Samsung Alters HTiB, Portable Audio Lineups

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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.


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