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Bluetooth, acoustics, aesthetics define R&D in portable speaker line

Portable speaker releases work with Apple products and come in visually appealing designs.

Development initiatives in China’s portable speaker industry reflect the fusion of feature and aesthetic upgrades. For the first, Bluetooth and vibration sound technology are the main trends.

Portable speaker

Cowin's CR-828 model is a flower-shaped portable speaker with a built-in amplifier and a 3.5mm stereo jack.

Releases adopting the wireless standard comply with 2.0 or 2.1 specifications and support advanced audio distribution profile and APE and FLAC music formats. High-end models enable A/V remote control, headset and handsfree modes.

Vibration sound technology, meanwhile, involves the use of new acoustics resonance method instead of the conventional dynamic driver of traditional configurations. When attached to a solid surface such as a desktop or wall, devices adopting the said approach can deliver omnidirectional audio. Industry observers forecast speakers of this type will maintain their upward track in the next two or three years as suppliers continue to improve the technology.

Cowin Electronics Co. Ltd has recently developed vibration speakers in different designs with optional built-in Li-ion batteries, TransFlash card readers and 3 to 26W power output. The maker also released hybrid variants with both vibration and regular driver units. Its DF-003 model, meanwhile, has a Mini-USB port, a 3.5mm stereo jack, 3W power output, 80Hz to 18kHz frequency and 75dB S/N ratio.

Some manufacturers add value to their lineups by integrating clock radios. Such types have large LCD or LED screens, SD/MMC card readers, USB ports for MP3 playback, FM alarm, buzzers and snooze. Several versions come with an iPod dock and a remote control.

As for design upgrades, efforts revolve around ensuring compatibility with Apple’s products and developing units with enhanced visual appeal. In line with the first objective, most releases have a standard iPod dock. The SD-015 model from Dongguan Jiaxing Electronic & Technology Co. Ltd supports most iPod and iPhone variants, delivering 2W power output and 250Hz to 20kHz frequency. It has a USB port and can work with other sound sources via a 3.5mm audio jack.

The I-2005 model from Shenzhen Deyiler Tech. Co. Ltd is suitable for the iPad, iPhone, iPod and other devices. The semisphere-shaped unit has two speakers, a clock radio and an LCD screen with backlight. The enterprise’s I-6002 model, meanwhile, boasts an adjustable dock and pan/tilt viewing options.

Compact, visually appealing speakers with vivid colors are a major R&D thrust for many suppliers. More versions incorporate metallic textures and retro styles with wooden housings. The GESP1116 model from Shenzhen Good&EasyTechnology Co. Ltd, for instance, adopts the shape of a flower and is available in various hues. The unit supports a TransFlash card, a USB port, 2W power output and 200Hz to 12kHz frequency. The maker’s GESP1124 model comes in a teardrop shape.

Dongguan Jiaxing has recently developed the Speaker Bag model. The solo speaker looks like a small bag and can accommodate an MP3 player or a mobile phone. It has a built-in battery, 2W power output and 275Hz to 20kHz frequency. The vendor has also released a solar version that can run on Li-ion battery.

For increased portability, makers offer foldable designs. The KHY-11 model from Shenzhen Cowin-Tec Co. Ltd is a football-shaped variant. The unit has two foldable speakers, a 6VDC battery and a USB port, and delivers 2x2W power output, and 250Hz to 18kHz frequency. Outdoor-use types, meanwhile, adopt an all-in-one design. They operate on dry-cell or rechargeable Li-ion battery, and are dust- and water-resistant. Some use aluminum alloy housing instead of plastic for increased vandal resistance.

Product gallery

Mini stereo speaker

Shenzhen Cowin-Tec offers this ball-shaped mini stereo speaker with 4W power output and 8ohm impedance.

Speakers for promotional, retail markets

The majority of makers target their products at the promotional and gifts market. Such models receive external audio input and allow MP3 playback via a built-in USB port and flash memory card reader. R&D efforts for this segment focus on cosmetic upgrades.

Companies catering to the retail sector offer upscale units such as full-spectrum portable speakers with a wide frequency response range, iPod dock station or clock radio. Enhancements in this category lean toward stylish appearance and improved audio quality. Some suppliers, including Hi-Vi and Edifier, manufacture compact variants that boast better speaker, subwoofer or amplifier designs and wooden housings.

Prices in the line range from $2 to $50. Entry-level models with an external sound input and powered by USB are quoted from $2 to $8. Midrange types supporting MP3 playback, built-in USB interface or flash card reader are between $10 and $20. High-end units, including those with an iPod dock and better audio quality, list from $25 to $50.

Quotes are expected to increase in coming months. The upward adjustment will be driven by the climb in raw material costs. Spending on ABS, for instance, rose by 4 percent in April. China’s central bank has also raised loan interest rates from 5.85 to 6.4 percent, affecting most manufacturers’ capital expenditure.

China’s portable speaker segment evolved from the mini-multimedia speaker industry. Since the mid-2000s, vendors have been improving acoustic techniques and rolling out models that are compatible with various portable multimedia devices such as MP3/MP4 players, notebook and tablet PCs, and mobile phones.

There are currently more than 500 makers of the line in China, about 80 percent of which are focused on the promotional and gifts market. Guangdong province, particularly the cities of Shenzhen and Zhongshan, is the main production hub, churning out 70 percent of the country’s output.

Portable speaker

The portable speaker from Ria supports SD/MMC cards and USB flash drives.

Hong Kong: Novelty designs, better audio performance emphasized

Hong Kong makers of portable speakers are improving the product’s external design and audio performance, the latter through higher power output, deeper base or other sound enhancement technology. To emphasize portability, many models are thin and foldable. Novelty releases in egg and golf ball shapes are popular as well, especially for the gifts and premiums market.

Companies also refresh their lineups by adding new functions, installing decorative LEDs or exploring surface finishing techniques such as sublimation printing.

Suppliers are encouraged by the steady expansion of the portable speakers market each year. Apple’s iPod, MP3 players and mobile phones were the main growth drivers five years ago. The emergence of the iPhone and other smartphones, netbooks and tablet PCs augmented interest in the segment.

Hong Kong has at least 30 manufacturers of the line, led by acoustic specialists that offer various audio products. The maker base also includes computer peripheral, mobile phone, and gifts and premiums providers. A number are EMS companies with extensive experience working with OEM clients. This group can easily handle large-volume orders.

Most other suppliers in the territory are small operations with fewer than 10 in-house models. Releases involving new molds are spaced out longer, usually every other year due to mold and tooling costs. Some companies have also been discouraged from creating new designs regularly by rival imitators.

Global Marketing Development Ltd has been making radios since 1988. It offers desktop portable speakers with multiple input ports, volume control, equalizer and Li-ion battery that can be charged through USB.

Ria Co. Ltd manufactures a range of consumer electronics, including DAB/DAB+, Internet and clock radios, and wireless LED lamps. Its portable speakers include an auxilliary-in jack, MP3 decoder, an SD card slot and a USB port.

Ryde Products Ltd concentrates on industrial, packaging and graphic design in developing electronic gadgets. Among its releases is the SCS-01 Mini Cube Star Speaker model, a square mono speaker with a built-in rechargeable battery and phone strap.

Stereo speakers

Product gallery

Cowin Electronics Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: CS-3110
Description: 2-channel stereo speakers; 3W power output; 36mm, 4ohm driver; 250Hz to 20kHz frequency response; >85dB S/N ratio; 0.8% distortion; line-out; USB cable, AC adapter; TransFlash card slot; for MP3/MP4, MD, CD/DVD players, mobile phones

Portable speaker

Global Marketing Development Ltd
(Hong Kong)

Model: SD235
Description: 2x1W power output; SD/MMC card slot, USB port; auxiliary-in; equalizer; FM radio; built-in MP3 decoder; remote control; for computers; 180x100x82mm; in black, white, red or purple

Portable speaker

Ria Co. Ltd
(Hong Kong)

Model: WS1001
Description: SD/MMC card slot, USB port; auxiliary-in; equalizer; integrated MP3 decoder; FM radio with preset function; remote control; 5VDC power; built-in rechargeable battery; 70x65x173mm

Portable speaker

Ryde Products Ltd
(Hong Kong)

Model: SCS-01
Description: Mono speaker; 3.7V 210mA power output; USB 2.0 cable; 0 to 40 C operating temperature; phone strap; 4 to 5hr rechargeable battery; in white, dark brown, lime green or pink; 26x26x26mm; 15g

Mono speaker

Shenzhen Cowin-Tec Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: KHY-11
Description: Ball-shaped, foldable mini stereo speaker; 4W power output; 8ohm impedance; two 50mm, 8ohm drivers; 250Hz to 18kHz frequency response; USB port, cable; 6VDC, 800mA adapter; potentiometer volume adjustment; for MP3/MP4 players, mobile phones, laptops

Mini stereo speaker

Shenzhen Cowin-Tec Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: KHY-907
Description: 52mm computer speaker; low-power amplifiers; 4ohm impedance; 100Hz to 18kHz frequency; potentiometer volume adjustment; ≥85Db S/N ratio; 0.5% distortion; for desktop and notebook PCs, MP3/MP4 and DVD players; USB port; 5VDC, 1000mA input voltage; 3W+3W load power

Note: This article "Bluetooth, acoustics, aesthetics define R&D in portable speaker line" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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