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Wired, Wireless Products Bowed For Custom Market

There’s always room for more new products in an industry that’s growing at double-digit percentage rates, if suppliers’ introductions here at International CES are a reliable indicator.

Wired and wireless products at the low and high ends will debut at the show, where some companies will enter the market, others will expand their presence and all hope the industry’s momentum doesn’t let up, as the latest forecast from Parks Associates promises.

For 2006, Parks forecasts residential installer-level revenues to grow 13.7 percent to $8.3 billion, including labor revenue. That would follow estimated 2005 growth of 17.7 percent to $7.3 billion, and 2004 growth of 21.6 percent to $6.2 billion (see chart).

Suppliers attribute strong growth to historically high new-home construction, home remodeling and growing awareness (see roundtable discussion, p. 136). Whatever the causes, the growth has captured the attention of more suppliers and led others to invest in more products and in new technologies.

At CES, newcomers will include Wisdom Audio, which is showing its first architectural speakers. Companies expanding their presence include Dual, which is showing new in-wall speakers, and BG, which is showing new in-wall line-source speakers.

At the high end, BG and RBH plan speaker introductions, and Escient plans a $5,999-suggested FireBall music server and DVD-management system with multizone-video capability. At the low end, for the custom market, Sherwood will come in with a dedicated multiroom stereo receiver at $299.

In wireless home control solutions, Z–Wave wireless-control technology will turn up in multiple products (see story at right).

Here’s what dealers will find:

Angstrom Loudspeakers: The company is expanding its speaker selection with the launch of a new line of in-wall speakers called Ambiente and with on-wall speakers designed for installation in condos.

The series features virtually invisible grilles, contour switches to allow for critical adjustments to the mid- and high-frequency ranges after wall mounting, IR receiver in every rectangular model and pivoting soft-dome tweeters.

For multiple dwelling units (MDUs) where in-wall and in-ceiling speakers could be heard in an adjacent dwelling unit or wouldn’t meet local building codes, Angstrom is showing its MDU loudspeaker solution kits.

Each MDU kit contains two high-performance mini speakers finished in a neutral off-white; two color-matched adjustable, swiveling mounts; two color-matched wall plates designed for mounting in standard single-gain J or Back boxes; and all hardware for mounting and installation.

AudioAccess: The JBL division plans January shipments of its first iPod docking station, which connects to an AudioAccess multiroom audio system.

The tabletop docking station/recharger enables an iPod to play music in any room through an AudioAccess distributed- audio system and provides two-way operation of the iPod from a Color AudioAccess Touch screen Controller (CATC) in a remote zone or from a Web-enabled device such as a computer, Internet tablet or PDA, the division said.

All menu information from the iPod, such as artist, album and track information, is displayed on the CATC or Web-enabled device, and all iPod music-playback functions, such as start, stop, pause and next track/previous track control are accessible via remote operation.

The docking station operates in conjunction with Audioaccess system interface components and the Audioaccess PX-700 Multiroom Audio Controller. It provides both unbalanced and balanced audio feeds to the system, enabling the transmission of audio signals for up to 1,000 feet of CAT-5 cable.

The docking station can be used with all compatible iPod models featuring a docking connector, such as later-generation iPod “click wheel” models, an iPod mini, Pod nano and an iPod Photo (for audio playback only).

Suggested retail pricing will be announced at the show.

BG (Bohlender-Graebener): The company is expanding its selection of in-walls using an upgraded version of ribbon-tweeter and -midrange technology to boost sensitivity to 93dB (1 watt/1 meter) from previous models’ 90dB and extend bass response to 150Hz from 400Hz.

The company previously unveiled the $10,000/pair 89-inch-tall Radia R-800, which uses planar tweeters and midranges and active cone woofers to extend the speakers’ response to 20Hz.

The new models, due in January, are the $3,000-each R-600 and $2,000-each R-500, both with passive cone woofers. Their controlled vertical directivity reduces floor and ceiling reflections to deliver spectrally balanced sound over a wide listening area.

Ribbon speakers are “faithful and accurate,” a spokesman said, but they were hobbled by their inability to play loud and low, and they were “fragile” because people tended to crank them up to play them loud. BG’s Neo 10 ribbon technology overcomes these limitations by using Dupont’s Teonex-branded film in the speakers’ tweeters and midranges.

Dual: One new in-wall model and one new in-ceiling model are priced at $149/pair.

Eaton: The company plans to display an updated structured-wiring system and a distributed audio system based on the low-cost A-BUS technology (see story, below).

Escient: Multizone video capability is the hallmark of the flagship high-end $5,999-suggested FireBall DVDM-552 HDD music server and DVD/CD management system. From two separate rooms, it enables simultaneous viewing of two DVDs in two separate Sony DVD megachangers. When two 552s are linked, users can watch four DVDs simultaneously in four separate rooms from four connected DVD megachangers.

It ships in March and will be displayed by Marantz, which is marketing Escient devices.

Here’s how it works:

Two 552s, each incorporating a 500GB music server, can be linked to store 1TB of music. Each can be connected to up to five Sony DVD777ES ES DVD-megachangers. With its five-in/two-out matrix video switcher, it can stream two DVD movies simultaneously from separate megachangers over component-video cables to $999-suggested Fireball DMP-1 disc-less A/V players in other rooms. The DMP-1 also streams Internet radio. With multiple megachangers connected to two 552s, four separate DVD movies can be streamed over video cables to remote rooms.

Each 552 can be linked to five megachangers to store 2,000 DVDs.

All devices are certified by the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA).

RBH: The SI-6000 in-wall expands the cabinet-speaker Signature series with its first architectural speaker, which is voice-matched to the cabinet models. The $1,199-each speaker features four 6.5-inch aluminum-cone woofers, a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter and power-handling capacity of 300 watts, measuring 56 inches by 14 inches by 3.5 inches. It’s available.

Russound: The UNO-TSD2 is a desktop version of the company’s in-wall UNO-TS2 color touch screen and, like its counterpart, displays metadata on its 3.75-inch screen. For use on nightstands, end tables or kitchen counters, the TSD2 controls Russound RNET-network multiroom A/V systems. It comes in black or white.

Sherwood: A 4×75-watt multiroom stereo receiver for the lower end of the custom install market drives four speaker pairs wired in parallel and, with supplied remote, independently switches each pair on or off. The RX-4051’s suggested retail is $299.

Wisdom Audio: The company’s first in-wall speakers are thin-filmed planar models shipping in the first quarter. The six-model Neo Series of in-wall speakers ranges from about $5,000 to $10,000 per pair and includes an in-wall subwoofer.

The left-right models range in height to 76 inches, are 7.5 inches wide and 3.5 inches deep. The efficiency of neodymium magnets enables the drivers to be driven easily by smaller amplifiers.