Audio Gears Up For Holiday Diversity



Home audio products unveiled in time for the holiday selling season underscore the variety of new music sources influencing the development of home audio products.

New products hitting the market include a tabletop Internet radio from Grace Digital, a tabletop iPod- docking speaker system from Yamaha, amplified wireless speakers from Aperion for use with PCs and home-theater systems, and a Sonos wireless iPod dock that turns an iPod into a source for the company’s wireless multi-room-audio system.

For its part, newcomer Blackfire Research has developed Wi-Fi-equipped audiophile-grade amp and a proprietary protocol to stream music in high-quality digital format from PCs and Wi-Fi-equipped smartphones.

Here’s what the various suppliers are offering:

Aperion Audio:

The direct-to-consumer marketers of home speakers launched its first wirelessspeaker system, intended for surround-sound and multi-room use.

The Zona Wireless Surround System at $499 consists of a wireless transmitter and two powered biamplified two-way bookshelf speakers with tuned ports and built-in wireless receivers that operate up to 150 feet from the transmitter.

The transmitter connects to the surround pre-out jacks of an AVR or DVD player to deliver uncompressed 16 bit/48 kHz CD-quality audio. Zona can also be used to transmit music from a PC via a USB 2.0 connection or from most other audio sources to other rooms. Multiple speakers can connect to a single transmitter for multiroom applications.

Blackfire Research:

The San Francisco company has developed smartphone, PC and Mac apps with a proprietary protocol to stream audio in digital 24-bit form over standard wireless Wi-Fi 802.11g networks and wired Ethernet networks to Wi-Fi-equipped Class A/B amps with embedded 24-bit 192kHz DACs. The amps, which can be placed on top of or next to passive speakers, are rated at 100 watts each from 20Hz- 22kHz with less than 0.05 percent THD and dynamic range of more than 100dB. They cost $6,800 per pair.

The amps and apps incorporate proprietary Super- StreamHD technology for synchronized streaming. The amps incorporate 0.5GHz multi-core ARM processor and up-sampling to 192kHz at 24 bits.

The company plans late first-quarter shipments and will license the technology to other suppliers.

Grace Digital:

The company, which offers a wide variety of home and portable Internet radios, added to its selection with a tabletop model promoted as its first to offer full control over Pandora Internet radio functions.

The Wi-Fi-equipped GDIIR2550p at an everyday $169 includes these Pandora functions: one-button access to Pandora’s thumbs up/down feature, skip, play and pause, and bookmarking songs directly from the radio’s remote, its front-panel controls, and from an iPod/iPhone app.

The radio also streams audio from more than 50,000 radio stations, podcasts and on-demand content providers, including iHeartradio, NOAA Weather Reports, Live365, KROQ and Sirius Premium Internet radio. The device also streams music from a networked PC.


The company shipped its first wireless iPod/iPhone dock, which turns the portable devices into a music source for the company’s wireless multiroom- audio systems. The wireless dock is available through authorized Sonos dealers and the company’s web site at a suggested $119.

Sonos systems use amplified and unamplified tabletop clients, called ZonePlayers, to stream music wirelessly from a PC and from the Internet.

With the dock, consumers will be able access their music libraries without booting up a PC or even connecting a PC at all to a Sonos network. The dock will also enable friends to bring their iPod or iPhone to a Sonos household for playback through a Sonos system.

The dock captures audio from the docked devices’ PCM audio output.


The company added a new model to its selection of iPod-docking systems, some with an FM tuner and some with FM tuner and CD player.

The new model is the single-chassis $169-suggested PDX-31 with dock on top. It lacks a tuner or CD player but is certified for use with iPhones and iPods and, unlike its predecessor, features a stereo mini jack input for connection to other-brand MP3 players and to other audio devices.

The PDX-31 replaces the $199 PDX-30. Both models feature two 3.25-inch full-range drivers.


Related Articles