DVDs Galore, THX-EX Top Pioneer Line

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NEW YORK -- Pioneer brought down the price of progressive-output DVD players to a suggested $449, introduced a second-generation DVD-Audio/Video player before shipping first-generation models, and unveiled its first THX EX-decoding receivers as part of its midyear product launch.

During a press conference here, the company also announced a targeted price of less than $3,000 for its first DVD-R/RW recorder, outlined the format's capabilities in greater detail, and unveiled a cradle-to-grave branding strategy with a unified home and car electronics advertising theme.

The campaign will leverage the company's relationship with 16- to 24-year-old car audio consumers "and transfer it to home products" as consumers get older, said Michael Wakeman, executive VP of sales and marketing.

In other announcements, the company said all DVD-Video players in its 2000 lineup will read CD-R and CD-RW discs, thanks to their Twin Wave laser pickup. The models include an entry-level $299-suggested-retail model.

Progressive-output DVD will begin at a suggested $449 with the July shipment of the single-disc Pioneer-brand DV-434. A Pioneer-brand five-disc DVD changer with progressive output is priced at a suggested $499, but its shipment has been delayed to January because of parts shortages, the company said.

Pioneer plans to bring its opening-price five-disc DVD changer down to a suggested $399 with the September shipment of the Pioneer-brand DV-C503.

In outlining its DVD-R/RW plans, the company said it's still targeting late-year shipments of its first model, which will incorporate a one-way front-panel IEEE-1394 digital input to record home movies direct from a DV camcorder. In outlining the product's copyright-protection features, the company said its model won't incorporate any other digital input, won't feature a digital output, and will disallow copying of Macrovision- and Copyguard-protected discs.

Write-once DVD-R discs recorded on the machine will be playable "in just about every player on the market," a spokesman said. Rewritable discs recorded in two-hour recording mode will be playable on all current and past Pioneer DVD players and on many models from other manufacturers, "as long as they can identify it as a recordable disc," the spokesman continued.

Rewritable discs made in other record modes ranging from one to six hours will be playable on all Pioneer players, he added.

The recorder will feature a 181-channel NTSC tuner and a Dolby Digital audio encoder, which will be limited to two-channel recording because Dolby Labs hasn't yet licensed 5.1-channel consumer encoders, the company said.

When the device ships, Pioneer will offer DVD-RW discs at $20-$25 and write-once DVD-R discs for $10-$15.

"We expect [DVD-R/RW] to be-come the de facto standard" for home video use, said Matt Dever, VP marketing and product planning.

In another DVD announcement, Pioneer introduced a second-generation DVD-A/V player, the Elite series DV-380. It will add video enhancements, including a variety of video noise-reduction technologies, to the model it replaces. Pricing hasn't been firmed up, but the company has targeted a $1,500-$2,000 range.

Dever declined to be specific about DVD-A/V ship dates in the United States, saying the company would ship product "later this year."

Pioneer has already begun shipping its first three THX EX-equipped receivers - all Elite-series THX-Ultra-certified models - and said it plans to offer an EX-equipped THX Select model in the fall.

The Ultra-certified models, available at suggested retails from $1,450 to $2,500, are compatible with the DTS ES Matrix 6.1 soundtrack format but not with the DTS ES Discrete 6.1 format. All incorporate five-channel amplifiers, requiring the addition of an outboard amp to deliver EX's rear-center channel.

Also announced by Pioneer:

· July shipments of its second DVD-equipped home theater electronics/ speaker package - the diminutive HTZ-55DV - at a suggested $925 and an expected everyday retail of $799. The new unit will replace the company's first such package, the $2,200-suggested-retail HTZ7, and adds DTS decoding.

· Pioneer's first wall-mountable audio system, the $465-suggested NS-33, which features a vertical CD tray behind a split glass door that slides open when a motion sensor detects the wave of a hand.

· September is the ship date for the unit that replaces the company's first component CD-recorder/changer, introduced in January. The new model, which also incorporates a three-disc changer and single CD-recording drive, will add 2x recording and disc-finalization speed, and a front-panel keyboard input for disc titling. Suggested retail is expected to be around $600.


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