By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The cool displays of 2002 are getting even brighter and wilder this year.
Suppliers say that features like screen animation, switchable colors, and brighter panels are helping move products off the shelf, and they are racing to offer increasingly radical designs that will stand out in a sound board.
"The display technology, as well as overall cosmetic direction, is really driving sales. It's what creates the coolness factor for the young demographic," said Pioneer product planning VP Keith Burnett.
Hot new displays are on view from nearly every supplier here, including Sony, which is dropping the price of a TFT LCD unit down to $699, as well as Kenwood, which is offering a new 3DMask system. Pioneer has also updated its Organic EL display, JVC is showing a new "neon" style head unit and Panasonic is debuting a 20,000-plus pixel display.
After marketing the first CD receiver with a laptop quality TFT LCD display last year on its MEX-5DI, Sony stripped out the Memory Stick and photo-download capability of the unit because it found that what people want most is just a CD receiver with a great display, said Bill Lee, general manager for the mobile division. This year's TFT model has the same laptop quality, 1024 by 768 screen with 32,000 color capability. It comes loaded with about 100 full motion clips and images and the unit offers such features as MP3, equalizer and DSO (for raising the sound field). Called the CDX-M3DI, it is also XM capable and carries a retail price of $699 (down from $999) last year.
Sony has also updated its Active Black Panel display on two models. Called Fluorescent Active Black Panel (FLABP), it now provides up to 50 full motion clips and images. FLABP is available on the Sony CDX-M800 at $329 suggested retail price and on the CDX-M850 which adds MP3 and high voltage output.
Kenwood is showing new 3D Mask technology which now uses three face plates. Under the new system, the car stereo face drops down to expose a second panel behind it. This panel features the unit's control buttons and it is able to flip over to reveal a black face for deterring theft.
In new screen technology, Panasonic is showing a CD receiver with a 20,480 pixel display which is 40 percent larger than most other car audio displays, says the company. Called the CQ-DF903U, the unit comes with a choice of five graphic scenes including a Formula One Panasonic/Toyota race car scene, a snowboard scene and a space scene. The CQ-DF903U is also Sirius ready and it has 50 watt by 4 built in power, blue illumination and spectrum analyzer. It is expected to ship in February at a suggested retail price of $299.95.
Panasonic has also revamped its GHOST display on the CQ-HR1003U. The display now covers most of the head units' face. It has a touch screen without hard buttons and it features multi-color switchable illumination. The panel will also go totally black when the receiver is switched off for theft prevention. The 2003 model now has a jet-black finish and is expected to ship in February at a suggested retail price of $329.95.
JVC claims to have solved the "gender" cosmetics issue this year with a new line to replace its "girl radios" of 2002. The company is now offering a single SKU called the KD-SC800 which comes with four changeable skins for the front of the radio. The skins are available in millennium blue, candy apple red, hot rod flames and psychedelic. Users take the clear acrylic off the front of the radio and place the skin under it. One of the skins is geared to women, one to men, and two are unisex, JVC said. Users can also download additional skins from a Web site, JVC said.
JVC is also debuting a new neon trim look on several models. They come with an illuminated top and bottom trim to create a neon glow. Two of the models to offer this use 3DLH technology for three dimensional displays with 1728 colors. They also feature the new PICT technology for downloading photos. The models KDLH3100 and KDLH3150 also have MOS FET 50 watt by 4 built in amplifiers, MP3 capability, seven-band equalizer, gold plated line output terminals and pre out. The Arsenal version, KDLH3150 adds 4-volt line output level, adjustable line input and a two-year warranty.
Pioneer this year has upgraded its Organic EL display to a new white color for higher contrast and more definition. In addition the company is highlighting a new Supertuner III-D tuner that will be available throughout the entire line. The tuner incorporates digital technology for higher multipath rejection and increased sensitivity. The company has expanded MP3 capability to 11 head units this year, nine of which are also WMA capable.
Rockford Fosgate is showing several new head units including two that are able to control the settings on its Type RF DSP amplifiers (installed in the rear of the car). The new CD receivers include the RFX 9320 and RFX 9420. Both are AM/FM/CD/CD-R/CD-RW units with disc titling. The RFX 9320 has built-in 50 watt by 4 power and three pair of 5 volt pre-outs and two pair of adjustable auxiliary inputs. The RFX 9420 is a tuner only, with three pairs of 8 volt pre-outs, non-detented rotary volume control and upgraded blue LED display. Suggested retail prices are $499 and $899 respectively. They control the Type RF amplifiers, which are among the first with on board digital processing.
Alpine is introducing seven in-dash CD players which focus on easy navigation through large music libraries of XM channels and MP3 and WMA files. The 2003 line has a new rotary knob and a new button layout for easier access. The company is also pushing its Media Xpander, a 500Mhz processor, which restores the original detail to compressed digital media. MP3/WMA decoding starts at under $300.
Clarion is pushing its Pro Audio line this year which includes all Sirius-ready models. The company's CD receivers have been redesigned for a family cosmetic look. Three of the units are MP3 capable and three have multi color displays. When the display background changes, the buttons change to match. One of the units offers 728 color combinations and the other two offer 80 combinations.
Nakamichi is introducing a new CD-400 CD receiver which delivers 24-bit digital to analog conversion at a mid price level. It has a 47 watt by four built-in amplifier and special high resolution preamplifier circuit topology for low noise. It comes with a choice of four-color illumination.
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.