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Panasonic Readies 2011 Audio Lineup


Panasonic’s home audio line unveiled
by Panasonic at CES will expand its selection of 3D
Blu-ray home theater in a box (HTiB) systems to three
from two, bring 2D-to-3D conversion to the company’s
HTiB line for the first time, and include the first iPod/
iPhone-docking compact stereo systems with Internetradio

The opening price of a 3D-equipped HTiB goes to a
suggested $399 from $499.

Two of the company’s three new 3D HTiBs are also
Panasonic’s first with Skype Internet video calling (via a
separately sold Skype-compatible camera). Two are the
company’s first HTiBs with HDMI inputs to connect a
high-definition cable or satellite settop box. Those two
models also feature standby passthrough, enabling a
settop box to pass its HDMI audio and video signals
through an HTiB to a TV even if the HTiB hasn’t been
turned on.

Two of four new iPod/iPhone-docking compact stereo
systems are the company’s first with ability to select
Internet radio stations for playback via included IR remote.
Although an Internet radio tuner isn’t built-in, the
two models’ IR remotes control a planned Panasonic-dedicated vTuner app loaded onto a docked iPhone or iPod
Touch. The vTuner app, which streams Internet radio stations
via the Touch/iPhone’s embedded Wi-Fi radio, can
be controlled from the compact systems’ IR remote. The
remote enables users to select stations, call up favorite stations
and view playlists. The app is due in the first quarter.

The two compact systems also feature stereo Bluetooth
to stream music from Bluetooth-equipped cellphones and
MP3 players. The 2010 line featured one compact system
with stereo Bluetooth.

All of the new audio products ship in April.

The HTiBs are the $399-suggested SC-BTT270, $499
SC-BT370 and $599 SC-BTT770. All feature integrated
3D Blu-ray player, 5.1 speaker system, 2D-to-3D conversion,
3D Effect Controller to control the depth of 3D effects,
optical digital audio input, one HDMI 1.4a output with
audio return channel, embedded Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, and
Viera Cast Internet streaming services, which have been
expanded to include CinemaNow and Vudu. Other Viera
Cast services include Amazon Video On Demand, Netflix,
Pandora, Fox Sports, Twitter, YouTube and Picasa.

The three HTiBs also feature DTS HD Master, Dolby
TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus decoding.

The top two HTiBs add two HDMI 1.4a inputs, which
passthrough 3D broadcasts from set-top boxes and 3D
games from PCs. The two systems also add Skype Internet
video calling. The $499 model accepts a kit to add
wireless to the surround speakers, and the $599 model
comes with included wireless surround speakers.

The three systems, like the docking compact systems,
take in music in PCM digital format from docked iPods and
iPhones rather than in analog form to improve sound quality.

The four iPod/iPhone-docking compact systems are
thin, vertically oriented single-chassis models, with all but
the opening-price model featuring AM/FM/CD.

The compact systems start with the SC-HC05, which
lacks AM/FM/CD but features IR remote control of the
iPod/iPhone-loaded vTuner Internet-radio app, stereo
Bluetooth, push-open iPod/iPhone dock and Bluetooth
Remaster, which restores frequencies lost during Bluetooth

The step-up SC-HC25 lacks Bluetooth streaming and
Internet radio control but adds AM/FM/CD and a sliding
door that hides a vertically oriented CD mechanism but
doesn’t hide the push-open iPod dock.