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Denon Intros 19 Products, Delays A/V Server

Newark, N.J. — Denon opened a multi-city dealer tour here with the introduction of 19 new products, including an expanded selection of DVD players with upscaling DVI, its first DVD players with HDMI outputs, and its second universal DVD player with SACD/DVD-Audio 1394 outputs.

The company also unveiled a $6,000 receiver that will be the industry’s highest priced receiver and the first A/V receiver with 10 amplifier channels and total 16-channel output. The industry’s highest price receivers range up to about $4,500 from such companies as Onkyo, Sony and Yamaha. A handful of other receivers feature 12-channels to 16-channels of amplification, but those models are designed exclusively for distributed-audio purposes and lack surround-sound decoding.

In other receiver highlights, Denon lowered the opening price point for 100MHz component-video switching and for composite-to-component video conversion to a suggested $399 from $4,300 with the introduction of its AVR-1705. The company also expanded Dolby Pro Logic IIx surround decoding to receivers priced down to a suggested $299.

Although the company didn’t announce receivers with 1394, DVI or HDMI inputs, it hinted that the $6,000 AVR-5805 could get them when it ships in November.

Among its new DVD players, the company lowered the opening price of models offering DVI outputs (with HDCP copy protection) to a suggested $269 with the launch of the DVD-1910. DVI became available for the first time from Denon with the $2,000-suggested universal DVD-5900 announced last September.

Also in the new DVD lineup, the company is pairing DVI and HDMI outputs for the first time with the unveiling of the universal SACD/DVD-Audio DVD-3910 and DVD-2910, which are priced respectively at a suggested $1,299 and $729. Their HDMI outputs are capable of transmitting multichannel DVD-Audio in digital form, per recently approved DVD-Forum specifications.

Like the current DVD-5900, the 3910 adds 1394 output to carry DVD-Audio and SACD streams to 1394-equipped receivers and proprietary Denon Link digital output to carry DVD-Audio signals. Neither HDMI nor Denon Link, however, has been approved by Sony and Philips to carry SACD signals.

The DVI and HDMI outputs on Denon’s DVD players upconvert video to 480p, 720p and 1,080i.

In twin setbacks, the company delayed the shipment of its first-ever networked A/V server and delayed a return to the multichannel separates market. The company didn’t announce a new target date for the Denon Network Server, previously announced for late second-quarter shipment. President Steve Baker said development “is taking longer than anticipated” and noted that “the marketplace and technology are moving at blazing speed.”

HD video networking or digital cable reception weren’t included in the original server, which featured standard-definition PVR, music server, two NTSC analog-cable tuners, two FM tuners and CD drive. It delivered audio and standard-definition video to multiple zones to client devices over an Ethernet network.

As for the multichannel separates, engineering staff priorities forced the delay until sometime next year, said Baker. Shipments were planned for the late second quarter to complement two-channel separates. The products were to include an A/V processor, DVD transport and seven-channel digital amp.

Down the road, Denon will enter the DVD-recorder business and offer receivers that can be upgraded by inserting new circuit cards, but the company didn’t offer a timetable.

With the product launches, Denon hopes to maintain its leading market-share positions in the specialty A/V channel, where the company held top dollar share in combined sales of A/V and stereo receivers during the January-May period, Baker said in citing NPD sell-through statistics. NPD also found that Denon held second-place market share in DVD players (excluding recorders) in the channel during that time.

During that period, the average sell-through prices of Denon receivers and DVD players through the specialty channel were higher than the channel average, NPD also found. Denon’s average A/V receiver price was $599, compared to the channel’s average $313. The channel’s average DVD player price (excluding recorders) was $193, but Denon’s average price through the channel was $474.

Details on the new products follow:

Heavyweight receiver: In November, the company will ship the THX Ultra II-certified AVR-5805 at a suggested retail of $6,000 and weight of 90 pounds. Denon showed a mock-up and didn’t divulge many details, but the company said the sound quality would be equivalent to that of high-end separates. Features include 10 x 170-watt amplification, 16-channel output, multizone capability, the latest surround decoding and comprehensive A/V switching capabilities, the company said. Front-panel lettering indicated four-zone capability and 1394 and Denon Link inputs. The company declined to say if DVI or HDMI inputs would be included. It ships in September or October.

Other receivers: Four other new receivers, shipping between now and August, start at a suggested $299 for the AVR-485S, which features 6 x 75-watt amp and the full gamut of multichannel processing, including Dolby Digital ES, DTS ES Discrete and Matrix, DTS Neo:6, Dolby Pro Logic IIx and DTS 95/24 for 5.1-channel DVD-Video. Other features include three 30MHz component-video inputs and 192/24 DACs across all channels.

The step-up 6.1-channel $399 AVR-1705 adds 100MHz component-video switching, conversion of composite video to S- and component and conversion of S-video to composite. “No other product does this (composite- to component-video conversion) at this price point,” marketing manager Jeff Talmadge claimed.

At a suggested $499, the AVR-1905 adds 7.1-channel surround and two-source, two-zone capability with assignable amplifier channels that enable simultaneous operation of a 5.1-channel home theater and a two-channel second zone with discrete power and volume control for zone two. Zone two can also be powered through an add-on two-channel amp.

At a new Denon price point of a suggested $649, the AVR-2105 adds automatic surround-sound setup to calibrate the system for speaker connections, speaker phase, speaker size, channel level and time delay. Automatic setup was previously available at $899 in the Denon line.

The four receivers, shipping between now and August, lack DVI, HDMI and 1394 inputs because of their price points and lack of back-panel real estate, said Baker.

They join two other new receivers available in January and June, respectively.

DVD players: Four new models in the seven-SKU lineup range in suggested price from $179 to $1,299, marking a new opening-price for Denon. Players previously started at $299.

The $179 DVD-1710 is a single-disc progressive-scan model with 3:2 pull-down. The $269 DVD-1910 adds DVI output with HDCP copy protection. That feature was previously available only in the $2,000 DVD-5900. The DVD-1910 also adds 24-bit/192kHz audio DACs and Faroudja DCDi video processing.

The $729-suggested DVD-2910 is a universal single-disc player with separate decoders for DVD-Audio and SACD. Outputs include DVI with HDCP for digital video and HDMI output for digital video and multichannel DVD-Audio. It also adds HDCD decoding and 12-bit 216MHz video DACs.

The second new single-disc universal player, the $1,299-suggested DVD-3910, adds 1394 output for DVD-Audio and SACD, proprietary Denon Link output to carry DVD-Audio, and RS-232 for connection to home-control systems.

All new DVD players feature WMA/MP3 playback, Kodak/Fuji Picture CD viewing, and jpeg photo viewing.

HTiBs: Two new systems include a new lower-priced virtual surround system that uses two small left-right speakers and an 8-inch subwoofer to replicate a 5.1-channel soundfield. The $799-suggested D-M51DVS features compact DVD-receiver with Dolby Virtual Surround processing. It lacks its $999 predecessor’s preamp outputs, which enabled the addition of center-channel and surround speakers. All other specs remain the same.

The second HTiB is a more traditional component-based system, the 6.1-channel DHT-485DV, available with or without component DVD player at a suggested $699 and $549, respectively.

Home Theater series: In the more broadly distributed series for higher volume CE merchants vs. CE, Denon introduced four new receivers and four new DVD players. Products in the series are available in silver for the first time.