By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Onkyo USA is offering multiple technologies — including 1080p up-scaling — for the first time in Onkyo-brand A/V receivers (AVRs) and expanding its selection of Onkyo receivers priced at more than $1,000.
Technologies appearing for the first time include HDMI 1.3 inputs and outputs, internal decoding of all HD-DVD and Blu-ray surround formats, 1080p up-scaling, dual XM/Sirius-ready capability and HD Radio as a standard rather than optional feature.
The technologies appear in select models in seven new A/V receivers, some of which are also the company's first to offer the CEC bidirectional communications protocol. CEC, called Remote Interactive over HDMI (RIHD) by Onkyo, allows for one-touch turn-on of a home theater system built from multiple brands.
The products, unveiled here at a dealer/rep line show, feature HDMI 1.3a inputs and outputs combined with internal HD DVD and Blu-ray surround decoders starting at a suggested $599. To date, the only other publicly announced receivers with the ability to decode all optional and standard Blu-ray and HD DVD surround codecs are two models in Sherwood's Newcastle series at a suggested $1,000 and $1,500. HDMI 1.3 video passthrough is available in the new Onkyo receivers at a suggested $379 and $479.
The receivers provide 1080p up-scaling of all video signals starting at a suggested $1,699 and $2,109 respectively. The two models are the brand's first receivers that up-scale video to any high-definition format. The only other publicly announced 1080p up-scaling receivers are the $1,000 and $1,500 Sherwood Newcastle models shown at International CES, a $1,500 Sony model introduced last year, a $2,899-suggested ADCOM model introduced last year, and a pair of Denon receivers launched last year at $4,000 and $7,000.
Onkyo's models are among the first A/V receivers with dual XM/Sirius-ready capability, starting at a suggested $479, joining models from Pioneer. They also offer HD-Radio reception as a standard feature, at a suggested $2,099.
HDMI 1.3 boosts bandwidth up to 10.2Gbps from 4.95Gbps, enabling suppliers of future video sources and HDTV displays to accelerate refresh rates, deepen color bit depth, and deliver more viewable colors. The 1.3 inputs and outputs of the Onkyo receivers will have the bandwidth to pass through improved high-definition video to HDTVs capable of displaying the enhancements.
HDMI 1.3 also enables the transfer of all optional and standard HD DVD and Blu-ray surround formats in native form over a single cable to A/V receivers equipped with the proper decoders. Earlier versions of HDMI do not transport losslessly compressed Dolby True HD or DTS HD Master Audio in native form, although those versions can transport the formats if the player first transcodes the soundtracks to PCM.
In its launch, Onkyo also expanded its $1,000+ A/V receiver selection by adding two price points long absent from its Onkyo-brand models: a suggested $1,699 and $2,099. They help fill the gap between the $1,099-suggested print point and a $5,000 modular A/V receiver, said Paul Wasek, national marketing manager for Onkyo USA's Onkyo and Integra brands. The $1,000-plus market "is certainly a growth area overall," he said. "It is of even greater interest since the Onkyo brand hasn't addressed this price band in quite a while. We believe these two new advanced AVRs are well-positioned to make a serious impact."
Onkyo USA's current Integra-brand lineup, targeted to the custom-install market, already offers A/V receivers above and below $1,000. New Integra brand products will debut later in the year.
In other product developments, Onkyo USA unveiled one new Onkyo-brand DVD player and three Onkyo-brand home theater in a box systems (HTiBs), said it is reevaluating its Onkyo-brand DVD strategy, and is on track to offer its first HD DVD player later this year. It will carry the Onkyo brand name.
The company has "no major changes planned" in the Onkyo brand's retail-oriented distribution strategy, Wasek added.
Other Onkyo-brand A/V receiver highlights include:
HDMI 1.3 CEC starting at a suggested $599;
Microsoft PlaysForSure technology in the $2,099 HD-Radio-equipped receiver. It's Onkyo's first receiver embedded with PlaysForSure to stream music from a networked PlaysForSure-equipped PC and ability to stream Web radio through a broadband modem without the PC turned on. The model replaces multiple NetTunes receivers that offered the same capabilities but required users to load NetTunes software on their PC to stream music from the PC.
Neural Surround decoding starting at a suggested $479, and Neural-THX Surround decoding starting at a suggested $899;
Up-conversion of composite, S- and component video to HDMI starting at a suggested $599, down from a suggested $799;
Audyssey 2EQ room-acoustics correction in all models. Previously, Onkyo used a propriety technology at lower price points and Audyssey at higher price points. Two models measure room acoustics from two positions, and the others measure from up to eight positions in a room.
Bi-amp capability starting at a lower price point of a suggested $599;
Stereo-mode bridging of two surround-channel amps and two front-channel amps in the $1,600-and $2,099-suggested models; and
Three-zone capability in three models starting at a suggested $1,099. The capability was previously available only in the brand's modular $5,000 A/V receiver. Powering the third zone requires an add-on amp.
All receivers are 7.1-channel models. Some are available, and others will ship between May and August.
In DVD, the brand is offering 1080p up-scaling in a DVD player for the first time in a $169-suggested single-disc model.
In HTiBs, one of three new receiver-based models is the brand's first Sirius/XM-ready model and also its first with HDMI 1.3 passthrough. It's the $599-suggested 7.1-channel HT-SR800, which also features Audyssey room response correction.
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