Speakers Keep Up Appearances

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Freestanding speakers are the Kirstie Alleys of this year's International CES, shedding hefty appearances for something a little more trim. New speakers here at CES, however, are taking their design cues from flat-panel TVs and design-conscious consumers, not from Jenny Craig.

Infinity, for example, is combining three front-channel speakers into one trim horizontal enclosure, and KEF is delivering surround sound from a pair of left-right speakers. Cerwin Vega, long known for big woofers, is using multiple smaller woofers to dump the thunder-thigh look. And Definitive Technology has come up with a way to incorporate powered subwoofers into trim left-right tower speakers without adding too much girth.

Dealers looking for something shapely, or simply something new to offer, will find products from the following companies. (For more details and more suppliers, see twice.com).

BG: New planar speakers from BG include the floorstanding Z92, which uses a ribbon tweeter coaxially mounted in front of a 10x5-inch midrange planar driver, complemented by two 6.5-inch aluminum-cone woofers in a 44.25-inch-tall enclosure. It ships in February at $2,499/pair.

Cerwin Vega: In a departure from its past, the brand slimmed down the speakers in its CVHD series of 5.1- and 2.1-channel speaker systems, but the company didn't depart from its loud-and-clear legacy. "They're thin, but they rock like Cerwin Vega," said marketing manager Rick Richardson.

The 5.1 system retails for a suggested $999, and the 2.1 system goes for $699.

Infinity: The Total Solutions TSS is the brand's first three-in-one left-center-right (LCR) loudspeaker, a slim unit that can be shelf-mounted or wall-mounted using the supplied swivel-wall-mount bracket. It can be placed above or below flat-panel LCDs or plasma displays, or above a TV set or entertainment center furniture. It's available at a suggested $679.

JBL: A wireless speaker system and a flagship speaker are expected to appear at the show.

The On Air Control 2.4G wireless speaker system consists of a pair of compact two-way speakers and a transmitter/receiver module for use as surround channels, a second-room music system, as laptop and desktop PC speakers, or speakers for portable audio devices. It will be available in February at a suggested $349.

The flagship Project Everest DD66000 speaker retails for a suggested $30,000 to $35,000 per speaker. It is available in a multiple finishes.

KEF: The $1,200 Model 7 and $2,000 Model 11 in the fivetwo loudspeaker series deliver 5.1 surround sound from two speaker enclosures and a subwoofer.

Model 7 is a bookshelf speaker containing seven drivers, and the Model 11 is a floorstanding system with 11 drivers in the two enclosures.

NAD: In the case of the new Stratus G series, slimming down is good for looks and performance. A sleek profile and contoured shape enhance dispersion and reduce unwanted sonic diffractions, the company said. The $1,999/pair GT1 tower, $1,099/pair GB1bookshelf and $849-each GC1 center channel are expected to be on display at a Hard Rock Hotel suite.

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