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Universal DVDs, DVD-R/RW Get Pioneer Support

Las Vegas – Pioneer stepped up its commitment to the DVD-R/-RW format and to universal SACD/DVD-Audio/Video players here at CES, where it also committed itself to year-end shipments of a high-definition plasma TV with integrated digital-cable and ATSC tuners.

Pioneer, however, conditioned the shipment of the digital-cable-ready TV on the FCC’s quick approval of the digital-cable compatibility agreement recently reached by the consumer electronics and cable industries. ‘We’re confident the FCC will act quickly,’ said home-entertainment marketing VP Craig McManis.

In DVD recorder announcements, Pioneer unveiled its first DVD-RW recorder with built-in hard drive, priced it at a suggested $999, and targeted summer shipments. The 80GB model will compete in a small but growing field of hard-drive-equipped DVD-recorders, including Toshiba’s first model. They provide short-term hard-drive storage of recorded TV programs, long-term archiving of TV programs on blank discs and the transfer of home movies from tape to DVD.

Pioneer’s DVD-RW/hard-drive recorder lacks electronic program guide but features 181-channel cable tuner, as does a new opening-price DVD-recorder lacking hard drive. That model ships in the summer at a suggested $625 and an expected everyday retail of less than $500, significantly lower than the company’s current opening price of about $1,700 in Pioneer’s upscale Elite series. Both new models feature one-button recording.

In universal DVD players, Pioneer introduced its lowest priced model to date, a $270-suggested single-disc model due in June. Pioneer’s previous opening price was $499 suggested for an Elite series model.

The new universal player and three of four new DVD-equipped home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems are the company’s first to play Windows Media Audio-encoded music CDs. The new models also play MP3 CDs and display digital photos burned onto a disc.

In the future, it’s ‘likely’ that Pioneer will add SACD playback to all future home DVD-Audio players, said Tom Haga, president of Pioneer Home Entertainment.

In other introductions, the company launched its first Pioneer-series HTiB systems with universal players, complementing Elite-series universal-player systems that shipped late last year.

The two new universal-player HTiB systems feature progressive-scan capabilities and Dolby Digital EX/DTS ES 6.1-channel decoding. One is the HTD-630DV with universal five-disc DVD player and a wireless center-back speaker. That speaker wirelessly receives all three surround channels, distributes the side surround channels via wire to the left and right surround speakers, and contains all surround-channel amplification. The second system, the HTD-530DV, also features five-disc changer. Both systems play MP3- and WMA-encoded discs and ship in the summer at unspecified prices.

A third new HTiB also features DD EX/DTS ES decoding, making them the first three Pioneer-series HTiBs with 6.1-channel technologies. The third model, the $600-suggested HTD-330DV, features five-disc DVD-Video changer, 450 watts, and playback of MP3 and WMA files.

In receivers, Pioneer showed off three EX/ES models at suggested retails of $300, $365 and $475 in its mainstream Pioneer series. They ship in March. In last year’s series, EX/ES started at a suggested $475. All but the $300 model feature six-channel amp.

In car audio, the company launched its first car DVD-Audio/Video player, which features motorized retractable LCD touch screen, decoders and all amplification in a single DIN can. It ships in May at a price to be determined. Pioneer also expanded its selection of car CD-receivers with MP3 and WMA decoding to 10 models from four.