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Speakers where once only lights hovered

By Mark Baard
September 12, 2011

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Home entertainment
Friends renovating their homes often ask what technology they should bake into their walls (with the aid of an electrician). But it’s risky to offer advice. Recommending equipment that can be added to an external stack, or speakers that sit on the floor, is one thing. Suggesting an installation you can undo only with a jigsaw is another.

But now there is a simpler way to make at-home, hi-tech stuff invisible. Osram Sylvania has developed a system that lets you screw your speakers into those slick recessed sockets in the ceiling or the lights over your porch, just like ordinary light bulbs.

In fact, each of the speakers contains a 10-watt LED light, which puts out as much light as a conventional, 65-watt bulb.

The speaker-bulbs, which are called MusicLites, contain a loudspeaker and a wireless audio receiver.

The devices fit into four-, five-, or six-inch recessed lighting cans, according to Osram Sylvania and its MusicLites codeveloper, Artison.

You can network the speakers to virtually any device - an iPhone or a TV - via a wireless transmitter at the source.

The MusicLites system lets you have as many as 12 speaker-bulbs in a single zone in your house, and up to five zones. As many as three devices can serve simultaneously as sources for different zones.

One MusicLites starter kit listed online includes a single speaker-bulb, an audio transmitter and remote control, and a tool and instructions to help with installation.

With the remote control, you can raise and lower the volume on your speaker or speakers, as well as dim the lights.

The LED in the speaker-bulb should last about five years, according to Osram Sylvania and Artison.

As convenient as they are to install and operate, MusicLites are not cheap. The starter kit for the system saw costs about $430 at the online retailer Smarthome. Additional speaker-bulbs cost about $250 each.

iOS accessories

A mini-amp for your Apple gadget

NuForce Inc. thinks music from an iPod Touch can sound even better than it already does.

The company’s Ico iDo acts as a go-between gadget, enhancing the music you’ve been patching directly from your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to your stereo speakers or powered headphones.

By plugging the Icon iDo into your Apple device, a power outlet, and your stereo system or headphones, you will hear your tunes the way their creators intended them to be enjoyed, NuForce says.

The reason is that the Icon iDo does a better job of converting digital files for playback on your stereo system than your Apple device’s built-in, digital-to-analog converter, which the Icon iDo bypasses, according to NuForce.

The Icon iDo boosts the performance of powered headphones by optimizing the amperage being delivered to them, NuForce says. And it accepts IR remote-control commands from your iOS device. The Icon iDo (about $250) is available online and will be in some retail stores in November.