LAS VEGAS--It seems like every audio company is putting out some sort of compact Bluetooth speaker system these days. Monster is, too, but it says its new $699 ClarityHD Katana speaker system, which is due to ship later this month in black and white versions, is a major cut above the rest.
It touts the Katana as a true "breakthrough" in wireless digital music systems. What makes it so groundbreaking? Well, according Monster, thanks to its advanced Bluetooth wireless capability featuring AAC and apt-X, "users experience a new level wireless audio performance, with the option to stream music throughout the home from tablets, laptops, or MP3 players."
Monster's CEO Noel Lee talked up the Katana's ability to surprise listeners with "truly room-filling, great-sounding music from a very small footprint -- it just doesn't seem possible that such powerful-sounding music, with such deep, rich bass could come from such an inconspicuous source!"
What's also interesting about the Katana is that it can be turned into a multiroom audio system by purchasing Monster’s optional $170 StreamCastHD Transmitter and Receiver Kit. The StreamCast device connects to a computer and Katana's StreamCast port and lets you wirelessly stream uncompressed music throughout your home -- you can have four streams pushed out to 12 different zones at a distance of up to 100 feet. No Wi-Fi network or Ethernet is required.
Not surprisingly, there's a new Monster App for handheld devices that lets you control the StreamCast system from from "virtually any tablet, smartphone or digital media player." Additionally, Monster says the StreamCast HD bridge module allows handheld devices to connect to the system via Bluetooth and become an additional stream on the StreamCast HD network.
That all sounds pretty good -- and the Katana may sound great -- but the rub in all this is how much the speaker costs and all the optional accessories involved. In terms of the multiroom dimension, Monster is going up against Sonos, which has all its wireless technology built into the speakers -- no extra accessories required. Yes, you need a Sonos Bridge to tap into your wireless network, but you can add the company's larger Play:5 speakers for $400 a pop.
So I think Monster has its work cut out to popularize the Katana and StreamCast HD as multiroom audio solution. Most likely, it will have more luck with Katana as a standalone speaker. In addition to its wireless capabilities, there's a 3.5mm input and a Toslink (digital optical) input that the company says is ideal for users who want to plug in a TV or other high performance audio device that has optical digital output. In other words, Katana can do double-duty as a TV sound bar in a living room or den, which may help its appeal.