Dealers and installers were surrounded by the latest surround formats and implementations during the CEDIA Expo.
Suppliers increased the selection of receivers equipped with DTS ES and Discrete decoders, with THX Surround EX decoders, and with what some suppliers are calling Dolby Digital Matrix 6.1 decoders, which are compatible with the Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtracks.
Lucasfilm's THX division also took time to explain its new Ultra2 certification specifications (see TWICE, Sept. 3, page 54), while Pioneer showed the industry's first two Ultra2-certified receivers.
Pioneer's two receivers also joined a Denon model as the first receivers to incorporate DTS's new 96/24 5.1-channel technology, which ups the sampling rate of DTS's codec to 96kHz from 48kHz while continuing to allow for 24-bit word lengths. The codec can be used on DVD-Video discs as well as in the video zone of DVD-Audio discs. Most recent DTS discs use 48/24 technology, although some use 48/20 technology, said marketing director Brian Caldwell.
To squeeze the most performance out of the 96/24 technology, software suppliers will encode music and soundtracks at a 1.5Mbps bitrate rather than at 754kbps bitrate, he added.
DTS will announce availability of its first 96/24 discs at this week's Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention. The first discs will be DVD-Audio discs that use 96/24 in the video zone, Caldwell said. Other software companies would follow with their own titles on DVD-Video and DVD-Audio discs "very soon after" DTS releases its titles, he added.
Here are details of some of the new surround products displayed at the Expo:
JBL: The Synthesis series of high-end home theater systems got its first system featuring in-wall speakers.
The THX Ultra-certified system uses three-way vertical and horizontal speakers, switchable dipole/bipole side surrounds, 7x150-watt amp, 400-watt Class D 14-inch enclosed powered sub, 83-band digital EQ to correct room-acoustics problems, and SDP-3 surround processor/controller.
The SDP-3 incorporates THX EX decoding, Logic 7 (which derives a 7.1-channel soundfield from two- and multichannel sources) and multizone operation.
The system ships in November at a tentative $30,000.
An optional SDP-40 processor/ controller adds DTS ES Discrete and Matrix decoding, making Synthesis Four the first Synthesis system with the technologies. Other step-up features include a future-proof design consisting of software upgradability and three expansion slots. It will add about $5,000 to the price.
Marantz: The SR9200 is the company's first receiver with built-in seven-channel amp. It's also the company's first with software upgradability, via RS-232C port, to add future surround decoders and other processing algorithms. The $3,199-suggested, $2,999-MAP THX Ultra-certified receiver, due in November, is also said to be the first receiver with ability to display an on-screen menu through its component video outputs, making it unnecessary to switch to S-video or composite outputs to access the display.
The 7x140-watt receiver features THX Surround EX, DTS ES Discrete and Matrix, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo:6, Circle Surround 5.1, HDCD, and a 7.1-channel stereo mode that derives a 7.1-channel soundfield from stereo sources. Software upgrades can be downloaded via an RS-232 port from a PC.
Other features include DC trigger, automatic TV on/off inputs, and two-way programmable touchscreen learning remote.
A scaled down version, the THX Select SR8200, features six-channel amp and two back-channel preouts for THX EX playback. It lacks the 9200's HDCD decoding and copper chassis to help bring the price tag to $1,699-suggested, $1,599 MAP.
The 9200 and 8200 are the company's first with THX EX and ES Discrete/ Matrix decoding.
Earlier this year, the company brought the price of compatibility with Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtracks and decoding of DTS ES Discrete/Matrix down to suggested retails of $599, $749, and $849. The units included the company's first with built-in six-channel amps.
The company's THX Ultra receivers with THX EX decoding range from $2,299 to $4,200 and feature five-channel amps with backchannel line-level outputs.
McIntosh: The company's first receiver in about 13 years, the $5,000-suggested MHT 100, is due in the fall with Circle Surround CS-3X technology to decode Dolby Digital Surround EX and DTS ES Matrix soundtracks. It also derives a six-channel soundfield from standard 5.1-channel Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. The receiver features 6x100-watt amp for home theater and separate 2x100-watt amp for second-zone audio.
NAD:The company's first processor with THX EX decoding is the THX Ultra-certified Silver Series S170. It ships in fall at a suggested $3,499.
Pioneer: The industry's first two THX Ultra2-certified receivers are the Elite series VSX-49TX and VSX-47TX, which are also among the first with DTS's new 96/24 codec. Both models ship in October at suggested retails of $4,200 and $3,000, respectively.
They feature 7x160-watt (at 6 ohms) amplifiers, RS-232 port, and Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration Circuit (MCACC) feature to compensate for room acoustics. The VSX-49TX comes with large LCD touchpad learning remote, and the 47TX comes with LCD preset/learning remote.
The 49TX also upconverts composite and S-video inputs to a component output, and BOTH?? Feature RS-242C port that will allow for future software upgrades.
Rotel: Fall shipments are planned of a $2,000-suggested receiver, the company's first with DTS ES Discrete and Matrix, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo 6, and a Crystal Semiconductor solution for decoding Dolby Digital EX soundtracks.
Sherwood: The company's first receivers with DTS Discrete, Dolby Pro Logic 2, bass management for DVD-Audio and SACD, and frequency response to 100kHz are the Newcastle R-963 at a suggested $1,995 and the R-863 at $1,199. They're rated at 7x120 watts and 7x100 watt, respectively. Both also decode Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtracks. The 963 adds upconversion of CD audio to 192kHz/24-bit quality, phono input, 54MHz component-video switching, and other features.
Yamaha: The company will lower the opening price of a receiver equipped with Dolby Digital Matrix 6.1 (compatible with Dolby Digital EX soundtracks) and DTS ES Discrete and Matrix decoding to a suggested $899 for the RX-V1200. It and the similarly equipped $1,199 RX-V2200 ship in late fall. They also feature Dolby Pro Logic 2, DTS Neo 6, and dual 60MHz component-video ins and outs.