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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

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


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

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.