Sony expanded its selection of Bluetooth-equipped iPod-docking speakers.

Other companies, including iHome and Digital Innovations, sought to leverage the growing installed base of Android phones not by incorporating stereo Bluetooth but by combining an aux input with a MicroUSB charging port.

Here’s what dealers found in new tabletop speakers:

Digital Innovations:

A tabletop dockingspeaker system designed for Android smartphones doesn’t use Bluetooth but delivers IR-remote control of phone-stored music.

The $99-suggested Speaker Dock For Android charges almost any Android phone via its MicroUSB port. Music streams to the speaker via the phone’s 3.5mm headphone output. The dock’s MicroUSB connector is connected to a cable that retracts into the dock’s chassis. A 3.5mm audio jack is connected to the end of another retractable cable to plug into the phone’s headphone output.

To control the docked Android phone via IR remote, users install a free app onto the phone, delivering control over the music player’s volume, skip up/ down, play, and pause. Music playback must first be started from the phone’s user interface.

The same functions can also be controlled from buttons on the dock’s chassis.

The dock’s cables are 8 inches long, enabling users to cradle a phone in portrait or landscape mode regardless of the location of the phone’s MicroUSB port and headphone output, the company said.

The area where the phone is cradled supports Android phones with protective cases and helps hide the cables.

The dock’s 2.1-speaker system delivers 2x3 watts to the left-right drivers and 10 watts to a subwoofer.


The company’s first two AirPlayequipped tabletop speakers, due in the spring, include the single-chassis bar-style SC-AP01, which lacks IR remote but is controlled from an Apple handheld device via a remote-control app from Apple.

The second system is a flat, one-piece vertically oriented CD system with FM tuner and front iPod/ iPhone dock. A motorized sliding door hides the docked Apple device and the CD mechanism. Prices weren’t announced.

Philips Consumer Lifestyle:

Among four new iPod/iPhone-docking tabletop speakers, all offer clock radio features and FM tuner. All also feature auto clock synchronization when an iPod/iPhone is docked, 3.5mm aux input, sleep timer, time and alarm battery backup, dual alarms, and free Philips clock-radio app. The products join multiple AirPlay-equipped tabletop speakers as well as Android-docking speakers, which charge a docked Android phone via micro USB and stream music via stereo Bluetooth.

The company’s first four Bluetooth-only speakers join a variety of iPod-and Android-docking speakers equipped with Bluetooth. The new systems are all one-piece portable AC/DC models due in April through June at suggested retails from $149 to $179. The Shoqbox speakers feature stereo drivers, builtin microphone for hands-free Bluetooth calling, voice prompts, motion gesture to control song playback, aux-in to connect other portable devices, built-in compartment to store USB charging cable, and ability to pair two speakers at a time to deliver stereo with wider separation. The lithium-ion battery delivers eight hours of playback on a charge.

The line starts with the $149 SB7100 with 8-watt output and metal grille. The $179 SB7200 in black and SB7210 in white also feature 8-watt output but add two passive radiators, splash- and shock-proof materials, and built-in ring to attach the speakers to sports gear or backpacks.

The $199 SB7300 features 12-watt output, additional drivers, aluminum materials and large metallic volume knob.


The supplier of Bluetooth-equipped iPod-docking speaker systems launched its first Bluetooth-only speaker, the portable AC/DC Sound Kick.

In the speaker, the company is incorporating a USB-charging port to charge most smartphones even when the speaker is running on battery power. The speaker also features an expandable sound chamber than slides out from the back to increase its internal volume to deliver deeper bass, enhance clarity and provide louder overall volume, the company said. For traveling, the chamber slides in to create a chassis that’s only 1.6 inches deep.

Via stereo Bluetooth, the speaker will reproduce music stored on a Bluetooth-connected smartphone as well as audio from smartphone apps.

The speaker ships in the spring at a price that wasn’t disclosed.

TDK Life On Record:

The Imation-owned brand unveiled its first three Bluetooth-only speakers. All three are portable models with AC/DC capability and rechargeable batteries.

The company already markets three portable AC/ DC iPod/iPhone-docking systems, two of which look like a boombox. All are positioned as premium pieces.

Of the three Bluetooth speakers, one looks like a boombox and features AM/FM tuner and 2.1-channel speak system. Another model, which lacks AM/FM, is cube-shaped and and features wireless charging via a charging mat. A larger cube features traditional battery recharging.

All three are designed to stream not only Bluetooth’s SBC audio codec but also stream the AAC codec, used by Apple, over Bluetooth from the iPhone 4S, which Apple enabled over Bluetooth, TDK said.

They’re due in the third or fourth quarter at pricing to be announced.


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