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Pioneer Steps Up 6-Ch. Music Plans

New York – Pioneer stepped up its multichannel-music commitment with the introduction of two combination SACD/DVD-AV players at MAPs of $500 and $1,000, its first two HTiB systems equipped with DVD-AV player, and its first entry-level DVD-AV player, priced at a suggested $329.

One of the two Elite-series combination players is the company’s first DVD player with IEEE-1394 digital output, intended to transfers all formats of digital audio [but not digital video] over a single cable to a 1394-equipped Elite-series receiver that decodes the formats. The output replaces six analog cables needed to connect SACD and DVD-Audio players to receivers. The output will also transfer movie-soundtrack formats, eliminating another cable connection.

Pioneer expects to receive DVD Forum sanctioning of its digital connector by September, when the DVD player is targeted to ship, said product planning VP Matthew Dever. The receiver is due in October at a suggested $4,500.

Both combination players are the company’s first with SACD/DVD-Audio bass management. They’ll replace the company’s first multichannel-SACD/DVD-AV player, available at $1,000 MAP since earlier this year.

During a press briefing, the company also said:

  • In July it will begin a four- to five-month beta test of its Linux-based DigitaLibrary A/V-network device, whose targeted MAP is $999. Clients, or ‘branches,’ will cost about half that. Production is expected to begin in December. The device would distribute SSI-encrypted audio and still pictures on the hard drive to multiple TVs and audio systems in a house, and it will stream Internet audio and video via a broadband connection.
  • During the week of June 24th, it will announce DigitaLink content and technology partners. They’ll include two Internet-based videostreaming services that will be offered free. Technology partners will include makers of no-new-wires home-network technology to supplement the system’s Ethernet connectability. Pioneer is paying the content partners to re-encode their content to a higher quality bitrate still to be decided. It will be anywhere from 500-700kbps versus the providers’ standard 200kbps, said Walker. Music and video content will also be preloaded on the device.
  • It will add to its Elite series with the 43W-inch 16:9 PureVision Elite PRO-800HD. It ships this month at a suggested $12,000.
  • Pioneer will add Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES decoding to a Pioneer-series receiver for the first time, joining Elite series receivers.
  • Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES decoding will be incorporated for the first time in two new HTiB systems. One of these systems is also one of Pioneer’s first two HTiBs with DVD-A/V players.

Longer term, the company:

  • Next year it will probably begin marketing HTiBs with SACD/DVD-Audio players, said Dever.
  • That it has no plans to introduce iBiquity terrestrial digital radios for the home or car, said mobile marketing VP Mike Townsen and no plan to offer Sirius satellite radios. Townsen contended that demand for XM satellite radio service will be ‘substantially higher.’ Automakers, he noted, expect interoperable XM/Sirius radios ‘as soon as possible,’ but in the aftermarket, the decision will be up to individual suppliers.
  •  Pioneer has not begun looking at the market for home XM receivers, but Townsend said, ‘The technology will lend itself to home receivers and portables.’
  •  In intends to show ‘a bunch of other network products at CES, as technology demos or prototypes,’ promised new-technology development manager Chris Walker.

Product details: Here are the details on most of the new products:

  • The new plasma display is the PRO-800HD, which features gloss black cosmetics and offers native XGA resolution at (1024×768 pixels). The high-definition compatible panel offers four screen modes to handle various formats including 4:3, zoom, full screen (16:9) and wide (expanded 16:9). It joins a growing plasma line that now includes three industrial models (43W-, 50W- and 61W-inch), another Elite plasma display (50W-inch), and two Pioneer plasma monitors (43W- and 50W-inch).
  • The new Elite SACD/DVD-AV players are the $700-suggested DV-45A and $1,200-suggested 1394-equipped DV-47Ai, due in the fall and September, respectively. Like the $1,200-suggested DV-47A that they will replace, they don’t downconvert SACD to PCM for playback, but they add SACD and DVD-Audio bass management. They also feature built-in Dolby Digital and DTS decoding with analog outputs and PureCinema progressive-scan circuitry. The 47Ai adds an aluminum faceplate, three-layer chassis for rigidity and vibration-damping, and enhanced on-screen GUI, said DVD marketing manager Gary Bauhard.
  • Three new DVD players in Pioneer’s standard line include the $329-suggested DV-65A DVD-A/V player, due in August. All three units feature MP3-CD playback and DD and DTS digital output. One is a five-disc carousel due in August at a suggested $249. The other is a single-disc 212-inch-tall model at a suggested $199. It’s shipping.
  • Four new Elite receivers include the $4,500-suggested 1394-equipped VS-49TXi, due October. The others are priced at a suggested $800, $1,200, and $1,400. The $800 model due in July features DD EX and DTS ES decoding, and Pro Logic II. The $1,200 model, due August, is THX Select certified and adds 8-channel DVD-Audio input. The $1,400 model due in August adds 12-volt trigger and RS-232 and USB connections. The 47TXi adds THX Ultra 2 certification, 1394 output, and LCD touchpad learning remote.
  • The first Pioneer-series receiver with DD EX and DTS ES is the VSX-D811S. Pricing and availability weren’t disclosed. Features include Pro Logic II, DTS NEO:6, 8-channel input, six-channel stereo, high-definition video switching, and preprogrammed/learning remote. Other Pioneer-series receivers use proprietary 6.1-channel decoding methods. It shipped in January at a suggested $399.
  • The two new DVD-AV-equipped HTiBs are the 6.1-channel HTP-725DV and 5.1-channel HTP-625DV due July and September, respectively. Both feature separate receiver and DVD player. The former retails for a suggested $1,000. The latter is for the Pro Buying Group.

The 725DV and another new HTiB, the HTP-720DV, are the company’s first two HTiBs with DD EX and DTS ES decoding. The 720, also receiver-based, is available at a suggested $875.

Another new HTiB, featuring separate receiver and DVD-Video player, is the HTP-620DV with DD and DTS decoding at a suggested $625. It’s available.

Two new car AV systems and a DVD-based navigation system have just begun shipping. One AV system, the AV-SYS6DVD at an estimated everyday $1,500, consists of a AM/FM receiver with retractable 6.5-inch widescreen LCD monitor and a separate DVD player. The $850-suggested DVH-P7000 dual-zone in-dash DVD-receiver, which can play AM, FM or XM Satellite Radio through the front speakers while rear-seat passengers watch a movie through an optional overhead monitor and listen through wireless headphones. The nav system, with estimated everyday retail of $1,900offers voice activation, turn-by-turn verbal commands, and DVD movie playback.

Dever also announced the consumer plasma market will grow to nearly 100,000 units in the U.S. this year, passing for the first time sales industrial sales.

Townsen said Pioneer projects factory-level car audio aftermarket sales to grow about 8 percent to $2.6 billion in 2003 from this year’s projected $2.4 billion, but sales in ‘core’ car audio categories such as CD head units and speakers will remain flat in 2003 at $2.1 billion. All of the growth in 2003 will come in AV systems, navigation, and satellite radio, he said. ‘That’s where growth will come in the next several years,’ he added.

Pioneer achieved 20 percent market share in core categories in the fiscal year ending March 31, and by year ending March 31, 2004, Pioneer wants a 25 percent share in the non-core categories, he said.

Walker said Pioneer ‘has discussed’ the possibility of developing a multitransport DVD megachanger to connect to the DigitaLibrary but, he noted, ‘to distribute DVD-Video, we need copy-protection approved by the Forum.’

The device’s Ethernet connections have the bandwidth to distribute multiple DVD-Video streams simultaneously.