TDK Shows New Audio Lineup at CES

Michael Brown

TDK was our favorite brand of cassette back in the days when we were taping our albums so we wouldn’t scratch the vinyl. Imation owns the brand now, and they’re slapping it on a new family of home-audio products—including a USB turntable and several iPod docks—dubbed TDK Life on Record.

As much as we respected TDK tape, we didn’t have high expectations for a line of audio products bearing the name. After all, the TDK we remember never manufactured anything other than tape. But when Imation’s Steven Swenson demoed some of the new iPod docks for us at the Belagio this morning, we were surprised at how great they sounded. We’ll reserve final judgment until we get a shipping product in our mitts, of course, but we now have a much different set of expectations.

TDK's Boombox is larger than it appears--each of those drivers is six inches in diameter.

The Boombox Audio System ($499) is the flagship product in the TDK Life on Record lineup. We pictured someone truckin’ down the street with this perched on his shoulder until we tried to pick it up by its padded aluminum handle—this beast weighs more than 30 pounds (and that’s before you install the 12 D cell batteries needed to take the show on the road, although it can also run on AC power.)

The cabinet harbors two six-inch woven-fiberglass coaxial drivers and a six-inch high-excursion subwoofer powered by a 35-watt Class D amplifier. The system can host USB thumb drives or hard drives, and it can take an iPod’s bitstream output and perform a digital-to-analog conversion with its onboard DAC. You can also plug analog sources into its 1/8-inch and stereo RCA ports, and there’s even a 1/4-inch input that can accommodate a mic or an electric guitar so you can play or sing along with the music (you can tweak the volume levels of the two sources independently to achieve the proper mix).

A front-panel display shows file directories for attached storage devices, AM/FM radio stations, and other information.

TDK’s Sound Cube Audio System ($299), below, delivers many of the same features as the luggable Boombox while weighing a more manageable 16 pounds. It uses the same coaxial drivers, but it has a smaller, 20-watt Class D amplifier and it uses dual passive radiators for bass instead of an active subwoofer.

The Cube Audio System has active drivers and passive radiators on opposite sides of the cabinet.

If you miss the warm sound of vinyl records, TDK announced two new turntables at CES. Both are belt-drive models that can spin at either 33-1/3 or 45 RPM and are equipped with RIAA preamps. The $299 model outputs analog stereo and the $399 model has an integrated USB port and Cakewalk software for digitizing records to your PC’s hard drive.

TDK announced two new belt-driver turntables at CES, one of which is equipped with a USB port.

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