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Multi-Room iPod-Audio Distribution Gains

Consumers will get more options in the coming weeks to dock their iPod in one room and listen to iPod-stored music in multiple rooms of the house.

New products from Sony, Iogear and David Wiener Ventures will join SoundCast’s iCast system, available since 2006.

Such systems make it unnecessary for consumers to tote their iPod-docking speakers systems from room to room, said Andy Sivori, Sony’s personal audio marketing director. “You can drop your iPod in a dock where you put your keys when you walk in the door and listen to the music in other rooms,” he said. “It’s an easy, inexpensive way to get multi-room audio without professional installation.”

For its S-Airplay system, Sony uses wireless RF technology to distribute music to up to 10 rooms in a house from a single dock. Iogear is using Home Plug 1.0 to distribute music through powerlines to up to four rooms from one dock. And DWV’s Art.Suono distributes music via RF to up to two rooms from one dock.

The Sony and Iogear systems began shipping this month to dealers, and the limited-edition DWV products ships in October. Based on the iPod’s limitations, the systems stream only one song at a time from one docked iPod to multiple rooms, but each supports additional docks to enable separate streams from separate iPods.

Here’s how they work:

Sony: At an everyday price of about $400, the S-Airplay system consists of a dock embedded with an AM/FM tuner and two wireless one-piece amplified-speaker systems. Additional amplified speakers are available direct from Sony at around $130.

The plug-and-play systems provides with automatic linking between the base unit and receivers.

“With us, we cover two rooms out of the box,” said Sivori. The system can be expanded, however, to stream iPod- and iPhone-stored music to up to 10 speaker systems from one dock up to 164 feet away in homes with sheetrock walls. When an iPhone is docked, it goes into airplane mode to turn off the cellular radio.

From one speaker, consumers can stream audio from the dock’s embedded tuner while another speaker streams audio from the dock’s embedded AM/FM tuner. The dock itself lacks amplification, but powered speakers can be connected to play back music locally.

Supplied remotes let users advance to the next iPods song, or go back to the previous song, from the room in which the speaker system is placed.

Two wireless docks at a time can be used simultaneously to stream multiple songs simultaneously, but a receiver must be switched to the A or B channel matching the specific dock that would stream the song you want to hear, a spokeswoman said.

The system is expected to be on dealer shelves during the third week of October.

Iogear: The Irvine, Calif., company turned to HomePlug 1.0 powerline-network technology for its $444-suggested powerline stereo system, which features SRS-brand sound-enhancing technology. It consists of one iPod-docking powerline stereo audio station and one receiver, or powerline stereo audio adapter. The receiver plugs into an existing stereo system or into any brand of amplified speakers. Range is up to 990 feet.

Each docking stations supports up to four receivers. Additional receivers cost a suggested $219.

A supplied remote enables users to control the play, pause, skip and volume functions of the docked iPod from another room.

Although the docking station comes with embedded iPod dock, it also features a 3.5mm input jack and RCA stereo inputs to connect other audio sources, such as other-brand MP3 players and CD players. Those sources, however, cannot be controlled remotely from another room.

If multiple sources are connected to the dock, only one source can be streamed at a time. However, the system supports the use of more than one dock at a time, so users could simultaneously stream songs from two separately docked iPods at a time over powerlines to different receivers. Consumers, however, must make sure the receiver is switched to the channel matching the specific dock they want to hear music from, a spokeswoman said.

In January, the company said the system would be available in May 2008.

David Wiener Ventures: The Park City, Utah-based design house, which markets electronics under the DWV and Ferrari brands, plans October shipment of the DWV-branded $1,499-suggested Art.Suono wireless docking system, a limited-edition product.

The system consists of a round dock/transmitter and 2-inch by 4-inch by 7.35-inch receiver, which connects to existing stereo systems. Both use Wi-Fi and are made of machined aluminum with carbon-fiber accents. It is DWV’s first iPod docking system and second wireless-audio system after the Ferrari Art.Engine stereo system. It will be distributed through select high-end audio and luxury-gift dealers worldwide and through select Ferrari dealers.

Each Art.Suono dock can stream to up to two receivers, and up to three docks can be used simultaneously to stream music from three iPods or from any other audio source connected to the docks via 3mm headphone input. Prices of additional receivers haven’t been set. iPod functions can’t be controlled from a remote room.

The system features Aphex System’s Aural Exciter and Big Bottom sound-processing technologies, which are used in professional music-mastering equipment and are licensed exclusively to DWV for consumer products. Aural Exciter restores harmonics lost in compressed music files, widening the stereo image and adding spaciousness, clarity, detail, and definition. Big Bottom restores lost bass. The technologies are consumer-selectable.