Over the course of two days, from June 18-19, 2019, Erikson Consumer welcomed dealers and WiFi HiFi to a showcase of new products in audio, mobile, and toys that will be coming this year.
The event, which took place in a suite at the SOHO Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Toronto, featured products from brands like JBL, Harman Kardon, PlayShifu, Tech Will Save Us, Marshall, Handl, iFrogz, RHA, Braven, and more. As we toured the three floors of the suite, including a sizeable outdoor patio, it's clear that portable Bluetooth audio, headphones (namely true wireless and hifi), and soundbars are categories that will continue to be hot through 2019. While we can't discuss everything we saw at the event just yet, here are some highlights.
What's New in Audio?
We were immediately wowed by being taken outside on the gorgeous, sunny day to see and listen to the JBL Party Box speakers. Massive outdoor speakers, they are ideal for commercial venues or consumers who want to get a bass-pumping party going. Buttons at the top of the largest model, the Party Box 1000, mimic common club sounds like a horn, applause, and other fun beats; it also displays a light show. Party-goers can play DJ and have some fun. Just be careful not to upset the neighbours! The PartyBox 1000 will be available in August for an MSRP of $1,300.
JBL PartyBox 1000
On the portables end, JBL continues to expand and improve upon its extensive line of waterproof, versatile speakers (shown at top). The Flip5 will launch in August for $140 and adds USB-C charging. "It's our number-one selling portable in Canada," enthuses Jean Michel Tedesco, Director of Sales, Canada, Consumer Audio Americas at Harman. The new Charge 4 ($220) boasts USB-C charging as well, along with a new driver design and longer battery life. It also comes in new colour options. An interesting new addition to the line is the Jr. Pop, a tiny portable speaker geared towards kids that lights up as you play music. With five hours of battery life, it will sell for just $40. All JBL portables with JBL Connect+ can be daisy-chained together to create a more enveloping sound experience in large spaces, or for whole-home audio.
JBL Jr. Pop
Harman Kardon's new Citation line, including the One, 100, 300, 500, Bar, Sub, and Tower speakers all feature WiSa technology and allow for easy plug-and-play so you can customize a whole-home audio system. They also contain Google Voice Assistant, allowing you to control them - along with other Google Home products - via audible commands. Ranging from $269 up to $3,499 for the Tower speakers, the 300 and up models include an LED screen. Designed with Kvadrat material, which is fire-retardant and stain-resistant, if the kids spill mustard on it, jokes Tedesco, "it will come right out." They also feature Chromecast, Bluetooth, and privacy controls to turn off the speaker mic. They are available now in grey and black fabric finish options.
Harman Kardon Citation tower speaker
One product on display in the soundbar category that has already been in market but is worth mentioning is the JBL Bar 5.1 soundbar, which contains a 10" subwoofer and two removable mini speakers on either end that you can place behind you to provide an immersive surround sound listening experience. When they need recharging, just pop them back into either side of the soundbar. It sells for $999.
One particularly interesting new soundbar, however, is the JBL Link Bar. Set to launch at the end of July for $550, it can turn virtually any standard TV into a smart TV by adding an Android TV user interface, allowing you to access streaming services without a separate device. It's also voice activated via Google Assistant. A sub, however, must be purchased separately.
JBL Link Bar soundbar
Headphones are the fastest-growing category for JBL, says Tedesco, and the company has tons of new models coming out, from over-the-ear designs for audiophiles, to ones for sports enthusiasts, and true wireless earbuds. In the latter category are the Tune 120TWS, which will be available by July for $140. There are also new models in the Everest series, which audiophiles can tune themselves using the app, and sports-centric models via JBL's partnership with Under Armour.
Braven was acquired by Zagg last year, and while the company in previous years briefly expanded the brand into other categories, like home speakers, the company has gone back to its roots and is focusing attention on where it excels most: ruggedized outdoor portable audio. Earlier this year, the BRV-105 and BRV-360 were announced and launched and will be launching two separate collections later this fall. Without giving too much away, these speakers and earbuds will be focusing on consumer pain points and offer solutions to resolve those issues. Such features include incredible durability for both shock resistance and waterproof ratings, lengthy playtime, their patented charge out feature from a speaker, and many others that seamlessly integrate into ones active and adventurous lifestyle.
RHA, which recently reunited with Erikson Consumer for distribution in Canada, has also developed its own true wireless earbuds, and the newest model is the TrueConnect, which sell for $230. Like all RHA earphones, they come with a selection of eight pairs of tips so you can find the right tip. With five hours of battery life, plus an extra 20 with the unique flip charging case, they are sweat, splash, and weather-resistant.
RHA TrueConnect true wireless earbuds
New STEM Tech Gear For Kids
Tech Will Save Us, the U.K.-based company showcased its selection of DIY STEM-based kits and digital tools for helping kids learn to code and invent using technology, including the $80 Creative Coder Kit, which allows kids to program their first wearable device using simple block-based coding, and the Sew & Glow Kit ($35) for designing and building a glowing badge that can light up at the push of a button.
Products from Play Shifu, including the Orboot interactive augmented reality (AR) globe and the new Plugo kits, which we first saw at CES 2019, were also on display.
Fun New Mobile Accessories
BodyGuardz showed a number of new smartphone cases, including the clever SlideVue case, which has a piece of material recessed into the back that can slide out to be used as a hand strap or kickstand. Then, simply slide it back in when you're done. The new PRTX line of screen protection for all S10 devices feature shatter-proof synthetic glass and works with the fingerprint sensor; and the Harmony line has mesh screens at the bottom to trap dirt and keep it from seeping inside.
BodyGuardz SlideVue smartphone case
Handl New York was on display as well with a full line of new case prints and finishes coming this fall. These fashionable and functional phone cases include a patented finger strap that also pops into the back of the case as a kickstand for portrait / landscape orientation. With celebrity supporters like Jamie Foxx, the brand has quickly gained attention and success in the U.S. Available now in Canada through Bell, it will be rolling out to other carriers across the country.
Erikson Consumer has a diverse selection of brands, and on the consumer audio, mobile, and STEM tech toys side, there's plenty to get excited about for 2019. And more from the show that we'll discuss in future articles. Stay tuned!