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New High-End Audio Options On The Way


High-end audio companies haven’t
been shy about launching new products in a weak
economy, perhaps buoyed by Consumer Electronics
Association forecasts calling for a third consecutive
year of double-digit percentage growth in factory-level
component-audio dollar volume.

Companies such as Cambridge Audio, Current Audio,
Parasound, SnapAV, Theta Digital and Wisdom
have all announced new products that are shipping
or will ship soon. The products range from in-wall
speakers to a component-size network music player,
preamp/surround processors, A/V receivers, half-size
audio components, amplifiers and high-end DACs that
connect to a PC’s USB port.

Here’s a sampling of what’s coming:

Current Audio

has begun shipping its in-ceiling
dipole/bipole speakers, the CS654DBFL and CS-
650DBFL, at suggested retails of $799.00/pair and
$599.00/pair, respectively.

Each speaker features one woofer and two tweeters.
Users can set the speakers for dipole out-of-phase
operation to create a null around the listening area and
focus on recreating background ambience, and the
tweeters can be set to bipole mode for in-phase playback
to enhance localization of sounds.


has added a three-channel amp to its flagship Halo series and plans four half-rack-size components
intended for tabletop use.

The three-channel amp is the THX Ultra2-certified Parasound
Halo A 31, due in April at a suggested $3,000. The
high-bias Class A/AB amp features pure Class A operation
up to 7 watts per channel and delivers 250 watts per
channel into 8 ohms and 400 watts into 4 ohms, all channels

It’s designed for multiple applications. In one scenario,
it would power two surround speakers and one centerchannel
speaker in a home-theater system while a separate
two-channel amp or pair of monoblock amps are dedicated
to the left-right front channels, which can also be
used for two-channel music

The amp can also be used
with a second three-channel
amp to power a 6.1-channel
home theater.

In its Z series of half-rackwidth
audio components,
the company is adding four
models designed specifically
for tabletop or desktop
use. They will be available in
silver to complement black
Z series half-rack-width
components intended for
rack mounting. Those models
come with rack ears and
could be used to create a
multi-zone audio system.

The four tabletop models
are the $350-suggested
Zamp v.3, $400 Zcd CD
player, $400 Zpre2 preamp and $450 Zdac digital-to-analog
converter, all due in the spring.

All are one IU-rack tall at 1.5 inches (2 inches with feet),
a half IU rack wide at 9.5 inches wide, and 10 inches deep.


has expanded its Episode speaker selection
with the shipment of the brand’s first soundbars and first
on-wall LCR speakers.

The speakers join other Episode-branded in-room, inwall,
in-ceiling and outdoor speakers as well as Episodebranded
amplifiers and acoustic treatments.

Two Episode three-channel passive soundbars are
available in 30- and 40-inch widths at a suggested
$499 and $599, respectively. The soundbars are timbre-
matched for use with the Episode 300-series onwall
LCRs, which can be used for front- or surroundchannel
applications. They’re sized for medium- and
large-sized TVs and are priced at a suggested $199
and $299 each, respectively.

Wisdom Audio

plans April shipments of planar-magnetic
in-wall speakers designed to expand its customer

Four in-wall speakers in the Insight series will retail for
$1,000 to $5,000 each and feature passive crossovers
so they can be used with A/V receivers. The company’s
current in-wall planar-magnetic speakers, in contrast, start
at $3,000 each, not including a $6,500 7.3-channel electronic
crossover with parametric EQ and Audyssey roomcorrection
technology. A separate amp to biamplify the
speakers is also needed. Until Insight ships in April, the
lowest price for a 7.1-channel home theater speaker system
using Wisdom’s planar-magnetic in-wall speakers is
$30,000, said president Mark Glazier.

The speaker series will “appeal to people who no longer
find the box on the floor appealing,” Glazier said in pointing
to the rise of flat-panel TVs.

The company plans to add an Insight in-ceiling model
and on-wall variants of the
in-wall models late this year.

Theta Digital

plans its first
Class D amp and multiple upgrade
options for its flagship
Casablanca III HD preamp/
surround processor.

The card-upgradable Casablanca,
whose base price
is a suggested $13,745, will
get an optional $1,995-suggested
digital output card
that features six pairs of
wideband 192kHz AES/
EBU outputs for connection
to outboard digital-toanalog
converters (DACs).
The card ships in February
to upgrade previously purchased
Casablanca models
but can also be included in
new models ordered from
the factory.

A second upgrade is a post-processing card that extends
digital audio bandwidth to 192kHz on all channels,
adds DTS Neo:X 11.1-channel post-processing,
and accepts a bundled daughter card that delivers Dirac
Live digital room correction. The upgrade will make
Casablanca the first, or one of the first, audio components
to support DTS Neo:X’s 11.1-channel capability,
said senior sales and marketing VP Jeff Hipps. Select
A/V receivers currently on the market a 9.1-channel
implementation of Neo:X.

The solution will be available in June at $3,995 for installation
by dealers and advanced consumers.

In April, the brand will ship the $6,000 Prometheus
monoblock amp, which will be the brand’s first Class D
amplifier. Power is rated at 250 watts RMS into 8 ohms,
500 watts RMS into 4 ohms and 1,000 watts RMS into 2
ohms with less than 0.01 percent THD.