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Denon Expands Networked Audio, Unveils Its First 2 Blu-ray Players

UPDATE! Jersey City, N.J. — Denon announced a broad product launch here at a national dealer/rep show, where the D&M Holdings brand unveiled its first two Blu-ray Disc players, an expanded networked audio selection, and its first five A/V receivers that decode all standard and optional surround-sound formats approved for use on Blu-ray and HD DVD discs.

The five A/V receivers are priced from a suggested $1,199 to $5,200, and they will be joined by a similarly equipped preamp-processor.

“It’s the first time in 10 years that we are turning over the entire receiver line,” said Joseph Stinziano, Denon’s sales and marketing senior VP. The brand introduced 13 new A/V receivers in its specialty/custom series and retail series combined.

Some of the brand’s key goals in 2007, Stinziano continued, are to establish the A/V receiver “as the center of the networked home;” develop new products to “jump-start new categories;” deliver “premium but usable networking solutions” that will “broaden our approach and not just appeal to audiophiles;” and improve ease of use, particularly in networked products.

New categories for Denon include one-piece iPod-docking networked music systems, a powered sound bar equipped with virtual surround, and the industry’s first iPod dock/network clients that stream music from a PC and directly from the Internet. Also new: the brand’s first ZigBee-based RF remotes with displays that display the metadata of music streamed by networked receivers from a networked PC.

In 2008, said product development director Jeff Talmadge, the company plans to expand its Wi-Fi selection, and in 2009, it will offer products that stream movies.

For this year, Denon’s networked-audio selection includes the brand’s first products with built-in Wi-Fi to stream music and photos from a PC and to access Internet radio without using a PC. The Wi-Fi products — which incorporate 802.11b/g — include two A/V receivers at a suggested $2,499 and $5,200; the S52 one-piece tabletop “network-music system” with HD Radio, XM port; and integrated iPod dock at a suggested $699; and a combination iPod dock/network client that, at a suggested $229, connects an iPod to any A/V system and networks the A/V system with a PC.

Three networked audio products with wired Ethernet port include a $1,599 A/V receiver and a $179 iPod dock/network client.

All told, eight products are network-capable compared to three Ethernet-connected A/V receivers in the previous product lineup. The networked devices are also DLNA-certified so they can access a DLNA-certified networked attached storage (NAS) device while a networked PC is off.

In other product developments, the company:

  • added the following features to all new A/V receivers: connectivity to an optional iPod dock; XM-ready port; and HDMI 1.3a connectivity, even if used only for switching high-definition video signals up to 1080p resolution. All three features start at a suggested $349;
  • offered HD Radio for the first time. The technology appears in the $5,200 and $2,499 receivers and the $699 S52 one-piece networked music system, which also features slot-load CD, USB connectivity and XM-ready port;
  • brought 1080p up-scaling in receivers down to a suggested $849;
  • added support for more compressed audio formats in its latest networked products. Besides MP3 and protected and unprotected WMA, the new devices also stream unprotected AAC, FLAC, WMA lossless and WAV. The new networked products are the company’s first to support JPEG streaming;
  • added compressed-music-restorer technology to its receivers for the first time;
  • for the first time, enabled remote Internet-based diagnostics by dealers in three A/V receivers, which are priced at $1,599, $2,499 and $5,200;
  • teamed with the subscription-based Rhapsody music service for the first time to enable the two one-piece network-music systems to access the subscription-based Rhapsody music service without a PC connection.

The brand hasn’t adopted the HDMI CEC bidirectional communications protocol, which allows for the one-touch turn-on of a home theater system built from multiple brands.

For its Blu-ray debut, Denon plans a fall launch of the $1,999-suggested DVD-3800BDCI and the $1,199 DVD-2500BTCI, a model that lack internal audio decoding. Both models will be the industry’s first with HDMI 1.3a outputs, which transfer all BD disc surround formats in native form via HDMI for decoding by compatible A/V receivers.

 Although all of Denon’s new A/V receivers feature 1.3a, only six of the receivers incorporate decoders for all standard and optional surround codecs approved for BD and HD DVD discs. The other A/V receivers incorporate Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 and 6.1 decoders and 7.1-channel PCM.

Neither BD player plays DVD-Audio or SACD discs, and they will be the industry’s first Version 1, Profile 1.1 BD-ROM players. This Blu-ray iteration enables picture-in-picture playback of a separate audio and video program for interactivity. On this player, the separate program must be downloaded by a PC and transferred to an SD Card. The player doesn’t incorporate an Ethernet port to play back the separate A/V stream directly from the Internet.

The BD players will also be the first BD players, or HD DVD players for that matter, to use Realta’s HQV processing, the company said.

At the upcoming CEDIA Expo in September, the brand will launch its first audio separates in years and first dedicated custom-install products. The separates include a preamp-processor, and the custom devices consist of a 12-channel amp, video scaler and a multizone dual tuner. Samples of the products were on display.

In other announcements, Denon said it improved ease of use by adding a simpler GUI to its top-end A/V receivers, simplifying the jack packs in back of its receivers, and rewriting all user manuals, adding a quick start guide.