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High-End, Mainstream Speakers Ready To Roll

Select speaker suppliers are making no-cost-is-too-high statements for the coming year, but others are focusing on mainstream consumers with the introduction of home theater speaker packages and speakers that more easily integrate with a room’s decor.

“Dealers continue to ask us for products that people can easily integrate into their home environment,” said Sandy Gross, president of Definitive Technology.

Some suppliers are also trumpeting their new models’ ability to bring out the best in new high-resolution media, such as DVD-Audio and SACD.

In coming months, dealers will find:

  • super-high-end models from JBL at $25,000/pair and Mission at roughly $38,000. They’re promoted as delivering the full advantages of the new multichannel music formats, and they’re said to deliver extended high-end frequency response beyond 50kHz. B&W and Acoustic Research will also trumpet ultrasonic frequency response.
  • the first wall-hanging speakers from Canton and Yamaha.
  • speakers downsized to make them less obtrusive.
  • More entries in the indoor/outdoor market, with RBH and Paradyme launching their first models.

Here’s a company-by-company breakdown of select introductions:

Acoustic Research: Two new tower speakers feature what the company calls a “Super Audio” tweeter to reproduce frequency response out to 100kHz, acknowledging the extended frequency response of the DVD-Audio and SACD formats.

Among the pairs is a floor-standing powered tower featuring 4-inch midranges in a flat polar array, a planar tweeter, and a 500-watt Sunfire-technology amplified sub. It ships in May at $2,500 per pair.

Audio Products: The Energy brand’s Connoisseur series is expanding to a wider range of price points with 11 new models. LR speakers will be priced from $300-$1,500/pair instead of $600-$1,500/pair. They include two bookshelf models, four floorstanding models (one with powered sub built-in), and center- and surround-channel models. They’re due imminently.

With three Energy XL series models, combined with Energy Veritas series models launched last year, the Energy brand offers three separate series covering the $200-$6,000/pair range.

The entry-level Athena brand gets a Point 5 speaker package at a suggested $800. In addition, Athena’s Audition series, targeted to high-volume chains, gets two powered subs to go with the six LR and center channels launched at CEDIA from $149-$600/pair.

AuraSound: New speaker packages include the high-gloss-white version of the Baby Grand Series 5.1 system, now with optional rear-center-channel.

In the Concert Grand Series, AuraSound plans the flagship SG-12 Suono Grande, a 12-inch sub with 600-watt-continuous amp at a suggested $1,950. Joining the series are the CG-832B three-way bookshelf system with a suggested $1,050, the CG-632T three-way tower at a suggested $1,450/pair, and the CG-532C three-way center at $450.

B&W: Technology used in B&W’s high-end Nautilus series trickles down into the affordable high-end market segment with the launch of the Series 3 lineup of eight DM 600 series models. They comprise three bookshelf models from $350-$600/pair, three floorstanding models at $700-$1,400/pair, and two multipurpose LCRs at $350 and $500 each. The improvements over previous models include frequency response into the ultrasonic range, quicker bass and more accurately defined midrange timbre.

Infinity: The high-performance/high-value Entra Point Five is a home theater speaker package due in February at a suggested $999. For small- and moderate-size rooms, it features four 7.63 x 5.63 x 5.5-inch satellites with 4-inch woofer and 0.75-inch tweeter. A 150-watt powered sub is included. The enclosures feature a curved and chamfered front baffle.

JBL: Billed as its best speaker ever, JBL is launching the $25,000/pair K2 S9800, previously available in overseas markets. Due in the U.S. in early 2002, it delivers 60 x 30-degree coverage pattern to deliver high frequencies over a wide area with what the company said is no harshness or glare. Response is beyond 50kHz. Efficiency is 94dB.

Three switches in back of the six-sided enclosure let users tailor response. A biamp switch allows for biamplification. A damping switch changes the Q of the low-frequency crossover to deliver flat or warmer woofer response and allows for tighter or looser driver response. The third adjusts level from 1kHz-10kHz.

Legacy: The Harmony high-end in-wall, the four-driver 2.5-way bookshelf Victoria, and the eight-driver four-way floorstanding Helix are on tap.

The Harmony at $2,500/pair comes with back box, 12-inch woofer, two 5.25-inch midranges, and 1-inch tweeter. The 21 x 10.5 x 14.5-inch bookshelf at $2,600/pair sounds the same whether placed vertically or horizontally. The Helix floorstander is as yet unpriced. Drivers include 6-inch midranges, 15-inch midwoofers, and a 15-inch subwoofer.

Mission: What the company calls its best-ever speaker, the Pilastro, has a Granitech composite-material enclosure that resembles granite and can be molded into a gently tapered shape that’s acoustically inert. It features four 8-inch woofers and four passive radiators, dual 6.5-inch midranges, and 1.25-inch tweeter to deliver response from 22Hz-56kHz. With 95dB efficiency, they can be driven by low-powered tube amps.

Pricing was tentatively set at $38,000. A ship date wasn’t available.

Morel: The Israeli company is launching its first architectural speakers and a modular enclosed speaker, the upscale Octave. The two-way speaker, built into a Corian marble-look enclosure, can be mated with another Octave on top to create the Octave-Octwin for “larger acoustic impact and enhanced sound stage,” the company said. An Octave with stands retails for $5,999. An Octwin pair with stands is $9,999.

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