FrontRunners: Easy Listening

    A neighborhood could become a friendlier place with the $6,000 James Loudspeaker Landscape Speaker system (www.jamesloudspeaker.com). Place a pair of conventional speakers outside your home, and you probably will need to crank up the volume to hear the sound everywhere you wish, making it uncomfortably loud near the speakers, and inviting phone calls from irritated neighbors. The James system eliminates this problem by providing a subwoofer and eight small, easily concealed satellite speakers that you can distribute throughout the yard to create a number of optimum stereo listening zones. The 70-volt amplifier that drives the system allows for long runs of wire without significant signal loss. . . . Designed for the tabletop rather than the backyard, the Polk Audio I-Sonic (isonic.polkaudio.com) transforms the humble radio into a complete entertainment system. The $600 unit is one of the first to offer HD Radio technology, which provides clear digital audio from FM and AM stations and also can receive multicasts (multiple channels broadcast by the same station) when they are available. A front- panel display tells you which station, artist, and song you are hearing. The radio also plays CDs and DVDs and tunes to XM satellite radio. The diminutive unit features four integrated speakers—two in front, two in back—that are capable of wrapping an entire room in sound. Auxiliary input jacks allow the I-Sonic to feed other audio devices, including iPods. . . .

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