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Saitek Diversifies Into Networked Audio

PC peripherals supplier Saitek, a major supplier of PC-gaming peripherals, is venturing into the audio market for the first time with a trio of products, including a boombox-style device that wirelessly streams music stored on laptops and PCs.

The company also plans a pair of wireless headphones for use with portable MP3, CD and DVD players. The headphones and boombox device use the new Class 1 version of Bluetooth that extends range to 30 meters, from 10 meters, through up to four walls, said sales director Michael Dotson. Bluetooth, he noted, is less expensive to implement than Wi-Fi.

The $129-suggested A250 can be powered off AC or off four AA batteries delivering 20 hours of playback time. Saitek believes it’s the first digital receiver with integrated speakers, making it unnecessary to buy speakers separately to reproduce music streamed from a PC’s HDD.

The A250 controls up/down song selection but doesn’t allow remote selection by metadata. Other buttons control power, pause and play. It also amplifies music from MP3 players connected via 3.5mm stereo jack, it and wirelessly streams Internet radio stations from a PC but doesn’t control station selection. It works with any media player loaded onto a Windows 2000, Windows XP or Mac OS X computer.

The A250 is due at the end of October with included Bluetooth-equipped USB dongle that plugs into a PC.

Bluetooth Class 1 is also used in the A350 in-ear headphones, due at a suggested $99 with battery-powered Bluetooth transmitter that plugs into any portable audio device equipped with 3.5 mm jack. The transmitter uses single AAA battery, and the Bluetooth headphones use a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery to deliver up to five hours of wireless use. It’s also expected to ship at the end of October.

Other brands of Bluetooth stereo headphones retail for $150 to $200, Dotson said.