Home Theater

Want… Finite Elemente Horizontal 51 iPhone Speaker Shelf.

My friend Stephan sent me an email last night about a number of iPhone accessories that he thought I should own, and out of all of them there is one I was really impressed with.

The Finite Elemente Horizontal 51 is a floating wall mounted shelf that contains an amplifier, iPhone/iPod dock, USB connector, and composite video output to connect to your TV, and a remote control port on the face so you can control your iPhone. This thing would be perfect if it had HDMI output for HD streaming to your flat screen TV set. The shelf contains two speakers with woofers on the underside of the shelf.

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The speakers are powered by two 50 watt amps with built in power overload protection. Those amps drive two speakers with a dynamic range of 50 – 25.000 Hz (-6 dB). Not huge specs, but good enough for light music listening in an office or small room environment.

Winner of a prestigious Red Dot best of the Best award for 2011, the Finite Elemente Horizontal 51, is well deserving. A simple, clean, elegant solution that lets you fill your house with portable music. The shelf itself can hold up to 55 pounds which is more than enough to hold all your nicknacks and or home theater AV gear.

While this isn’t a perfect solution, it’s a great start. I’d love to see built in WiFi with support for Airplay, HDMI input/outputs, with support for other devices. There is plenty of room on the back of this shelf to allow it to act like a home theater bridge between your iDevice, cable box, Google TV or Apple TVand so much more.

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Sony’s New HomeShare System.

One of the things I really like about Sony products is they get industrial design. The stuff they make pretty much always looks great. One of the things that has annoyed me about them in the past, is they tend to be fairly closed about their technology, and arrogant about its superiority (think memory stick for their cameras, and Mini Disc Walkman). When they do wake up and realize they need to make products that work with other technologies (think iPod) the results are a solid compliment to any given product.

With CES in full swing, Sony unveiled a new iPod/iPhone stereo system that could rival the Sonos systems that have been around for a number of years. The new SA-NS300 and NS-400 systems are really nice looking units that use wireless network speakers designed to broadcast tunes from a variety of sources such as DLNA-enabled PCs or BRAVIA internet music services found on Sony’s latest Blu-ray players. And while Sony has put their product first, they have also embraced Apple’s new Air Sharing so that iPhones and iPods can join in when placed in HomeShare compatible NAS-SV20i and NAC-SV10i docks.

iPod/iPhone dock

Like any number of Sony products, these go far enough beyond the capabilities of a standard remote, so Sony is also introducing the HomeShare-friendly touch screen RMN-U1 Wi-Fi universal remote. The remote allows you to send music through out the networked HomeShare system, and serves up things like Album art, Lyrics, Liner notes etc. Unfortunately, the remote is bought separately and will set you back an additional 300 bucks.

HomeShare Remote.

From the sound of the press release, it looks as though Sony has set this up to zone your network so you can send media to every room or specific rooms, which is a definite plus. The system uses standard 802.11b/g WiFi so it should be compatible with any wireless network you have in your home.

The Subwoofer. Why is there a button called "Party" on this?

The best part of this is the price point. Sony says that this will be available in March for $200.00 to $300.00. Better than Sonos or many of the competing products on the market today. And since it is Sony, you can bet the build quality is going to be solid, and the software is going to be well thought out.

This March I am going to have to head to a Sony Style store and check these out in person.

Wireless Speakers

Klipsch LightSpeaker

CES started this week in Las Vegas. I wish I was there escaping the arctic blast that has engulfed the midwest since before Christmas but, alas I am not. None the less I can still keep up to date sort of with the flood of web posts and press releases coming from the show.

Yesterday Klipsch announced their latest speaker product due to release later this year, and I have to say I am excited. The Klipsch LightSpeaker is the first commercial version of something I posted about earlier this year on Facebook, and listed as one of my top ten design ideas of 2009. SoundBulb by designers Hoang M Nguyen, Poom Puttorngul & Anh Nguyen.

Klipsch has not said if they licensed the design and technology from Hoang M Nguyen, Poom Puttorngul & Anh Nguyen, and frankly it doesn’t really matter. Klipsch has a solid track record with producing top-notch speaker products and I’m sure this will sound great.

The all-new LightSpeaker is an audio speaker that requires no external wiring or power. The device is designed to fit into normal 5- to 6-inch recessed light fixture, which enables homeowners to easily retrofit these into their ceilings and walls. You simply screw LightSpeaker into a conventional fixture, dial-up the desired zone on the bundled remote, and listen to music. A full-range driver sits just behind the LED light, and it receives signals via a 2.4GHz base station that can be plugged into just about any source for streaming audio.

I am kind of surprised at the price point, 600 bucks for the base kit which includes 2 speakers, remote, and base station. For this kind of money these things better sound really solid with an extensive dynamic range. Beyond the base kit additional speakers can be purchased for 250 dollars each.

The bundled controller allows you to control up to two zones and two sources. You can also adjust lighting brightness and volume via the main base station or using the smaller remote. Each zone can easily support up to four LightSpeakers.

According to Klipsch the speakers are somewhat weather proof, meaning they can go outside as long as they are not exposed directly to moisture. (think in an overhang out of the wind and rain). So humidity shouldn’t affect the system.

What this system needs to complete it is a wireless sub-woofer that also houses the base station. It would also be nice if they had  Dolby Surround Sound support and support for other WiFi base stations like my Apple Airport Express.

Now before I finish up here I want to say one thing about this that is bugging me. Why the hell did Klipsch make it look so fugly? I know you don’t see 99 percent of the light fixture, it is recessed. But still, why didn’t you borrow some aesthetics from Hoang M Nguyen, Poom Puttorngul & Anh Nguyen? I mean at least theirs looks good. I know, I’m being a snobby designer guy. Still it would have been nice to see something besides that ugly translucent plastic plate.  And what were you thinking with the industrial design of the remote and base station? I mean seriously, even if the quality is rock solid, the design looks like cheap and rushed to market. If you are going to charge 600 dollars for a product, make it look good. Both Samsung and LG know how to do this. Take a lesson from them.

The Klipsch Press Release.

Klipsch to Illuminate Audio Industry with New LightSpeaker
Energy-saving product uniquely combines brilliant LED lighting and wireless ambient sound

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (January 5, 2010) – Klipsch, a leading global speaker manufacturer, is introducing what is possibly the most innovative design to hit the audio industry in recent years. Winner of a 2010 CES Innovations Award, the patented Klipsch® LightSpeaker® is the first product to combine efficient LED lighting and wireless ambient sound into a single unit that installs like a light bulb.

“Today’s consumers are overloaded with complex technologies, and the LightSpeaker is designed to enrich their lives without complication,” said Klipsch president Paul Jacobs. It offers brilliant light, reduces energy costs and creates a multi-room ambient music system in mere minutes. There’s no wiring, no retrofitting and no software to deal with.”

The LightSpeaker, which comes complete with a dimmable LED bulb and full-range speaker, fits 5- and 6-inch recessed light fixtures with a standard Edison socket. Upcoming accessories will allow the LightSpeaker to accommodate hanging light fixtures as well as floor and table lamps.

The speaker uses a 20 watt high-performance, low-distortion digital amplifier to deliver energy efficient sound. Furthermore, the LightSpeaker’s 2.5-inch wide dispersion driver uses digital signal processing to optimize high- and low-frequency output for a full spectrum of sound.

In order to deliver music wirelessly, the LightSpeaker relies on a standalone transmitter. A music source, such as a laptop, iPod or CD player, connects to the transmitter and it wirelessly sends the sound to the LightSpeaker. The transmitter’s 2.4GHz wireless technology accommodates up to eight LightSpeakers, equaling stereo sound in multiple rooms. You can connect two music sources to the transmitter, as well as establish two separate listening zones. The transmitter or remote will control the sources, zones, lighting levels and volume.

The LED bulb is rated for 40,000 hours of use and can last over 15 years. It also reduces daily lighting expenses by 80 percent, using 10 watts to produce light that’s bright enough to replace up to a 65 watt bulb. Unlike incandescent bulbs, the LightSpeaker LED bulb contains no mercury or halogen gases and produces almost no heat.

A bundled package, consisting of two LightSpeakers, a transmitter, radio frequency remote, mini jack to RCA plug cable, lenses and trim, retails for $599. Single LightSpeakers are also available for $249 each. Klipsch will begin selling the LightSpeaker on klipsch.com later this month, with broader distribution slated for March.

“A LightSpeaker package eventually pays for itself, through savings on professional installation, separate audio components and energy consumption,” concluded Jacobs. “Plus you can take it with you if you move.”

LightSpeakers are for background music and not intended to replace home theater speakers.

LED Light

• 10W super bright LED provides a sharp crisp light that is easy on the eyes.

• LED outputs the light suitable to replace up to a 60W incandescent bulb

• Long Lasting LED is rated for over 25,000 to 40,000 hours of use (15 to 20 years average use)

• LED Light is fully dimmable and is controlled from either the remote or the light button on the transmitter

Wireless Receiver

Receives a 2.4 GHz wireless stereo signal broadcast from the Transmitter and depending on the zone assigned to the speaker and the left or right audio channel selected, the receiver sends the correct signal to each LightSpeakers® on-board digital amplifier

Digital Amplifier & Switch Mode Power Supply

• The E26 standard Edison Screw allows the unit to attach to any standard light fixture socket.

• The high efficiency switch mode power supply delivers power to the LED and the digital amplifier without generating a lot of heat.

• 20W high performance low distortion digital amplifier provides energy efficient sound

• The on-board Digital Signal Processing delivers customized audio to each LightSpeaker® giving big speaker sound in a small speaker.

Loud Speaker

• 2.5″ high performance custom engineered woofer with Micro Cellulose Polymer treated cone material provides even coverage and smooth natural sounding audio reproduction

• Integrated high frequency disperser.

Accessories

• Optional flange allows LightSpeaker® to fit into either 5″ (R30) or 6″ (R40) recessed lighting fixtures.

• Frosted Lens is acoustically transparent

Transmitter

• 2 sets of RCA or 3.5mm stereo jack line level audio inputs allows 2 separate sources to be used

• Wireless simultaneous transmission to two separate zones of loudspeakers

• Controls LED light in each zone independently

• Controls Audio level and source in each zone independently

• Simple front panel controls allow easy adjustment of the speakers’ sound

• Wireless transmitter can send audio to loudspeakers 50 to 100 feet in any direction depending on the environment

Accessories

• RF remote allows control of sound 50 to100 feet away from transmitter depending on the environment.

• RF Remote allows selection of zone and source which allows you to adjust audio in each zone

• DC power supply for transmitter

5″ LightSpeaker® Specifications

Woofer 2.5″ Micro Cellulose

Light Brightness 10W LED

Wireless Reception 2.4 GHz proprietary signal

Frequency Response (+/- 3 dB) 90 Hz – 20 kHz

Amplifier Power 20W

Max SPL 93 dB SPL

Dimensions

LightSpeaker® depth (w/out Edison Screw) 5.3″ (135.3 mm)

LightSpeaker® diameter (without Flange) 5.1″ (130.0 mm)

LightSpeaker® diameter (with Flange) 7.2″ (182.8 mm)

Depth without socket – no lens 5.5″ (140.0 mm)

Depth with Socket – no lens 6.6″ (167.2 mm)

Depth without socket with lens 6.1″ (153.8 mm)

Depth with Socket with lens 7.1″ (181.0 mm)

OD of 6″ Flange 7.6″ (192.0 mm)

OD of 5″ Flange 6.7″ (171.2 mm)

Weight 2.51 lbs (1.14 kg)

Transmitter & Remote Specifications

Transmitter Sources 2

Discrete Transmitter Zones 2

Audio Transmission Frequency 2.4 GHz proprietary

RF Remote Transmission Freqeuency 908 Mhz

Audio Transmitter range (omni-directional) 50 to 100 feet depending on environment

RF Remote range (omni-directional) 50 to 100 feet depending on environment

AC Power 90 VAC to 240 VAC

Dimensions

Transmitter 5.9″ (151.0 mm) W x 7.0″ (177.0 mm) L x 2.4″ (60.0 mm) H

Remote: 2″ (52.0 mm) W x 5.1″ (130.0 mm) L x 1.2″ (30.0mm)

Bang and Olufsen BeoVision 10 and What were they thinking when they priced it.

beovision-03I love good design. I love beautifully designed products that are examples of great craftsmanship and quality. I also believe in a good value for what you are getting and I really believe that good design does not mean expensive. Today Bang and Olufsen introduced the new BeoVision 10. A wall mounted LCD TV with integrated speakers. This is a 40 inch HD TV in a brushed aluminum case with speaker grills that come in a variety of colors.

In many cases I get the high price for well designed object. I get that a Porsche costs more than a VW, they make less of them and many portions of the car are hand assembled. In addition you are paying for engineering that is in many cases truly cutting edge. I get that a Patek Phillip watch is gonna set you back at least 15 grand. In the case of the watch, you are paying for a hand built chronograph, produced in limited numbers, with rare jewels embedded in the movement though.

What I don’t get is B&O and how they are trying to sell this TV for almost 44 thousand dollars. Lets get something straight people, B&O is using a number of off the shelf components to make this TV. The actual LCD is probably manufactured by Samsung which B&O has been in a partnership with for years. It’s probably the same glass and tuner that are being used in a higher end Samsung TV you can get  for around 3 grand. The electronics are probably sourced from the some of the same top 5 world manufacturers that every other LCD TV maker uses. Yes people, the parts all come from a limited number of vendors. I get that B&O puts them together in a unique way. A way that their engineers have designed in order to create a better viewing experience, but unless this things case is cast in 24 karat gold I am not buying the price tag. There is no way in hell that the picture quality of this 40 inch TV is 30 thousand times better than the leading 40 inch LCD on the market by the top vendors (Sony, Samsung, LG). I’m sorry the price of this, like  almost everything that B&O makes is kind of a joke.

Look, I love the way their stuff looks, and I really love the way they design the end user functionality of the product. In many ways you are buying something that is like a piece of art. If we use the analogy of the Porsche, a 911 would cost half a million dollars using the Bang and Olufsen pricing model. You might sell one or two to people with more money than brains, and at what cost? B&O has always been expensive, it used to be a bit more reasonable though. If you were to buy into this system for your home theater you would end up spending close to 60 grand for a TV, DVD player, and Remote. Now think about how much more you could do with that money.

I know what you are all thinking, “When Wade wins the lottery, he is so gonna buy this”. Who am I kidding. Yes if I were independently wealthy I probably would.