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Yamaha Adds Neural Surround, iPod Control

Buena Park, Calif. — Yamaha is adapting to the proliferation of new music sources by launching its first A/V receivers with iPod controls and Neural Surround processing, which reproduces select Neural-encoded XM Satellite Radio channels in discrete 5.1-channel surround sound.

All three of the new RX series receivers, due in April, are XM ready. They feature an XM Connect and Play port to accept an outboard integrated XM tuner/antenna combination or a future docking station, which will accept a tiny XM Passport tuner that can be shuttled among docks connected to XM-ready home and car audio systems and boomboxes.

The trio of receivers consists of the $349.99-suggested RX-V459, $449 RX-V559 and $549 RX-V659. All feature Neural Surround decoders to deliver XM’s stereo-compatible surround programming in 5.1-channel surround with five discrete full-range channels.

The $449 and $549 models also accept an optional $99-suggested YSB-10 iPod docking station, which enables the receivers to control connected fourth- and fifth-generation iPods through their remotes, front-panel user interface and on-TV interface. Connected TVs will also display iPod song metadata and iPod-stored pictures and video.

The two iPod-controlling receivers incorporate proprietary technology to enhance the sound quality of music stored on iPods or on other brands of MP3 players. The other brands of MP3 players would connect to the receivers via a mini jack, not via an iPod docking station, and the other brands can’t be controlled from the receivers.

The proprietary technology, called Compressed Music Enhancer, restores lows and highs stripped from music during the ripping process or when transferred from a PC, the company said.

The Neural-equipped receivers will support XM’s plans, now set for April, to begin 5.1-channel broadcasting 24/7 on two channels and offer a variety of special shows and live performances in Neural surround.

Select analog and digital FM stations have also begun limited 5.1-channel broadcasting using the technology, created by Kirkland, Wash.-based Neural Audio.

The 7×100-watt RX-V659 at $549 features 192kHz/24-bit DACs for all seven channels; Pure Direct, which ensures signal purity from both analog and digital sources; and a jitter-reduction circuit for a clear sound image during playback of digital sources such as DVD and cable TV.

It also features Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer technology, which simplifies home theater set-up by using parametric equalization to automatically correct for response errors created by a room’s acoustical influences.

Also included is Yamaha’s Quad-Field Cinema DSP system, which provides a choice of 14 realistic-sounding surround programs and delivers 7.1 channels of sound compatible with all the latest surround sound formats.

The $549 model also features eight-channel analog inputs for external decoders accommodate high-resolution audio formats like DVD-Audio, SACD, HD DVD and Blu-ray disc players.

Other input/output connections include four optical and two coaxial input terminals, an optical output terminal, front-panel A/V inputs with a digital input, three component video inputs and one component output with HDTV 720p/1,080i compatibility, five total video inputs and three outputs, S-video connections for all inputs and outputs, and a phono input.

The RX-V659 also up-converts composite and S-video to component.

The $449 RX-V559 is rated at 6×95 watts, and the $349 V459 is rated at 6×90 watts. Details on these models were unavailable.

Earlier, Pioneer announced March deliveries of the $299-suggested retail XM-ready VSX-816-K/-S receiver.

Neural Surround works like this:

In the two-channel mix-down of 5.1-channel source material, Neural embeds a continuous watermark in the audio waveform without affecting the sound quality of the two-channel broadcast, Hubert said. The watermark is up-mixed by the Neural decoder.

The watermark can also be decoded by existing 5.1 matrix-surround Dolby Pro Logic II and Circle Surround II decoders, but a Neural decoder delivers better separation and stability, the company claimed. As an example of stability, he said the location of a voice won’t be pulled toward the channel with the dominant music passage.

Neural decoders are also said to up-mix any two-channel material, including CDs, to 5.1 channels, although the best effects are delivered when an encoded program is decoded.