AudioXperts 4TV and EVA: High-End, Done Simply

Last night we got a chance to check out the first product offerings from AudioXperts, a new lifestyle audio brand from a bunch of industry veterans, led by Eli Harary, formerly of Boston Acoustics and Infinity. The systems we heard were voiced by John Fischbach, Grammy-winning producer of projects from Stevie Wonder, Carole King, and Cassandra Wilson, to name just a few. Safe to say that the consumers AudioXperts has in mind should be well served on both the business and sonic fronts.

While AudioXperts has a full line of very interesting products planned for launches later this year and early next; we got to hear a couple of models from their flagship 4TV line of single-cabinet all-in-one surround units. These "audio entertainment consoles" are more than soundbars - think instead of ZVox's Z-Base systems, but with more elegant aesthetics. They can be placed under a wall-mounted set, or used as a base.

The two models were the 2112 ($1,999) and 5122 ($3,999), and as you might guess they are, respectively, a 2.1 channel virtual surround system and a true 5.1 channel system. The 5122 includes a very neat wireless slim subwoofer that can be stacked beneath the main unit, or slipped behind or under a piece of furniture. Everything's good looking enough that you won't feel a need to hide it; the smoked-glass and aluminum frames support sets up to 120 lbs, as well, so you should be able to stack most modern TVs of reasonable size atop them if you like (the bases swivel too, so if your set doesn't have a swivel base, you're in luck). Audio input is via coax or optical digital, or analog stereo inn RCA jacks for the 2112; the 5112 adds HDMI.

On the tech front, both models decode both Dolby Digital and DTS formats, offer Bluetooth audio streaming (using the aptX codec) for interfacing with your portable devices when you aren't watching. The 2112 uses a pair of fabric dome tweeters and four 4.5-inch custom-designed HART (that's "High Aspect Ratio Transducer) drivers plus a built-in sub, driven by 200 watts of amplification. The 5112 ups the power output to 500 watts RMS, uses six drivers plus three tweeters for the L/C/R channels, plus another four for the dipole surrounds. The sub uses another eight 4.5-inch drivers in the subwoofer enclosure.

During a brief demo using both two-channel and surround music and video, the 2112 and 5112 delivered solid performance. Both units did about as good a job as I could have expected in the surroundings (the lobby of a high-end NYC restaurant), with the 5112 and its slim sub giving us satisfying low end, and reproducing - within the limits of an integrated system, of course - both overpowering explosions and subtle sonic details and stereo/surround field positioning during screened sequences from films such as Hero and Master and Commander: The Edge of the World.

Now, these devices aren't cheap. But the point isn't to compete with ZVox or anyone else in terms of delivering sheer bang-for the-buck here. The model - if it bears comparison - is more akin to Bang  & Olufsen's. Times may be tight these days, but AudioXperts is putting their energy into going after the luxury consumer - a market segment they feel, after doing extensive research, faces pretty limited choices in terms of full-featured audio offerings that also offer true simplicity of operation. They may be on to something.

Also shown was the EVA line of tabletop Bluetooth speakers and radios. These are built from sustainable materials, with an aesthetic that's equal parts Tivoli and House of Marley, with a nice range of convenience features (including some actual physical switches out back to configure the individual units as L+R or L/R when used with extension cabinets). Available in two versions, the FM tuner-endowed SCR400 ($499) and the Bluetooth-only SPS300 ($399), both include 15 watts of power pushing a 4-inch driver, and stream using aptX. Two extension amp/speakers are available, both with another 15-watt amp and full-range driver: the AC250 ($349.99), which includes a clock, and the plain-vanillla PS200 ($299.99). Also simple to operate, and with prices reflecting their luxurious appointments, they're appealing little boxes that we look forward to checking out.