Here's a closer look at some of the home theater audio systems that will be displayed at International CES:
Boston Acoustics: The 2.1-channel TVee Model 20 is the successor to the brand's TVee Model 2 sound bar, introduced in 2007 with wireless subwoofer. The new model, also with wireless subwoofer, is priced at a $299 street price from its predecessor's $399, thanks to a new cone technology that also broadens horizontal dispersion to widen the stereo sweet spot, said Eli Harary, global brand management senior VP. The new model, shipping in mid-February, delivers all of the other performance parameters and features of its predecessor, including 100-watt total output, wide frequency response, one-wire hookup to a TV, and a learning remote that learns the codes of a user's cable-box or TV remote. The sound bar is sized for TVs 32 inches and larger.
iLive: Six iPod/iPhone-docking sound bars and surround bars, all Works With iPhone-certified, are priced at $79.99 to $199, and two are equipped with a DVD player. The $79.99 iSP280B features FM tuner, LCD clock, 10 presets, line input, RCA audio input, A/V output and remote. The $79.99 iTP100B, which is wider at 20 inches, adds 2.1 speaker system, alarm clock functions and a wall mount.
The $99.99 iTP180B, wider at 30 inches, adds 20 GM presets, motorized iPod/iPhone drawer, two RCA audio inputs, one AV input, S-video output, and subwoofer output. At $149, the 37-inch-wide iTP280B adds 3.1-channel speaker system with SRS TruSurround XT to deliver simulated 5.1 surround sound. It lacks alarm clock functions but adds two A/V inputs.
At $199, the 32-inch-wide iTDP310B adds 1080p-up-scaling DVD player and HDMI output. The $199 iTDP610B offers those features in a 37-inch-wide bar.
Polk: Two new active surround bars with wireless subs deliver all surround channels without wiring up five separate speakers and a subwoofer. Both are in the SurroundBar series.
Both lack DVD or Blu-ray player, and they connect to a TV's analog or optical digital stereo outputs, reserving source-switching functions to the TV. A third new surround bar will be introduced after CES. Details were unavailable.
All three models will replace the $999 AM/FM/DVD-equipped SurroundBar 360 and the $499 SurroundBar SDA Instant Home Theater, which lacks AM/FM/DVD, adds wireless subwoofer and connects to TV's analog stereo outputs. Both current models are about 4.5 inches deep.
Due in March with 3-inch depth, the 31-inch-wide $349 IHT3000 incorporates a DSP circuit to provide a surround-sound experience from a stereo or multichannel source. In its main chassis, the device features two full-range drivers delivering 100-watt total output. A 6.5-inch 80-watt wireless subwoofer is included. It connects to a TV's analog or optical digital outputs.
The step-up $499 IHT6000SDA, at 35 inches wide, is only 1.95 inches deep, connects to a TV's analog or optical digital outputs, features two-way speakers in its main chassis, comes with 7-inch 120-watt wireless subwoofer, and adds two more drivers and an active version of Polk's proprietary Stereo Dimensional Array (SDA) technology to provide a more enveloping surround experience, the company said. It's due in June.
RCA by Alco: The RT2910 HTiB, due in the first quarter at an everyday price of less than $200, features switching of three HDMI inputs to connect multiple HDMI sources, including cable boxes. It consists of a 2.7-inch-tall AM/FM receiver with gloss-black finish to match the color of many flat-panel TVs. The 5.1 system also features optical and coax digital inputs, three sets of analog RCA inputs, a 3.5mm line-in, and an HDMI output.
Sony: The company is launching is first two HTiBs with streaming Internet audio and video services. Both are Blu-ray-equipped, and both are the company's first HTiBs with embedded Wi-Fi. Both feature iPod/iPhone docks, Profile 2.0 Blu-ray players, decoding of all authorized Blu-ray surround formats, and access to the Sony Bravia suite of Internet video service. Those include Netflix, Amazon On Demand, YouTube, Slacker and more than 20 other services.
Both models ship in the spring. Prices weren't available.
One model is the BDV-E770, a 5.1-channel system with SACD playback, integrated Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, GraceNote's MusicID and Video ID song- and movie-identification services, 1080p up-scaling of DVDs, and integrated S-Air wireless technology. The E770 uses S-Air to transmit audio to the S-Air-equipped surround speakers and to an optional S-Air-amplified speaker client, which will stream music from the E770 and devices connected to it. The other HTiB is the BDV-E570, which offers those same features with the exception of S-Air, which is an optional add-on.
The company's current two BD HTiBs are the BDV-E300 at an everyday $600 and the E500W at $800, both with Profile 2.0 BD players. They will be replaced early this year.
Vizio: Two new surround bars include the company's first with built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder to deliver enhanced virtual surround. Two current models use analog stereo inputs and a PCM digital input to take in mono, stereo and matrixed-surround audio for post processing by SRS-licensed virtual-surround technology.
The surround bar with Dolby Digital decoder is the 5.1 Home Theater System, which also connects wirelessly to an iPod/iPhone dock and to a wireless subwoofer up to 90 feet away. The dock can be placed in a convenient location for selecting songs while it transmits music to the surround bar.
The surround bar will use a new implementation of Avnera's wireless technology, extending range to 90 feet from 60 feet and adding two-way capability to enable simultaneous transmission to a subwoofer and reception from the iPod dock, Vizio said. Avnera's technology transmits uncompressed music in 48kHz/16-bit PCM form over 2.4GHz spectrum with “no audible or perceived interference,” Avnera said.
The 5.1 Home Theater System, which will also send music wirelessly to Avnera-equipped Vizio headphones, is due in the second quarter. Pricing hasn't been set.
The second surround bar, which will lack Dolby Digital decoder, is an upgrade to an existing 2.1 system with wired subwoofer. It will use Avnera's wireless technology to deliver low bass to a wireless subwoofer and receive music from an iPod dock. Like the current model, it will use SRS virtual-surround processing to processes mono, two-channel and matrixed-surround signals into a virtual surround field, but the new model will use a step-up version to enhance surround localization, the company said. The new model will be 30 inches wide instead of 40-inches to better match the 32- and 37-inch flat screens.