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Hi-Res Video, Audio Mark Sharp Lineup

In a pre-CEDIA press preview, Sharp Electronics took the wraps off of a fully tweaked and ready-for-production version of its promised front-screen DLP HDTV projector.

The XV-Z9000U ($10,995 suggested retail) is the world’s first front projector to include Texas Instrument’s latest HD-1 widescreen DLP digital micro mirror chip, which features special adaptations for use in front projection systems, including the use of an aperture covering to reduce image over scan. To date, the new one-chip engine has appeared only in rear-projection HD monitors from Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Panasonic.

The company also:

  • Unveiled its first two desktop music systems to incorporate SACD-based one-bit digital amplification, already available in two Sharp component amplifiers to deliver high resolution and wide frequency response from small-chassis devices.
  • Said it plans at CEDIA to display prototypes of its first multichannel SACD player and its first-ever AV receiver.
  • Said it would probably begin U.S. shipments next year of a wireless video-distribution device demonstrated at CES. It will ship in Japan this fall. It’s based on the IEEE 802.11b (Wi-Fi) standard and adds proprietary Sharp technology to prevent video dropouts.

During its press event, Sharp demonstrated the brightness and contrast capabilities of the HDTV-capable projector, which produced lifelike 3-D image quality using a specially produced HDTV demonstration video.

Texas Instruments, which developed and manufacturers the DLP engine for the unit, hailed the arrival of the XV-Z9000U as the first in an expected series of front projectors based on the HD-1 chip. The chip enables HDTV in full native 720p resolution, due to the wider field and use of up to 1.31 million hinged, microscopic mirrors that operate as optical switches. It has a 1,280 by 720 pixel array and full support of the 16:9 aspect ratio.

The HD-1 also enables a new production process, TI said, that achieves a contrast ratio of 1,100:1.

Texas Instrument said the faster operating Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) chip together with the increased 300+Hz speed of the color wheel have “virtually eliminated color separation artifacts.”

The product’s introduction to the market also marks the first time Sharp has developed a front projector based on a display engine that is not LCD. For years, Sharp had prided itself on being a technology leader in LCD front-projector space.

But Frank DeMartin, Sharp advanced product marketing director, said the new DLP projector would complement LCD in Sharp’s long-term quest to move away from video displays based on more traditional CRT engines.

Other video-related presentations, Sharp unveiled a pair of analog flat-screen 27-inch direct view sets, including one three-way combo model that integrates both a HiFi VHS VCR and a DVD player. The TV/DVD/VCR (model 27DV-S100) carries a $1,099.95 suggested retail price.

The flat-screen direct-view sets are the first from Sharp since it test-marketed a 34W-inch HDTV monitor last year. Due to slow acceptance, however, the earlier model was dropped from the line, DeMartin said.

A related new product was a combo DVD/VCR deck (model DV-NC55U) which adds CD-R/RW playback, surround sound audio and DTS digital output into a $329.95 price point.

Also shown was the previously announced AQUOS Liquid Crystal Television series. The high-style line uses two-inch thin, flat-panel LCD screens in a series of TV sets, each optimized for use in various rooms of the house. Product prices range from $1,599 to $3,999.

In rear-projection HDTV monitors, Sharp showed its model 55R-WP5H ($3,499), a 55W-inch 16:9 model, which carries a $3,499 suggested retail. It combines high definition video with upconversion of standard video sources to 1080i using Sharp’s proprietary DDFC-1080 (Digital Double Format Converter) technology.

Sharp also presented its latest Digital Viewcam (model VL-NZ10U), featuring compact size, zoom microphone synced with a 10x optical and 300x digital video zoom lens. It carries a $1,199.95 suggested retail price.

In over the range (OTR) microwave products, Sharp showed the model R-1500, which it billed as an ergonomically designed unit that “discreetly conceals the control panel behind the door,” the company said. The latest addition to the OTR lineup features a 1.5 cubic foot capacity and “the largest turntable in the OTR class” at a $299.95 suggested retail price.

To complement the high-end video systems the company also showed a pair of audio systems using Sharp’s SACD-based 1-Bit digital-amplifier technology. Models SD-NX10 and SD-SG11 each feature 1-Bit amplifiers and high-speed sampling of 2.8MHz — “64 times faster than the sampling rate of a CD,” the company said.

At a suggested $1,500, both two-chassis systems feature single-CD and MD players, user-selectable display colors, and 2×25-watt power output. The SD-NX10 comes with high-end two-way speakers designed by Sharp and delivers a frequency response of 5Hz-25kHz.

The SD-SG11 desktop systems features higher-end amplification but lacks speakers, giving users the choice of their own high-end speakers. Frequency response is 5Hz-40kHz, and resolution is higher. It also adds a loudness control and gold-plated connectors.

Both systems are due in September, the SG11 through SharpVision dealers, the NX10 through such channels and independent dealers and catalogers.

The company’s first multichannel SACD player, not on display at the briefing, will be a component-size three-disc model that also plays DVD-Video, CD and CD-R/RW discs with built-in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel decoders. January shipments are probable, the company said. Additional details were unavailable.

Details of its first A/V receiver, due in the first quarter, were unavailable.

“The XV-Z9000U and 1-Bit personal audio systems represent Sharp’s next step in high-end home electronics, setting a new standard in visual and audio quality,” said Bob Scaglione, marketing VP of Sharp. “Beginning with today’s showcase, the way consumers see, hear and otherwise experience the world through their electronics products is about to change.”