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Altec Lansing Plans To Unveil Flat-Panel Speakers During CES

Altec Lansing intends to give International CES attendees an eyeful, as well as an earful, next month with the launch of several new speaker models.

Supplying Altec’s eye candy at the event is the company’s FX-6021 flat-panel speaker line that is designed to take advantage of consumer’s new found love affair with flat-panel computer monitors and televisions, said Bob Garthwaite, Altec’s senior VP of sales and marketing. However, the models are not true flat speakers, but use conventional drivers.

The 2.1-channel speaker system is based on technology developed in the company’s professional speaker line, he said, with each speaker containing six 1-inch drivers and three amplifiers developing 12.5 watts per speaker. The subwoofer has a 50-watt amplifier.

The speakers are 1-inch deep, without base, and have an auxiliary input jack for connecting an MP3 player. It is shipping in January with a $299 suggested retail price.

The four-unit VS Series continues also utilizes the flat-panel look. The line starts off with the 5-watt, two-speaker VS-2120. With a $29.95 suggested retail price it is the line’s entry-level product.

The VS-2121 has a total power output of 28 watts with each satellite generating 6 watts and the subwoofer 16 watts. It has a $49.95 suggested retail price. The next model is the VS-3121. At 30 watts it is slightly more powerful and each satellite is equipped with two 2-inch drivers.

The VS-3151 is the flagship model of the VS Series. It is a 5-watt, 5.1-channel system that will carry a $99.95 suggested retail price. The center channel speaker is swivel mounted and the satellites can be wall-mounted.

While all of Altec’s new and current models are intended for PC and console gamers, the company is not emphasizing that fact as heavily as it did in 2003. Last year Altec attempted a huge push into the gaming market, but Garthwaite said this might have been a premature move. Sales were healthy, but were not what the company expected, he said. The true hot products with the gamers were microphone-equipped headsets.

“We learned a lot about the gamer market last year,” Garthwaite said, adding that the company will upgrade its dedicated game speaker lines, but will focus more effort on two new emerging markets, portable and wireless speakers.

Altec began testing the portable market with its In Motion line late last year. This is a two-speaker system with an integrated docking cradle for an Apple iPod, which Garthwaite said was co-designed with Apple. Altec intends to introduce additional In Motion products that will work with other portable digital audio players. The first of these will ship during the first half of 2004 with two more following later in the year.

The growth in notebook computer sales is also spurring the portable market and Altec will increase its efforts to develop speakers small enough for road warriors to easily haul around so these people can enjoy their music while in hotels or for use during presentations.

Wireless speaker development is not as advanced, Garthwaite said, but its potential is great due to the consumer interest in wireless CE and computer networking. Technically distributing audio wireless to speakers dispersed around a home is a tough nut to crack, he said, but the first company to do so will find itself in a very profitable position. At this time Altec’s roadmap does not have a wireless model.