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CES2012 : ‘Phoning It In

Headphones ruled but weren’t the only audio offerings

February 2012 By Nancy Klosek

During the last few years, CES has been a launch pad for audio as an enhancement for flat-panel TVs, which offer buyers a great picture but lousy sound. At this year's show, there were many more intros of personal music devices, smartphones and tablets—hardware products that have taken the lead in getting consumers to pay attention to audio. That's why headphones were so ubiquitous.

Headphones aside, the Venetian housed the usual gathering of high-end audio companies. More offerings than ever were tailored to meet the practical needs of today's non-audiophile.

Monster hit nearly every definable demographic with a slew of headphones. Head Monster Noel Lee hosted a fashion show of models sporting bejeweled headsets and magnetic earbuds, such as the Diamond Tears headphones and N-Credible earbuds, that consumers can wear like fashion accessories when they're not listening to music. The company's interchangeable-headband line of Inspiration headphones was aimed at both the trendy wearer and the executive on the go.

Headphone modularity and customization characterized the SOL Republic brand. COO Scott Hix said the line is meant to fill the need for durably built headphones that fall between entry-level and aspirational price points. The company is targeting media-device-savvy "echo-boomers"—15-to-28-year-olds that are about a third of the U.S. population—with products sold first through premium-brand-positioning retailers and eventually throughout the specialty retail channel.

Sennheiser focused on wireless headphones (Model RS 220, $999.95) and lifestyle models based on the company's DJ headphones (the Amperior, $349), as well as units designed specifically for Xbox 360 gaming.

Paradigm also gunned for a younger demographic with its Shift line of earbuds. But the company spent an equal amount of space on its home audio offerings. It presented the thin-bezel Designer in-ceiling/in-wall architectural speaker line and a prototype of a new soundbar/subwoofer combo wireless 2.1-channel system due in summer.

At the House of Marley booth, besides adding to its headphone SKUs, the company highlighted its first non-headphone market entries. One model, the Jammin' Bag of Rhythm ($349) audio system, is of FSC-certified birchwood and recycled plastics.

Soundbars and multi-channel sound systems were showcased at Harman's outpost, including the SB 30 soundbar/wireless sub system, featuring 13 transducers, six 2-inch woofers, seven 1-inch tweeters and 11 amplifier channels.

Polk also showcased a new soundbar line, with the CHT 500 50-inch two-piece surround bar system sharing space with the UltraFocus 6000 in-ear-canal headphones ($149.95).



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