In our fourth and final installment for CES 2005, we discuss the latest audio/video product offerings from the likes of Pioneer, AKAI, Denon and many others.
The biggest news from the Toshiba camp at CES was that it will start shipping HD DVD player-only models in November 2005. True HD DVD provides film content at 1080i, and should not be confused with current DVD players that use special circuitry to up-convert signals to 720p and 1080i. RCA and Sanyo will be also offering HD DVD player only models in this timeframe as well. Also based on a blue laser format, HD DVD will be backwards compatible, and these players will playback both DVD and HD DVD discs. As previously reported, the launch will be supported by Warner Home Video with 50+ titles, Universal Home Video (15+), Paramount Home Video (20+ titles), HBO Films, and New Line Home Video. Reportedly, the new HD DVD discs will include both standard definition and high-definition layers. HD DVD currently has a maximum storage capacity of approx. 30GB. Like current DVD titles, Special Features may be placed on a separate disc.
Not to be outdone, the blu-ray consortium led by Sony, announced the availability of its first home player/recorder models for first quarter 2006 in the U.S even though Sony has had a model on sale in Japan for awhile. Blu-ray offers a much greater storage capacity of 50GB. Initially, blu-ray will be available over the Summer for PCs from companies like Dell and BenQ as blu-ray writers. We can also expect to see blu-ray recorders from Sony, Panasonic, Philips, and Pioneer in 2006. In terms of pre-recorded media, we can expect to see titles from Sony Pictures (including Columbia/TriStar), MGM, Disney, and the Fox Entertainment Group. Although, it should be noted that no specific titles were announced at CES.
Toshiba introduced a new line of DVD Recorders at CES this year adding key features such as EASY NAVI menu system and free TV Guide On-Screen interactive program guide. Toshiba offers DVD Recorders with progressive scan in three different configurations: stand-alone DVD Recorders, DVD Recorder/VCR Combination, and DVD Recorder with built-in hard-disc-drive. Highlighting the new DVD line is their new RD-XS34 Multi Drive (DVD-RAM, DVD-R & DVD-RW) Recorder, which is priced at $499.99 (avail. March), that will feature a 160GB hard-disc drive including the new features noted above.
Later in Fall 2005, Toshiba will introduce its new line of ?gigashot? tiny hard-disc based Video/Still Cameras that will utilize innovative storage devices. Initially, these models will be offered in two models: one with a 0.85-in. hard-drive and another with a 1.8-in. hard-drive. ?Gigashot? models will combine a high-quality video camera with a high-quality digital camera into one small diminutive package using MPEG-2 technology.
Silicon Optix has teamed with Runco International to bring their Realta HQV chip, which clearly improves standard definition images. The HQV chips will be incorporated into Runco?s ViViX video processors along both its front video projectors and plasma HDTVs to take advantage of this promising video processing technology.
EchoStar introduced two new satellite set-top devices at CES. The first model is their DISH Player DVR 942 ($749). This third generation HD satellite receiver includes a 250GB hard-drive with the recording capacity of up to 25-hours of high-definition programming, and up to 180-hours of standard definition programming. It can record two HD programs simultaneously (or watch one HD program and record another HD program). Besides its satellite HD tuners, it also includes ATSC/NTSC off-air tuners, a 9-day program guide with picture-in-picture, and will display images in 1080i, 720p, and 480p (all 480i images are up-converted to 480p). Unlike other HD satellite receivers, model 942 also has multi-room capability. Separately, EchoStar also introduced their new DISH Player 625 that will include Video on Demand (VOD) capability. Model 625 will have the ability to hold 100-hours of movies on the included hard-drive. DISH Network?s VOD service will initially offer up to 100 new movies per week via its DISH On Demand service. Customers would not be charged for the films until they are watched. Model 625 should be available by mid-year. Pricing was not available at presstime.
Under development from TiVo is their first high-definition Digital Cable Ready DVR. According to TiVo, with the growing of high-definition broadcasts, the time is ripe for a CableCARD DVR. Essentially, it?s the combination to two technologies within one cabinet ? a digital cable box and a DVR. It would allow customers to enjoy all of their HD cable programming plus offer the capability to record it for later viewing. TiVo plans on launching this product in early 2006.
Lite-On Corp. has introduced their LC-9006 DVD Recorder/VCR Combo unit at an estimated price of $299. Unlike other DVD recorders on the market, Lite-On uses their proprietary ?All-Write? technology that allows consumers to record video to all digital mediums including DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW or CD-R/RW. To facilitate recording of a person?s favorite shows, the LVC-9006 includes the VCR Plus+ Guide plus its ?Easy Guider? menu system. The DVD/VCR Combo is equipped with 480p progressive scan output for razor sharp video with up to six hours of recording time on a DVD disc. To complete the package, this model also includes a built-in DV Link (IEEE1394) for easy dubbing from a camcorder.
DirecTV previewed their new Home Media Center, which is scheduled for introduction later this year. The Home Media Center is designed to be a whole-house entertainment solution passing all signals via Cat5 cables. For the first time, it will allow customers to stream video and audio signals (including HD signals) throughout the house. The system is comprised of a main unit with smaller units located at each additional TV networked throughout the house to provide DirecTV customers with DVR service on all television sets. Since the Home Media Center utilizes a broadband connection, it will be able to access the Internet plus support computer connectivity for the access of personal photos and downloaded music. Expected to be available by the end of 2005, it will be both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 compatible plus be able to be upgraded via satellite. DirecTV also announced the launching of several more satellites to carry both standard definition signals in MPEG-2 and HD signals in MPEG-4 including local channels in high-definition. By switching to MPEG-4 later this year for HD, it will allow the DBS provider a better compression scheme and more high-definition programming.
In other satellite news, VOOM announced its HD line-up will grow in 2005 from 39 HD channels to 71 channels simultaneously adding close to 200 SD channels. According to Rainbow Media Enterprises, this will be accomplished by leasing 16 transponders on the SES Americom AMC-6 satellite, which VOOM refers to as ?Rainbow 2.?
Hitachi introduced a new line of five DVD camcorders boasting slim new designs with several technical enhancements. According to Hitachi, the new models include a new imaging engine for 20-percent improvement in noise reduction, and a 20-percent longer battery life. All models measure 2-in. by 4-in. by 5-in. Three models are in the UltraVision line, and utilize an SD or MMC memory card. All models also utilize a double-sided DVD-RAM disc that allows the camcorders to record up to 120-minutes of video, or store up to1,998 digital still images. Photos can also be stored on memory cards. The top-of-the line model is the DZGX20A ($999) includes 2.1 MegaPixel 1/3.6-in. CCD for advanced image quality. The unit also includes a 2.5-in. 200K pixel color LCD monitor that also works as light for ?0 Lux? operation. Key features include a 10x optical zoom lens and 240x digital zoom expander, Electronic Image Stabilization, Quick Mode simple menus and six-mode auto exposure. Prices start at $699 for the model DSMV750A.
JVC offers a complete line of six new DVD Receiver Home Theater-In-A-Box systems with prices starting at $329.95 for its TH-C3 system with 810 watts of total power, and going up to $769.95 for its TH-R4 that includes 1,002 watts of total power, DVD recording, and three-way bookshelf speakers. All systems include Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS-ES, and DTS 96/24 surround sound processing. JVC is also launching a new digital recorder line that includes DVD, Hard-Drive, VHS, and Mini DV combos. All models include progressive scan playback and record in DVD-RAM plus DVD-RW/-R. Prices start at $349.95 for its entry-model DR-100S (available in March) which is capable of up to 16 hours of recording on a dual-sided disc. The step-up model adds a 160GB hard-drive (model DR-MH300S @ $699.99 ? available in July). For VHS aficionados, JVC offers its new DR-MV5S ($499.95) combo with VHS progressive scan. Top-of-the-line model DR-DX7S ($1,799.95 ? avail. July) combines DVD recording with a 250GB hard-drive and a Mini DV editing deck for easy dubbing of home movies.
Besides introducing new plasma displays, Pioneer announced new DVD Recorders, multi-format audio universal DVD players, and DVD Home Theater Systems. The Home Theater Systems were designed with plasma TVs in mind. Pioneer has altered the form factor of its speakers and components to match and compliment their plasma displays. All packages include cylindrical front speakers, detachable surround speakers, a center channel and subwoofer that match their flat-panel displays. All systems will be available in April. The entry-level system (HTP-2600) will cost $250 and offer 1,000-watts of total power. The step-up model (HTP-3600) adds tall front speakers at $425. The top-of-the-line system ? HTP-4600 ($650), which has 1,000-watts of power, also includes the tall speakers and wireless rear surround speakers that feature 36-watts of power. This system uses a 2.4GHz transmitter that reportedly provides noiseless, non-compressed CD quality digital audio.
Rounding out new video products introduced at CES, LG has started shipping their new LST-3510A ($599.95) HDTV Receiver/high-format DVD player, which up-converts DVD content to high-definition levels. It features an all-format ATSC receiver for over-the-air HD reception, a QAM tuner for unscrambled ?in-the-clear? cable HD reception, as well as a built-in DVD player with 1080i output. This model utilizes a DVI interface connector for the passage of digital video signals, and an electronic program guide.
In terms of Audio in 2005, HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) switching and up-conversion will be a big topic this year. As we noted in the past, early inclusion of the HDMI interface did not necessarily mean the passage of 5.1 audio. However, in 2005, we can expect that all models introduced by all manufacturers to pass 5.1 digital audio and HDTV signals via one cable. At CES, there are a lot fewer new audio products introduced as many manufacturers now like to announce their new audio products at C.E.D.I.A each year.
AKAI returns to the CE arena after a long hiatus bringing several plasma TVs, LCD TVs, rear projection TVs, and various home theater products. One of the most unique audio products introduced at CES was AKAI?s new AVR8500 ($899) and AVR8510 ($1,199) 7-Channel Vacuum Tube Audio/Video Receivers. Using its patented ?Blue Tube Thermionic? design, it brings the ?warm? sound of tube technology down to realistic price levels. Both receivers use 7 Dual Triode Vacuum tubes (one for each amplifier). Except for the included amplification and a universal remote on the 8510, both models include identical features. Model AVR8500 is rated at 100-watts x 7, and model AVR8510 is rated at 125-watts x 7. Besides including all current surround sound modes from both DTS and Dolby, both models also include HDMI switching capability.
Denon introduced its new 7-channel AVR-4806 ($3,500 ? Avail. April) high-end AV Receiver that highlights full-featured HDMI switching and up-conversion. Unlike other newly introduced HDMI-compliant AV Receivers, the AVR-4806 features 3-HDMI inputs and 1-HDMI output. Besides HDMI connectivity, which also passes DVD-Audio (awaiting SACD approval), this model also includes DVI in/out, IEEE1394 in/out (audio only), and Ethernet (for future upgradabity) connectors. Otherwise, this THX Ultra2 receiver includes all DTS and Dolby surround sound formats plus the standard compliment of digital audio, composite, S-Video, and component video (100 MHz) inputs and outputs. As an added bonus, the AVR-4806 also includes Audyssey Laboratories? MultEQ technology that easily and quickly calibrates the room for optimum listening from eight different positions. On the video front, Denon introduced their new universal DVD player ? model DVD-5910 ($3,500) that includes Silicon Optix?s new Realta/HQV chip that enhances standard definition images to near HD-recorded quality levels. It also features 10-bit video scaling technology by DVDO, and includes several digital connectors including DVI, HDMI, and IEEE1394 outputs.
JVC is also introducing two new AV Receivers that are HDMI-compatible. Unique to these receivers is Video Signal Up-conversion. This means that the receiver can up-convert all input video signals (including composite, S-Video and component video) to be compatible with a display?s input of either 720p or 1080i allowing a single cable connection to your HDTV. Entry-level HDMI-compliant AV Receiver model RX-D401S ($549.95) offers 110-watts x 7 along with 2-HDMI inputs and 1-HDMI output. Step-up models Model RX-D701S in silver and RX-D702B in black (both at $879.94 and avail. in July) features a power output of 150-watts x 7, a wireless USB-link for satellite radio, and on-screen displays.
Marantz is offering their new flagship HDMI-compliant THX-certified AV receiver ? model SR9600 ($3,499) that includes a new innovative amplifier design rated at 140-watts x 7. Including 2-HDMI inputs and 1-HDMI output, the SR9600 also includes twin IEEE1394 connectors as well for the easy passage of all multi-channel audio including Dolby Digital, DTS, DVD-Audio and SACD signals. Like most high-end AV Receivers these days, the SR9600 includes all DTS and Dolby surround processing formats. It also includes Marantz?s proprietary MRAC room acoustic calibration feature to quickly and easily calibrate the listener?s room.
To compliment the SR9600, Marantz also introduced its new DV7600 universal DVD player ($1,099) that includes an HDMI interface for a direct digital connection. The player also includes video scaling circuitry that allows the user to up-convert DVD signals to either 720p or 1080i. The DV7600 also features progressive scan technology with 3:2 pull-down, and a 216MHz/12-bit video D/A converters.
Panasonic has started shipping a digital home theater receiver ? model SA-XR70 ($499.95) that uses HDMI as its connector of choice for high-definition images and digital audio. The receiver is rated at 100-watts x 6, and features all major digital surround sound processing formats including DTS, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, Dolby Digital EX, and Dolby Pro Logic IIx. To compliment the SA-XR70 digital home theater receiver, Panasonic is also offering its new HDMI-compatible progressive scan DVD-S97 ($399.95) DVD player that features 720p/1080i up-conversion. Besides having the capability to playback all DVD formats, this model also plays DVD-Audio.
Philips introduced their new wireless music system ? model WACS700 ($999 ? avail. April). The WACS700 stores up to 40 GB of digital music and wirelessly (802.11g) streams its content throughout the home at a 54 Mbps rate. Operating via a built-in Wi-FiÂ® connection, the system features ?Music Follows Me,? which allows consumers to take their favorite music from one room to another seamlessly. For additional enjoyment, the Wireless Music Center offers the ?Music Broadcast? party mode feature that provides consumers the latest in audio customization. With ?Music Broadcast,? consumers can play the same song on all receivers, in all rooms, in perfect synchronization.
The Wireless Music Center is built on Philips Wireless Audio Player (SAA7352) and Wireless Audio Server (SAA7352 and SAA7750/S1) semiconductor reference kits. They support wireless audio streaming, including digital audio formats as well as CD audio, and playback from CD or HDD media. Philips uses its innovative Super Sound Panel Speaker technology, which replaces the traditional woofers and tweeters with a single membrane. The system also features a six-line LCD display so users can see what tracks are playing and a two-way display LCD remote control so all information can be seen from wherever the consumer wishes. Utilizing built-in GracenoteÂ® CDDB database, the Wireless Music Center instantly recognizes and displays disc information, including artist name, album name, and genre type or track titles.
ZVOX is offering a unique one-box surround loudspeaker system. The company?s new model 315 ($199) is now available in Silver. Designed to compliment flat-panel displays like plasma or LCD TVs, the model 315 one-box design includes three full-range speakers, an active 5.25-in. subwoofer, and built-in amplification. Using ZVOX proprietary PhaseCue technology, it creates a ?virtual surround sound? experience. According to the company, the result makes the ears believe that there are speakers spaced 10 to 12 feet apart in the listening area along with impressive big and realistic bass from the incorporated powered subwoofer.
Atlantic Technology has introduced their new THX-certified system 4200e ($3,500) in Gloss Black, Black, Satin Black, Maple, or Silver finishes. This package is the redesigned and improved version of the company?s critically acclaimed System 4200. The front and center channels have been completely redesigned by replacing the original user-installed cosmetic side panels with permanently attached finishing panels. In addition, the system?s 642e subwoofer now has a massive 12-in. woofer and a 300-watt internal amplifier. The LR front speakers use two 5.25-in. GLH (Graphite Loaded Homopolymer) woofers mounted one-each above and below a single 1-in. silk dome tweeter. The 4200e C center channel speaker includes the same drivers mounted horizontally, but with woofers side-by-side and the tweeter above and between the woofers. The LCR speakers include controls that can adapt the sound quality for different speaker placement. A three-position High Frequency Energy switch adjusts for rooms that are acoustically too bright or too dull. Rounding out the package, the 4200e SR dipole/bipole use a one woofer/one tweeter system angled towards the front of the room, and another identical system angled towards the rear of the room. A front-panel switch allows the pair to operate either out of phase in a dipole mode, or in-phase as a bipole speaker.
NHT has introduced their new Xd DEQX calibrated DSP corrected speaker package ($5,500). Using the combined technologies of three companies: NHT, Digital Equalization and Crossover (DEQX) and PowerPhysics, NHT has developed a DSP speaker system that removes virtually all possible distortion from the audio signal path while providing a much wider soundfield. The system consists of two small speaker cabinets, a powered bass or woofer module, and a hybrid outboard component that houses the DEQX-calibrated digital signal processor (DSP) and PowerPhysics One-Cycle Sound amplifier. To create a surround system, additional channels and bass modules can be added as needed. The XdS satellite speakers feature a two-way acoustic suspension design that houses an ultra-low distortion 5.25-in. midrange and a 1-in. neodymium tweeter. To provide substantial power handling, a massive ?heat sink? is attached to the rear of the tweeter. The XdW powered bass module is comprised of two active, opposed 10-in. woofers and a PowerPhysics 500-watt amplifier. The XdW has only three controls: volume trim, balanced input, and voltage selection. Rounding out the system, the XdA DSP/amplifier is the ?brain? of the system, and includes two sets of inputs: RCA and differential balanced XLR, five-way binding post outputs ? four for each channel. The Class D amplifier ? XdA — contains four PowerPhysics One-Cycle Sound amplifiers that supply high-efficiency, bi-amplification of stereo channels, and two balanced channels for the woofers.
Yamaha introduced their new YSP-1 Digital Sound Projector ($1,499.95) speaker system (avail. March) that features an array of 42 drivers driven by digital amplifiers with steering logic. Complimenting all types of flat-panel displays, the YSP-1 is a single-unit so that additional speakers and wiring are not needed. The YSP-1 delivers high-quality surround-sound, and is perfect for flat panel plasma displays in home theater installations. According to Yamaha, the YSP-1 is ahead of its time, and that this innovative compact system applies sophisticated digital sound projector technology to control the orientation of the sound from its speakers by focusing it into beams. The stylish, slim, wall-mountable unit uses a 40-driver, dual woofer system to achieve five-channel surround sound for movies and music reproducing all DTS and Dolby Digital surround soundtracks. The YSP-1 is designed for a variety of room configurations as the sound can be directed and reflected off the walls, which provides the listener true surround sound. It works by projecting flat wave fronts of sound, which appears to listeners to be located at different points on the panel or via reflections off walls at different points in the room.