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Suppliers Seek Post-Convention Bounce

INDIANAPOLIS – Like presidential candidates peddling prescription-drug benefits and tuition tax credits, suppliers are coming to this week’s CEDIA Expo with all sorts of treats to win the votes of their custom-install constituents.

Many A/V suppliers plan to unveil components with features designed specifically to appeal to the custom-install market, and they’ll display faster-to-install products intended to help installers cope with labor shortages. (For a report on CEDIA video introductions see p. 4)

Installation-oriented features gaining popularity at the show include low-voltage input and output triggers, RS-232 ports to facilitate integration with home automation systems, and boundary-compensation switches on in-wall and freestanding speakers to deliver placement flexibility.

Installers will also find new types of multizone components, including an NAD dual-tray CD-recorder and a pair of multizone stereo receivers from B&K. And in speakers, they’ll find a simpler in-wall mounting process from Niles and more in-wall subwoofers, including the first from Atlantic Technology and Boston Acoustics.

Also planned for the show:

· More THX Surround EX-equipped electronics. They will include the first such components from NAD and B&K and the first EX-equipped receiver from McIntosh.

· Some of the first THX EX-equipped receivers sporting THX Select certification. They’ll be displayed by Integra, Onkyo and Pioneer.

· New hard-drive audio recorders, some with multizone capabilities. They’ll be displayed by Arrakis, Imerge, Lansonic and Lydstrom.

· Updated plans for launching DVD-Audio/Video players. September and October will be big months for shipping DVD-A/V players, with Kenwood announcing September shipments, Onkyo reaffirming September shipments, Panasonic following a month later with a DVD-A/V-equipped shelf system and two DVD-AV headphone portables, and Pioneer planning October or November shipments.

· New CD-recorders with MP3 decoders. They’re from Harman Kardon, NAD and Sharp.

· A higher profile for Super Audio CD. Philips and Sony are expected to offer new details of their SACD plans. Philips is expected to reprise its CES demonstration of a multichannel SACD player. And Sony is expected to unveil a DVD/SACD player, although its exact configuration wasn’t revealed at press time.

For details of speaker introductions, see pages 54-56. For distributed-A/V and home automation products, see stories elsewhere on this page.

In A/V component introductions, here’s what suppliers plan.

Audio Design Associates: A $75,000 Cinema Renaissance home theater preamp/ processor with audio tube-output stage is available, but a running change is planned before the holidays to add THX EX and DTS ES Matrix 6.1 decoding, and possibly ES Discrete 6.1, the company said.

Also new is the $4,400 Cinema Rhapsody Mark II preamp/processor with THX EX and DTS ES Matrix 6.1.

Discrete 6.1 might be added by the time it ships before the holidays.

The company’s distributed AV system already supports THX EX. The company will also show a second 12-channel amp.

AudioControl: The five-channel Pantages amp will join the company’s 12-channel model and a two-channel model. It uses high-efficiency Class H circuitry and delivers 5×200 watts into 8 ohms. It’s due in October at a suggested retail of $2,100.

B&K: Its first THX-EX-equipped products are a pair of two-zone receivers and a two-zone preamp/processor/tuner. One receiver, the AVR 307, offers 7×150-watt amplification at a suggested $3,498; the 5 x 150-watt AVR 305 receiver offers five channels at $2,998. Both are available.

The receivers and the processor, the $2,798-suggested REF 30, are equipped with a dumb IEEE-1394 port that could eventually be loaded with control software such as AVC and HAVi. The three products can also be upgraded to future formats though a board swap. They also feature RS-232 port and four programmable triggers.

The company will also show a three-zone and a six-zone stereo receiver due sometime early next year.

Harman Kardon: Four new Dolby Digital/DTS receivers priced from a suggested $499 to $999 include MP3 decoder, and 192kHz/24-bit DACs on all channels. The top three models add EZ Set universal remote, which automatically analyzes and balances speaker levels. The top model adds HDCD decoding. They’re due in the fall.

MP3 decoding is also a feature in a five-disc carousel DVD-Video changer and in one of two dual-tray CD-recorders.

The DVD-50 changer, the company’s second five-disc DVD-V carousel, also features HDCD decoding, progressive-scan output, CD-R and CD-RW compatibility, and 192kHz/24-bit two-channel audio DAC, at a suggested $649. It ships in the fall.

In expanding its dual-tray CD-recorder selection to two models, the company is adding HDCD and MP3 decoding to the $699-suggested step-up CDR 30. The 30 also offers 96/24 DACs, 4x CD-R and CD-RW recording, 4x disc finalization, and ability to make a multisession CD. A second new dual-tray recorder at $549 features 4x recording speeds and 96/24 DACs. It replaces a $799 model.

JBL: The Synthesis Ultra system is a 7,000-watt home theater electronics/ speaker system intended for 50,000-cubic-foot environments at $109,500. Other Synthesis systems run from $27,500 to $75,000.

Kenwood: The company plans to announce pricing on its first two DVD-A/V players, both five-disc changers due in September at suggested retails of $1,400 and $1,150. They feature built-in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel decoding and 192kHz/24-bit DACs for the left and right channels.

McIntosh: The company’s first receiver in about 12 years is also the company’s first THX-EX-equipped receiver. It’s tentatively priced at a suggested $5,000 and features 6 x 100-watt amp plus a 2 x 50-watt second-zone amp.

The company will also launch its second-generation DVD-Video player, which adds component-video out, and a fourth-generation multiroom A/V control system, which can be mated with a new MC58 four-zone bridgeable 8 x 50-watt amp.It is tentatively priced at $2,700.

NAD: To make its products more custom-friendly, the company is adding one or more of the following features to most new products: discrete on/off remote codes, direct access to FM presets via remote keypads, and 12-volt triggers. RS-232 ports are also going on select new products.

The new products include the company’s first THX EX-decoding component, the Silver Series S150 preamp processor. It was shown last year without EX but was delayed to incorporate EX. It’s targeted to ship November at a suggested $2,499. To support future formats, it can be software-upgraded via its RS-232, or its plug-in DSP card can be replaced.

Also new is a dual-tray two-zone CD-recorder with MP3 decoder and 4x CD-R recording speed, due November at a targeted suggested $999.

Nakamichi: Expanding its stylish SoundStage series, the company plans a new stereo system and a new home theater electronics/speaker system, each with three disc transports and two-zone capability. Their main module and satellite speakers can be wall-, stand- or desk-mounted.

The two-channel SoundSpace 9, due in October at an undetermined price, features a main unit consisting of three CD transports and control panel arrayed in a diamond pattern.

In the 5.1-channel SoundSpace 12, the diamond-shaped main module features two CD transports and a separate DVD/CD transport. It comes with four satellites like those in the SoundSpace 9, a center channel, two powered subwoofers with amplification for all channels, and a hideaway tuner/processor with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel decoding.

The SoundSpace 2 is a first-of-its-kind transportable music system. It features world AM/FM tuner, universal voltage capability, alarm, mini input for a headphone CD player, and a detachable Internet audio portable that decodes MP3 and Windows Media Audio files. When removed from the unit, the Internet portable uses its own batteries to play back files stored on included 64MB removable Smart Media card.

The transportable comes with USB interface and will retail for about $750 to $800 when it ships in October.

Onkyo: The company is on target for September shipments of DVD-A/V players under all three of its brands, all with progressive video outputs. They are the Integra Research RDV-1 at a suggested $2,999; the Integra brand’s $1,899-suggested DPS-9.1; and an Onkyo-brand DV-S939 at a suggested $1,799.

In September or October, Onkyo and Integra plan to ship their first THX Select receivers with THX EX decoding.

Pioneer: The company plans to introduce CD-recorders, DVD-Video and DVD-A/V players, and its first THX Select receivers, one of which will feature THX EX decoding.

The new CD-recorders are the Pioneer series PDRW-839 and its Elite series counterpart, the PDRW-37. They feature three-disc changer and separate recording tray, as does a current Pioneer model being phased out. Both new models offer their predecessor’s 2x disc-to-disc and track-to-track recording speed on CD-R discs.

A new feature is a “record this” button, which lets consumers automatically record a song that is already playing. The track automatically cues up, and the recorder goes into action, when the button is pressed.

Two new Elite DVD-Video players with progressive outputs include the company’s first five-disc carousel model. Pricing was unavailable.

The company is still targeting October or November shipments of its first DVD-AV players, both in the Elite series. The DV-38A is tentatively targeted to retail at $1,500-$2,000. The DV-AX10, which also plays two-channel SACD discs, is still targeted to sell for $4,500-$5,000.

Polk: The company is positioning its second home theater electronics/speaker package as the industry’s first to use full-size speakers. The DS-2 at a suggested $3,699 targets the customer who wants performance and convenience, a spokesman said.

Yamaha: The company’s first three receivers incorporating DTS ES 6.1 Matrix decoder are compatible with Dolby EX soundtracks and feature multizone capability. The RX-V3000, due October, is an eight-channel receiver with RS-232, 5-volt trigger, and pair of 96kHz/24-bit DACs. It ships in October at suggested retails of $1,999 (black) or $2,099 (gold).

The other receivers are the $999-suggested six-channel RX-V1000 and the 5.1-channel $799 RX-V800 with phantom rear-center channel, both due in September.