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More Satellite Boomboxes Roll Out

Satellite-radio subscriber growth has prompted suppliers to expand the selection of battery-powered satellite-radio boomboxes in time for summertime use.

The boomboxes represent a small but growing segment of the dwindling boombox market, whose factory-level sales fell 9.8 percent in 2003 to a mere $183 million out of total portable audio sales of $1.85 billion, including compressed-music headphone portables, according to CEA estimates released early this year.

Satellite-radio boomboxes incorporate a docking station that lets subscribers plug in transportable satellite tuners, which can also be plugged into home and car docking stations. Select models already available or announced add AM/FM/CD playback.

For XM Satellite Radio reception, the boombox selection grew to two models in recent months, with a third due in the summer. For Sirius Satellite Radio, the selection went to two models in recent months from zero, with more due in coming months.

One of the newest XM models is from Cambridge SoundWorks, which plans summer shipments of the industry’s first satellite-radio boombox with rechargeable battery. It’s the $199-suggested PlayDock XM, the first boombox that mates with the low-cost Delphi XM Roady transportable receiver, which is packaged with a car docking kit at a suggested $119. PlayDock delivers 10 hours of operation on its fully charged battery, and it’s equipped with carrying handle, AC adapter, two main stereo speakers and a dedicated bass speaker. It’s packaged with separate antenna and 20 feet of antenna cable.

PlayDock XM will join two other XM boomboxes in the market. The newest is the Delphi XM CD Audio System, the first satellite-radio boombox with AM, FM and CD. It became widely available in March at a suggested $199, and it accepts the $99-suggested SKYFi receiver. The CD Audio system features single-CD player, MP3-CD playback, AC adapter, 2×2.3-watt RMS amplification and 10 feet of cable for the included antenna, which attaches to the boombox when not in use.

The CD Audio system, shipped in April, joins the first XM boombox, the Delphi XM SKYFi Audio system, available since December 2002. It also docks with Delphi’s SKYFi tuner. At a suggested retail of $99, it lacks AM, FM and MP3-CD playback but offers 2×3.5-watt RMS amplification and 22 feet of antenna cable. The antenna clips onto the boombox when not in use. Six D-size batteries deliver about six hours of operation.

For Sirius reception, Audiovox shipped its boombox in December, followed earlier this year by a model from Brix Labs.

Audiovox’s $99 model lacks AM, FM and CD playback; docks with either of its transportable Sirius tuners, uses 8 D batteries; and offer 2×5-watt amplification. It was joined earlier this year by Brix Labs’s Streamer Boombox, a $99 device for the company’s transportable $99 Streamer satellite tuner. It shares the same specs as the Audiovox model. Both are packaged with antenna cable and antenna.

The Brix product is sold through truck dealers, truck stops, and wireless stores that get their cellular phones through sister company American Wireless.

For its part, Xact Communications said in January that it would ship three Sirius boomboxes in July, but at press time it did not respond to repeated inquiries for updated product and delivery details. JVC showed a Sirius boombox at CES but has no plans to ship it, a spokesman said.