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Audio Components Tap More Sources

Audio/video receivers (AVRs) and other audio components are tapping into the home network and new music sources here at the CEDIA Expo.

Those sources include HD Radio, Internet radio, music-laden networked PCs, iPods, and flash-memory drives.

Harman/Kardon, for example, is launching its first AVR with Internet radio and PC networking, Yamaha is expanding its selection of AVRs with the features to four from two (see p. 6), and Integra is enhancing the Internet radio capability of one new networked AVR.

In HD Radio, Integra is expanding its selection of HD Radio-equipped components to four from three, and Yamaha is expanding its selection to five from two. Two of the new Yamaha models are the industry’s first AVRs to incorporate iTunes Tagging when an iPod dock is connected.

Also at CEDIA Expo this week:

  • Audio suppliers Sherwood and Yamaha are showing their first Blu-ray players, joining models from audio supplier Denon and Marantz, which is showing its second Blu-ray player.
  • HK and Yamaha are expanding their selection of AVRs with embedded decoding of all authorized Blu-ray surround formats.
  • Integra is launching the industry’s first two AVRs and pre-pro with ISF-certified video calibration.

Of interest to owners of legacy AVRs, new Blu-ray players are including multiple analog audio outputs. Panasonic’s new BD55, for example, sports 7.1-channel analog outputs, and Yamaha’s first Blu-ray player features 5.1 analog outputs.

Here’s what selected suppliers are exhibiting:

Anthem: The Paradigm division is upgrading two existing audio components with its proprietary Anthem Room Correction (ARC) System and offering an upgrade kit to current owners of the two products.

The room-correction technology was introduced early this year in the $7,499 Statement D2 AV preamp processor and became available for installation in the installed base of D2 and D1 preamp processors for a $399 fee. Now it’s available in all new Audio Video Master (AVM) 40 and 50 digital audio/video processors at suggested retails of $4,499 and $5,499, respectively. ARC is also available as an add-on kit for the installed base of AVM processors at an estimated $799.

Harman Kardon: The brand is adopting Dolby Volume technology and Internet radio technology for the first time with the introduction here of the flagship $2,799-suggested AVR 7550HD. The Dolby audio-processing technology maintains a consistent volume level when TV channels are changed, a TV program transitions to a commercial, and video inputs are switched. It also dynamically compensates for the human ear’s lower sensitivity to bass and treble sounds as volume levels decrease within a program.

For Internet radio streaming, the AVR 7550HD uses the vTuner portal, enabling browsing for hundreds of stations by format, state or country.

The 7.2-channel 7550HD and 7.1-channel $1,199 AVR 3550HD expand the brand’s selection of A/V receivers with internal decoding of all Blu-ray surround-sound formats, HDMI Deep Color support, and new graphical on-screen menu system to four models. Those three features first appeared in the $889-suggested AVR 354 and $649 AVR 254 shipped earlier this year. The menu system uses pictures and text to help consumers set up a home entertainment system and verify their components are connected and configured properly. The interface renders menus partially transparent so that video images remain visible on screen while the menu is being used.

Both new models, which complete the brand’s 2008 AVR lineup, also come bundled with H/K’s Bridge II iPod-docking station, previously bundled only with the AVR 354. With the Bridge, a docked iPod or iPhone can be operated by the AVRs’ remote control, and iPod operating menus and iPod-stored video will appear on the TV through the three AVRs. The menu will also appear on the receivers’ front-panel display.

The two new AVRs also feature the brand’s new industrial design, which appeared for the first time on two stereo receivers shipped earlier this year.

Other features common to the two include video up-scaling of all video sources to HDMI 1080p via Faroudja DCDi Cinema video processing, HDMI repeater function, up-conversion of composite- and S-Video to component video and to HDMI, XM-ready capability, proprietary automated room-EQ and calibration, and Logic 7 processing, which upmixes two-channel stereo and matrix-surround signals into five- or seven-channel signals to deliver ambient sounds that are already in the two-channel mixes, the company said. Both AVRs also connect to A-BUS amplified keypads in other rooms, and they feature second-zone audio.

The AVR 7550 HD adds a USB port to play back MP3 and WMA music files from a USB flash-memory drive, a USB-connected flash-memory MP3 player, a connected PC and a connected hard drive.

JBL: The new SDEC-4500 digital equalizer/crossover, which will be included in the brand’s high-end Synthesis speaker/electronics packages for home theater audio, is said to be JBL’s most advanced model ever.

Sunfire: The second-zone capability in the Theater Grand TGR-401 AV receiver is not unusual for a high-end AVR. What is unusual is that the $4,000-suggested AVR it can be controlled remotely from the second zone by a CAT5-connected $650-suggested Ole XL in-wall touchpad from sister brand Elan. A second Ole port allows for Ole XL control from the local zone.

It is the first device outside of the Elan custom-install brand to connect directly to Elan’s Film Interactive Technology (FIT) in-wall touchpads to create a two-zone custom multiroom audio system. The receiver is also the first non-Elan-branded product to connect to Elan’s Via!migo iPod dock.

The Sirius-ready 7×150-watt A/V receiver goes into full production in September.