At first glance, the Unity Home Theater is a T-shaped speaker system that looks like a Jenga tower of home theater equipment.
The setup aims to give consumers a Swiss Army Knife of entertainment with the inclusion of a 5.1 surround sound bar, subwoofer, Blu-ray/DVD player, HDMI pass-through, surge protector, and TV stand (up to 60 inches) in a single package. A power cord to Unity and a HDMI connection to the HDTV would be the only wires you would need to get started.
A home theater system without a jungle of cords that uses only one remote is enticing, but is Unity the end-all accessory for someone buying a first HDTV? I recently had a chance to speak with the co-founders of the company behind the product, In2Technologies.
Todd Beauchamp, a former head of audio labs for Apple, has extensive acoustical engineer experience. Mike Fidler, a major marketing player with Sony and Pioneer, met Todd through mutual friends. The two told me how their first brainstorming session turned into a torrential downpour of inspiration that created Unity.
Their goal was to create a fusion product that contains the best aspects of a sound bar, home theater in a box, and high-end separate components. Developing a new product is an overwhelming challenge for any company, and even more so for a startup.
As for inputs, Unity offers quite a few: one AC power input, three AC outputs, two HDMI-in, one HDMI-out, a LAN port, iPod dock support, a USB port, FM antenna, aux-in, and a microphone port.
Will people buy from a company they have never heard of? It depends on four key factors: pricing, sound quality, aesthetics, and availability.
Pricing will likely be around $1,000, which could turn off some bargain shoppers who routinely see products from the three aforementioned product categories on sale. We're hoping to see package deals with HDTV purchases to drive down the cost.
Sound quality appears to be promising. For example, bass reproduction is different from most systems. According to the press release, Unity features "dual down-firing mid-bass drivers, and dual side-firing subwoofers." The opposite placement of the woofers reduces overall vibration. Unity is capable of supporting 8-inch mid-bass drivers and up to 15-inch woofers, says CE Pro.
As for looks, this HDTV companion was designed in collaboration with RKS. Specifications are still under development, and it's even possible major manufacturers could license the platform and sell custom versions as early as next year.
Preliminary specs include 5x100W front and 2x25W rear output. Audio processing includes support for Dolby Digital/Pro Logic/True HD, and DTS 96/24/HD. System frequency response should range from 25Hz-20k Hz +/- 2db.
I will be spending some hands-on time with Unity during CES next month and will post further impressions then.