Bluetooth Speakers Embrace Diversity

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The Bluetooth speaker market is still growing fast enough to accommodate a diverse array of models to target a broad variety of consumers.

Some of the latest models include a portable stereo speaker from Riva Audio and an indoor active bookshelf pair from German maker Thonet & Vander. Libratone recently unveiled two Bluetooth/Wi-Fi speakers, and Bluetooth has even turned up in a Bose amplifier/streamer intended for custom installs.

Underscoring the wide range of target customers, Riva launched a portable model that could be the industry’s first Bluetooth speaker with phono EQ mode to play back vinyl records from a cable-connected turntable.

Futuresource forecasts that U.S. unit shipments of Bluetooth speakers in 2015 will rise 40.4 percent to 18.8 million units, with 2016 shipments forecast to rise 10.8 percent to 20.8 million units. Factory-level dollar value is expected to rise 24 percent in 2015 to $1.35 billion followed by 2016 growth of 35.6 percent to $1.4 billion.

Here are some of the latest products hoping to capture a share of those sales:

Bose: The company is bringing its SoundTouch wireless-multiroom audio technology to the custom-install channel with the launch of a single-zone amplifier/streamer equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The $499 2x100-watt SA5 drives two speakers or two pairs of speakers in parallel. It can be used to drive in-wall and in-ceiling speakers as well as outdoor speakers.

Like Bose’s SoundTouch-equipped speakers, soundbars and home-theater systems, the SA-5 amp features embedded vTuner Internet Radio, Pandora, Spotify, Deezer and iHeart, with SiriusXM coming early next year. SoundTouch products also stream music from networked computers and NAS drives as well as from Bluetooth-equipped mobile devices. The Bluetooth streams can be rebroadcast to other SoundTouch products.

With the addition of the SA-5 amp, consumers can use Bose’s iOS or Android app to control a home-wide SoundTouch system consisting of a mix of SA-5 amps, soundbars and home-theater systems.

The amp can be mounted in multiple locations ranging from a closet in the room where it will be used, in the room’s ceiling, or in a central equipment rack with other SA5 amps. If mounted in the room where it will be used, it can be connected to other local audio sources, including TVs, via its three analog inputs. The aux inputs can be selected from the SoundTouch app.

Riva Audio: The audio brand, owned by ODM company Audio Design Experts, launched its second portable Bluetooth speaker, the $249 Riva S. It will be available in November at RivaAudio.com and select retailers including Amazon, Crutchfield and BestBuy.com.

It will join the $349 Riva Turbo X.

To appeal to vinyl collectors, the speaker is the company’s first Bluetooth speaker with a phono EQ mode to enable playback of a cable-connected turntable. It’s also the brand’s first Bluetooth speaker that can be paired with a second speaker to operate as a stereo pair.

The new model features 30-watt output, three full-range active drivers, four dual-piston passive bass radiators, Bluetooth AptX, dual-microphone speakerphone with noise and echo cancellation technology, and USB charging of mobile devices. The Riva Mobile app allows for remote control of the speaker via Bluetooth.

Riva S’s battery lasts up to 13 or more hours when playing at 73dB levels and more than five hours when played at maximum 94+dB output. The speaker is IPX4 splash-proof rated.

The $349 Riva Turbo X steps up to 45-watt amplification, 100dB output and more than 26-hour battery life when paying at 75dB. It also adds AAC over Bluetooth.

Thonet & Vander: The German audio maker rolled out its $299 Hoch BT Bluetooth-equipped active bookshelf speaker pair. The two-way speakers feature two 5.25-inch woofers and 1-inch silk tweeter in wood cabinets with 2x35-watt power output and 50Hz-to-20kHz frequency response. The cabinet, available in black or white, measures 18 by 7.1 by 9 inches.

Proprietary Hammer Bass technology is said to deliver deep bass with greater fidelity. Volume, treble and bass controls are on the side of one speaker. A separate remote control is included. The speaker pair also features RCA and 3.5mm stereo inputs.

It’s available at MicroCenter, BrandsMart, Newegg, TigerDirect and Amazon.

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