CES 2009: Linksys Wireless Home Audio

Jan 8, 2009
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Linksys by Cisco have been demonstrating their new Wireless Home distributed media system at CES 2009, a Sonos-rivalling system that includes the standalone Conductor DMC350 with integrated touchscreen control and CD player, the Director DMC250 media player with integrated 50W-per-channel amp, and the Player DMP100 for connection to an existing amplified setup.  Each can access media from across your home network or the internet, together with internet radio.

Audio can be synchronized across multiple rooms or streamed differently to each zone.  Everything can be controlled either from the IR remotes included with each product, or via a separate Controller touchscreen remote with thumbwheel and remote iPod management.  Each uses WiFi draft-n.

When we asked the Linksys reps how their Wireless Home music products compared to Logitech's Squeezebox range, they told us they prefer to consider Sonos the more direct rival; however we (and probably Logitech) disagree with their suggestion that the Squeezebox Duet is more a single-room solution.  Pricing, though, reflects Linksys' lofty ambitions: the Director DMC250 with integrated amp will come in at $449.99, and while pricing for the Conductor won't be confirmed until its launch, the company told us they're expecting to undercut Sonos by around $100.  The speaker and amp-free Player is $299.99 while the Controller is $249.99.  They're apparently available now in the US, with the exception of the Conductor which will land sometime Q1 2009. 

Press Release:

Cisco Multi-Room Home Audio Solution Enhances and Extends
the Listening Experience for Consumers

Linksys by Cisco Wireless Home Audio makes it easy to play music
from a variety of sources wirelessly throughout the home

Las Vegas – January 7, 2009 – Cisco® today announced the Linksys by Cisco Wireless Home Audio system at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. From the world leaders in networking, the Wireless Home Audio system utilizes Wireless-N technology to deliver a rich audio experience to any room in the home. Users can create a party atmosphere with immaculate synchronization when listening to the same song throughout the entire home, or send different music to customized “zones”. The Wireless Home Audio solution also puts millions of songs at your fingertips through integrated Internet services such as Rhapsody1, AudioLounge2, and RadioTime. An optional Docking Station for iPod enables your content on Apple iPods™, including Podcasts, Audio Books, and purchased iTunes content, to be played through any Wireless Home Audio device on the network. Wireless Home Audio products also work great with the newly announced Linksys by Cisco Media Hub that gathers and presents the available media on a network.

Facts/Highlights:

Complete Solution
The Wireless Home Audio product family includes three available options for playback devices that allow consumers to bring wireless audio to any room – the all-in-one Conductor, the Director with powerful amplifier and the Player which is the ideal addition to existing sound systems. A Wireless-N Controller enhances the Wireless Home Audio experience by providing touchscreen access to all available audio from anywhere in the home. Consumers can easily unleash audio from their iPods by simply slipping it into the available Docking Station for instant access to all of the songs, playlists, and other audio content on the device. In addition, with millions of songs available from Rhapsody in the US and AudioLounge in Europe, Wireless Home Audio users can search for tracks, discover new artists, and create playlists to be sent to any room. A “Favorites” function gives one-touch access to any content from any source.

Great Audio Quality, Precise Synchronization
Cisco, the world’s leader in networking technology has applied its years of knowledge and expertise to develop an amazing lossless digital audio delivery solution that preserves the full depth and richness of the recording, as originally intended by the artist. Through distributed decoding technology, each Wireless Home Audio device receives unmodified audio source material without any trans-coding or compression. The audio is then reproduced and synchronized to within microseconds, virtually eliminating echo artefacts so often evident in other wireless audio systems.
Wireless Simplicity
With Linksys by Cisco Wireless Home Audio, music can be unleashed from existing digital libraries that are stored on a PC or other device, integrated Internet services, or even an iPod, with no need to run new wires around the home, or undergoing complex home renovation to install the devices. As a complete wireless solution, Wireless Home Audio products enable consumers to fully equip their homes with a world of music that is at their fingertips.
Standards-Based Compatibility
Following Cisco’s standards-based approach to networking, the Wireless Home Audio products utilize Wireless-N technology to provide greater value to the consumer by allowing each device to achieve its full potential as an extension of the solution rather than requiring that one of the devices be hard-wired to a router. Wireless Home Audio products have been built to utilize the DLNA 1.5 standard, extending the value of the solution by making it accessible to and from a broad variety of devices. The products are compatible with standards such as HomePlug, Wireless-G, and Ethernet to allow consumers to choose the mix of networking technologies that is right for them.

Products

Conductor DMC350 Wireless-N Digital Music Center
The Conductor is a complete, portable, self-contained wireless music system with integrated speakers that can be used to bring music to any room of the home. All it needs is a power outlet. It features a seven inch LCD touch screen for easy navigation through your music library and an integrated CD player to play those songs that you have not digitized yet. An individual IR Remote is included.

Director DMC250 Wireless-N Music Player with Integrated Amplifier
Features a 50-watt per channel integrated amplifier powerful enough to be placed in any room as a more permanent solution to access digital music, and includes a line in and out to connect to speakers. Its full color LCD display makes navigating through your music library simple. An individual IR Remote is included.

Player DMP100 Wireless-N Music Extender
Allows you to access digital music from existing stereo or surround sound systems in the home. Its compact design allows it to blend well with any décor making it an ideal option to extend music to any room in the home utilizing your existing audio equipment. An individual IR Remote is included.

Stereo Speaker Kit DSPK50
designed to compliment the Director - Wireless-N Music Player. Pair them to create a complete, high-quality wireless sound system and experience your digital music all around your home, at your control.

Controller DMWR1000 Wireless-N Touchscreen Remote
Designed to control the complete Wireless Home Audio system wirelessly. It features a large, color touchscreen, thumbwheel, and engaging interface designed to let you easily control any one or every one of your Linksys by Cisco Wireless Home Audio devices, including a docked iPod, from anywhere in your home, even when they’re out of sight.

Docking Station for iPod MCCI40
Allows consumers to extend their available Wireless Home Audio library to include all of the content on their iPod, including Podcasts, Audio Books, and purchased iTunes content.

IR Remote DMRIR500
Comes standard with the Conductor, Director, and Player. Its simple button layout and slim form factor allows you to easily control your audio devices when you do not have a Controller nearby.

To simplify the purchasing process, three Wireless Home Audio kits are available:

Premier Kit:
A two-room starter kit that includes Director and IR Remote, Player and IR Remote, and Wireless-N Controller.

Trio Kit:
A kit for consumers looking to add the power Wireless Home Audio to their existing audio systems, the Trio Kit includes 2 Players, 2 IR Remotes, and a Wireless-N Controller.

Executive Kit:
An easy way to add a Wireless Home Audio capabilities to any room, the Executive Kit includes a Director, IR Remote and matching speakers.

Supporting Quotes:

Greg Memo, vice president and general manager, products, Cisco Consumer Business Group.
“After years of research and testing, we are answering the consumer’s call for a wireless home audio system that seamlessly consolidates music content from all of their sources into one solution with incredible audio quality. By both expanding the amount of accessible music and simplifying the experience, we have developed a family of products that work together to greatly enhance the experience of enjoying digital music throughout the home.”

Mike Wolf, director, Digital Home, ABI Research
“We believe that today’s home usage paradigm for digital music will transition from being PC-centric to one that is networked and accessible throughout the home. Cisco’s products allow consumers to enjoy their digital music collections over the network and point to where we believe this market is going.”

Worldwide Market Trends:
In a recent IDC survey, 46% of home network owners and 27% of non home network owners were interested in streaming music from their computer or the Internet to their stereo. (IDC, June 2008)

ABI forecasts total worldwide networked audio shipments will grow from 6.4 million to 38 million with a CAGR of 68%.  (ABI, 2007)

Nearly a fourth — 22% — of US households have at least one iPod. That’s nearly 25 million households that currently have an iPod. Thirty percent of them have more than one iPod. (Forrester 2008)

Pricing and availability:
The Wireless Home Audio products are available in the United States from authorized Linksys by Cisco retailers, authorized resellers, and VAR partners. Cisco anticipates availability in stores in Denmark and The Netherlands during the first quarter of 2009. The Conductor will be available in the first quarter of 2009.

Estimated street prices are as follows:

Premier Kit - $999.99/ €999.99
Trio Kit - $849.99/ €849.99
Executive Kit - $549.99/ €549.99
Conductor – Pricing available at launch
Director - $449.99/ €449.99
Player - $299.99/ €299.99
Stereo Speaker Kit - $149.99/ €149.99
Controller - $349.99/ €349.99
iPod Dock - $79.99/ €79.99
IR Remote - $29.99/ €29.99


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