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HTiBs Get New Names, 6.1 Surround Sound

8/05/2002 02:00:00 AM Eastern

New brands and technologies entered the HTiB business to take advantage of the market's continuing double-digit sales gains.

RCA added its high-end Scenium brand to the industry mix; Samsung entered the market with its first two systems, one of which features Klipsch-brand speakers; and Onkyo followed Pioneer in announcing its first 6.1-channel HTiB.

Earlier this year, Zenith entered the HTiB market, and Pioneer announced plans for its first two HTiBs incorporating 6.1-channel surround. The Pioneer models are receiver-based systems with Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES at a suggested $1,000 and $875, respectively. The former is due in July with DVD-AV playback.

Suppliers have taken notice of retail-level growth rates that NPDTechworld found to hit triple-digit rates from January-May. During that time, home theater audio systems (electronics and speakers combined) grew more than 131 percent in units, while DVD-equipped home theater system sales grew almost 988 percent. In 2001, NPDTechworld said, home theater audio systems grew 59 percent in units, while DVD-equipped system sales rose 230 percent.

At the factory level, DVD-equipped HTiBs outsold their DVD-less counterparts for the first time in 2001 as DVD-equipped models proliferated, CEA statistics show. In 2001, DVD-equipped models accounted for 52 percent of the 2.3 million HTiBs shipped by manufacturers to dealers and 62 percent of HTiB dollar volume of $794 million.

Not surprisingly, many of this year's new HTiB systems are DVD-equipped.Onkyo plans September shipments of the $999-suggested, 6.1-channel HT-S755DVC, which incorporates separate five-disc DVD-Video changer and receiver, which decodes the 6.1-channel Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES formats and incorporates Dolby Pro Logic II. The 6x105-watt (into-6-ohm) receiver also features HD-compatible component-video switching and 10Hz-100kHz frequency response. The included DVD changer features progressive output, MP3-CD playback and 192kHz/24-bit DACs.

Onkyo's introduction is part of an HTiB expansion that brings the company's selection of receiver-based HTiBs to four from two, excluding an Envision Theater system that incorporates a DVD-receiver. The other new receiver-based HTiBs, all 5.1-channel models, retail for a $499, $699 and $799. The opening price model lacks DVD player. A progressive-output DVD player is included in the $699 system, and the step-up gets a five-disc changer. The $699 model ships this month, and the other two are available now.

For its part, Thomson included a DVD-equipped HTiB among its first Scenium-branded home audio products, which complement the design of high-end Scenium-brand TVs launched last year. Scenium audio and video components feature brushed-metal finishes and consistent design elements to give consumers "a stylish solution," said Mark Redmond, worldwide audio/video VP.

The RTD101 HTiB ships in September at a suggested $399 with integrated DVD-receiver. Features include Dolby Digital, DTS, and Pro Logic II decoding, progressive-video switching, MP3-CD playback, and Touch Sensor motorized tray that opens with a light touch of the finger. Seventy-watt satellite speakers and a 100-watt subwoofer are included.

The two other Scenium audio products are the $299-suggested 550-watt RT2660R receiver and $699-suggested SP2660 speaker package.

As for Samsung, the company's first two HTiBs include the HT-DM150, due in August at a suggested $349. It features single-disc DVD-receiver, DD/DTS 5.1 and Dolby ProLogic II decoding, MP3-CD playback and progressive output. It's rated at 6x46 watts plus 70-watt subwoofer.

The second Samsung HTiB is co-branded with specialty speaker supplier Klipsch, marking what will be the first of a lot more Samsung products with Klipsch technology, said Samsung marketing director Claude Frank.

The co-branded HT-SK6, due in September at a suggested $1,199, will be marketed by Samsung to current Klipsch dealers, Frank said, but the product "could open up doors for Klipsch" in the future, he added. All of the targeted dealers have assisted sales floors.

Klipsch and Samsung share a lot of customers, including members of the NATM and PRO buying groups and major independents, he noted.

The HT-SK6 features a Samsung single-disc DVD-receiver with progressive scan, 5x90-watt amplification into 8 ohms, plus a 225-watt subwoofer. Other features include MP3-CD playback, DD/DTS and Dolby Pro-Logic II decoding, and Klipsch's Quintet Microsystem, featuring two-way speakers just 7.5 inches tall. Quintet alone often retails at $900, Frank said. The speakers' color was modified to match the DVD-receiver's silver finish.

The speakers feature MicroTractrix Horn tweeters and ported 3.5-inch fiber-composite woofer in an elliptically shaped cabinet molded out of dense polypropylene.