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Pioneer Sets DVD-Audio Plans; Panasonic Ready To Ship Units

Pioneer has solidified its DVD-Audio plans and is joining a growing list of suppliers planning to launch the format in the U.S. in the first half of 2000.

The big five music companies are holding off software introductions until early next year, a DVD Forum member said during the recent CEDIA Expo, where such companies as California Audio Labs, Denon, Kenwood and Onkyo said they would also hold back U.S. DVD-Audio launches until next year.

Panasonic, on the other hand, confirmed that it’s on schedule to deliver its first DVD-Audio/Video players and sampler software before the end of this month. The players initially will only be demo samples with for-sale models due before Christmas, the company said. It said about 400 outlets nationwide were committed to demonstrating the players, a Panasonic-brand unit at a $999 suggested retail and a $1,199 Technics model.

In its announcement, coinciding with the Japan Electronics Show in Tokyo, Pioneer disclosed that one of its two planned high-end DVD-Audio/Video players will play two-channel discs based on the rival Super Audio CD (SACD) format. Pioneer joins SACD co-developer Philips in announcing plans for an all-in-one DVD-AV/SACD player, which Philips said it would introduce as early as the third quarter of 2000.

Pioneer’s two players, the DV-08A to retail below $2,000, and the all-in-one DV-AX10 with progressive-scan video output, at less than $5,000, will ship in Japan in December and are due in the U.S. early in the second quarter.

Gene Kelsey, Panasonic audio group VP, said the demo shipments will “take advantage of the [seasonal] increase in traffic… to give consumers a taste of the format” so that “as software becomes more available, people will have more of a sense of what it is.”

The effort will be supported by four-page inserts in buff and other magazines. Kenwood president Joe Richter said he’s holding off “because we feel that it is important that software be available for consumers to use with our players” and to “minimize any dealer confusion during the upcoming holiday season.”