Home-Theater Systems Get Simpler, More Advanced


Las Vegas - New HTiB systems are getting simpler and more advanced at the same time.

To simplify setup, companies such as Boston Acoustics, P&F USA under the Philips brand, and Klipsch under the Energy brand have developed new 2.1-speaker HTiBs with virtual surround processing to deliver a 5.1-channel soundfield without setting up a pair of surround speakers. The Boston and Philips products are each priced at a suggested $499. The Energy system's price was unavailable.

Harman Kardon is also launching a 2.1-speaker system with virtual surround, but it incorporates embedded 3D Blu-ray player and retails for a suggested $999.

Other suppliers are launching new soundbars with virtual-surround processing to further reduce the number of speakers. They include Azend, Coby, Haier, Harman Kardon, LG, Philips, Samsung and Sharp

In more traditional 5.1-speaker HTiBs, products are getting more sophisticated.

In expanding its assortment of 3D Blu-ray-equipped HTiBs to four from three, for example, LG is offering its first two U.S. HTiBs with proprietary 3D sound technology. The technology uses an algorithm to synchronize audio with 3D picture depth when 3D video is played back. The 3D sound technology also works with 2D video.

LG pricing wasn't finalized at press time.

For its part, Samsung is adding a web browser for the first time to its 3D Blu-ray HTiBs. The HTiBs support HTML5 and Flash.

In planning spring deliveries of five new HTiBs with integrated 3D Blu-ray players, Samsung is also expanding its selection of 3D Blu-ray HTiBs with HDMI switching and 2D-to-3D conversion. And it is incorporating vacuum-tube preamps in select HTiBs and one docking speaker to add warmth to music playback.

For its part, P&F USA is unveiling a $299 Philips-brand 3D Blu-ray HTiB with 5.1 speakers, Apple AirPlay, DLNA and MediaConnect technology to turn a TV into a wireless PC or Mac monitor.

With PC/laptop software and wireless dongle supplied by P&F, consumers will be able to transmit exact images of a PC screen through the HTiB to a connected TV. The TV screen will duplicate exactly what appears on the PC screen, including web browsing sessions, PowerPoint presentations and the like.

In other home-theater introductions, Samsung is unveiling its first "convertible" soundbar, which can be split in two to create two separate vertical speakers designed for placement on each side of a TV.

Sharp is expanding its selection of 1-inch-tall soundbars with replaceable inserts that can be used to adjust soundbar width. The horizontal soundbars can also be split in two to create separate vertically oriented left-right speakers.


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