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High-Tech Head Units Among Intros At SEMA

11/04/2005 02:03:00 PM Eastern

Las Vegas — The SEMA show, held here last week, provided a "sneak peak" at a handful of high-tech 12-volt products, including new head units from Eclipse, Kenwood, Pioneer and Sony.

Sony showed a new CD receiver that lets users download music from the Internet, and Kenwood showed one of the first head units with built-in tuners for both Sirius and HD-Radio (see story p. 36). Pioneer and Eclipse also showed new navigation-A/V systems.

Sony’s new MEX-1GP Drag and Drive receiver is an AM/FM/CD/MP3 head unit that has an unusual face plate. Embedded in the face is 1GB of flash memory and a USB port. Users can remove the face plate and connect it to a PC to download MP3 and WMA files.

The unit’s screen displays album, artist and track names when playing downloaded music files. The MEX-1GP also has a built-in 208 watt power amplifier and three-band equalizer and is expected to ship in February at an estimated retail price of $350.

Pioneer used the SEMA event to launch its latest navigation-A/V system called the AVIC-Z1, which adds a hard drive to the AVIC line along with MP3 storage and iPod integration. Pioneer said it is on a quest to expand and promote the navigation market in the United States (see sidebar).

Eclipse also expanded its navigation-A/V line with a single-DIN model with a built-in hard drive. The AVN 7000 is an AM/FM Monitor/DVD with motorized 7-inch screen and a slot for Memory Stick. The unit does not store video or MP3 on the hard drive but accepts MP3 files stored on Memory Stick. All components are built-in to the DIN-sized unit at a suggested retail price of $2,600 to $2,700.

Several other new products were unveiled at SEMA in the video, navigation and OEM product sectors. On the OEM front, KVH debuted an updated OEM version of its TracVision A5 satellite TV car system. The new system may be partially installed within the vehicle’s headliner, so only a small portion protrudes beyond the roof. The system has a shallower clearance than a roof rack, said the company. The OEM embedded TracVision will not be available to the aftermarket, said a spokesman.

Rockford Corp. also introduced a new OEM brand called Rockford Acoustic Design (RAD). It is designed for upscale OEM systems such as those found in high-end Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicles (for which Rockford is a supplier). The new RAD systems are designed for "audiophile tastes," rather than the boom-heavy bass preferred by the youth market, said a spokesman. The first RAD systems should appear in vehicles by the end of calendar 2006, he said.

In the expediter market, Audiovox introduced one of the first overhead consoles with two drop-down monitors, each with its own DVD player. The unit, called the Advent ADV285, is available only through car dealers. The system includes dual swivel-mount 8.5-inch screens so kids can watch their own movies or play video games. It comes with a game controller with seven built-in games, dual IR transmitter, wireless FM modulator and dual-channel IR headsets at a suggested retail price of $1,799. An optional TV tuner pack is also available.

Also new is the ADV8SR, an 8-inch drop-down monitor designed for smaller cars or vehicles with sun roofs. The unit has a built-in DVD player and is MP3 ready. Sales senior VP Tom Malone said it is offered in response to "SUV sales declining due to fuel costs and the trend shifting to smaller fuel-efficient vehicles."

Garmin showed two new portable navigation systems that are XM NavTraffic capable. They also allow the reception of standard XM programming as well as XM Weather, a service offered, until now, primarily to marine operators and professional pilots. "By seeing traffic and weather delays in advance, a driver can save time by following a route around the delay," said marketing VP Gary Kelley.

The high-end units are aimed for use in RVs, conversion vans, semi-trucks and buses, said Garmin. Called the StreetPilot 7200 and 7500, they have 7-inch touch screens and built-in MP3 players. MP3 music is stored on SD cards. The units also have built-in book readers so users can purchase audio books from Audible.com for playback in the vehicle. Both models offer dead reckoning, in addition to GPS navigation, and have built-in FM modulators. They require an optional antenna for XM service. The StreetPilot 7200 and 7500 ship in December at estimated retail prices of $1,499 and $1,800, respectively.

In the marine segment Dual showed a new head unit that is compatible with iPod or other portable media players. The MXCP55 is an AM/FM CD Weather Band receiver that accepts optional portable players when used with a Dual $35 adapter (IP35WG iplug). The MXCP55 comes with a pair of 6.5-inch Dual marine speakers rated at 20 watts RMS and has a seven-channel weather receiver. The new iplug adapter will work with any head unit that uses a standard headphone output. Suggested retail price for the MXCP55, including speakers is $299.99.

Kicker extended its marine line at SEMA with a new 10-inch woofer (also available in an enclosure) to ship in March, two new component systems and two new coaxial speakers.

Myron & Davis introduced new custom headrests at SEMA with built-in monitor/DVD units. The 7-inch screens can pivot for multiple viewing angles. The units come with built-in wireless IR headphone transmitter and FM modulators.

Also at SEMA, Phoenix Gold introduced new Radial Sd amplifiers with CEA 2006 ratings, capped by the RSd 1200.1 mono Class D amplifier rated at 780 watts RMS at 4 ohms. It is joined by five additional amplifiers at prices to be announced. Also new are an 11-model Radial Sd coax and component speaker line and new Radial Sd subwoofers.