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Kenwood Stresses Flexibility, Performance In Home Audio

New York – Kenwood is stressing flexibility and its audio heritage in its 2004 home audio lineup, which includes its first networked home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) system and a generous mix of Fineline-series HTiBs and separates that share the cosmetics of flat-panel video displays.

The low-profile, silver-finish Fineline systems were shown at CES (TWICE, Jan. 8, p. 134 and Jan. 19, p. 30), but in a change, the company now plans to offer select Fineline-system receivers and DVD players separately and in two receiver/DVD-player bundles. The bundles, at a suggested $400 and $600, give retailers the ability to add speakers of their choice to drive up HTiB margins, said home entertainment VP Dean Hutto.

In offering Fineline systems with separate receivers and DVD players, Hutto said, the company is “getting back to its roots as an audio company” that stresses audio performance. The performance of single-chassis DVD-receivers takes a hit, he pointed out, because the audio and video sections share a power supply.

The Fineline series includes the company’s first networkable HTiB, the $1,200-suggested NHT-815DV. The 6.1-channel system’s Ethernet port and companion PC software lets consumers stream music and video stored on a networked PC’s HDD and view still images stored on the HDD. It’s also one of the company’s first two HTiBs with game features, including a dedicated front-panel game input that automatically switches inputs when a game machine is turned on. A single-zone, two-source feature lets gamers listen to their game soundtracks via headphones while music plays through the HTiB’s main speakers.

The system’s networked receiver will also be sold separately at a suggested $800.

Game features are also part of another Fineline HTiB, the non-networked 6.1-channel HTB-S710DV at a suggested $800. Its receiver is available separately at $500.

In another key HTiB introduction, Kenwood plans its first HTiB with wireless surrounds. The $600 5.1-channel HTB-S610 is packaged with a separate 900MHz RF receiver that transmits surround channels to an RF receiver with built-in 2×50-watt Class D amplifier. The receiver/amp, in turn, is connected via speaker wires to the surround speakers. The transmitter uses 2MHz-wide channels to deliver 20kHz audio with 90dB signal-to-noise ratio to the RF receiver.

Kenwood will also sell the RF transmitter and receiver as a separate bundle for use with any surround-sound system or for second-zone audio applications at a suggested $350.

The HTiBs are due between May and July, along with four new standard-size home theater receivers starting at a suggested $300 for the 6.1-channel VR-806 with seven-channel amp and seven-channel Dolby Pro Logic IIx processing. The line also includes a $600-suggested THX Select-certified receiver, the VR-8070. “We’re still the only ones at $600 [with Select certification],” contended product manager John Hwang. Compared to the previous model, the VR-8070 adds Dolby Pro Logic IIx seven-channel processing and a seven-channel amp.

In other comments, Hutto said:

  • Kenwood will support universal SACD/DVD-AV players in its mainstream and top-end Sovereign series in 2005.
  • The company will likely offer a dedicated home HD Radio for the first time in 2005 as part of the Sovereign series.
  • In late April, Kenwood will catch up to demand for its home component-style Sirius satellite tuner, retailing for a suggested $300. The device was on allocation for about a month and a half because demand began to exceed expectations since the product’s October launch, he said.

Its top-end Sovereign series will be refreshed in 2005. It was launched in 2001 and includes two receivers, 400-disc DVD-AV changer and Entree HDD music server, which used phone-line networking technology to distribute music to remote clients.