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Wild On HTiB, Suppliers Pile On Features

1/09/2003 02:00:00 AM Eastern

The wild ride isn't over yet.

The home audio industry's fastest growing category — home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems — will post double-digit gains again in 2003, suppliers project. And to counter the price erosion that began in 2002, suppliers will load up on features such as DVD changers, DVD/VCR combos, SACD and DVD-Audio playback. One supplier, RCA, is even adding a hard-drive audio jukebox.

Factory-level sales roughly doubled in units and dollars in 2001, said Rich Phipps, RCA's audio business development director. He projected 2002 unit growth of 35 percent, with dollars growing at a similar rate because of the growing predominance of DVD-equipped systems. About 60 percent of HTiBs shipped to dealers in 2002 were equipped with integrated DVD-receivers, he said. Another 10 percent come with separate DVD player and separate receiver.

Thomson forecasts 2003 unit growth of 20 percent, but price erosion will hold dollar growth to 10 percent, Phipps said.

Suppliers planning a step-up strategy include Philips, which will launch its first two HTiBs with SACD/DVD-Video.

In another upgrade shift, all of Philips new DVD-receiver-based systems will be multidisc models in 2003. "Most systems with component DVD are already five-disc," said Art Hays, Philips home audio marketing director. In 2003, integrated DVD-receiver systems will catch up. About half of factory-level sales of DVD-receiver systems feature changers, he said, but in 2003, the ratio will shift to 75:25.

Likewise, JVC will also expand its selection of DVD-equipped HTiBs. For its part, Kenwood will offer its first systems equipped with Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES decoding, joining Pioneer and Onkyo in this segment.

In other developments, Onkyo will expand its selection, Audiovox, Panasonic, and Samsung will launch their first systems with DVD/VHS combo integrated into a receiver, joining SONICblue in this market.

(See page 106 for a listing of suppliers' introductions.)