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Panasonic Fills Out Audio Lineup Details

3/07/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK — Panasonic revealed pricing on the new iPod/
iPhone-docking compact audio systems and new soundbar
in its 2011 audio lineup, and the company offered more details
about a variety of new features and technologies that
will be available for the first time in its new 3D Blu-ray HTiBs.

All products were unveiled at International CES, and HTiB
prices were revealed shortly thereafter. All products are still
scheduled to ship in April.

Of the four compact stereo systems,
three incorporate AM/FM tuner and MP3-
CD players at suggested retails of $99,
$149 and $199. The fourth system lacks a
CD tuner and retails at a suggested $179.

The new soundbar, the SC-HTB520, is
priced at a suggested $399
and replaces a similarly
equipped and priced model.
The HTiB prices, as previously
announced, are a suggested
$399, $499 and $599.

Compact systems: All four compact systems are thin,
vertically oriented single-chassis models. Two can be wallmounted.

The compact systems, along with the three new 3G Bluray
HTiBs, are the company’s first such products that take in
music in PCM digital form from a docked iPod/iPhone.

Two of four docking stereo systems — the $199 SC-HC55
with CD tuner and $179 SC-HC05 without CD tuner — are
the company’s first with ability to select favorite Internet radio
stations for playback via their included IR remote.

An Internet radio tuner, however, isn’t built into the two
compact systems. Instead, a $1.99 vTuner app loaded onto
an Apple iPod Touch or iPhone accesses Internet radio stations
via the Apple devices’ embedded Wi-Fi radio. The
music is then streamed to the compact systems via stereo
Bluetooth. Then, via Bluetooth, the compact systems relay
favorite-station up/down commands from their supplied IR
remotes to the Apple devices.

The compact line starts with the $99 SC-HC25, which features
a CD tuner but no Bluetooth or vTuner control. Features
include a push-open dock, motorized sliding CD door, bass
and treble controls, single-cone speakers and aux input.

The $149 SC-HC35, also with CD tuner, steps up with a
motorized sliding door that hides both the CD mechanism
and iPod, wall-mount capability, and 40-watt output.

The $199 SC-HC55, which is also wall-mountable, adds
motion sensing for hands-free opening of the motorized
door, stereo Bluetooth, vTuner control and two-way speaker

The only compact system without a CD tuner is the $179
SC-HC05, which features IR remote control of the
loaded vTuner app, stereo Bluetooth,
push-open dock, 40-watt
output and the SC-H55’s speaker

Soundbar: The $399-suggested
SC-HTB520 with wireless
sub replaces the current
SC-HTB500, which is similarly
equipped and priced. It will
join the carryover $199-suggested
SC-HTB10, which incorporates a
built-in sub.

The new soundbar, like its predecessor, features a wireless
sub, one 3D-capable HDMI 1.4 input (1.4 previously
and 1.4a now) to connect a 3D Blu-ray player or 3D set-top
box, one optical digital input to connect the digital audio output
of a set-top box, an HDMI 1.4 output (1.4 previously and
1.4a now) with audio return channel, built-in Dolby Digital
and DTS 5.1 decoders, and Dolby Virtual Speaker to create
virtual surround. The HDMI input also accepts multichannel
PCM streams from a Blu-ray player.

Compared to its predecessor, however, the new soundbar
features taller thinner subwoofer. The new model also features
new cosmetics with a black-glass front.

HTiBs: In launching three 3D Blu-ray HTiBs, the company
is increasing its selection of 3D HTiBs to three from two,
offering 2D-to-3D conversion for the first time, and offering
a 3D Effect Controller for the first time. The latter lets users
adjust the degree of 3D effects to their preference.

The 2D-to-3D conversion function converts 2D video on
DVDs, Blu-ray discs and SD cards to 3D.

The three Blu-ray HTiBs are also the company’s first
HTiBs that:

• up-convert streaming video-on-demand services
to full 1080p;

• feature built-in Wi-Fi, whereas previous models
used included or optional Wi-Fi dongles; and

• let users customize the Blu-ray home screen
with a personal photo uploaded from an SD card.

The top two models at $499 and $599 are
also the company’s first HTiBs with HDMI inputs,
in this case dual 3D-capable HDMI 1.4a inputs.
They’re also the first two Panasonic HTiBs with
optional Skype video calling.

All three 5.1 HTiBs feature HDMI 1.4a output
with audio return channel, and Cinema Surround
Plus, said to simulate 22-speaker surround
sound, including 11 height channels. The top two
add HDMI standby passthrough.

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