xHiFi Ready to Launch

In some ways, entrepreneurs resemble the folks who fix your roof: When they see a hole somewhere, their job is to find a way to fill it. Long-time high-end audio veterans Mel and Howard Schilling and Doug Goldberg say they have spotted a hole in the audio market and are getting ready to launch a new company to fill it.

The Schillings are well-known to audiophiles as the owners of Camelot Technology, and Doug Goldberg has designed equipment for Camelot Technology, PS Audio, Genesis, and Audio Alchemy. Together they have started a new company, xHiFi, which they claim "re-defines the notion of 'hi-fi' from expensive, esoteric specialty to affordable, applicable, and practical solution."

The company's debut product, the xDucer, is a three-piece loudspeaker system intended for use with PCs, MP3 players, and gaming consoles. Howard Schilling explains that the success of products like the Bose FreeStyle Speaker System and Klipsch ProMedia series caught his attention, but he figured the multimedia world was ready for better sound. "We saw an opportunity to utilize our extensive capabilities and experience with digital technologies to create products that offer to these emerging markets even higher levels of performance and features, but at only a slightly higher price."

According to xHiFi, the xDucer will sport a European cherry finish for the subwoofer enclosure, which also houses the system's "audiophile-quality," high current 50 watt subwoofer amplifier, and custom 50 watt Class D digital amplifier for the two satellite speakers. The product is slated to begin shipping worldwide on April 1, 2003, at an introductory price of $695.

xHiFi says it will sell everything it creates direct from its website and offer a 30-day in-home trial. As Howard Schilling notes, this is not only a quick and efficient way to get a new company into the marketplace, but the company's core target audience is net-savvy and also younger than typical audiophiles.

The company says that both the satellites and subwoofer employ "groundbreaking" driver designs developed by JVC Japan: The subwoofer's single 6.5" paper-cone driver incorporates special coil and center-cap designs, while the satellites utilize an "ultra-high bandwidth" 360° driver, "delivering rich, enveloping sound quality with frequency response out to over 50kHz, twice that of typical speakers."

xHiFi says that the wide frequency response is intended to accommodate high-resolution formats such as SACD and DVD-Audio (when it arrives on the desktop). A future "desktop electronics product" planned for autumn 2003 will add automatic 24-bit/192kHz digital upsampling, which the company reports is ideal for compressed material like MP3. Other upgrades on the horizon include more powerful amplifier circuits, improved cabling, and additional speakers and amplifier channels for multichannel formats such as DVD-Video, DVD-A, and SACD.

Howard Schilling says they are also looking into designing a "killer" soundcard, which could also become a part of the desktop product. Schilling adds that early 2004 will likely see the arrival of additional speakers for an xDucer multichannel setup "which will be very cool: taller, silver-finished, floorstanding versions of the xDucer satellites, along with a sleek, compact center channel."

"I want to build a company that reflects the changing needs and profile of the high-end marketplace," says Schilling. "From executives to young professionals to college students, our products will appeal to the new generation of enthusiast, one who values improved performance but not at the expense of practicality. This is hi-fi for the real world."

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