Custom suppliers and mainstream CE suppliers want more of your custom business, and they're diversifying their product mix to get it.
During this week's CEDIA Expo, some CE suppliers will intensify their custom commitment with a broader selection of custom-oriented products. These companies include Harman Kardon and Onkyo, both of which will show their first in-wall distributed-audio keypad systems. (For CEDIA's video offerings, see p. 30.)
Similarly, NAD plans to unveil its first two amps suited for multizone audio systems. They're 6- and 12-channel models. And Harman Kardon will unveil its second amp tailored for multizone use. The 8-channel model complements a current 4-channel model.
For their part, B&K and Denon will show their first multizone/multisource stereo receivers, with B&K's model featuring two built-in AM/FM tuners and option for a third. Similarly, Rotel will show its first two-zone stereo receiver.
Crossing over from the other side, custom-specialty supplier Niles will enter the receiver market with a four-source, six-zone model controllable from its in-wall keypad system.
The receivers are designed to expand the appeal of distributed-audio systems by reducing their price and simplifying installation.
Meanwhile, traditional custom suppliers will continue to expand their assortments. SpeakerCraft, for example, will show its first in-wall touchscreens, a line of IR receivers and repeaters, and first in-wall CD-receiver, whose IR eye can be used with a learning remote to switch between the device and a connected centralized audio system.
In other major Expo developments:
More companies will launch hard-drive audio recorders.
Newcomers include Onkyo, Integra, Yamaha and Escient, whose FireBall product doubles as a streaming Internet radio and a music management system that accesses CDs in select other-brand CD megachangers and DVD/ CD megachangers.
Harman Kardon, on the other hand, has indefinitely delayed the launch of its hard-drive recorder/Internet radio, citing the financial problems of platform developer Zap Media. However, portions of the platform might appear in future Harman products.
Suppliers will build more elaborate bridges between home subsystems.
Elan, for example, will introduce a system controller that will integrate its Via! in-wall touchpanels with RS-232-based subsystems, not just IR-based systems. IntelliNet will show the RS-1000 distributed-audio system, which can be expanded with new options to control other home subsystems through optional in-wall keypads.
For the retrofit market, Vantage will offer a 900MHz wireless-RF option to its Vantage control system, which integrates control of Vantage lighting systems with other home subsystems.
In addition, Home Systems Plus will ship its long-delayed Aegis-brand A/V management system, which adds A/V subsystem control to its home control system.
New surround technologies will appear in more products.
At least two more companies — NAD and Parasound — will adopt Lucasfilm-licensed THX Surround EX decoding, and others will adopt DTS ES Discrete and Matrix for the first time. The latter include Rotel and JBL, which will include the DTS suite in its new Synthesis Four home theater system, consisting of electronics and in-wall speakers. Sherwood will adopt DTS ES Discrete for the first time in two receivers, having offered Matrix before.
Decoding of Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtracks and DTS ES Discrete and Matrix soundtracks will also appear in a growing selection of moderately priced receivers. They will include a new $899-suggested Yamaha model, a $799-suggested Denon model, and a pair of Harman Kardon models at a suggested $799 and $999. These models don't use THX EX decoders, however.
New surround technologies and implementations will be unveiled.
Denon, for example, will unveil the industry's first receiver incorporating the new 5.1-channel DTS 96/24 format, said to deliver 5.1-channel music and soundtracks with 96kHz/24-bit quality from DVD-Video discs (or from the video zone of a DVD-Audio disc). The soundtracks are compatible with existing DTS decoders but without the sound enhancement.
In addition, Lucasfilm's THX division will unveil its new THX Ultra2 performance standards (see story below).
More DVD-Audio and SACD options will appear.
Parasound will show its first DVD-A/V player; Denon will show its first DVD-A/V changer (a five-disc model); and Yamaha will expand its DVD-A/V selection with two new models.
Denon's model will join others from Kenwood and Integra as some of the few DVD-Audio players incorporating bass management for DVD-Audio playback. Two new Sherwood receivers will also offer DVD-Audio bass management.
In SACD, Marantz and Sharp planned to show their first multichannel-SACD players, and Philips was planning to display two new models, their first with SACD bass management. The models from all three companies play DVD-Video.