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Audio Suppliers Celebrate Gains In Components

12/20/2004 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Component-audio suppliers will return to CES in January in a somewhat celebratory mood after the industry posts what is expected to be the first annual component-sales gain in almost a decade.

For the January-October 2004 period, factory-level component sales rose 38.1 percent to $1.05 billion, following eight consecutive years of decline, according to CEA statistics.

Suppliers cite multiple reasons for the turnaround, including more aggressive component marketing by retailers (see roundtable discussion on p. 82), growing demand in the custom-installation channel, products that simplify the operation and setup of home theaters, and products that look as good as they sound.

The turnaround in the component-audio business is giving suppliers greater confidence in the success of their planned CES introductions, which will include ultra-high-end receivers intended as the central hub of home entertainment and distributed-audio systems. Suppliers will also unveil more receivers that enhance the video quality of connected sources or simplify the integration of video sources and displays.

In addition, at least two companies — Samsung and Boston Acoustics — will display their first-ever receivers, and one other company will enter the component-audio market.

At the same time, speaker suppliers will unveil new models targeted to décor-conscious consumers that integrate visually with new flat-panel video displays and with shallow-depth rear-projection DLP TVs. More suppliers will turn to technology or driver design to reduce the number of speakers needed in a home to reproduce multichannel surround sound.

During the show:

  • Denon and Samsung will tap the top in multizone home theater receivers, with Samsung planning to show a $4,999-suggested model and Denon showing a new model priced above a suggested $3,000 to bridge the gap between its top-end $6,000 model and a $1,200 model. These products will join a $6,995 Lexicon model available since last September and a handful of models priced up to $5,000 from several other companies.

  • At least one company will show its first receiver with a wireless connection to a PC to play PC-based audio.

  • At least four suppliers will show their first receivers with HDMI outputs, including Panasonic. The other brand’s outputs will upscale video to high-definition. Denon’s $3,000+ receiver will be its second model equipped with upscaling HDMI output.

  • Component-video up-conversion will appear in a greater selection of receivers at price points down to a suggested $399 for Sherwood’s RD-8601.

  • Three companies will show new speaker solutions that deliver three or more surround-sound channels from a single front cabinet that mounts on a wall or shelf.

  • And audio-component companies, including Denon, will expand their selection of universal DVD-Audio/SACD players, although at least one video-oriented company will cut back its selection. At least one audio-oriented company will offer its first universal players.

Also at the show, dealers will find automatic room-acoustics correction appearing in more receivers, with at least one priced at a suggested $299. In addition, Quad and Wharfedale will show their first flat plasma-display-friendly speakers, while other companies expand their selection.

Other new products will include a Denon receiver priced at more than $3,000 and the company’s third universal DVD-Audio/SACD player. The receiver, the THX Ultra2-certified AVR-4805, is due in March and will be the company’s second receiver to offer both an HDMI and a 1394 input, the latter for digital DVD-Audio and SACD signals. The HDMI 1.1 input (often called HDMI 2.0) also accepts DVD-Audio signals.

It features a total of three HDMI 1.1 inputs, one DVI input, a DVI-converting HDMI output, a 1394 input for DVD-Audio/SACD and a proprietary Denon Link DVD-Audio input. Other features include three video zones, component video up-conversion, S-video up-and-down conversion, and Audyssey Lab’s MultEQ technology, said to correct for adverse room acoustics for multiple listeners. It’s the second receiver with this version of room correction. Other Denon receivers feature a room correction technology supplied by Analog Devices.

It will be Denon’s lowest priced receiver with both Dolby Headphone and Dolby Virtual Speaker.

Denon’s universal-DVD selection will grow to three with the launch of the $3,500-suggested DVD-5910, which is also Denon’s second universal with 1394 output for DVD-Audio/SACD signals. Its HDMI 1.1 output also transfers DVD-Audio.

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