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6-, 7-Channel Decoding Makes Gains At Show

1/06/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS -Six- and seven-channel surround decoding will appear in more receivers at CES, where suppliers plan to fill receivers with additional goodies such as Dolby Pro Logic II, high-definition video switching and higher-performance, wider-bandwidth amplification to deliver the sonic attributes of DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD.

At CES:

  • ·Harman Kardon will launch its first THX receiver, a THX-Ultra-certified model with 7.1-channel THX EX decoding, and 6.1-channel DTS ES Matrix and Discrete decoding.

  • ·JVC will launch its first THX receiver, a THX Ultra model with THX EX decoding.

  • ·Kenwood will talk up plans for a high-end Sovereign series that will include the company's first THX products in years. They will include THX Select- and Ultra-certified receivers with THX EX and DTS ES Discrete and Matrix decoding.

  • ·Sherwood will unveil its first two receivers with DTS ES Discrete and Matrix 6.1-channel decoding. Instead of THX EX decoding, however, Sherwood's model will incorporate what many suppliers have begun to call Dolby Digital 6.1 Matrix decoding.

  • ·And at least one more company, Marantz, will show its first THX Select-certified, THX Surround EX-equipped receiver. The $2,299-suggested model joins a model each from Pioneer at a suggested $1,100, Onkyo at a suggested $1,049 and Integra at a suggested $1,200.

More preamp/processors will also incorporate 6.1- or 7.1 channel decoding.

By and large, the audio components introduced at CES will lack IEEE 1394 interfaces, although B & K and Onkyo offer models that can be upgraded to include working 1394 ports.

Said Harman Consumer Products Group president Gina Harman, "1394 solutions are not affordable or, in our category, make good sense for our consumers." For Harman, "1394 will be six to 18 months out depending on IC supplies."

A lack of 1394 ports, however, clearly isn't dampening receivers sales, which were up for the first nine of months of 2000 by 15 percent in units and close to 20 percent in dollars, following 1999's unit gain of more than 10 percent and dollar gain of about 10 percent, CEA statistics show. That followed several down years.

The increasingly crowded $2,000-plus segment is growing in line with the overall receiver market, but because the segment is more crowded than in years past, each manufacturer's sales have been limited, said Yamaha marketing director Tom Graham.

Here's what dealers will find in home theater receivers and related products at CES:

ADCOM: The GTP-830 will be the company's first 7.1-channel tuner/preamp/processor. Tentatively priced at less than a suggested $1,199, it uses ADCOM's own matrix decoding to deliver two rear-center channels, with discrete information in each channel, from Dolby Digital Matrix 6.1 and DTS ES Matrix and Discrete soundtracks. It also derives two rear-center channels from 5.1 soundtracks. It's targeted to ship in February with RDS tuning and learning remote.

Aiwa: Three new A/V receivers, also available as part of receiver/speaker home theater packages, retail for a suggested $240, $300 and $350, all with Dolby Digital and DTS. All have phono input. The top two add 5.1-channel analog inputs. They ship in April and May.

The packages are priced at a suggested $350, $470 and $600 and include powered subs. They ship in April and May.

B & K: To go with all of the new 7.1-channel processors, B & K plans to show what could be the industry's first seven-channel amp-the 7 x 200-watt Reference 7270-due in January or February at a suggested $3,200.

To lower the cost of distributed-audio systems, B & K will launch a six-zone, 12-channel stereo A/V receiver, which interfaces with IR- and RS-232-based keypad systems. The 12 x 60-watt receiver is due in Q1 or Q2 at about $3,000 compared with the $4,000 to $5,000 for a separate six-zone preamp and separate 12-channel amp, the company said.

The company will also demonstrate prototypes of "truly digital" amps using Motorola processors at Motorola's booth, said B & K president John Beyer. Efficiency is in the high-80s or low-90s, he said.

Digital amplification allows for smaller, more efficient, cooler-running amps, but B & K's intention is to use Motorola's DSPs to deliver "higher-power, cleaner-sounding, lower-distortion, higher-signal-to-noise and wide-bandwidth amplifiers," Beyer said. S/N is a theoretical 120-140dB, compared with 90s-range S/N in current B & K amps, he added.

Digital B & K amps won't be out until late in the year.

Harman Kardon: The company's first seven-channel receiver, due at the end of Q1, is THX-Ultra certified, features high-bandwidth amplification and incorporates the following decoders: THX EX, DTS ES Discrete and Matrix, DTS Neo:6, Dolby Pro Logic II, MP3, HDCD and the 7.1-channel version of the company's proprietary Logic7. It also features high-definition component-video switching. Pricing wasn't available at press time.

Also new: PA-4000 wide-bandwidth, high-current 8 x 45-watt or 4 x 100-watt amp, a step-up to the current PA-2000.

JVC: The company's first seven-channel receiver is also JVC's first THX-certified receiver.

The THX Ultra RX-DP10V will feature THX EX decoding, built-in seven-channel amp, high-definition component-video switching, RF remote, extended-bandwidth amplification beyond 50kHz, 192kHz/ 24-bit DACs on all channels, and dual-source dual-zone capability. Its everyday retail will be $1,500, or more than twice that of its current top-end receiver.

Two other new receivers, at everyday retails of $1,000 and $500, don't feature THX certification or THX EX decoding but come with component-video switching and extended-bandwidth amps.

Kenwood: As part of its expansion into upscale, higher-performance products, the company will show select components in its planned Sovereign series, which will replace the top-end 4000 series and will be unveiled in its entirety at spring dealer shows.

The series will include THX Ultra and THX Select certified receivers with THX EX and DTS ES Discrete and Matrix decoding. They will be Kenwood first THX products in years.

Other planned Sovereign products are DVD players and new device for "storage management of audio content," a marketer said.

Dolby Pro Logic II will be in the Sovereign and main series receivers.

Marantz: The company's third THX EX-equipped receiver will be its first THX Select-certified THX EX receiver. The SR-19EX, compatible with DTS ES Matrix, is due early in the year at a suggested $2,299.

NAD:The latest DD/DTS receiver is the $999 T761.

Pioneer: The company is holding most introductions until its spring dealer shows, but one new receiver at a suggested $449 will feature high-definition component-video switching previously available only in the company's Elite series receivers.

Sherwood: The company's first two receivers with DTS ES Discrete and Matrix, DTS Neo:6 and Dolby Pro Logic II are the Newcastle R-763 at a suggested retail of $1,200 and the Newcastle R-963 at less than $2,000. Both are also compatible with Dolby Digital Matrix 6.1 soundtracks. They're due around April.

The R-763 will be close in price to a suggested-$1,199 Denon receiver that's the lowest price receiver to date with both DTS technologies.

Common features include seven-channel amp, 192/24 A/D and D/A converters on all channels, HD-capable component-video switching, and touchscreen LCD remote.

Technics: The brand will incorporate DVD-Audio-ready amplification technology in receivers starting at a suggested $349 and $399, compared with a current $599. Both models feature DD/DTS decoding, six-channel inputs, and amps that delivers 100+dB S/N ratio and bandwidth to 100kHz, the company said.