Pioneer unveiled the next evolution of its more upscale marketing direction that is more fully embracing custom installation in its second-generation Kuro video display offerings and Blu-ray Disc players.
Pioneer showcased four second-generation 1080p Kuro plasma TV models in the Pioneer and Elite lines (two each in the 50- and 60-inch screen sizes), its first Elite "Signature Series" Kuro 1080p plasma monitors and its first Kuro 1080p D-ILA front projector during a recent press event, here.
To support the displays, the company also unveiled a pair of next-generation Blu-ray Disc players, including the first offering for the Pioneer lineup. Most models will ship this summer.
Pioneer marketing executives said the second-generation Kuro models feature a five-times deeper black-level performance than last year's line.
The addition of Signature Series HD plasma monitors and the company's first three-chip 1080p D-ILA projector complements the Kuro marketing strategy first outlined last year. That direction is stressing the delivery of products with the highest possible performance rather than displays that compete aggressively in mass channels on volume and price.
The plasma monitors offer dealers more installation options for integrated home theater systems. The monitors are thinner than the plasma TV models and allow dealers to easily integrate external tuning sources and home networking systems.
Pioneer has opted to market the plasma monitors under the "Signature Series" sub-brand, which Pioneer will study for extension to other product categories, said Russ Johnston, Pioneer marketing and product planning senior VP
All new Kuro plasma TVs and monitors incorporate an automatic adjustment feature called Optimum Mode that simultaneously monitors video and room light conditions.
Plasma TV models in both lines measure 3.7 inches thick, which is said to be a 20 percent reduction from last year. The Signature monitors are said to represent a 50 percent thickness reduction from last year's Kuro plasma TVs.
Other additions include a redesigned remote control and high-definition graphic user interface for ease of use and integration; a networked home media gallery for playback of digital files such as HD movies, music and photos from a PC or via a USB connection; and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) and Windows PlaysForSure networking compatibility.
In plasma TVs with integrated tuners, both the 50-inch ($4,000 suggested retail) and 60-inch ($5,500) Pioneer models will ship in June and offer one-year warranties. The Elite 50-inch ($5,000) and 60-inch ($6,500) models also ship in June and offer two-year warranties.
The Elite Signature Series HD plasma monitors will be available in October for the 50-inch model and August for the 60-inch model at prices to be announced later.
They also offer an IP connectivity function that will let dealers connect to a display over the Internet to check on product performance issues. Often adjustments will be possible over the internet without requiring a truck roll, Johnston said.
Pioneer's three-chip Kuro D-ILA 1080p front projector was designed for dedicated home cinema rooms, he added.
The LCoS-based technology is said to "produce one of the highest native contrast ratios," measuring up to Kuro black-level standards. It also adds a rich color gamut, a wide lens shift capacity, dual HDMI 1.3 support, and a wide range of image adjustments and calibration settings.
"There is a growing demand and need for products in the home cinema space with screen sizes over 70 inches," Johnston said. "This is our first step outside of the plasma category to address not just the home theater market but the home cinema space."
The Elite Kuro projector will begin shipping in June for a $9,000 suggested retail, and will be available via Pioneer's Elite dealer channel. Johnston said Pioneer realized that the installation businesses of almost every one of its Elite dealers had expanded significantly, presenting an opportunity to add the front projection and monitor categories.
Pioneer's new Blu-ray Disc players, meanwhile, were redesigned to stress audio performance from music CDs and DVDs, as well as high-def Blu-ray Discs, in addition to high-quality video.
(For more on Pioneer's Kuro plans, see www.TWICE.com.)