New Suppliers, New Roles At Play In Component Audio

By Joseph Palenchar On Jan 6 2005 - 8:00am




Names, functions and forms are changing in component audio at International CES.

With the component business having made a sharp turnaround in 2004, at least two brands — Samsung and Akai — plan to launch their first components here at the show, while Boston Acoustics plans to show its first receivers.

In receivers, many introductions here will be priced well over $1,000 to tap into receivers' growing role as a critical connection point that links all of the components in a high-end home theater system or distributed-audio/video system. Some of the receivers also enhance the quality of video sources such as DVD.

In speakers, suppliers will step up their focus on stylish products meant to replace old-fashioned boxes that detract from new flat-panel video displays or clash with a home's décor.

Here's what dealers can expect to find at the show:

Akai: The brand will expand its audio portfolio beyond a handful of HTiBs to include component amplifiers, receivers and speakers. A selection of midend amplifiers and home theater receivers will incorporate tube amplification using Tube Driver Blue technology, said to eliminate the need for output transformers. New speakers will incorporate so-called "inverter" technology to provide low cost and light weight. Details were unavailable.

Boston Acoustics: The company is venturing into component receivers for the first time with two models.

The AVR7120 7x120-watt A/V receiver, due in January at a suggested $2,999, features powered second-zone output with independent remote control, RS-232 port, USB connectivity to a PC, discrete on/off commands, 12-volt triggers, an auto calibration mode that includes automatic room equalization, two preamp-level subwoofer outputs, and UniView video-format up-conversion to component output to simplify video-cable hookups to a TV.

The 7100 with 7x100-watt amp will retail for a suggested $2,199 when it ships in February. It delivers the same surround formats and automatic room equalization.

Denon: When it ships in March, the THX Ultra2-certified AVR-4805 receiver will be the company's second to offer both an HDMI and a 1394 input, the latter for digital DVD-Audio and SACD signals. The HDMI 1.1 input also accepts DVD-Audio signals. It will be priced at somewhere above a suggested $3,000.

JBL: Six JBL Performance home theater audio systems are component-based 5.1- and 7.1-channel home theater on a pallet systems priced at an approximate $15,000 to $30,000 (see p. 146 for details).

Marantz: The SR9600 receiver is the company's first with dual AM/FM tuners, 1394 input to connect DVD-Audio/SACD players and upscaling HDMI in/out. The THX Ultra2-certified multiroom unit, due in February at an undetermined price, features room-acoustics correction, two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, four component outputs, two component inputs and flywheel radio tuning.

Meridian: The company has expanded its selection of active, DSP-equipped speakers with the recent shipment of the DSP5200, smaller than its sister speakers at 36-inches tall. It features three 75-watt amps, 192kHz/24-bit DACs and DSP to correct for inherent speaker-design limitations. The suggested retail is $10,995 per pair.

Onkyo: Three replacement receivers due in the spring include the $199-suggested 5.1-channel TX-SR303, which adds S-Video up-conversion and higher power, at 5x70 watts, compared to its predecessor. The $299 6.1-channel TX-SR503 ups power to 6x80 and adds automatic room calibration with microphone compared to its predecessor. Component-video upconversion now starts at a suggested $499 with the 7x90-watt TX-SR603.

The flagship $5,000-suggested TX-NR1000 three-zone card-based receiver, which accepts upgrade modules, began shipping in mid-November with the included two-in/one-out HD upscaling HDMI module. The HDMI module doesn't accept DVD-Audio signals in digital form, but a 1394 input accepts DVD-Audio and SACD in digital form.

Panasonic: One of the industry's first two receivers with standard HDMI input and output is the $499-suggested SA-XR70, available since November with six-channel amp Dolby Digital EX/DTS ES decoding. The HDMI input is the 1.1 version (sometimes called 2.0) that accepts DVD-Audio signals.

Pioneer: Three new Pioneer series receivers, at a suggested $250 to $650, expand the company's selection of receivers with Windows Media Audio 9 Pro multichannel decoding, reduces the opening price of 6.1-channel Dolby Digital EX/DTS ES decoding to $250 from more than $400, drops the price of enjoying automatic room EQ to a suggested $365, and drops the price of Dolby Pro Logic IIx receivers to a suggested $250 from $299.

The $250-suggested VSX-515 features WMA9, DD EX/DTS ES, DPL IIx, 6x110-watt amp, virtual surround back channel and component-video in/out. The 7x100-watt $365-suggested VSX-815 adds automatic room EQ, 192/24 DACs, and preprogrammed LCD remote. The VSX-1015TX, at a suggested $650, adds component-video up-conversion, THX Select certification, LCD learning/preprogrammed remote and more ins/outs.

Samsung: The brand's first foray into component receivers isn't a timid one. The THX Ultra2-certified AV-R3000 retails for a suggested $4,999, and features 7x250-watt digital amplification into 8 ohms with 0.05 percent THD, 1394 input for DVD-Audio and SACD, DVI/HDMI switching, and four HDMI inputs and one DVI input that switch to a single HDMI output. It ships in May.

Sherwood: The DRX-2501 DVD-receiver with built-in DVD recorder is in the works. Details were unavailable.

The $399-suggested RD-8601 is the company's first Sherwood series receiver with component-video up-conversion and automatic speaker setup. It shipped in December.

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