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Pricing, Choice Should Help DVD-A, SACD Sales

1/08/2002 02:00:00 AM Eastern

The new multichannel music formats haven't caught fire, but suppliers hope to stimulate consumer interest with an expanded selection of low-cost DVD-Audio/Video players and the first hybrid players that do it all: play multichannel SACD discs, DVD-Audio discs, and DVD-Video discs.

Suppliers also hope the growing selection of DVD-A/V and multichannel-SACD models priced at a suggested $299 will seed the market with enough players to encourage the music industry to more aggressively support and promote the formats.

The appearance this year of the first multichannel-SACD/DVD-AV players from at least three companies — Apex, Sharp and Pioneer — might also encourage sales by overcoming consumers' reluctance to choose sides. That in turn could encourage the music industry to ship more software. "Consumers don't want to make a decision," said Yamaha training manager Gary Altunian. "So some dealers are asking for DVD-Audio/SACD combos."

At least one supplier, Denon, said it's waiting for next-generation digital processors that are powerful enough to do SACD and DVD-Audio decoding without downconverting SACD to PCM.

Other hardware makers are holding off on DVD-Audio, including RCA, which plans no DVD-Audio or SACD players in 2002, said Rocky Caldwell, RCA's manager of strategic business development and product planning for audio. "The consumer and retailer demand isn't strong enough," he said.

Zenith, however, isn't waiting and will launch a five-disc DVD-AV changer.

Although Zenith's model isn't a combo, combos might be necessary to stimulate the multichannel music market, some suppliers said, because the big five music companies are supporting different formats.

Although the software is high-priced, usually at $24.95 in either format, hardware makers plan to unveil more low-cost players at CES. New models include:

  • Apex's $299-everyday AD7701, which plays both multichannel music formats and shipped late last year.

  • Samsung's new DVD-A/V player at a suggested $299.

In late 2001, Toshiba shipped $299- and $349-suggested DVD-AV players late in the year, and a JVC model has retailed at $299. A $299-everyday multichannel-SACD/CD player is available only from Sony, and Philips will show a $299-suggested multichannel-SACD/DVD-Video player, originally shown at CEDIA.

For now, however, dealers seem as unenthusiastic as consumers about the formats, one supplier said. "Dealers could care less about SACD or DVD-Audio. They just want one to win. Everyone seems to want progressive scan, even if doesn't look as good as a really good non-progressive-scan model," he said.

That attitude could change with an aggressive launch of titles by the major music companies. Craig Eggers, Toshiba's product management director, said he believes music companies and manufacturers appear ready to aggressively promote the format.

Dealers looking for some answers can check out the following booths for DVD-Audio and SACD developments:

Apex: The Chinese company began late-2001 shipments of the $349-suggested, $299-everyday AD7701, which plays just about every disc known to mankind: DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, multichannel SACD, MP3 CD-R/RW, Kodak Photo CD, and jpeg CDs.

Denon: The company will expand its DVD-AV selection to four SKUs from one with the launch of three models, all with their predecessor's DVD-Audio bass management. They are the top-end THX Ultra-certified DVD-9000 at a suggested $3,000, the $1,199 DVD-3800, and the $499-suggested DVD-1600, all with progressive-scan outputs. The top-end model also features a proprietary IEEE-1394 interface to connect to the new top-end AVR-5803 receiver.

Marantz: The company's lowest-priced multichannel-SACD player is the $1,099-suggested SA8260, due in the first quarter with CD-R/RW compatibility. Preliminary specs showed no DVD-Video section. It joins a current $3,800 multichannel-SACD/DVD-Video player and the two-channel SACD-only SA-14 at $2,900.

Philips: Shown at CEDIA and due in January, the company's second and third multichannel-SACD/DVD-Video players add basic-level SACD bass management.

The $599-suggested DVD9625A features Faroudja progressive-output chip and built-in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel decoders. The $299-suggested black-finish SACD 900 lacks progressive output and built-in 5.1 decoders. The company is also developing an SACD-based home theater in a box electronics/speaker package for late-year shipment.

Pioneer: The company's first multichannel-SACD/DVD-AV player is the Elite series DVD-47A, which also offers MP3 CD playback and progressive output. It ships in April or May at a tentative suggested retail around $1,000. The company's $5,000 AX-10 stays in the line. It plays two-channel SACD discs as well as DVD-Audio and -Video discs.

Samsung: Because of chip delays, the company didn't ship its first DVD-AV player, at a suggested $349, as planned in 2001. But this year, it will have two players. One is the $299-suggested, $249-MAP DVD-A921M, due in May with Memory Stick slot, HDCD decoding, and progressive-scan output. It plays MP3 CDs, Kodak Picture CDs, and jpeg CDs. It also plays MP3-and jpeg-stuffed Memory Sticks.

At the high end, the company tentatively plans to show the $1,999-suggested DVD-HD1000 DVD-A/V player, which adds copper chassis, digital noise reduction, Burr Brown audio DACs, and upconversion to 720p/1080i HD output to HD monitors.

Sharp: The company will demonstrate a high-end multichannel-SACD/DVD-AV player targeted to retail for $12,000 through Sharp Vision dealers. It ships no earlier than June.

Yamaha: The company is expanding its component DVD-AV selection and launching its first HTiB systems equipped with DVD-AV players and changers. The company has no SACD plans for 2002.

In upping its selection to three SKUs from one in the first half, the company will launch its first two DVD-AV changers, both five-disc models. The $599-suggested DVD-C920, due late February, features progressive output, antishock memory buffer, MP3 CD-R/RW compatibility, and compatibility with DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs. The $1,299-suggested DVD-CX1, also due late February, adds RS-232C ports, and remote I/O ports.

Details of the single-disc model were unavailable.

The Yamaha models lack DVD-Audio bass management.

Four of five new DVD-equipped HTiBs feature DVD-Audio. They ship between April and June. At $999, $1,299, $1,499, and $1,699, the four models also feature progressive scan outputs. The $999 model features single-disc DVD-receiver.

Zenith: The company's first DVD-AV player is a five-disc changer with progressive output and, like all new Zenith DVD players, MP3-CD playback. The DVB257 features built-in Dolby Digital decoding, DTS passthrough, and new industrial design. It ships in the summer at an undetermined price.

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