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Samsung Alters HTiB, Portable Audio Lineups

Samsung altered its 2004 audio plans, namely by shortening its previously planned selection of HDD music portables, expanding its HTiB selection more than previously announced, and adding DVD-Audio to all HTiBs.

The company also unveiled its first flash-memory portables to support protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) files.

One of the new HDD portables will be an audio/video portable based on Microsoft’s Portable Media Center (PMC) platform, intended to store and play back audio, video and images transferred from a PC. It will be among the first three PMCs available later this year, beginning with a Creative Labs version in August, Samsung’s model in September and an iRiver model soon after, said Mark Farish, Samsung digital audio marketing manager.

Here are the details on Samsung’s plans:

Portable HDD players: Citing dealer interest in larger memory capacity, the company dropped plans for the 1.5GB $279-street-priced YH-800, which was to be Napster co-branded, and for its first sports-style HDD model, a 2GB model at $299. The company also dropped plans for a 40GB $299 YH-1030 because dealers considered it too large.

This year’s HDD selection will consist of the 20GB $349-suggested YH-920, due in July; the 4GB $279-suggested YH-820 with 1-inch HDD, due in July; and the $549-suggested YH-999 A/V portable, due in September with 20GB memory, down from an originally planned 30GB.

Like its predecessor 910GS, the YH-920 will be Napster co-branded, and it will be packaged with two free months of Napster service. It features 20GB 1.8-inch HDD, FM tuner, MP3 encoder and playback of a variety of codecs.

The 4GB YH-820 adds picture viewer and 1.6-inch color LCD display.

The PMC model, the 20GB YH-999 with 1.8-inch HDD, supports MP3; protected WMA; Windows Media Video; jpeg images; and MPEG, MPEG-2, MS-DVR, ASF, AVI, WAV, and MIDI files. Visual content is displayed on a 3.5-inch color LCD screen. Compatible with Windows XP PCs, it features USB 2.0 and composite-video output.

Flash-memory portables: The company is shipping three new flash-memory players. All three are the company’s first to support protected WMA files and first to feature SRS WOW 3-D processing, which widens the image, moves the image to the front of a listener from the inside of the head, and enhances bass.

All three offer line-in MP3 encoding, a feature offered last year on only one flash-memory player.

The three models, said to be the industry’s smallest with LCD display and FM tuner, are the 128MB YP-T5H at a suggested $129; the 256MB YP-T5V at a suggested $179; and the $179-suggested sports-style 256MB YP-60V with heart-rate monitor, calorie-burning counter, stopwatch and supplied fitness-tracking software for a PC.

HTiB systems: The company’s selection expands from two SKUs to nine SKUs, rather than to the six SKUs previously planned.

Citing lack of dealer interest, the company dropped plans for a system equipped with HDD to store music and serve as a PVR.

First-time features include DVD-Audio, available in all nine SKUs, plasma-friendly designs in select models and a suite of audio technologies called Super Digital Sound Master (SDSM). The suite includes proprietary Virtual Headphone, 10 digital soundfield modes, automatic set-up of channel levels and delay times, room-acoustics correction and up-conversion of stereo sources to 5.1 channels.

Among the changes, Samsung added a new entry-level price point of a suggested $229 for the slim HT-DS100 with single-disc DVD-Audio player. The step-up $349-suggested HT-DB610, as previously announced, adds five-disc DVD-Audio/Video changer.

DVD players: Samsung reiterated plans for its second-generation DVD players with HD up-conversion capability. As with last year’s models, the new units will up-convert standard-definition DVD videos to the high-definition 1,080i and 720p formats. In addition, the new models will also output up-converted material to 768p to match the native resolution of many LCD and plasma display panels.

Both models also play back DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD discs and feature both DVI and HDMI digital outputs. Samsung will also offer three DVD recorders capable of recording and playing back on DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and DVD-R media. The DVD+RW/+R format was left out due to high licensing fees, said Claude Frank, Samsung digital audio/video director.