Secaucus, N.J. - Panasonic unveiled prices and ship dates on its 2012 audio lineup, which includes sharper pricing on its 3D Blu-ray HTiBs.
The audio lineup of more than a dozen products includes the brand's first AirPlay-equipped audio products and its first 3D Blu-ray HTiBs that can be controlled from smartphones.
In its three-SKU selection of 3D Blu-ray HTiBs, the company priced the models at a suggested $299, $399 and $499, down $100 each from the launch price of their predecessors. All three new models are Panasonic's first Blu-ray HTiBs with DLNA certification to stream music from a networked PC or NAS drive.
The 3D HTiBs will be available in April along with two DVD-equipped HTiBs at a suggested $149 and $199.
The company's three new soundbars, all of which are convertible models that can be split apart to create two vertical speakers, are priced at a suggested $229, $299, and $399. They ship in April. Two are the company's first soundbars with stereo Bluetooth.
Three tabletop stereo systems with CD/FM tuner are the $99 SC-HC27, $149 SC-HC37 and $199 SC-HC57. They're due in stores in April.
Two new tabletop speakers systems without CD/tuner are the $169 SC-AP01 bar-style speaker system, due in June with AirPlay. The portable AC/DC SC-MC07 Bluetooth speaker will hit shelves in July at a suggested $69.
Here's a closer look at the products in each category:
3D Blu-ray HTiBs:
As in the company's 2011 lineup, this year's 3D Blu-ray HTiBs feature 2D-to-3D conversion from 2D DVD and Blu-ray discs, access to Panasonic's portfolio of streaming Internet audio and video services (now called Viera Connect), Skype video chat with optional webcam, HDMI 1.4a inputs and outputs with audio return channel (ARC), and a post-processing technology that adds height channels to each speaker.
Also like last year, the new models feature HDMI standby passthrough, enabling audio and video from a connected set-top box or game console to pass through to a connected TV even when the HTiB is off.
In the 2012 HTiB lineup, Panasonic is adding multiple new features and technologies, starting with smartphone control of basic system functions via Wi-Fi when a Panasonic app is installed on Apple, Android or BlackBerry smartphones.
Also new is DLNA technology for streaming audio, video and pictures from a compatible networked PC. Other new features include web browser and ability of all three HTiBs to up-convert 2D Internet-streaming services and networked-PC video to 3D.
Also new in all three models is 3D Cinema Surround post-processing technology. The post-processing technology upgrades the channel-height technology launched last year to add the ability to make sound jump out toward viewers when objects in a 3D video program jump out of the screen.
Also new in two of the three HTiBs is a Made for iPod/iPhone USB port in lieu of Apple 30-pin connector, enabling playback of iPod/iPhone audio. The port also connects to a USB stick or USB hard drive. The top Blu-ray HTiB features a 30-pin Made for iPod/iPhone connector in a pop-out drawer to play back iPod/iPhone-stored audio and video.
All three HTiBs access the company's expanded selection of Viera Connect services, which adds the ability to do Skype video chats while watching a TV show in split-screen mode.
The 3D HTiBs are the SC-BTT190, BTT195 and BTT490, all with 5.1 speakers. The $299 SC-BTT190 features satellite speakers, optional Wi-Fi, one HDMI 1.4a input, and one HDMI 1.4a output with ARC.
The $399 SC-BTT195 adds tallboy left-right speakers up front, and the top-end BTT490 offers improved left-right tallboy speakers, two HDMI 1.4a inputs and embedded Wi-Fi.
Three new soundbars with outboard subwoofer are among the company's first multipositional, or convertible, models. The first was launched late last year.
These bars can be split into two separate left-right speakers that can be mounted on the wall or on included bases.
The bars are also the company's first with a dialog-level control with four settings to boost dialog over background sounds in a video program.
All three feature built-in Dolby Digital/DTS 5.1 decoders, Dolby Virtual Speaker to simulate a 5.1-channel soundfield, and Dolby Pro Logic II.
The soundbar selection starts with the $229 32-inch-wide SC-HTB20 with one HDMI 1.4a input to connect a 3D Blu-ray player or 3D set-top box, two optical digital-audio inputs, an HDMI output with ARC, and wired subwoofer. The $299 42-inch-wide SC-HTB350 lacks HDMI but features two optical digital-audio inputs, one analog RCA input, stereo Bluetooth, and a wireless subwoofer. The $399 SC- HTB550 is also 42 inches wide and features two HDMI 1.4a inputs, one HDMI output with ARC, stereo Bluetooth and wireless subwoofer.
All also feature automatic gain control to level out abrupt changes in sound levels when a TV program switches to a commercial.
The three radio/CD systems, all with CD-R/RW playback, include the $99 SC-HC27 and $149 SC-HC37. Both feature iPod/iPhone dock. The $199 SC-HC57 lacks a dock but adds AirPlay and USB charging port.
The $199 SC-HC57 and $149 SC-HC37 are vertically oriented models that can be hung on a wall. They feature motorized front door that slides back and forth to cover the vertical CD mechanism and iPod dock. When the door opens, the iPod dock slides out.
The HC57 and HC37 also play back Internet radio when an iPod or iPhone is equipped with Panasonic's vTuner app, available for purchase through the iTunes store.
The tabletop speakers that lack radio/CD include the $169 SC-AP01 bar-style system with AirPlay and a USB port to charge an iPod, iPhone or iPad.
The smallest speaker system is the $69 Bluetooth-only SC-MC07, an AC/DC model powered by AA batteries or included USB cable.
A third new tabletop speaker, the SC-GT07, could ship in the early summer or later, but pricing wasn't disclosed. This iPod/iPhone-docking speaker looks like a guitar box because of its wood-like front panel, setting stand and rotary volume knob. Pricing wasn't available.