PC Audio, Wireless Audio Options Grow



Wireless audio and the growing popularity of computers and portable devices as primary music sources were common themes infusing a series of audio products launched this month.

Many of the new products use wireless technologies such as stereo Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Apple’s AirPlay to stream music from PCs, smartphones or tablets, but two brands — NHT and Energy — launched their first active speakers designed expressly for wired analog connection to a PC or portable device.

Audio products designed for use with PCs as a primary music source are catching on with audiophiles and nonaudiophiles alike, said NHT co-founder John Johnsen, pointing to the availability of high-resolution music downloads and the rising number of DACs designed to connect to a PC’s USB port.

Said Tommy Jacobs, customer development director for Energy, “Consumers are becoming avid viewers and listeners on their computers and tablets.”

Here’s what various suppliers introduced this month.

Altec Lansing:

The company priced its first AirPlayenabled tabletop speaker system, the InAir 5000, at a suggested $499 and plans December shipments.

The company promises additional AirPlay speakers in the future.

The product, unveiled at Berlin’s IFA show, features tri-amplification and a back-panel USB port that charges a USB-connected iPod, iPhone or iPad.

The speaker boasts 110 watts of amplification, DSP, two soft-dome 1-inch neodymium- magnet tweeters, two 3-inch Kevlar cone tweeters, one 4-inch woofer and one passive bass radiator.


The company is expanding its selection of Bluetooth-equipped active speakers under the Acoustics Research to three with the November shipment of a portable speaker and an under-cabinet light/speaker in the kitchen.

Both feature Bluetooth 2.1+EDR with stereo Bluetooth and AVRCP (audio video remote control profile).

The $129-suggested under-cabinet speaker also doubles as a Bluetooth hands-free speakerphone. The ASPB1 streams music from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets equipped with stereo Bluetooth. The system features LED lights to illuminate the countertop, stainlesssteel- look finish, dual 2-inch full range speakers that fire down and forward, 2x3-watt amp rated into a 4-ohm load with less than 1 percent THD, dual omni-directional microphones with bi-directional noise reduction and echo cancelling, and capacitive touch switches.

The outdoor speaker is the $99-suggested AC/DC AWSBT1, which features weather-resistant cylindrical case, integrated carrying handle, and 5-watt mono speaker system with 2-inch tweeter and 3-inch woofer. It also features a 3.5mm aux input. Expected battery life is 10 hours. A storage compartment holds a phone or MP3 player.


The Klipsch Group brand launched its first multimedia speaker system, the $99-suggested Energy Power EM-2.1.

The system, shipping this month, features a front-firing subwoofer with front-mounted volume and bass-level controls, a pair of compact satellites with 3-inch drivers, and included 60-inch 3.5mm analog connection to PCs and portable devices.


The company unveiled the $199- each active 90-watt two-way SuperPower mini speaker, the first in a promised series of powered high-performance speakers designed to connect to such new music sources as smartphones, tablets and computers via an analog connection.

In about six months, the company will likely launch wireless accessories that enable wireless transmission from a computer or other music source to one or more pairs of SuperPower speakers. NHT will pursue the wireless addon strategy rather than embed wireless in its products, co-founder John Johnsen said, because it doesn’t want to lock consumers into earlier generations of wireless technologies that are always evolving.

The SuperPower features 4.5-inch long-throw woofer and 1-inch silk dome tweeter in a sealed box. The amp in each speaker is rated at 90 watts with more than 90 percent efficiency. It delivers bass to 72Hz and SPLs of more than 111dB @1 meter.


AirPlay is part of two recent announcements. First, the company added AirPlay to its $2,100 DMS-3.1 digital media streamer, enabling the three-zone device to distribute music from an iTunes-equipped PC or Apple mobile device through Russound’s C-series custom-installed multi-room-audio systems.

Second, the company launched the $399-suggested AirGo Outdoor Sound Station, an AC-only outdoor powered speaker that mates with Apple’s $99 AirPlay-equipped Air- Port Express to stream music via Wi-Fi from a networked PC’s iTunes application and from iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads.

The DMS-3.1 at $2,100 incorporates a traditional AM/FM RDS tuner and connects to a home network to stream Internet radio programming and music from a DLNA-certified networked PC.


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