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Sharp Outlines Audio Plans For Custom Channel

New York – Sharp is using its high-resolution Blu-ray/SACD/networked music player to establish a beachhead for the launch of a series of high-performance audio products into the custom-A/V and systems-integrator channel.

The products will complement Sharp’s video presence in the channels, said audio products senior manager David Fisher told TWICE.

The $5,000 UPP SD-WH1000U, equipped with WiSA 7.1-channel wireless audio and WiHD wireless video, rolled out earlier this year through independent reps in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston. The product will be rolled out in May to the San Francisco Bay area and South Florida, with additional markets to follow by the end of September. Additional accounts within the current markets will also be added this year.

The company is signing up dealers who make a commitment to training, demonstrating the product, and participating in events with Sharp, he said. The product isn’t sold over the Internet.

“By the holidays, we could see additional audio products” as part of an effort “to offer more of a story and value proposition to the channel,” Fisher said.

Future products would include additional WiSA/WiHD products or additional high-end audio products without the wireless technologies, he said. WiSA technology could also trickle down to lower price points, perhaps including a version of the player without a built-in preamp. High-end WiSA-equipped soundbars or shelf audio systems also offer potential, he said.

Products will incorporate feedback from dealers, he said.

Potential target dealers include Bang & Olufsen-branded franchise stores that sell WiSA-certified B&O active wireless speakers and offer custom-installation services. Although the franchises won’t be able to display the SD-WH1000U, they could spec a player into projects in which brick walls or other factors make it difficult to run speaker cable to speakers or an HDMI cable to a display or overhead projector, he said.

The SD-WH1000U is a 7.1-channel universal disc player/preamp with 3D Blu-ray and multichannel-SACD playback and embedded high-resolution network music player. It streams and decodes 192kHz/24-bit and DSD high-resolution audio files from DLNA-enabled PCs and NAS drives via Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable. It also plays high-resolution files stored on USB sticks.

An included WiHD module plugged into the back of the chassis delivers 1080p video and 3D video wirelessly up to 30 feet within a room to a TV equipped with a WiHD receiver included with the player. WiSA audio technology transmits high-resolution music files and Blu-ray soundtracks wirelessly in uncompressed 96kHz/24-bit form to a handful of currently available WiSA-certified active wireless speakers or to WiSA bridges, which in turn are connected to active speakers. One $1,000 mono bridge connects to a single active speaker.

Audio transmitted via wires or wireless plays back in sync with video transmitted wirelessly.

As a home theater hub, the player features three 4K-capable HDMI 1.4 inputs and one output and balanced and unbalanced audio outputs. It also features Roku-ready certification but lacks its own embedded audio and video streaming services

The player’s wireless technologies deliver flexibility of player placement, allowing for placement in more convenient or less obtrusive places away from the TV display or perhaps closer to a customer’s Blu-ray disc library, Fisher said. The player could also be tucked away inside a closet.

Although 60GHz WiHD doesn’t penetrate walls or doors, the WiHD module that plugs into the back of the player can be plugged into a wired extender for placement outside the closet, Fisher said. The 5GHz WiSA technology does transmit through closet doors, he noted.

The player also delivers audio simultaneously over a mix of wired and WiSA wireless speakers for use in cases when only wireless surround speakers are needed.

Though the player is sold through independent reps, orders are fulfilled via distributors.

Sharp’s other current audio products consist of three soundbars priced from$129 to $399, tabletop audio systems from $149 to $199, and a portable Bluetooth speaker.