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Pioneer Expands Universal-Player Selection

7/14/2003 09:41:00 AM Eastern

Long Beach, Calif. - Pioneer increased its support for universal SACD/DVD-AV players by launching two HTiBs equipped with universal players, an entry-level universal player at a suggested $229, and a second receiver with 1394 input to simplify connections to its 1394-equipped universal player.

The company said additional universal players might be launched at September's CEDIA Expo.

The new products increase the selection of HTiBs with universal players to five from three and selection of standalone universal players to three from two.

In other audio-related introductions, the company:

  • expanded THX Select processing to more Elite-series receivers.

  • launched its first Pioneer-series receiver with THX certification. The THX-Select VSX-2012 retails for a suggested $1,200.

The new HTiBs equipped with universal players include the Pioneer-series HTZ-830DV with single-disc player, DD/DTS decoding, Dolby Pro Logic II processing, MP3-CD playback, and 5.1-channel speaker package at a suggested $1,000. It ships in September. The other new universal-equipped HTiB is the Elite-series EX-500 package, which consists of a five-disc changer and separate receivers but lacks speakers. Due in July, it adds Dolby Digital EX/DTS ES decoding, higher power, photo viewer, and slim 3-inch-tall chassis. It also features automatic multichannel acoustic calibration system, which uses a microphone to automatically set speaker levels and distances.

The 830DV and EX-500 HTiBs will join three universal-equipped HTiBs packaged with speakers. Two are in the Pioneer series, and the other one is in the Elite series. The Pioneer-series HTD-630DV and HTD-530DV were introduced at CES and will ship at the end of August at a suggested $800 and $475, respectively. The Elite HTiB launched last fall at a suggested $2,000.

In standalone universal players, Pioneer plans September shipments of its first Pioneer-series universal player, the single-disc DV-563A with MP3-CD playback and built-in DD/DTS 5.1-channel decoding. It carries an entry-level suggested retail of $229 and expected everyday $199, and it will join an entry-level $200-suggested model shown by Zenith at CES.

The Pioneer-series 563A joins two other standalone Pioneer universal players, both of which are in the Elite series at a suggested $1,200 and $750.

In receivers, Pioneer's Elite VSX-55TXi will be Pioneer's second receiver with 1394 input for DVD-Audio and SACD when it ships in July. Although its suggested retail is $1,700, it is THX Select-certified rather than THX Ultra II-certified. It also features DTS ES.

The 55TXi joins the 49TXi, which is the first 1394-equipped Pioneer receiver and has been available since the fall. The two receivers decrypt content that is encrypted with the 4C group's DTCP copy-protection technology. Pioneer's $1,200-suggested Elite-series DV-47Ai universal player, already available, applies DTCP encryption to DVD-Audio and SACD content before it passes through a 1394 cable to the receivers, which then decrypt the multichannel signal and convert it to analog for amplification.

Pioneer's two receivers and the 47Ai player conform to the DTCP solution approved last September by the DVD-Forum to protect DVD-Audio music.

Pioneer's 1394 connections are fully compatible with the DTCP encryption option selected by SACD co-inventors Sony and Philips to protect SACD content, Pioneer said.

Another new Elite receiver, the $1,500-suggested VSX-53TX, is also THX Select-certified, lacks 1394, but offers the 55TXi's 7x100-watt (into 8 ohms) amplifier and automatic calibration.

The receiver introductions expand the use of the THX Select designation within the Elite series, which currently offers only one THX Ultra II receiver.

One or two more Elite receivers will be launched at the CEDIA Expo.

In the Pioneer series, the company launched its first THX-certified receiver. The THX Select VSX-2012 retails for a suggested $1,200, far exceeding the next highest price point of $475. Despite the gap, the introduction makes marketing sense, said audio marketing manager David Bales, in part because of the impact of HTiB sales of midprice receivers. 'There has begun to be enough demand from our non-Elite channel of distribution to warrant bringing in a limited quantity of a step-receiver in the Pioneer line,' he said, although the product is 'still below the performance and feature set of our entry Elite model this year.'

Bales also noted that 'over the past few years, the receiver category has had difficulty in the mid-fi price points of $500-$800.'