This week at D+M Group’s press presentation, the company focused on two major new product categories that appear to be targeted areas of growth for the company. After a general presentation with overview, the company broke up the rather large group of reporters into two sections: Group A, my group, went directly to a special display of docking products…or complete music systems with an iPod/iPad/iPhone dock. Group B went to headphones (see my report on Denon’s new headphone line here).
Presented by Jim Ludoviconi…formerly D&M’s resident Marantz expert, now their Docking, Distributed Audio, and Boston Acoustics Product Manager…both Denon and Marantz took a significant leap forward into this category. Ludoviconi told reporters that the philosophy was to design a product that embodied the best design, the best sound quality, and the best user experience.
Wrapping my head…
The first thing I had to get my head wrapped around was the name chosen for the Marantz system…the Consolette. This sounds like some console stereo system my parents bought back in the 60’s. Apparently this is a name from the Marantz archives…perhaps that is where it should have stayed. On the other hand, perhaps D+M has research showing that this name will be popular with their older, more financially secure customer demographic.
But the name is the only part of the Consolette that feels old – the technology is pretty up-to-date which – aside from the dock (which some manufacturers are telling us is going away thanks to the increasing prevalence of streaming technologies) includes Internet Radio, Apple’s AirPlay technology, and DLNA compatibility. The Consolette includes Marantz’s popular portal style display which, Ludoviconi tells us is actually and OLED display.
The dock on the Consolette is iPad-compatible…which is smart. And it includes an impressive audio section that includes two 4-inch bass drivers each being driven by 50-watts of power. The Consolette also includes two “Balanced Mode Radiators” for tweeters which helps disperse the high frequencies for a more spacious sound. The tweeters are driven with 25-watts each for a total system power of 150-watts.
The left and right speakers are in separate chambers. Also included is a 9-band digital equalizer for each driver. All-in-all, pretty impressive audio specs…we would hear them demonstrated later.
Next we were introduced to the Denon Cocoon docking systems. Like the Consolette, Cocoon has contemporary technology such as Internet Radio, AirPlay, and DLNA compatibility. There is, however, a completely different form factor.
Looking a little like a giant white kidney bean sitting on its side, it was an object of curiosity amongst many members of the press. A clear plastic body that is painted white from the inside, Cocoon has a very glossy, very white…and very contemporary look to it.
Cocooning in the field…
Slightly less power than the Consolette, Cocoon still weighs in at a substantial 100-watts of total power. Denon will also offer a slightly smaller and weatherized Portable Cocoon that can run on batteries for 5 hours.
The Marantz Consolette will be available this summer in a black or white version for $1199 MSRP. The Denon Cocoon will also be available this summer in black or white versions for $599 MSRP. The Denon Cocoon portable will also be available this summer in black only for $499 MSRP.
Boston Acoustics systems…
In our break out groups we first had two Boston Acoustics systems demonstrated to us. No materials were provided to us on these models but they were presented by long-time industry luminary Steve Shenefield. Shenefield, who looks like and talks like your favorite college professor, carefully explained how these systems – in some version – have actually been a part of Boston Acoustics product offering for about ten years.
Shenefield went on to say these systems all build upon the company’s strengths – and something they design into every product: quality amplifiers, speakers, and tuners. And of course, they all took advantage of the best existing source technologies of their time.
Bottom line, Shenefield said, Boston Acoustics design mandate is: 1) Acoustic quality; 2) Latest design; and 3) Simple to use.
Clearing the net…
Shenefield then showed us the MC-350 ($400) which uses ClearNet technology which is a tri-band transmitter/receiver system that allows users to create simple, extendable systems without dealing with the complexities of a home network. This is a very specific customer, according to Shenefield.
By simply adding an MC+1 ($249), Shenefield created a system where the music from his smartphone was streamed onto the MC-350 and then rebroadcast to the MC+1. Worked well, sounded decent, and added flexibility for the consumer…simply.
According to Shenefield, the system could support up to six MC+1’s and the broadcasting range was a pretty reliable 50 feet. Shenefield also demonstrated the MC-200 Air which sells for $399 and is a different type of system that includes WIFI capability.
Finally, Ludoviconi gave our group a demonstration of both the Cocoon and the Consolette. Either I was a victim of unrealistic expectations…or the room was interfering with the sound – a definite possibility. But I was prepared to be blown away, and I was not blown away. To be sure the Consolette offered an impressive amount of bass, but I felt the midrange and midbass was compromised, sounding muddy and unfocused.
To be fair, it is almost impossible to assess sound quality at group events like this in huge hotel rooms with so much air it would take a Mac truck to move it. But based on the build-up during the presentation, I was expecting more. Perhaps I will audition the Consolette under more controlled conditions at some point in the future and will report back better impressions. To be clear, it wasn’t bad…just not quite as spectacular as I was expecting.
Overall, the company has banked big on their docking products. They of course hope that this will open doors for them to a new customer base…and to new dealers, as well. Expanded channels of distribution are absolutely part of the plan as the company is aggressively expanding their line-up.