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Panasonic Fills Out Audio Lineup Details

3/01/2011 03:11:03 PM Eastern

New York - Panasonic revealed the
pricing of the new iPod/iPhone-docking compact audio systems and new soundbar
in its 2011 audio lineup and offered more details about a variety of new
features and technologies available for the first time on its new 3D Blu-ray
HTiBs.

HTB520

All products were unveiled at CES,
and HTiB prices were revealed shortly thereafter. All products are still scheduled
to ship in April.

Of the four compact stereo systems,
three incorporate AM/FM tuner and MP3-CD players at suggested retails of $99,
$149, and $199. The fourth system lacks tuner and CD retails for a suggested
$179.

The company's new soundbar, the
SC-HTB520, is priced at a suggested $399, replacing a similarly equipped and
priced model.

The HTiB prices, as previously
announced, are a suggested $399, $499, and $599.

Compact
systems:
All four compact systems are thin, vertically-oriented
single-chassis models that are 2.5 to 2.75 inches deep, depending on the model.
Two can be wall-mounted.

HC55

The four compact systems, along with
the three new 3G Blu-ray HTiBs, are the company's first such products that take
in music in PCM digital form from a docked iPod/iPhone to improve sound quality,
said product manager Troy Livingston during a presentation here to the press.

Two of four new iPod/iPhone-docking
compact stereo systems - the $199 SC-HC55 with CD-tuner and $179 SC-HC05
without CD-tuner -- are the company's first with ability to select favorite Internet
radio stations for playback via the systems' included IR remote.

 An Internet radio tuner, however, isn't built into
the two compact systems. Instead, a $1.99 vTuner app loaded onto an Apple iPod
Touch/iPhone accesses Internet radio stations via the Apple devices' embedded
Wi-Fi radio. The music is then streamed to the compact systems via stereo
Bluetooth. Also via Bluetooth, the compact systems relay favorite-station
up/down commands from their supplied  IR remotes
to the Apple devices. Bluetooth Remaster technology restores frequencies lost
during Bluetooth transmission.

The two compact systems also use
stereo Bluetooth to stream music from Bluetooth-equipped cellphones, MP3
players, and iPads. The 2010 line featured only one compact system with stereo
Bluetooth.

The compact line starts with the $99
SC-HC25 with CD-tuner but no Bluetooth or vTuner control. Features include push-open
dock, motorized sliding CD door, LCD display, bass and treble controls, 3.13-inch
single-cone speakers, and aux input.

The $149 SC-HC35, also with
CD-tuner, steps up with motorized sliding door that hides both the CD player
and iPod, wall-mount capability, 40-watt output, fluorescent display, 2.5-inch
single-cone speakers with bamboo cones and dual passive radiators.

The top-end $199 SC-HC55, which is
also wall-mountable, adds motion sensing for hands-free opening of the
motorized door, stereo Bluetooth with Bluetooth Remaster, vTuner, two-way
speaker system with 0.6-inch tweeter, 2.2-inch cone woofer, and dual passive
radiators.

The only compact system without
CD-tuner is the $179 SC-HC05, which features IR remote control of the
iPod/iPhone-loaded vTuner Internet-radio app, stereo Bluetooth with Bluetooth
Remaster, push-open iPod/iPhone dock, 40-watt output, LED display, and the
SC-H55's speaker complement. It's not wall-mountable.

Soundbar:
The $399-suggested SC-HTB520 with wireless subwoofer replaces the current SC-HTB500,
which is similarly equipped and priced. It will join the carryover
$199-suggested SC-HTB10, which incorporates built-in subwoofer.

The new soundbar, like its
predecessor, features wireless outboard subwoofer, one 3D-capable HDMI 1.4
input (1.4 previously and 1.4a now) to connect a 3D Blu-ray player or 3D settop
box, one optical digital input to connect the digital audio output of a settop
box, an HDMI 1.4 output (1.4 previously and 1.4a now) with audio return
channel, built-in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 decoders, and Dolby Virtual Speaker
to create virtual surround. The HDMI input also accepts multichannel PCM
streams from a Blu-ray player.

Compared to its predecessor,
however, the new soundbar features taller thinner subwoofer with downfiring
driver. The new model also features new cosmetics with a black-glass front and
drivers behind black metal grilles that blend in with the black glass.

The carryover $199 soundbar features
3D-compatible HDMI input, Dolby Digital and DTS decoders, and Dolby Virtual
Speaker but lacks an outboard subwoofer.

HTiBs:
In launching one new DVD HTiB and three 3D Blu-ray HTiBs, the company is
increasing its selection of 3D HTiBs to three from two, bringing 2D-to-3D
conversion to the company's Blu-ray HTiB line for the first time, and offering
a 3D Effect Controller for the first time. The latter lets users adjust the
degree of 3D effects to their preference.

The 2D-to-3D conversion converts 2D video
on DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and SD Cards to 3D.

The three BD HTiBs are also the
company's first HTiBs that:

--upconvert streaming
video-on-demand services to full 1080p.

--feature built-in WiFi, whereas
previous models used included or optional Wi-Fi dongles. Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n is
included.

--and let users customize the
Blu-ray home screen with a personal photo uploaded from an SD card.

The top two at $499 and $599 are
also the company's first HTiBs with HDMI inputs, in this case dual 3D-capable
HDMI 1.4a output. They're also the first two Panasonic HTiBs with optional
Skype video calling.

All three HTiBs feature 5.1-speaker
systems, 1,000-watt outputs, faster loading integrated Blu-ray players, HDMI
1.4a input with audio return channel, and Cinema Surround Plus, said to
simulate 22-speaker surround sound, including 11 height channels.

The $499 system connects to an
optional $129-suggested wireless kit for use with the surround speakers, and
the $599 model comes with included wireless kit.

The top two models also feature
standby passthrough, enabling a settop box to pass its HDMI audio and video
signals through an HTiB to a TV even if the HTiB hasn't been turned on.

All three Blu-Ray HTiBs also feature
Viera Cast Internet streaming services, which have been expanded to include
CinemaNow and Vudu.

The opening price of a 3D-equipped
HTiB goes to a suggested $399 from $499.

 

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