By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LAS VEGAS — Panasonic stepped up its networking capabilities in new tabletop audio systems, added Apple’s eight-pin docking connectors to two models, and launched three new soundbars sized for larger TV displays than last year’s soundbar line.
Panasonic didn’t introduce new Blu-ray-equipped HTiB systems but will carry over its three current models, which feature 3D and DLNA certification.
Among the company’s seven new tabletop audio systems, three NE (Network Era)-series models are the company’s first three tabletop speaker systems to incorporate three wireless technologies — Apple AirPlay, DLNA networking, and stereo Bluetooth — in one chassis. They also incorporate Wi-Fi.
The tabletop lineup also includes the company’s first Bluetooth-only speaker designed to hold a tablet in place while it uses Bluetooth to play back the tablet’s audio.
On top of that, the tabletop-audio lineup gets three new one-piece CDequipped microsystems, one with Air- Play, two with stereo Bluetooth, and one with Apple’s Lightning connector. The two without Lightning connector feature Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad USB ports.
Select tabletop products feature Bluetooth Re-Master technology for music. It restores frequencies lost during Bluetooth transmission.
Prices of the new products won’t be announced until shortly before their spring shipment.
The three NE-series models are the SC-NE1 and SCNE3 one-chassis stereo speakers and the top-end SCNE5, which features a single-chassis stereo speaker plus a separate wirelessly connected vertical CD player with Lightning dock and Made for iPad/iPhone/iPad USB port.
The NE-series models are two-way systems with 1-inch tweeter, long-stroke 3-inch woofer and bass port.
The Bluetooth speaker for tablets is the SC-NP10, a 3.5-pound compact device that lets users prop their tablet at an angle on top without making a docking-pin connection to play back music and movie soundtracks. It’s compatible with any-size tablet and tablet OS as long as the tablet features stereo Bluetooth. The SC-NP10 also features Bluetooth Re-Master, virtual surround for moviesoundtrack playback, and 2.1-speaker system with 3 1/8- inch integrated subwoofer.
In one-piece CD-equipped microsystems, the company launched the HC28, HC38 and HC58. The HC 28 features Apple’s Lightning dock connector for the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini, and the other two feature Made For iPod/ iPhone/iPad USB port and Re-Mastered Bluetooth. The HC58 adds AirPlay.
The HC58 and HC38 can be wallmounted via included brackets.
All but one of the seven new tabletop systems, the HC 28, can be used with a Panasonic Apple or Android app that, when installed on a mobile device, lists all available Bluetooth, DLNA or AirPlay speakers from Panasonic and sends music wirelessly to them.
In soundbars, three new models are designed for placement near larger TV displays than last year’s soundbar selection. The new soundbars, which Panasonic calls Home Theater Systems, are targeted for placement next to TV displays with screen sizes ranging from 42 to 65 inches. New bars launched in 2012 were only 32 to 42 inches in width.
Two of the new bars, like select 2012 models, are convertible, or multi-positional, models. Those two models, the SC-HTB770 and SC-HTB370, can be placed horizontally like a traditional soundbar, or their left and right speaker complements can be detached from the bar to create two separate freestanding vertical speakers. Both come with a separate set-top controller/switcher that incorporates Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 decoding and Dolby Virtual Speaker, which simulates surround sound from front speakers.
They also feature Bluetooth and wireless subwoofers.
A third soundbar, the SC-HTB70, lacks the controller box and features embedded subwoofer and Bluetooth.
Additional details were unavailable.
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