Multi-Room Audio With No Strings Attached

Twice

INDIANAPOLIS – Wireless-audio suppliers aren’t pulling the legs of installers who make their living pulling wires.

With new-home construction at levels not seen since the mid-1940s, installers have focused their energies on retrofitting existing homes, and new wireless products on display at CEDIA Expo give them an opportunity to make multi-roomaudio retrofits cleaner, faster and simpler because wires don’t have to be run through walls.

The systems could also expand the market to renters who aren’t allowed to modify their apartments.

Proficient president Keith Marshall positions his new wireless system as a way for installers who are mounting a flat-panel TV to step the customer up to a multi-room-audio system that can be installed in one day in four to six rooms without creating a mess.

During the Expo, electronic systems contractors saw new and recently shipped wireless-audio systems from Jamo, NuVo, Proficient, Navvo Systems, SoundCast Systems and MusicLites.

Here’s what select companies showed:

Artison

The company’s recently released MusicLites wireless multi-room-audio system takes the form of combination LED lights/wireless speakers that fit into 4-, 5- and 6-inch recessed lighting cans in the ceiling.

Jamo

A powered two-channel speaker system and a 2.1-channel sub-sat system are designed for use with a wireless sender and receiver to stream music wirelessly from a PC or from MP3 players, smartphones and other mobile devices. They’re due next year.

Navvo Group

The company, led by former Best Buy executive Wade Fenn, came to the CEDIA Expo for the first time, bringing with it an expanded selection of wireless multi-room-audio products that use Wi-Fi to deliver up to 10 audio zones.

Three models will be available to customer installers, and one model will also be open to mainstream retail.

The company’s Voco wireless system uses Wi-Fi-equipped Android tablets and Android smartphones as system controllers. Unlike other wireless multi-roomaudio systems, Voco also offers voice control of song selection via Navvo’s free app, which also lets users select songs via an Android device’s touchscreen.

An iPhone version of the app is slated for the fourth quarter.

Earlier this year, the company launched the $199-suggested V-Zone player, which connects to a home’s existing audio and home-theater systems via HDMI, optical digital cable and analog RCA cables.

With multiple V-Zone players, up to 10 different sources or songs can be streamed simultaneously around the house via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n from multiple networked PCs, multiple network-attached storage (NAS) drives and from a Wi-Fi-equipped smartphone. Additional music sources can include USB thumb drives and hard drives, USB-connected iPods other than the iPod Touch and iPhone, and other USB-connected MP3 players plugged directly into the V-Zone player. Sources also include more than 50,000 free Internet radio stations and podcasts streamed by a smartphone through Navvo’s app.

For use as a music source, networked PCs and NAS drives must be loaded with Voco software.

At the Expo, the company showed the new V-Spot and V-Zone Pro, both due in the first quarter. The V-Spot, at a targeted suggested $399, is an all-one-one client incorporating speakers and amplifier. It also doubles as a Wi-Fi access point. To reproduce music from connected local sources, it features line input, front and back USB ports for USB hard drives and other USB devices, and eSATA port for external hard drives.

The V-Spot will ship in limited quantities in the fourth quarter.

The step-up V-Zone Pro, due in the first quarter, lacks amp and speakers but offers the same connectivity features as the V-Spot as well as embedded Wi-Fi access point, but it adds high-quality DAC, infrared blaster to turn on an A/V receiver, and the ability to host an internal hard drive. It will be priced from $499 to $699, depending on whether the company ships it with internal hard drive.

Proficient Audio

The brand launched a wireless multi-room-audio system that provides more simultaneous sources and more zones than its predecessor.

The wireless multi-room-audio system, called Proficient Zero, features a wireless transmitter that transmits music from two sources simultaneously to up to eight tabletop amplifier/receivers, which in turn are connected to in-room speakers of the consumer’s choice. If three wireless transmitters are used at a time, the system promises wireless distribution of up to six audio sources simultaneously to speakers in up to 24 rooms.

Each transmitter is capable of sending stereo audio from two separate sources while also sending mono wirelessly to a powered subwoofer.

The new system, shipping in the fourth quarter, also extends transmitting range through walls to 90 feet from 70 feet, and a wireless extender systems adds another 100 feet to that range.

One Zero transmitter is bundled with a 2×35-watt amplifier/receiver at a suggested $500. Additional amplifier/receivers cost $350 each. The preamp/receiver costs $150, and a matching 2×40-watt amp is $300. The extender system, which consists of two repeaters, costs $500.

The transmitters connect to multi-zone A/V receivers, Internet radio streamers and other music sources via a digital PCM optical input and a two-channel analog stereo input.

Using a supplied IR remote pointed at the amp/receivers and preamp/receivers, users can switch between the two sources connected to a transmitter and a local source connected to the amplifier/receiver via optical digital input or stereo 3.5mm input.

Using the supplied IR remote, users can also switch among three transmitters to access additional remote sources.

The amp/receiver and preamp/receiver also features IR passthrough and IR output to control a local source.

Like its predecessor, Zero systems don’t enable users to turn on or control a source connected to a transmitter in another room.

At the show, the company also revealed plans for a single- chassis powered tabletop speaker with integrated wireless receiver. The speaker would also stream music from an iPod or iPhone equipped with a wireless Zero dongle.

All products but the single-chassis speaker ship in the fourth quarter.

Soundcast Systems

Soundcast offers indoor and outdoor wireless speakers, wireless iPod-docking transmitters, wireless transmitters for PCs and other audio sources, a wireless subwoofer, and a transmitter receiver pair that adds wireless capability to surround speakers.

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