High-End Suppliers Embracing AirPlay



More high-end home-audio suppliers have begun to embrace Apple’s AirPlay wireless-audio technology for the first time.

At International CES, home-speaker supplier Bowers & Wilkins launched the latest model in its Zeppelin series of iPod/iPhone-docking speaker systems, McIntosh showed a mockup of a tabletop AirPlay-equipped powered speaker system, and Klipsch unveiled three tabletop AirPlay speaker systems.

Component-audio suppliers Denon and Marantz have already shipped home audio components with AirPlay. For its part, iHome, the supplier of iPod-docking speakers, came to CES with its own AirPlay-enabled $299-suggested iPod/iPhone-docking iW1, due sometime in early 2011.

Equipped with AirPlay, home audio products select and stream unprotected and Apple-protected via Wi-Fi or Ethernet directly from a PC’s iTunes application. Song selection can also be made remotely via Wi-Fi from a hand-held iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone.

AirPlay-enabled home audio products also stream music directly from iPads, iPods and iPhones via a Wi-Fi network.

With AirPlay, consumers can stream a song from a networked PC to multiple AirPlay speakers simultaneously to create a wireless multi-room-audio system with separate volume levels for each speaker. When music streams from an iPad or iPhone, only one AirPlay speaker at a time is able to play back the song, marketers explained.

The Bowers & Wilkins product, called Zeppelin Air, ships in March at a suggested $599. The 2.1-channel device uses individual amps for each of five drivers, amp output of 4x25 watts plus 1x50 watts, and 24-bit/96kHz DACs.

For its part, McIntosh went to CES to show a mockup of a tabletop AirPlay speaker that it expects to ship in the fall at around $2,000 or more. It would be Mc- Intosh’s first product designed to work with iPods, iPhones, or iPads.

The McIntosh model will feature biamplified 2.1 speaker system with two-way speakers and built-in ported sub, Class A/B amplification, and tentative power ratings of 70 to 100 watts per channel with 150- to 200-watt sub output. The mockup also features analog aux input and USB input, intended to stream music from a connected laptop or PC.

Unlike the Zeppelin Air, McIntosh’s mockup lacks Apple’s physical 30-pin connector. Nonetheless, iPods and iPads will be able to stand up vertically on top of the speaker and charge via a short cable to the speaker’s USB port. McIntosh didn’t think an embedded 30-pin dock was needed because consumers would likely keep their iPod or iPod close by to choose songs.


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