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After a challenging 2003, car A/V suppliers are looking to reach new audiences, and to reignite excitement for autosound in its core youth market.
Almost every full-line supplier here at CES has aggressively expanded or redesigned its mobile video lineup, spiffed up cosmetics to win over 'tuners,' and made some kind of foray into digital recording.
Clarion and Eclipse are using memory in their head units to record and/or playback music. This feature is now available at record low prices in the $500 range. (See story below).
While DVD-Audio is gaining a little more presence, don't expect the DVD-Audio/Super Audio CD war to reach the car market until next year. Sony is not expected to field an SACD unit until 2005. Eclipse says it is also looking into SACD for 2005. At present, DVD-Audio is being shown at CES by suppliers including Alpine, Kenwood, Panasonic and Pioneer.
Look out for innovations such as a Sony CD receiver with built in 1-inch-by-4-inch TFT that plays back video and the first in-dash CD player with built-in XM tuner from Alpine.
Panasonic is incorporating SecureDigital (SD) card slots into many of its products to allow them to integrate with other CE products, such as digital cameras. Sony is taking the same approach using Memory Stick.
The cool factor is still important, and many suppliers including Eclipse, JVC, Panasonic and Sony are improving on the concept of importing pictures into their head units for background screen images.
Here is a look at what some suppliers are stressing in car electronics in 2004:
Alpine's marketing focus this year is called "Beyond Stereo." Because so many new cars already offer CD players, the company is pushing 5.1 surround to differentiate its products. "It's harder to get the consumer out of their factory installed CD for an aftermarket CD. So let's get them into the 5.1 audio and video experience," said product promotion manager Todd Van Zandt.
To that end, Alpine is adding DVD-Audio and one of the first 6.2 sound processors for the car to its F#1 Status line. (see story, p. 125). Also new is an in-dash DVD/monitor called the IVA-D300. The unit's 7-inch monitor has a unique touch panel that gives "tactile confirmation" of commands. "From a human interface standpoint, when you are driving you want a button to feel like a button so you don't have to look down. Ours gives you the tactile sensation that you are pressing a real button," said Van Zandt.
The touch screen can also control add-on components to the system such as a TV tuner, rear seat DVD player and rear seat monitors. The IVA-D300 has a target price of $1,499.
Alpine is also shipping the first all-in-one XM CD receivers. The new CDA 7892 has an XM tuner built directly into the single-DIN unit while maintaining the same chassis depth as other Alpine units, said the company. It has a detachable face and 4x18-watt built- in power, according to the new CEA 2006 amplifier standard rating. It also offers quick search features, Bass Engine and Media Expander and will ship in January at a tentative price of $349.
Blaupunkt is introducing a new TwinCeiver head unit called the Bremin. It has built-in Digital Sound Processing with a 108-band parametric equalizer. It also offers time-delay adjustments, and MP3 decoder. The unit comes with a microphone for performing automatic calibration of speaker level, EQ and time delay. It also has an RS-232 port for connection to a computer. Blaupunkt says the Bremin MP74 is the first single DIN CD receiver to offer all of the above sound processing capabilities. Shipping is expected this summer at a suggested retail price of $849.
New from Clarion is "Music Catcher" — a memory chip stored in its DXZ845MC CD receiver that allows downloading of up to seven CDs worth of music.
Also from Clarion is a flagship CD receiver, the DXZ945MP, that has a new type of display. It features 16 gradations of black and white that create a 3-D effect, said the company. It has built-in Dolby ProLogic II, 53 watt by 4 power and MP3 capability at an estimated price of $700.
Eclipse is featuring Memory Stick on some of its 2004 products. The company has a new CD/Tuner with Magic Gate Memory Stick that lets listeners play back ATRAC-3 music recorded on the Memory Stick.
Eclipse is featuring Memory Stick on a new double-DIN in-dash navigation/DVD combination with a 6.5-inch monitor (see navigation story, p. 124.) These are joined by new CD tuners, flip-down mobile monitors, headrest monitors, DVD transports and upscale subwoofers.
JVC is offering a new in-dash monitor/DVD with a removable screen. Users can take the 7-inch touch-panel screen with them for security or use it as a rear-seat monitor with an optional headrest mounting cable. The fully motorized widescreen has dual-zone capability, 5.1 processing and built-in amplifier. Called the KD AV7000, it has a tentative retail price of $1,599. An optional TV tuner is also available.
The company is also pushing Sirius-ready products and HD radio (see HD Radio story, p. 125). The 2004 line will additionally include full-color OEL displays on two top models, a touch panel CD receiver and improved capability for downloading photos.
Full-color OEL is available on the KD SHX900 with HD radio tuner at $799 and the KD SHX700 at $499. The new KD LHX500 has a built-in multi-color display controlled by touch. It is expected to ship in March at a tentative street price of $399.
JVC is also expanding its ability to upload still pictures into its audio head units. This year's PICT starts at $279 with wider and larger displays and, full-color capability on OEL models.
Among Kenwood's new products is the HD radio-ready double-DIN DVD/monitor. The new DDX-7015 has a 6.5-inch touch screen monitor and it plays DVD-R/RW, CD-R/RW, MP3 and WMA discs. The dual-zone unit is also Sirius satellite radio and can link to a navigation system or a Kenwood Music Keg. Estimated price is $1,400.
Panasonic is offering Secure Digital (SD) slots in several new products to make them compatible with PDAs, camcorders and digital cameras. It will also offer a special bundle with a 9-inch overhead monitor/DVD and a digital 2-megapixel 4-in-1 camera.
Panasonic said it has refrained from including Sirius capability in its 2004 head units. According to the company, plug-and-play products now represent over 80 percent of the satellite radio market, so "we are rethinking the best way to incorporate Sirius," said national marketing manager Rob Lopez.
SD slots can be found on the new CQ-VID9999U 9-inch overhead/DVD, and two in-dash monitor/DVDs including a new top-of-the-line model that adds DVD Audio and built-in digital amplifier. The CQ-VD7700U also offers Dolby Digital and 5.1 DTS surround in a single DIN chassis along with a 7-inch touch screen and TV tuner at a tentative price of $2,499.
Among Pioneer's 2004 offerings include new OEL models starting at $260 with the model DEH P6600. The unit has a flip-down face, triple preouts, MOSFET 4x50-watt power, XM capability and two-way crossover. The company is also highlighting a three-in-one navigation/DVD system that can monitor "tuner" car functions such as vehicle acceleration, lateral G-Force and other dynamics. Pioneer claims the AVIC-N1 is the first product to allow simultaneous navigation and DVD operation. The single DIN unit has a 6.5-inch touch panel, voice command control, MP3 and XM capability. It is expected to ship in March of 2004 at a suggested retail price of $2,200.
Rockford Fosgate is showing its first in-dash monitor/DVD and is one of the first to offer built-in Dolby ProLogic II. The new RAVDVD2 has a 7-inch screen, 4x50-watt amplifier, video amplifier and TV tuner. It offers 5.1 Dolby Digital, DTS, ProLogic II and AC3. It has DSP surround and effects, built-in crossovers, two A/V inputs, joystick type remote and 5-volt pre-outs. It ships in February at an estimated $1,599 retail price.
Sanyo is showing two in-dash AM/FM/DVD players. One model, the ECDC 1580 comes with a 6.5-inch motorized screen, TV tuner and Dolby Digital 5.1. It also offers 4x45-watt power. It is joined by the ECDC1570 (without screen). It offers dual zone capability, Dolby Digital 5.1 and built-in 4x50-watt power plus 7-watt power for a center channel. It also has a subwoofer output and can accommodate rear screens. Both DVD receivers are expected to ship in April at $899 for the 1580 and $499 for the 1570.
Among Sony's new products is a single DIN CD receiver with built-in 32,000 color TFT that can support movie playback and a new 9-inch overhead DVD/monitor with built-in Memory Stick slot for viewing JPEG photos and MPEG video at an estimated price of $1,099.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.