Avnera and Best Buy are announcing today they are partnering to create a new generation of high-quality wireless home audio platform under Best Buy’s Rocketfish brand name.
The product will let you take audio from any music device, such as an Apple iPod, and broadcast the sound wirelessly to any speaker in the house. The speakers and music devices simply connect to small boxes with Avnera’s wireless audio chips, thereby getting rid of unsightly wires and getting music to places such as a sun deck.
The partnership shows that Best Buy is willing to use its clout as the nation’s biggest electronics retailer to push new products into the market when it sees a need. It did so last month when it announced it would put the CinemaNow movie download service into all of the connected movie players it carries in its stores. Now it’s doing the same with Avnera. Best Buy is also an investor in the company.
The new release constitutes the second generation of Rocketfish products, which are powered by Avnera’s AudioMagic. All you do is plug an audio device such as an iPod or boom box into a small wireless module. You then synchronize the module with another module that is connected to a speaker.
AudioMagic 2G can play high-definition quality, uncompressed audio with quality that approaches that of wired solutions. That’s because Avnera’s chips have a way to correct errors in transmission, fixing problems on the fly so that the sound comes through clearly, said Manpreet Khaira (pictured, left), chief executive of Beaverton, Ore.-based chip maker Avnera
AudioMagic products sound better than low-end solutions from Audiovox. And the AudioMagic “multipoint to multipoint” products don’t cost nearly as much as high-end solutions offered by Sony or Sonos. And AudioMagic works across multiple brands, whereas others do not.
Avnera’s special talent is taking analog chips that are separate devices normally and combining them all on one chip. These “analog system on chip” devices have lots of applications, of which audio is just one. Beyond Best Buy’s products, Avnera’s chips are used in 30 different audio products, each with the Avnera Rocketboost logo.
With the new generation of the chips, you can send different streams of sound to 10 different speakers. It can send different audio streams to different devices, including sending a 16-bit, 48 kilohertz CD quality stream at the same time it sends an HD quality stream with 24 bits and 96 kilohertz. It can handle multichannel 7.1 surround sound and coexist with Wi-Fi wireless networks. It also doesn’t interfere with other devices in the 2.4 gigahertz wireless spectrum band. The AudioMagic 2G products have a range of 150 feet.
Besides the chips, Avnera also makes the software needed to create a product that works seamlessly with other branded audio equipment. Since the devices can send metadata, the speaker displays can show the name of the song playing and well as an image of the album art. Best Buy has created multiple products under its Rocketfish house brand. A transmitter costs $199.99, an outdoor speaker is $179, and the wireless nodes are $59.99 each.
Avnera is funded by Altien Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Best Buy, DAG Ventures, Intel Capital, JAFCO Ventures, Panasonic Venture Group, Polycom and Redpoint Ventures. The company was founded in 2004 and it has 60 employees. It has raised three rounds of funding to date.