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New Names, Shapes Come To iPod Speaker Market

Suppliers are leveraging iPod popularity with a variety of introductions that include high-end and moderately priced iPod-docking speaker systems to iPod-docking clock radios and home theater in a box systems (HTiBs).

The products are primed for a market in which unit sales sell-through of iPod speaker systems and clock radios grew 34.7 percent to 1.95 million for the year through August, although dollar volume grew only 4.4 percent to $216.6 million because of a 22.5 percent drop on average selling prices to $11.27, The NPD Group found. The statistics exclude iPod-docking A/V receivers, shelf systems and HTiBs.

New products include a high-end iPod speaker system from Tannoy, a wireless iPod speaker system from Griffin, a trio of docking clock radios from car audio accessories supplier Scosche, an iPod-docking DJ turntable, and digitally amplified speakers with optional interface for iPods and other-brand MP3 players.

iPod connectivity is even coming to full-size music jukeboxes. Music-server maker Qsonix launched a full-size music-serving nostalgia jukebox that transfers songs and playlists to a connected iPod (see p. 48).

At the high end, speaker maker Tannoy plans January availability of the one-piece i30 iPod speaker system at about $500. The 5.38-inch by 18-inch by 5.5-inch tabletop device, available in gloss black with integrated handle, features two 4-inch drivers with concentrically mounted 1-inch wireless electromagnetic dome tweeters whose Inductive Coupling Technology (iCT) makes it unnecessary to use a passive crossover and cannot be burned out from abuse, the company said. The speakers are driven by a digital amplifier and DSP is used to improve sound quality in a small enclosure.

The i30 comes with a remote that controls the system and docked iPod, video outputs that let users watch iPod videos on a connected TV, and USB port to let consumers sync their iPod with their PC’s iTunes application. An auxiliary 3.5mm input allows for connection to other-brand MP3 players but doesn’t charge them, nor will the supplied remote control them.

Also at the high end, Salagar Sonics of Waukegan, Ill., introduced amplified stand-mounted two-way speakers at $7,999 a pair with optional $149 BL-1 interface to convert an iPod’s minijack output, or the RCA outputs of CD players and music servers, to balanced XLR output for connection to each speakers’ balanced XLR inputs. The interface is said to reduce losses in signal volume and dynamics normally resulting from an impedance mismatch when connecting devices via mini jack and RCA connections.

The curvy biamplified two-way Symphony S10 speakers incorporate digital crossovers, 2×200-watt Class D amplifiers from Bang & Olufsen’s ICEpower division, and digital crossover with four selectable settings to optimize frequency response and sensitivity to the input source and room setting. The sealed 24.6- by 15.5- by 12.1-inch cabinets, said to resemble string instruments, are shaped to dramatically reduce cabinet coloration, the company said. They incorporate 10-inch woofer and 1-inch soft-dome tweeter delivering 42Hz-20kHz frequency response.

Speaker stands for the Symphony S10 speakers range in price from $175 to $699 a pair.

For consumers with smaller budgets, Scosche of Simi Valley, Calif., introduced three iPod-docking clock radios priced up to an everyday $149, and Griffin Technology launched a $299 iPod speaker system with separate amplified wireless speakers that can be placed away from the system’s base.

Griffin‘s Evolve Wireless Sound System, is available exclusively through Best Buy’s stores and Web site at $299.

Evolve consists of a base unit that charges a docked iPod and docked speakers with internal lithium-ion batteries that play up to 10 hours on a single charge. Line-in RCA jacks are available to connect other-brand MP3 players. The speakers can be placed in any room up to 150 feet from the base, and the iPod can be controlled from other rooms via a supplied RF remote.

Evolve is said to be the “first widely available digital sound system for iPod and other digital devices that features speakers that are both rechargeable and wireless,” the company contended.

For bedside use, Scosche launched two clock radios, one of which operates on six AA batteries as well as AC. The AC/DC IALM 3 at en expected everyday $79 features top-mount iPod dock, 3.5mm aux input, FM tuner, backlit LCD display, snooze control and the ability to wake up its owner via buzzer or iPod-stored music. It charges an iPod only when plugged into AC.

At $149, the Scosche IAML2 adds a full-function remote to control the iPod, and larger 2.5-inch speakers. .

Also for modest budgets, accessories maker XtremeMac launched its latest iPod speaker system, the Tango Studio with FM radio. The $79-suggested system features two full-range speakers, remote, line-in jack, and blue LED display that relays the volume level, operating mode and radio station frequency. It joins the iPod-docking Luna alarm clock, available for a year at a suggested $149.

For DJs, Numark of Cumberland, R.I., introduced what it called the industry’s first DJ mixing console with universal iPod dock to enable scratching, key locking and simultaneous playback of two songs from an iPod. The $599-everyday iDJ2 mixing console also features rear-panel USB inputs to connect USB hard drives and USB flash memory drives. Line inputs are available to connect CD players and turntables.

For the home audio mainstream, Onkyo unveiled two more HTiBs systems with included iPod-dock/charger and remote that controls the iPod menu, which appears on a connected TV screen and on the included A/V receiver. One system, the 7.1-channel HT-SP908 at a suggested $1,099, is built around a 7×90-watt A/V receiver and separate 1080p up-scaling DVD player. It’s bundled with seven satellite speakers and a powered sub. The XM- and Sirius-ready system is the industry’s first available HTiB with HDMI 1.3a connections and decoders for all mandatory and optional Blu-Ray and HD DVD surround sound formats.