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Onkyo Outlines New Product, Training Initiatives

4/16/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. — Onkyo is expanding its audio system selection, entering the multimedia market, upgrading much of its receiver line and maintaining a record advertising budget in a bid this year to maintain its sales momentum.

The company is also launching new training initiatives.

Sales of Onkyo-brand products, excluding Integra and Integra Research products, grew 40 percent in 2000, representing a doubling of sales since 1998, said senior VP Mark Friedman. In audio electronic components, Onkyo's market-share position varied month by month between three and five in 2000, he said in citing one retail-sales tracking service. Onkyo turned in the performance despite a 50 percent reduction in SKUs to about 20 during the past 2 1/2 years, he said.

Last year's growth came within the company's existing distribution, which expanded in 1999 to add some major accounts.

The company's ad budget, dedicated mainly to buff books, will remain at an all-time high, having almost doubled in 2000, Friedman said.

In systems, the company is expanding its executive-style shelf-system selection to four from three and expanding its receiver-based HTiB selection to two models, one of which is the company's first to be packaged with a separate DVD player. The company also plans fall availability of a step-up version of its $999-MAP Envision home theater system, which consists of a book-size DVD-receiver, wall-hanging satellite speakers and a subwoofer.

"Without over-SKUing, we want to stake our claim in the systems business with Onkyo-quality products," Friedman said. The company is positioning its multimedia products in the same way.

The newest shelf system, due in July at $399 MAP, is the DWS-5000 with single CD. It will complement the carryover $299-MAP CS–209 with single CD, a second-generation Onkyo/Polk co-branded two-chassis system (the PS-510) featuring Polk-brand speakers and three-disc CD changer at $499 MAP and a version of the Polk/Onkyo system with Onkyo speakers at $499 MAP.

The two new HTiBs are due in May and June at respective MAPs of $499 and $699. Both use the TX-DS494 receiver, available separately at $299 MAP and featuring DD/DTS 5.1, Dolby Pro Logic II, preprogrammed universal remote and amplifier with frequency response out to 100kHz. The step-up adds separate DVD player.

The company's first-ever receiver-based HTiB shipped last fall at about the same time as the Envision home theater system, which features DVD-receiver and has been available since last October at $999. It features wall-hanging speakers and a book-size DVD-receiver and will be followed by a big brother in the fall. This month, the company began shipping a tabletop display and a freestanding floor display for the Envision system.

In replacing three of five Onkyo-brand receivers at MAPs of $299, $499 and $799, the company is maintaining price points but adding Dolby Pro Logic II to all three. The company is also bringing Wide Range Amplifier Technology (delivering frequency response up to 100kHz) to the opening-price model and adding more and better video inputs to all three. The $799 DS696, for example, gets two 50MHz+ HD-capable component video inputs, already available on the step-up 787 and 987. The 696 also features Y/C separator and Y/C mixer, enabling consumers to run only one video cable (composite or S-video) to a TV set from the receiver even if the home theater system incorporates multiple video sources with a mix of composite and S-video outputs. Extending that feature to component-video switching isn't feasible at this price point, the company said.

For the top-end carryover 989, the company this month will offer a not-yet-priced factory upgrade that adds DTS ES Discrete and Matrix and Pro Logic II via on-board flash memory. The $2,999-MAP receiver also features THX EX decoding.

By fall, the company expects to offer an as-yet-unpriced IEEE-1394 upgrade through a software download and the addition of a modular 1394 port in back. The port could be upgraded with HAVi home-network software. The receiver could be connected via 1394 to the Onkyo-brand DVD-AV player, which can also be upgraded to 1394.

In April and May, Onkyo will launch a trio of multimedia products: two are outboard digital audio processors akin to high-end outboard sound cards. The third is a surround-sound speaker/electronics package for use with PCs and game consoles. Distribution could include PC-oriented dealers, Friedman said.

The $299-MAP Digital Theater Station electronics/speaker package incorporates amplification in a subwoofer enclosure along with decoding for DD, DTS and Pro Logic II. The as-yet-unpriced SE-U55 processor is intended to connect USB-equipped PCs to an AV system or to powered speakers. A digital output makes it possible to play streaming Internet audio through a high-quality shelf system or AV system. Digital and analog inputs make it possible to rip songs from connected CD changers, turntables or tape decks.

The as-yet-unpriced MSE-U33HB offers the same capabilities but is designed for Macs, many of which lack audio ins and outs, Onkyo said. The device also serves as a three-port USB hub.

In new training initiatives, the company has developed a new product-training manual consisting of a book and Powerpoint presentation for use by reps and dealers in training retail salespeople. The training program is in its third year.

The company also has expanded its salesperson certification program with the launch of a digital specialist training program to complement an audio specialist program. Testing is done online.

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