Here is a company-by-company rundown of what's being introduced today in home theater in a box (HTiB) systems at International CES, here:
Acoustic Research: The Audiovox-owned brand plans the first-ever HTiB offered with optional speaker-hiding home accents to cut speaker clutter. The accents include a mantle clock, fake hardcover books, sconces and — for a subwoofer — a wood chest.
Some years ago, MB Quart offered home speakers shaped like wall sconces.
The HTiB, called the HD510 Home Décor system, is a suggested $899. The decorative covers will range in price from a suggested $29-$59 for the small satellite speakers and $79-$99 for subwoofer covers. They ship in March.
Audiovox: The $249-suggested DV1606XM 600-watt DVD-equipped HTiB features progressive scan, Dolby Digital 5.1 and ProLogic II decoding, playback of MP3 and JPEG files on recordable CDs, digital AM/FM tuner with 20 station presets, active subwoofer, CD-R/RW compatibility and remote.
JVC: Five new HTiBs include the company's first five with USB host ports to connect MP3 players and other USB mass-storage devices, including card readers and digital cameras. The systems are the company's first with DiVX video decoding and MPEG-4 video decoders. They also feature MP3 and WMA decoders and digital-picture support.
The top two systems, the TH-C60 and TH-C50, are rated at 1,200 watts total and feature height-adjustable speakers that can be placed on a floor, shelf or wall.
LG Electronics: The company plans its first XM-ready, wireless-surround-speaker-ready, and its first four USB host HTiBs that control the selection of audio and video content from USB-equipped devices such as MP3 players, portable media players and digital cameras. LG is also expanding its selection of HTiBs with HD/up-scaling HDMI outputs to four from one.
The $599-suggested LH-E9674 features XM-ready capability, wireless-ready surrounds, HD-up-scaling HDMI output, five-disc DVD changer, 5.1 speaker system, 1,000 watts, DiVX video decoding and USB host input. It's due in April.
The single-disc LH-T9654 is also wireless-ready but not XM-ready. It's due in April with USB host and HD/up-scaling HDMI output at a suggested $499.
Another new model is the $1,199-suggested LH-T755 with 1,080i/up-scaling DVD player, USB host, 70 watts and NXT-technology flat-panel speakers that can be floorstanding or wall-mountable. It's due in the first quarter.
The wireless kit for surround speakers will cost a suggested $179 and ship in April.
The carryover LHX-557 also features up-scaling HDMI output.
Panasonic: In 2006, all of the company's HTiBs will feature wireless-ready surround speakers or be equipped out of the box with wireless surrounds. All models will also feature digital amplification and front-panel “music port” mini jack for MP3 portables. These features were unavailable in last year's line. In another first for Panasonic, three models will feature HDMI output.
At CES, the company will show three systems whose surrounds can be connected to a separately available $149-suggested wireless kit that uses 2.4GHz frequency-hopping digital spread spectrum to transmit music to the speakers. Three other planned systems not on display include two wireless-ready systems and the company's first with wireless as standard equipment.
Wireless-ready capability will start out at a suggested $199, down from $349 in the 2005 line, in the SC-HT40. It lacks DVD but is designed cosmetically to match Panasonic DVD recorders, including models that add hard disk recording.
The other two wireless-ready models on display are the $499-suggested SC-HT940 and $599 SC-RT-50. The HT940 comes with five-disc changer, thin wall-mountable LCRs and HDMI output, which doesn't up-convert composite or S video and doesn't up-scale DVD content to HD. The HDMI output on the RT-50, however will up-scale DVD to high definition and represents the company's third-generation system with integrated DVD recorder. It also offers wall-mountable LCRs.
Not on display but due later in the year are the $299-suggested five-disc SC-HT640W with built-in wireless capability, the $249 SC-HT440 with five-disc changer and wireless-ready capability, and the $349 SC-HT740 with five-disc changer, wall-mountable tower LCRs and HDMI output.
Panasonic is offering thin, wall-mountable LCRs on three SKUs, up from last year's two.
Philips: The $999-suggested HTS9800W is flat all the way around, from the vertically oriented DVD-playing main chassis to the front flat-panel speakers with ribbon tweeters. The surround speakers are wireless, and the main unit's HDMI output upscales video to high definition.
It plays multiple disc formats, including multichannel SACD, MP3-CD, picture CD and discs encoded with MPEG-4 and DiVX video. It's equipped with Dolby Digital EX 6.1 and Dolby Pro Logic II decoding.
It ships in May.
Pioneer: Six new HTiBs consist of three with DVD and three without. Two of the DVD models, the $549-suggested HTS-560 and $499 HTZ-360, and one model without DVD — the $349-suggested HTS-260 — incorporate AM/FM tuner, all amplification and surround electronics in the subwoofer module, replacing a large component with a small thin LED display console. A separate slim DVD player is included with the .560 and 360.
In 2005, the configuration appeared only in a $1,200 HTiB with NXT flat-panel speakers.
The 560, due in May, features 5.1-channel surround, room-equalization, DSP to enhance the quality of compressed music, four floorstanding two-way speakers, center channel and sub.
The 360, due in June, is a 5.1 system that's Pioneer's first HTiB with two features: non-up-scaling, non-up-converting HDMI output and a USB port, which features a home gallery media player function. The latter lets users plug in USB drives or USB card readers to view images on a TV screen while listening to music. Four floorstanding two-way three-driver speakers are complemented by a center channel and sub.
The DVD-less 260, due in May, is a 5.1 system with room equalization and DSP to enhance compressed-music playback. The satellite and center-channel speakers are full-range.
Two receiver-based systems without DVD, the $199-suggested HTP-2700 and $299 HTP-3700, ship in April.
Samsung: Five of nine new HTiBs, plus an LCD TV, are the company's first XM-ready products, which start at a suggested $299.
The company is also expanding its selection of HTiBs with USB Host, starting at a suggested $249, and HD-up-scaling HDMI outputs, starting at $399. Seven of the SKUs feature USB host capability to control USB-equipped MP3 players and play back music and video files on USB-equipped storage devices. The company's 2005 lineup included four systems with USB Host.
XM-ready, USB-host HTiBs include the $449-suggested HT-AS710 and $449-suggested HT-Q80, due in March and February, respectively. The 710 features 6.1-channel DVD-receiver, HD-up-scaling HDMI output and 750-watt digital amp. The Q80 also features HD-up-scaling HDMI output but adds a five-disc DVD changer and 1,000-watt digital amp. Both systems incorporate decoders for MP3 and WMA music files, MPEG-4 and DiVX video, and photo files.
Three other XM-ready models with USB Host are the Q45, Q70 and Q85, the later two with HD-up-scaling HDMI output. The Q40 features USB host but lacks XM capability and up-scaling HDMI output.
The HT-Q40 at $249 ships in April with USB Host support for playback of MP3, WMA, JPEG, MPEG-4 and DiVX files from a connected portable player. The $299 HT-Q45 due in April adds XM-ready capability and five-disc DVD changer. The $399 HT-Q70 due in April adds wireless-ready surround speakers and HDMI output with HD up-scaling. The $549 HT-TQ85 due in April ups the power to 1,000 watts and adds HDMI input.
A more stylish HTiB, targeted to the high-end female market, features USB host, vertical slot-load DVD, 5.1-channel surround, 500 watts and wireless-ready surround speakers. It's the $499-suggested HT-XQ100, due in April. A version with the same model number will feature up-scaling HDMI output at $549 in April. They're available in white or black and incorporate decoders for MP3 and WMA music files, MPEG-4 and DiVX video, and photo files.
The HT-Q100 2.1-channel system with DVD player and USB host uses Dolby Virtual Surround to deliver a 5.1 soundfield from a 2.1 speaker system. It's due in April at $449 without up-scaling HDMI output and $499 with output.
The XM-ready LCD TV features built-in DirecTV box, 10-inch 16:9 LCD screen, integrated stereo speakers, swiveling and tilting stand and under-cabinet mounting capability. It ships in March at a suggested $499.
Sharp: The SD-SP10, due in April at a suggested $349.99, is the company's first HTiB with virtual 5.1 technology to simulate a 5.1 soundfield from a 2.1 speaker system. The virtual technology is Dolby Virtual Speaker, but Sharp is taking the concept a step farther by incorporating all front speakers, electronics and amplification in a single, compact set-top enclosure connected to an outboard subwoofer.
The 4-inch by 16.9-inch by 10.25-inch enclosure houses decoding for Dolby Digital, DTS, and Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Virtual processing. A DVD-Video player isn't part of the package. The enclosure also houses a 2x35 plus 1x70-watt 1-bit amplifier, whose technology is said to use 50 percent less power than analog amps while running 80 percent cooler and being thirds smaller.
Sharp's patented 1-bit amplification technology samples digital audio signals at a rate of 5.6MHz and maintains the signal in digital form until the speaker outputs.