CES may be home to thousands of home electronics and technological gadgets, but two trends are really distancing themselves from the pack this year: new HDTV technology and new iPod speaker systems. Among all the iPod docking stations and speaker systems at CES 2008, few stand out like the Tannoy i30. The i30 iPod speaker system is the first digital consumer speaker system from Tannoy, which is known in the UK and even here in Las Vegas for for its high-end commercial installations (The Bellagio and Hard Rock Hotel use Tannoy, for instance). Tannoy’s CES lineup this year, however, is for the first time geared to mainstream consumers. And so far, it doesn’t disappoint.
The Tannoy i30 visually and aurally represents the company’s high-end history. Not just a simple or “cute” iPod docking station, the Tannoy i30 is sleek, modern and exudes sex appeal. It’s not nearly as portable as the other iPod speaker systems at CES, but it’s not designed to be, even though it does have a built-in carrying handle. Instead, the i30 is designed to be a showcase piece, much like a wall-mounted LCD HDTV, and stand apart from other A/V components in your entertainment center. In fact, Tannoy is even manufacturing a wall-mounting kit, should you want to treat the i30 like a piece of art.
Considering Tannoy’s background in high-end audio systems, it’s not surprising that the i30 offers nary a trace of sound distortion, even with the volume cranked high. With patented iCT (Inductive Coupling) technology and a Digital Sound Processor, the i30 delivers crystal-clear audio at an impressive 50 Watts, and it does so from all current iPod models (mini, nano, nano 2G, 5G, U2 with video and 5G with video).
The i30 has two additional jacks that increase its functionality, one for audio and one for video. The first is an auxiliary 3.5mm jack input socket that allows computers or other portable audio players — including the iPod Shuffle — to be connected to the rear of the i30 (there’s also a USB socket, although that’s designed for iTunes updates, not Flash memory). The second, also on the rear, is a video-out socket that lets users view their iTunes videos on their television.
The only drawback to this high-quality design and craftsmanship is the price. The Tannoy i30 will hit stores in February for $399.99 — quite a lot for most people in the market for an iPod speaker system. Then again, when the JBL SoundStage 2 released, it was also an expensive piece of hardware, and while the SoundStage 2 is still quite functional, it doesn’t have the same high-end design as the i30, and it doesn’t exactly hold its own next to the sleek A/V equipment or HDTV elsewhere in the house. The i30 does hold its own, though, and for people looking for a high-end iPod speaker system, Tannoy’s first venture into consumer digital speakers fits the bill perfectly.
Tannoy’s consumer lineup at CES 2008 also ventures into the gaming realm, with a PSP Speaker System set to ship in February alongside the i30. With 50 Watts of output power and a docking station that isn’t very gameplay-friendly, the Tannoy PSP Speaker System is probably most appropriate for gamers who use their PSP more for watching UMD movies and movies on a memory card than they do for playing games. Alternatively, if gamers find themselves streaming video from their PS3 to their PSP, this new speaker system delivers a far more-satisfying experience than the stock PSP speakers.
Tannoy’s PSP Speaker System uses SRS TruSurround, a patented sound technology that improves dialogue clarity and accentuates the Bass response with Tru Bass. Much like the i30, the PSP Speaker System recharges the Sony PSP while it’s docked, and its 3.5mm line-input socket enables another audio device to be connected to the speaker system (an MP3 player, for instance). However, also like the i30, quality has a price: the Tannoy PSP Speaker System will retail for $199.99 when it hits stores in February.
— Jonas Allen