Panasonic Readies 2012 Audio Lineup


Las Vegas - Panasonic unveiled more than a dozen home audio products at International CES, including its first AirPlay-equipped audio products and its first 3D Blu-ray HTiBs that can be controlled from smartphones.

The lineup includes:

-- three 3D Blu-ray HTiBs, all capable of being controlled from smartphones and all marking the company's first with DLNA certification to stream music from a networked PC or NAS drive;

--three soundbars, all of which are among Panasonic's first convertible models that can be split to create two vertical speakers. Two are the company's first soundbars with stereo Bluetooth;

--three tabletop CD/tuner audio systems, two with iPod/iPhone dock and one dock-less model with AirPlay and USB charging port;

--and three tabletop speakers systems, which include Panasonic's first with AirPlay and the company's first Bluetooth-only speaker.

Most of the products ship in April.

Here's a look at the products in each segment:

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 videochat 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 settop 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 or network-attached storage (NAS) device, said product manager Troy Livingston. Other new features include web browser and ability of all three HTiBs to upconvert 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 and adds the ability to make sound jump out toward viewers when objects in a 3D video program jump out of the screen, Livingston said.

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.

Another upgrade is 24fps output of streamed video services, Livingston said. Like last year, the models offer 24fps Blu-ray output.

In another change, the company is adding FLAC-codec playback to MP3 decoding.

All three HTiBs access the company's expanded selection of Viera Connect services, which adds the ability to do Skype videochats 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 opening-price model features satellite speakers, optional Wi-Fi, one HDMI 1.4a input, and one HDMI 1.4a output with audio return channel (ARC).

The 195 adds tallboy left-right speakers up front. The top-end BTT490 offers improved left-right tallboy speakers, two HDMI 1.4a inputs, and embedded Wi-Fi.

Prices weren't disclosed, but the 2011 3D Blu-ray HTiB lineup were priced at an everyday $399, $499, and $599.


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 and Dolby Virtual Speaker, which simulates a 5.1-channel soundfield through a 2.1-speaker system. They also feature Dolby Pro Logic II.

Among the soundbars, one features one HDMI 1.4a input, a second features  two HDMI 1.4a inputs, and one lacks HDMI. The HDMI-equipped soundbars also feature HDMI 1.4a output with audio return channel (ARC).

Two feature stereo Bluetooth.

The soundbar selection starts with the 32-inch-wide SC-HT320 with one HDMI 1.4a input to connect a 3D Blu-ray player or 3D settop box, two optical digital-audio inputs, an HDMI output with audio return channel, and wired subwoofer. The 42-inch-wide HT350 lacks HDMI but features two optical digital-audio inputs, one analog RCA input, stereo Bluetooth, and a wireless subwoofer. The HT550 is also 42-inches-wide and features two HDMI 1.4a inputs, one HDMI output with audio return channel, 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.

Pricing wasn't announced.

Tabletop audio:

Three new tabletop speaker systems and three tabletop radio/CD systems all feature connectivity in one form or another to smartphones. One model in each category features Apple's AirPlay, and one tabletop speaker is the company's first Bluetooth-only speaker without iPod/iPhone dock.

The tabletop speakers, which lack radio/CD, include the SC-AP01 bar-style system with AirPlay and a USB port to charge an iPod, iPhone or iPad. The SC-GT07 features iPod/iPhone dock and looks like a guitar boxbecause of its wood-like front panel, setting stand, and rotary volume knob. The smallest speaker system is the Bluetooth-only SC-MC07, an AC/DC model powered by AA batteries or included USB cable.

The three radio/CD systems feature iPod/iPhone dock, CD-R/RW playback, and FM tuner. The SC-HC57 adds AirPlay.

The SC-HC57 and SC-HC37 are vertically oriented models that can be hung on a wall, and 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.

Prices were not released.


Related Articles