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Audio Companies Enter Market, Expand Lines

Here’s what suppliers are bringing to CES to tap into wireless-multiroom demand:

HMDX Audio: The company’s Jam Wireless Audio brand is expanding beyond Bluetooth speakers with the introduction of its first two wireless multiroom-audio speakers. The company promises to bring the disruptive pricing of its Bluetooth speakers to the wireless multiroom market, enabling the speakers “to perform at the levels of a lot more expensive speakers,” said HMDX product development director John Mikkola.

The two Wi-Fi speakers use proprietary technology to connect up to eight speakers at a time to a home network, with each of the eight speakers capable of playing a different song simultaneously, Mikkola said. Sources consist of music stored on phones and tablets as well as embedded streaming services Pandora, Spotify, iHeart Radio, and TuneIn. The speakers do not connect to networks PCs or NAS drives to stream music stored on those devices. They lack Bluetooth.

The four-year-old brand launched its first Bluetooth speakers four years ago, offering sub-$50 speakers when Bluetooth speakers started at $100, Mikkola said.

iLuv: The Aud Air is a Wi-Fi plus+ Bluetooth speaker that allows users to stream high quality audio from a smartphone, tablet or computer. With a free app, users can control the speaker wirelessly from a smartphone or tablet. The ability to connect multiple Aud Airs together allows users to create a multi-room listening experience, playing the same or different music in various rooms.

Aud Air comes with six different presets which make it easy to access to a favorite internet radio stations without a mobile device. If Wi-Fi is not available, music can still be played through Bluetooth

Klipsch: The company is using DTS’s Play-Fi platform to launch its first eight wireless multiroom-audio products, which include three soundbars with HDMI inputs, an updated three-way Stadium desktop stereo speaker already available with Bluetooth and Apple Air-Play at $2,000, a Heritage-series single-chassis stereo tabletop speaker with traditional Klipsch cosmetics, a Gate streamer/preamp, an amplified Gate, and a pair of compact active Play-Fi speakers. The latter match the styling of the company’s Play-Fi soundbars for use as discrete surround speakers.

LG: The company is carrying over its quartet of Wi-Fi mesh-network multiroom-audio speakers, which also feature Bluetooth, but LG plans a firmware upgrade that will enable the speakers to network together via Wi-Fi Direct without connecting to a home Wi-Fi network. The feature will let consumers use the speakers anywhere they want, including outdoors or at a home without a Wi-Fi network. The firmware update is due in Q1.

The update will also enable the speakers to automatically determine if a music source is using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, after which the speaker automatically switches to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi operation. That feature, called BT-Fi, will also appear in new soundbars and, as a firmware update targeted for the first quarter, in carried-over soundbars that come with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Three new Wi-Fi/Bluetooth soundbars will join two carry-over models in offering LG’s wireless-multiroom technology, called Music Flow.

LG’s multiroom technology supports wireless mesh-network distribution of 192kHz/24-bit music stored on smartphones, tablets, computers, and NAS drives over a Wi-Fi-based 2.4GHz/5GHz wireless mesh network. The speakers, however, incorporate CD-quality DACs.

The Wi-Fi speakers are the $179 30-watt H3, portable $199 20-watt H4 with Bluetooth, $279 40-watt H5, and $379 70-watt H7. They were launched in 2015 and were the company’s first wireless multiroom speakers for the U.S. market.

Libratone: Two portable Wi-Fi/Bluetooth cylindrical speakers shipped by Denmark-based Libratone in mid-December feature Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, DLNA, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, and Internet radio stations

The devices add the Apple-approved ability to send music via AirPlay from a mobile iOS device to more than one speaker at a time.

The two speakers are the $249 Zipp Mini and $299 Zipp, both available through Libratone’s web store and Amazon.

Naim Audio: A new product is joining the company’s $1,499 Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Mu-so speaker. The Mu-so Qb Wireless Music System at an expected $999 is due in March.

It features more compact chassis, lower power, and like its bigger brother, multizone audio, AirPlay, UPnP streaming, Spotify Connect, Tidal streaming, Bluetooth aptX, and control from an iOS or Android app.

Decoders include 192/24 WAV and Flac, Apple Lossless (ALAC), Ogg Vorbis, AAC, MP3 and others. Higher-res codecs require a wired Ethernet connection.

It also packs Made for iPad/iPhone USB port that also plays music from USB sticks, USB hard drives and mobile devices. Optical and 3.5mm analog inputs are available for connecting other devices such as TVs. The speaker will retransmit music to other Mu-so speakers and Naim’s Uniti streaming products in multiroom mode from the local USB input but not from local analog, digital and Bluetooth inputs.

Paradigm: Paradigm is showing the latest addition to its DTS Play-Fi-equipped products. The Wi-Fiequipped $399 PW Link is a preamp/streamer that joins the PW800 and PW 600 tabletop speakers at $799 and $599 and the $499 PW AMP streamer/amplifier. The new product ships by early spring.

All four feature Anthem Room Correction (ARC) technology to optimize speaker performance in any room. The included microphone measures sound output, compares it to scientifically optimal response curves, and instantly adjusts output to compensate for the effects of a room’s acoustical properties.

Raumfeld: The German company is expanding its fledgling selection of wireless multiroom-audio products with its first under-TV speaker, the Sounddeck. It connects to TVs and other sources by HDMI, optical input, and aux in. The driver complement includes two 5.1-inch subwoofers.

Raumfeld’s products stream high-resolution audio files up to 192kHz/24 bits and access a variety of music services including Tidal’s CD-quality service.

The products stream audio from networked PCs and NAS drives, networked mobile devices, and devices plugged into a speaker via USB or line input, including turntables. The company’s iOS and Android apps will aggregate all networked content and content stored on USB-connected devices.

Riva: Audio Design Experts, launched in October 2012 as an ODM designer of home-and pro-audio speakers, is expanding beyond Bluetooth speakers and plans to show prototypes of the first Riva-brand soundbars and wireless multiroom-audio speakers.

Samsung: The company will continue to offer its quartet of Radiant wireless multiroom-audio speakers and is launching four new soundbars that will, like their predecessors, become part of Samsung’s wireless multiroom-audio network.

The company is also expanding the streaming services accessible by the products to 13, with the addition of SiriusXM and Tidal, and it’s launching a PC app to deliver system control, joining iOS and Android apps.

In addition, all wireless-multiroom products will become part of Samsung’s home-automation network in which all new smart TVs act as a home-automation hub in which the TV and TV remote can be used to view security-camera video, lock and unlock doors, and control the multiroom-audio system.

Sony: New wireless multiroom speakers are on tap. Details were unavailable. The company’s 2015 models consisted of three Bluetooth/Wi-Fi models, two Sony soundbars and some AVRs with Sony’s wireless multiroom technology.

Wren Sound: The company is expanding its selection of “universal” wireless tabletop speakers that combine Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Play-Fi and aptX Bluetooth with the addition of two more models. They are the $399-MAP V3US and its portable brother, the $449 V3USP. In January, they will join the $499 V5US launched in 2015.