Panasonic Fills Out Audio Lineup Details

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NEW YORK — New details released by Panasonic about its expanded 2010 audio lineup include two surround-decoding surround bars with virtual surround technology and the inclusion of HDMI 1.4’s audio return channel feature in Blu-ray HTiB (home theater in a box) systems.

Both surround bars feature built-in decoding of all Blu-ray surround formats and Dolby Virtual Speaker technology, which delivers a surround-sound experience without the surround speakers. They also come with single HDMI 1.4 input, which will pass through 3D video from a connected 3D Blu-ray player and single HDMI 1.4 output with audio return channel.

One surround bar, the SC-HTB10, is scheduled to ship in June at a tentative suggested retail of anywhere from $199 to $249. The step-up SC-HTB500 is due in the fall. Its pricing wasn’t revealed.

The 120-watt SC-HTB10 surround bar, designed for 32- to 37-inch flat-panel TVs, and the 240-watt SC-HTB500, designed for 42-inch screens, feature one HDMI input, one HDMI output and an optical digital-audio input.

Both surround bars feature a wallmount bracket, VieraLink HDMI CEC, Clear Mode Dialog technology to move the audio image from below the screen to screen level, and an IR input in case the embedded IR receiver is blocked.

The step-up SC-HTB500 surround bar, besides adding more power and wider size, comes with outboard wireless subwoofer. Other driver details were unavailable.

Another new home-theater system with Dolby Virtual Speaker is the SCZT2 Wireless Home Theater System, which consists of a preamp/decoder control unit incorporating wireless audio transmitter. It’s paired with two tall, thin wireless floorstanding speakers with built-in amplification and subwoofers mounted in the speakers’ pedestals. It will ship in April in black at a tentative suggested $999.

In more traditional HTiB systems, the company will offer three Blu-rayequipped 5.1-speaker models and will ship in March. Pricing was unavailable.

The Blu-ray HTiBs are the SC-BT230, SC-BT330 and SC-BT730. All decode all Blu-ray surround formats, feature iPod/iPhone-certified dock, BD-Live capability and Panasonic’s Viera Cast service, which streams Amazon Video on Demand movies, YouTube, Picasa, Bloomberg TV and weather information and is being expanded to include Netflix, Pandora, Twitter and Fox Sports scores.

All three Blu-ray HTiBs will be available with separately sold $99 Wi-Fi dongle for Internet access to BD-Live content and Viera Cast services.

The trio will come with iPod/iPhone certified docks, whereas the 2009 lineup features iPod-certified docks.

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