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Home Theater Audio Seeks Sophistication, Simplicity

9/01/2003 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Home audio suppliers are turning increasingly to sophisticated technologies here at the CEDIA Expo, not only to enhance home theater's aural impact, but also to make their products easier to use.

To enhance home theater audio, suppliers such as Audyssey and Yamaha are turning to automatic equalization technologies to compensate for the deleterious effects of a room's acoustics on sound quality. For the same reason, the first products incorporating Dolby's new Pro Logic IIx technology will appear. Pro Logic IIx is promoted as the industry's first licensed technology to upconvert two-channel and multichannel audio into 6.1- and 7.1-channel surround (see p. 40).

Companies such as Marantz and Harman Kardon will turn to digital signal processing to deliver surround sound via a pair of stereo headphones, and Yamaha will display its first-ever THX-certified products (see p. 30).

To make new technologies less intimidating, suppliers such as Yamaha, Denon and Marantz will outfit products with 1394 connectors for the first time to simplify the connection of receivers with DVD-Audio and SACD players. Also to simplify connections, Marantz and Yamaha will offer their first receivers to upconvert composite and S-video to component video, and more companies — including Jamo, Myryad and Yamaha — will show their first standalone DVD-receivers, which eliminate connections between separate receivers and separate DVD players.

Here's what installers can expect to find:

Audyssey Labs: The Los Angeles startup has developed software that can be loaded onto Texas Instruments audio DSPs to automatically correct for distortion introduced by a room's acoustics. The DSPs can be used in home and car receivers, HTiBs, and tabletop audio systems.

The technology will be demonstrated in the Texas Instruments booth.

Competing technologies correct response for one listening position, or they use spatial averaging across multiple listening positions to come up with a compromise solution for multiple simultaneous listeners, the company said. Audyssey's MultEQ algorithm, however, uses more sophisticated measuring technologies to "ensure not only that the primary listener is delivered the highest quality audio but simultaneously everyone in the room," the company said.

Founders include Jim Lucas, co-founder of SRS Labs. TMH Corp. president Tom Holman, creator of Lucasfilm's THX audio system, is on the board of directors.

Boston Acoustics: The first DVD-equipped HTiB system bearing only the Boston Acoustics brand is the Avidea 770, due at the end of November at a suggested $3,999. The system is built around a compact control center equipped with Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES and DVD-Audio/Video player controlled from an RF LCD remote.

Proprietary UniView technology makes it possible to connect any current or future video device regardless of connector type or signal path, the company said. Front and side inputs allow for connection of camcorders and videogame consoles. Other features include 27 AM/FM tuner presets and second-zone audio output.

The speaker complement consists of a subwoofer and six compact satellites in extruded-aluminum enclosures. The speakers and sub are available in charcoal or dove white.

The speaker company is no stranger to HTiBs. In 2001, it and Kenwood launched a co-branded DVD-equipped HTiB, which was discontinued in late 2002. In 1999, Boston launched two HTiBs with Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding.

Harman Kardon: For its 50th anniversary, the company will launch five new receivers, including two with tuner upgrade slot to add a future HD Radio module as a running change. The two receivers, the top-end AVR630 and the AVR430, are the company's first with Dolby Headphone technology and Dolby Virtual Speaker processing, which delivers surround sound from a pair of headphones and from two speakers, respectively. They're also the company's first receivers with quadruple-crossover bass management, which sets different crossover points for each of four sets of speakers: front LR, front center channel, surround LR, and back-surround LR.

Other features include R-232 for integration into home-control systems and for firmware upgrades.

Additional 630 features include DD EX and DTS decoding, proprietary Logic7 processing, MP3 and HDCD decoding and A-Bus distributed-audio capability.

Other details were unavailable.

Jamo: The company's first DVD-receiver, the DVR-50, ships at the end of September. The single-disc model plays discs in the following formats: DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-R/RW, VCD, SVCD, JPEG and DivX. It incorporates DD and DTS 5.1 decoding and Dolby Pro Logic II. Additional details were unavailable.

Marantz: The company plans to exhibit four new receivers, including its first to upconvert video inputs to component outputs and the industry's first receivers with SRS TruSurround Headphone. That technology delivers a surround experience through any headphone pair.

The company is also bringing component-video switching down to lower price points.

Marantz's new opening-price receiver, the $449-suggested SR4400, is due in September with DD EX, DTS ES, Circle Surround II, DTS 24/96, Dolby Pro Logic II, and 6x80-watt amp. The $599 step-up SR5400 represents the opening price for a Marantz receiver with component-video switching and, when it ships in September, is expected to be the industry's first receiver with SRS TruSurround Headphone. The $749 SR6400, due in October, also features component-video switching and TruSurround Headphone and becomes the company's opening price point for a receiver with RS-232C port. It adds learning remote.

The $999 SR7400, due November, includes those features and will be the company's first receiver to upconvert composite and S-video to component video. It also features seven-channel amp versus the other models' six-channel amps.

Marantz also plans to unveil two new high-end remotes. One is the $649-suggested RC5400 programmable touchscreen learning remote with 8MB memory, up from its predecessor's 2MB. The other is the $169 RC1400 programmable learning remote with LCD screen that features addressable keys. They ship in November.

At the two-channel high end, the company will unveil the SC-7 preamp and MA-9 amp.

McIntosh: A new multichannel audio control center and a two-channel amp will be unveiled. The $3,600-suggested C45 preamp controller, expected to ship just before the Expo, features six-channel analog inputs for use with DVD-Audio and SACD players, moving-magnet phono input, and spot for an optional AM/FM tuner module. It could accept a digital AM/FM tuner if McIntosh decides to offer one.

The $3,800 MC252 amp delivers 10Hz-100kHz frequency response and delivers rated output into any load from 1 to 16 ohms "without any stress to the amp," the company said.

Meridian: The company will introduce the G Series, including DVD players, preamp/processors, and the company's first receiver.

Myryad: The brand's products, now marketed in the U.S. by Sonic Integrity, include the new Cameo Theatre DVD-receiver with DVD player, 6x60-watt amplifier, and RDS FM/AM tuner in a slim chassis. A matching 5x200-watt Cameo amplifier can be added to boost output.

NAD: The company launched its lowest price tuner/preamp processor at a suggested $1,499 and its first THX Ultra II-certified amplifier, the $1,999 T973.

The T163 preamp processor features HDCD decoding, DD EX and DTS ES decoding, and NAD's 7.1 Matrix, a collaboration between Cirrus Logic and NAD that delivers 7.1-channel sound from 6.1-, 5.1-, matrixed-surround, and two-channel sources. It also features RDS tuner, RS-232 port, three HD-compatible component video inputs, and two-zone audio and video output.

The T972 amp uses monoblock construction to deliver 7x140 watts, all channels driven simultaneously, into 4 or 8 ohm loads with 0.08 percent THD from 20Hz-20kHz.

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