By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The arrival of the digital era heralds the interconnecting of a number of products and further signals growth of the cabling business.
As for availability at retail, Tributaries, for one, is crossing into the digital era with the launch of its first FireWire cables and plans for late-August shipments of its first DVI (Digital Visual Interface) cables. It's offering DVI-D cables in lengths from a bit over 3 feet to more than 33 feet. It also sells both fiber optic and coaxial digital audio cables and IEEE 1394 cables of over 3 feet to 15 feet — in 4 pin to 4 pin, 4 pin to 6 pin and 6 pin to 6 pin combinations. Cables are available in plastic clamshells for retail display. Suggested retails start at $28 for 1 meter of four-to-four cable. The top price is $44 for 4.5 meters of six-to-six cable. DVI cable prices will be similar.
A new cable, called HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), is able to carry both audio, video and control signals, with length capability of 100 feet. However, Tributaries said, this cabling technology is proprietary, and manufacturing permission comes with an annual cost, plus royalty fee for each cable sold. For this reason, Tributaries said smaller companies, such as itself, are locked out of this cabling technology.
Component cable from Gemini offers 24-karat gold electroplated connectors for maximum signal transfer and corrosion resistance, cast metal plug barrel that offers excellent shielding and strength, integrated molded strain relief that protects against damage to conductors and heavy copper reinforced aluminum braiding that prevents signal loss and interference. Cable is available in 3-, 6- and 12-foot lengths at a suggested retail range of $20 to $30.
The Jasco GE-brand Ultra Prograde line — S-Video, component video, digital audio coaxial and fiber optic cables — is double shielded to enhance digital clarity and prevent ghosting. These also offer 24-karat gold-plated connectors to maximize signal transfer. The digital audio coax cable uses RG6 special cable to provide the bandwidth required for digital signal transfer.
Also slated in the Ultra Prograde cable line are the DVI cable combinations and the 1394 cable combinations. The DVI and 1394 series carry the same high-quality digital specifications that are prominent in the entire Ultra Prograde line. The Ultra Prograde specifications for the DVI and 1394 provide high-speed digital signal transfer for digital interfaces for home entertainment.
To aid in the connection of the GE-brand digital cable and home entertainment equipment, Jasco also offers a complete line of digital splitters and connectors that assists in the distribution of A/V signals — from digital tuners, decoders and set-top boxes to home entertainment equipment.
Jasco is featuring a new indoor TV antenna, the Infinity. Called model TV94730, this amplified HDTV antenna is said to better equip the consumer for HD television signals. Since HD has higher-quality signal resolution and uses a digital format for the transmission and reception of TV signals, and HD signals don't like reflected signals, the company devised an antenna with PCB circuitry that provides exceptional forward gain by rejecting side reflections. Suggested retail is $39.99.
Due to demand from high-end retailers, IXOS said it is planning to have a DVI-D available in about 3-ft. to 5-ft. lengths because it wants to be able to give consumers the option.
IXOS plans to wait and see how the HDMI cable is going to come in before it produces one. The company reports that Pioneer will have a DVD player by the end of the year that will retail for $299 and have an HDMI output. However, IXOS is skeptical because it said it has not seen a DVD player at that price point with an HDMI output. This leads IXOS to believe that maybe HDMI will become more mainstream than DVI.
FireWire, said IXOS, has the same problem as DVI and HDMI: length. But, generally, long distances aren't necessary for video. The issue to an audiophile, however, is the quality of sound, and FireWire provides a night and day difference vs. analog cables when used on identical systems, said the company. FireWire offers the "depth and stage presence," and analog doesn't.
IXOS offers FireWire cables of 4 pin to 4 pin, 6 pin to 6 pin and 6 pin to 4 pin, in lengths of about 3 ft. and 10 ft. at $39.99 and $49.99, respectively. The company has seen a small rise in demand for these cables, but nothing dramatic.
For high-definition all-digital video to look its best, data must be transferred from the DVI HDTV tuner or DVI-equipped DVD player to the display in pure digital form, according to Monster Cable, which is offering its DVI400 cable to do the job. Monster DVI400 all-digital video interface cable has the bandwidth to deliver uncompressed video signals from any digital set-top box or DVI-equipped DVD player to a HDTV display, said the company. DVI400 has a suggested retail of $79.95 for cable a bit longer than 3 feet.
For ultra-high resolution HDTV pictures, Monster has introduced its M500DVI high bandwidth, low-loss DVI interface cable. The cable features more shielding than any other DVI interface available for maximum rejection of RFI and EMI. It has more than twice the bandwidth required for a 1,920 by 1,080i HDTV signal, making it ideally suited to preserve pristine, high-resolution all-digital HDTV signals. Suggested retail is $99.95 for just over 3 feet of length.
Belkin, which currently sells a broad array of products to attach to HDTV and digital set-top boxes — IEEE 1394b, DVI and component video cables — continues to develop cabling for tomorrow. The company claims experience with Ethernet networking, KVM, USB, peripheral sharing devices and cables has enabled it to create hardware to manage, store and distribute A/V content in ways not currently available.
Belkin said it has learned certain lessons, such as when printer interfaces moved from parallel to USB, that are directly applicable to today's A/V space. While component video represents the best in class connectivity, cost concerns and the popularity of video components, shipping with only composite or S-video connectors, mandate a reverse plan-o-gram at retail, said the company.
Plan-o-grams should evolve at a pace commensurate with technology adoption curves and platform penetration, Belkin said. Thus, the company is working with channel partners to ensure their plan-o-grams represent optimal mix for revenue and profitability.
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