New Audio Components Arrive In Shifting Market

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NEW YORK — It hasn’t been the best of years for traditional audio components like A/V receivers and speakers, but audio suppliers have been hard at work developing products to encourage replacement sales while delivering growth-segment products such as sound bars.

Although in-room speaker sales are down, and AVRs and two-channel components are relatively flat, soundbars and wireless-network speakers are soaring, various suppliers said.

Futuresource expects U.S. AVR unit shipments to fall 1.5 percent in 2014, but retaillevel dollar sales will rise 4.9 percent to $556 million. Soundbar retail dollar sales will rise 38 percent to $1.32 billion for the year.

Traditional speakers, on the other hand, have been falling about 20 percent in units and dollars so far this year, suppliers said.

As the year draws to a close, companies such as Denon, KEF, Yamaha, Gibson, Tru- Audio, Yamaha and Libratone have released new audio products into the shifting markets.

Here’s what the companies announced:

Denon: A new flagship A/V receiver launched adds Dolby Atmos surround sound, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an online-upgrade capability to add Auro-3D surround.

The $2,999-suggested networked AVR-X7200W, shipping in December, also adds HDMI 2.0 ports, and in the spring, a hardware upgrade will add HDCP 2.2 copy protection to the ports.

Denon said it held off on offering HDCP 2.2 for playback of copy-protected 4K video sources because it did not “want to compromise on the limited bandwidth and color capability of currently available HDCP2.2 implementations.”

The Auro upgrade becomes available in December for $199.

Compared with its discontinued networked predecessor, it also features more streaming services and upgraded build quality and parts.

With an add-on two-channel amp, the 9x150-watt receiver will drive 11-channel Atmos configurations, including 7.2.4 and 9.2.2 configurations. Without the amp, the receiver will drive 5.2.2, 5.2.4, and 7.2.2 configurations.

The three-zone, three-source receiver also features 13.2-channel pre-outs and DTS Neo:X and Audyssey DSX 11.1-channel post processing.

Gibson Brands: The company will go to International CES with the first Les Paul-brand speakers.

Paul was the inventor of the solid-body electric guitar and multitrack recording.

The three active two-way speakers, available in multiple Les Paul guitar-like finishes, ship in February at MAPs of $599 each for the LP4, $799 each for the LP6, and $999 each for the LP8. They’re intended for audio professionals and music enthusiasts. Distribution will be through CE and pro-audio stored worldwide.

KEF: The company is commemorating its 50th birthday with a twoway mini monitor speaker promoted as a reinterpretation of the engineering approach of the original LS3/5a, developed for use in BBC studios including a curved front baffle for the 5.25- inch woofer and concentrically mounted 1-inch tweeter. The LS3/5a was a BBCbranded speakers developed in the 1970s with key KEF components. They’re said to have played a major influence in bookshelf-speaker design.

The $1,499/pair LS50 ships in December in high-gloss piano black or high-gloss piano white.

The curved baffle spreads the sound waves from the drivers with minimum reflections from the edges to deliver a spacious sound stage, the company said.

The curved shape also improves cabinet rigidity to reduce vibration that could color the midrange, the company said. The tweeter’s dome shape and tangerine wave guide, combined with a Z-Flex surround around the woofer, combine to deliver a spacious sound with a wide sweet spot.

Frequency response (+/-3dB) is 79Hz to 28kHz. Maximum output is 106dB.

Libratone: The maker of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-equipped speakers, plans December shipments of its second-generation networked-music soundbar, the $899-MAP Diva.

Like its $1,299 Lounge predecessor, the new model features Wi-Fi, AirPlay, DLNA and optical input but adds Bluetooth, AptX streaming over Bluetooth, NFC, Spotify Connect and HTC Connect. It also adds IR learning.

TruAudio: The company is lowering the opening price on its Revolv in-ceiling home-theater speakers, expanding its line of outdoor speakers that look lite outdoor spotlights, and launching a new soundbar.

The $479-suggested AS-2 outdoor speaker joins the smaller AS-1 in the Acoustiscape landscapespeaker series. The speakers are staked into the ground or mounted on walls with optional wall mounts.

Three in-ceiling speakers are part of the Revolv series and are priced at suggested retails ranging from $168 to $217. Revolv is positioned an affordable performance speaker designed for in-ceiling home-theater installations.

The new SLIM-PWR44 active two-channel soundbar at a suggested $1,500 joins other soundbars and has a brushed-aluminum chassis that is only 2.9 inches deep. It also features Bluetooth 4.0 streaming with AptX, plus builtin wireless transmitter to send bass to up to eight receivers. It lacks HDMI.

Yamaha: The company expanded its selection of networked two-channel stereo receivers to two with shipments of the $349-suggested R-N301, which joins the $599 R-N500. Both require a wired Ethernet connection.

The 2x100-watt receiver features AirPlay, DLNA, and music services such as Pandora, Spotify and vTuner Internet radio. Its DACs decode high-resolution FLAC and WAV files up to 192kHz / 24-bit.


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