Sony and Best Buy Team Up on Altus Audio Line

Sony Altus AIR-SW10Ti iPod Dock

Electronics maker Sony and retailer Best Buy have taken the wraps of their jointly developed Altus line of audio gear, which the companies say is the result of almost two years of collaborative market research and engineering. The products are available for pre-order online via Sony’s Web-based store, and will appear in Best Buy retail locations in September…although other retail partners will also be carrying Altus products.

“By working with Sony throughout the product development process, we were able to focus directly on our customer to better understand their needs and interpret how best to present ALTUS in a retail environment,” said Best Buy’s executive VP of customer operating groups Mike Vitelli, in a statement. The alliance does mark a new trend where retailers are increasingly working directly with product manufacturers to develop products they see as matching their customer demographics, as well as letting the manufacturers have input on how to retail the products.

A key component of the Altus line is wireless speaker systems, with two PC audio multi-room packages: the ALT-SA32PC system connects to a PC via USB and then pushes audio wireless to two speakers, while the ALT-A33PC includes a universal receiver that can connect to other audio gear via RCA outputs, letting users stream music from PCs to home music systems. Both systems can tap into iTunes and Windows Media Player, and can be used with Sony’s S-AIR accessories: expect the SA32PC to go for about $500, with the A33PC to go for about $200.

The Altus line features two iPod docking stations, with the ALT-SA31iR multi-room iPod package offering a docking station and two wireless S-AIR high-output speakers for spreading the sounds around—users can add additional S-AIR wireless speakers for additional range. The AIR-SW10Ti iPod dock features two built-in speakers and a wireless 60W subwoofer users can stash behind a couch or in some other convenient place; users can also expand the system out with wireless S-AIR speakers. The ALT-SA31iR will retail for about $700, while the AIR-SW10Ti seems like it will be priced at $400…although an apparent error in Sony’s release makes it hard to say.

The Altus line also features the ALT-SA34R Socket Speaker, which packs together two small S-AIR speakers that can pop into any available home power outlet; the speakers also have LED displays for showing music metadata and an S-AIR remove for controlling playback and volume. Expect the ALT-SA34R to retail for about $350.

Finally, if you’re looking for a Blu-ray home theater solution, Sony’s pushing its previously-announced BDV-E500W 5.1 Channel Blu-ray Disc Home Theater System into the Altus line: the system features wireless rear speakers and wireless multiroom audio capability via compatible Altus or S-AIR devices; the Blu-ray player supports BD LIve via Ethernet to a home broadband connection, and includes an iPod cradle and upscaling technology; the BDV-E500W is available now for about $800.