Mohu Turns Over New Leaf, Expands Into Audio With BeBox

Company diversifying from paper-thin Leaf-brand TV antennas
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Mohu’s $499-MAP Android-based BeBox boombox features color touchscreen, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi streaming of downloadable music apps, and playback of music from USB sticks, memory cards and embedded memory.

Mohu got its start in 2009 as a military contractor making flat antennas that could be integrated into a military vehicle’s mudflaps to detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It adapted that technology to the consumer electronics market in March 2011, when it launched its first paper-thin Leaf HDTV antenna through Amazon.

Now Mohu is taking the “be set free” philosophy behind its cord-cutting over-air HDTV antennas to the audio market with the launch of a high-performance boombox-like portable speaker with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. “You can take your music with you. You don’t have to be tethered to an electrical outlet,” said Dr. Mark Buff, Mohu’s founder and CEO.

The company’s $499-MAP BeBox single-chassis Android-powered stereo speaker features a color touchscreen, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi streaming of downloadable music apps, and playback of music from USB sticks, memory cards, and embedded memory. It will be available from Mohu’s online store on Nov. 23 followed by sales through Amazon and then, likely in 2016, through brick-and-mortar retailers, Buff said.

Mohu’s Leaf antennas are sold by Best Buy, Walmart, Crutchfield, Fry’s, Amazon, B&H, AAFES, Conn’s, Nebraska Furniture Mart and about 65 regional retailers.

BeBox is Mohu’s first audio product but might not be the company’s last. “If this gets the reception we expect it to get, we’ll drive down that path [of launching more audio products] in an aggressive fashion with not me-too products,” Buff said.

To differentiate its first audio product, the company packed a 100-watt Class D amp, three-way speaker system, and large eight-hour 16,000mAh rechargeable into a hefty 13 by 19 by 5-inch chassis.  Frequency response is 40Hz to 20kHz.

In another major point of differentiation, the 14-pound speaker is topped by a 7-inch 1,024 by 600 touchscreen that controls system functions and accesses the Google Play store. Downloaded music apps can be used to stream online music when the speaker is connected to a home’s Wi-Fi network. Outside of a home’s Wi-Fi range, the speaker plays music streamed via Bluetooth 3.0.

The device also plays music stored in multiple formats in internal 16GB memory, on microSD cards with up to 128GB storage, and on USB sticks. The speaker decodes AAC, AAC+, AAC ELD, Enhanced AAC, MP3, MIDI, Vorbis and PCM/Wave. It also has a 3.5mm analog input.

Though its primary use case is sharing music, the speaker also streams Internet video through Google Play’s downloadable video apps for viewing online video on its 7-inch display or on an HDMI-connected TV.

Other features include MediaTek ARM Cortex-A7 quad-core CPU, Android 4.4.4 OS, 6.5-inch long-throw woofer ported to the front, two 3-inch midrange drivers, and two 0.75-inch soft-dome tweeters.

Buff explained the addition of audio to Mohu’s line by saying management “has a passion for high-quality sound and music.” And, he added, “we like to build products we like to have.”

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