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Blu-ray, New Categories In D&M Launches

Las Vegas — D&M brands came to International CES with multiple announcements, including ship dates and pricing for Blu-ray Disc players from Denon and Marantz, plans by Marantz to reenter the multichannel separates market, and the launch of what Marantz believes is the industry’s first A/V tuner/preamp with the ability to stream video from a networked PC.

The BD players “will be the first premium Blu-ray products on the market,” said Joseph Stinziano, Denon’s senior sales and marketing VP.

The first model available will be a Denon Blu-ray/DVD/CD player/transport at a $999 street price, down from an originally planned $1,200. It ships this month and must be connected via HDMI to Denon A/V receivers to decode video and surround formats. It will be followed in February by a Denon player at a $1,999 street price, which features HDMI output but also performs all A/V decoding internally.

In April, Marantz plans to ship a Blu-ray/DVD/CD player ($2,000 street price), which was demonstrated in prototype form here for the first time.

All three models support all optional and mandatory surround formats approved for use on BD discs. Because the units conform to the Blu-ray Profile 1.1 spec, they also feature secondary A/V decoders to deliver picture-in-picture capability when used with discs encoded with two A/V programs. Additional secondary audio programs, subtitles, games and the like can also be downloaded to an SD card for reproduction when plugged into the BD players’ front-panel SD Card slot.

Despite Warner’s plans to withdraw from the HD DVD software market, Stinziano didn’t rule out a dual-format BD/HD DVD player in the future, and he noted that the brand will launch “new high-definition products in 2008.” Product development director Jeff Talmadge noted that “there are a lot of [HD DVD] discs out there.”

In reentering the home theater audio separates market after an absence of about a decade, Marantz introduced an 8×150-watt amplifier and a tuner/preamp/processor, both with a new industrial design that will be replicated in additional Marantz products. The AV8003 tuner/preamp, due in May, features an embedded digital media player to stream audio and high-definition video via Ethernet port from a networked PC or network attached storage device (NAS). Other high-end preamp/processors feature audio networking, but this is the industry’s first that also streams video, Marantz VP Kevin Zarow contended. The device decodes multiple A/V codecs, he said. It wasn’t clear whether the AV8003 would stream protected audio and video content from a PC.

Other AV8003 features include HD Radio, HDMI 1.3a Deep Color, 1080p up-scaling, XM-ready input, and decoding of all surround codecs approved for use on HD DVD and BD discs.

Individual pricing of the two components wasn’t revealed, but the cost of buying both would be about a combined $5,000, Zarow said.

Also at its offsite venue, Denon unveiled its highest end two-channel stereo system in more than a decade. The $$3,600 CX-3 system combines a two-channel CD/SACD transport, companion amplifier/processor, and two mahogany bookshelf speakers. It ships in March. The transport and amp/processor are 11.8-inch-square and made from aircraft-grade aluminum components. The components are also sold separately.