Onkyo Sharpens Image In Digital Audio Market

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Onkyo will sharpen its digital image by expanding its product selection to embrace all digital technologies, first by shipping its first receivers with DTS Digital Surround in June and following up in October with its first CD-R/RW recorder, a dual-well model targeted to retail for a suggested $699, senior VP Mark Friedman announced.

For February, Onkyo has targeted shipments of its first DVD-Audio/Video player, followed later in the first half by a multichannel Super Audio CD (SACD) player, added Minoru Murata, Onkyo Japan's marketing and product manager. In contrast, the first SACD players in the U.S. will be two-channel models marketed by Sony and Marantz. Onkyo itself demonstrated a two-channel version at CES.

Onkyo hasn't decided whether its first SACD piece will be sold as a stand-alone player or built into a DVD-A/V player. But Murata said, "Personally, my opinion is the first should be in combination with DVD-Audio."

For 1999, Onkyo's plans also include a greater selection of more aggressively priced DVD players, the industry's first six-disc carousel DVD/CD changer, the company's first DVD-receiver, an expanded executive-style microsystem selection, new dealer-training and consumer-incentive programs, and an expanded budget for customer and dealer support, Friedman said during a press briefing held before a dealer conference in New York City.

Friedman declined to comment on whether Onkyo's "digital leadership strategy" would include Divx DVD players, but he said senior Onkyo engineers have visited Divx, "and we're very much in the loop on the technology."

Onkyo's digital focus will also yield strategic partnerships, the first of which will be unveiled at September's CEDIA Expo, he added.

In detailing its 1999 plans, Onkyo said:

The firm claims it will ship the industry's first six-disc carousel DVD/CD changer will ship in August at a suggested $579, followed in October by a $500-suggested-retail single-play DVD model. A third new DVD model will be February's DVD-A/V player, which the company hopes will feature a progressive-scan output if a copyright-protection agreement for the output is in place. The company currently offers one DVD player at a suggested $899.

Its first DVD-receiver ships in August to join models announced by Pioneer, RCA and Thomson. It will feature built-in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel decoders, 5.1-channel inputs, and component video output at a tentative suggested $700 to $750 retail.

Three new executive minisystems will join the company's first model, launched last fall, to appeal to performance-oriented consumers who aren't seduced by lots of flashing lights, said executive VP Tom Ishii. More new models will follow, Ishii said without elaboration.

Five new receivers will include a trio of "global standard" models compatible with present and future digital technologies. They are the first Onkyo receivers to incorporate both Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. They also feature built-in 96kHz/24-bit DACs, 5.1-channel inputs for compatibility with future DVD-Audio and SACD players, and wide-bandwidth amplifiers with 5Hz-100kHz frequency range to support the potential frequency response of DVD-Audio and SACD discs.

The three receivers are priced at suggested retails of $529, $829 and $1,049, the latter being the company's first product with THX-Select certification. The first ships in June, the latter in September. Two current higher priced models will be replaced next year with global-standard technology.

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