Audio News Roundup: 6-20-13

Two pretty big pieces of news hit the audio world this week. Jade Design, makers of Emotiva products, purchased Bob Carver LLC and has begun making his products in the U.S. at substantially lower prices. And Wren Sound, an upstart focusing on personal audio systems, announced the availability of the V5PF, a version of its V5 wireless audio system equipped with DTS's Play-Fi technology, a competitor to Apple's AirPlay.

As we learned at the recent T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, Jade Design and Carver had already been collaborating with Bob Carver LLC to produce Carver's line of tube amps, which are old-fashioned, handmade designs using point-to-point wiring. The prices on the new Jade Design versions are substantially lower. For example, according to Jade Design president Dan Laufman, Carver's Black Magic amplifier comes down from $2,500 to $1,690, and the Black Beauty amplifier drops from "$13,000 and change" to $7,999/pair.

Bob Carver will continue to work with Jade Design on product development, including the speakers we saw in his lab last summer, a new vacuum-tube preamp called the Black Velvet, a vacuum-tube digital-to-analog converter, a 120-watt-per-channel stereo tube amp, and a 150-watt version of the Black Beauty.

All of these products will be manufactured in Jade Design's U.S. factory. Laufman also announced that this move will serve as the impetus to bring the manufacture of several Emotiva products back to the U.S., specifically the ones using surface-mount technology, which Laufman said costs the same to do in the U.S. as it does in China. "I want to be one fo the first guys who brings it [large-scale electronics manufacturing] back here," he said. "Not everyone can work at Starbucks."

Wren Sound announces Play-Fi system

DTS's Play-Fi wireless technology is just getting started-we recently reviewed the first Play-Fi product, the Phorus PS-1-and it got a nice boost this week when Wren Sound announced that it would offer its $399 V5 wireless audio system in a V5PF version with Play-Fi.

Play-Fi is designed to compete with Apple AirPlay and Sonos wireless technologies. Like AirPlay and Sonos, Play-Fi works through a WiFi network to access digital music files stored on networked computers and hard drives, and allows quick, easy, inexpensive setup and control of multiroom audio systems. Play-Fi can also access Internet radio and streaming services.

The advantage for Play-Fi is that it's platform-agnostic. An Android Play-Fi app is already available, and DTS says an iOS (Apple) app is on the way; AirPlay can be controlled only through iOS devices and computers running iTunes. Any electronics manufacturer can license Play-Fi, something that's not true of the Sonos system.

Also, Play-Fi, like AirPlay and Sonos, does not add additional data compression to the wireless transmission, as Bluetooth does, so it retains the full fidelity of the audio signal.

How well does Play-Fi work? Read our Phorus review for an early look. Or find out in the September issue of Sound & Vision-our review of the V5PF is being laid out as you read this.