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Panasonic Eyes More A/V Receivers

Panasonic will likely expand its presence in the A/V receiver (AVR) market next year following the CEDIA Expo introduction of what audio national marketing manager Paul Sabo called “our first significant A/V receiver introduction in three years.”

The $799-suggested SA-BX500 AVR, shipping in October, is a “first step for us,” Sabo said during a press briefing on the product and on the company’s two new Blu-ray Disc players. “At CES, we’ll talk about the next steps.” Panasonic, he noted, is “long overdue” with an AVR whose audio performance matches the video performance of its Blu-ray players.

For now, the SA-BX500 is the only AVR in Panasonic’s audio lineup, which consists of home theater in a box (HTiB) systems and compact stereo systems.

The company has no intention of resurrecting the Technics brand on home audio components and will continue to focus on the Panasonic brand in consumer electronics, Sabo said. Panasonic dropped the Technics name on new consumer products in 2001 after a 31-year run, although Sabo noted that the last Technics consumer products shipped in 2004. The Technics name, however, continues to appear on DJ equipment, including turntables.

The SA-BX500 is the company’s first AVR with built-in decoding and processing of all Blu-ray surround-sound formats. The 7×135-watt model (rated at 20Hz to 20kHz into 6 ohms with 0.7 percent THD) features three HDMI 1.3 inputs that support 24 fps 1080p video, Deep Color and x.v.Color video signals from a Blu-ray Disc player. Other features include virtual surround technology to deliver a 7.1-channel soundfield from a 5.1 speaker system. Proprietary biamp/bi-wiring technology makes it unnecessary to reconfigure the main left-right connections to bi-wiring-compatible speakers when consumers switch from multichannel mode to biamplified stereo mode.

The AVR is compatible with the company’s iPod dock, enabling the AVR’s remote to control iPod functions, including song selection. The AVR lacks HD Radio and XM/Sirius inputs.

Satellite-radio inputs aren’t included in the AVR or on current Panasonic HTiBs, Sabo noted, because the company hasn’t been able to detect a correlation between satellite-radio inputs and improved sales. The company is studying the potential to include HD Radio in future audio products, he noted.