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Abundance Of Home, Portable Audio To Hit CES

Audio buyers might want to spend an extra day more at next month’s CES than they did at last January’s show if they want to sort through all of the new technologies and product developments.

Suppliers plan to use the show to prepare retailers for satellite and terrestrial digital audio radio services (DARS), unveil an expanded selection of two-channel Super Audio CD (SACD) players, demonstrate a prototype multichannel SACD player, and update dealers on the delayed launch of DVD-Audio.

At least one company, Pioneer, will show one of the first DVD-AV/SACD players. At least two suppliers will show SACD-only players that will ship this year to join the Sony models in the U.S. And Philips plans an off-site demonstration of a prototype multichannel SACD player.

Several suppliers will also unveil their first products that decode Dolby Digital EX-encoded DVDs and DTS ES discs, which add a matrixed rear-center channel to a 5.1-channel soundtrack. Two DD EX discs are available to date, and no DTS ES discs are available.

In other major home audio developments expected at the show:

  • At least eight suppliers will unveil CD-recorder components or CD-recorder-equipped shelf systems. New products will include components that combine a CD-recorder with a three- or five-disc CD changer. At least 13 brands will be marketing CD-recorders in the U.S. in 2000.
  • At least two companies plan to unveil DVD shelf systems with built-in LCD screens for video playback.
  • More audio suppliers will unveil DVD/CD changers as stand-alone components or as part of A/V shelf systems. Two will be the industry’s first 301-disc CD/DVD changers.
  • And DVD will be integrated into more audio products. DVD players and changers will appear in shelf and wall-mounted audio systems from at least three more suppliers, joining Panasonic in this market. DVD will also be integrated into more receivers as part of home theater receiver/speaker packages.

In major Internet audio developments:

  • At least five more brands will enter the market, including Sony and Philips as previously announced.
  • Current suppliers such as I-Jam and Creative Labs will expand their selections.
  • And MP3 playback will appear in car audio products and in wireless phones.

Of more significance will be the growing number of portables intended to be “future-proof” by offering the potential to play back almost any compressed-audio format currently floating around on the Internet. I-Jam, Creative Labs and Philips will display their first such portables.

For retailers who want to hear what terrestrial digital radio will sound like, USADR will demonstrate its proposed IBOC (in-band on-channel) system with a live transmission from a Las Vegas FM radio station. And Lucent, which has proposed a competing IBOC technology, was working to do the same.

Satellite DARS won’t be demonstrated live because satellite broadcasters Sirius and XM Satellite haven’t launched their satellites yet, but the companies plan to mount major promotional efforts in the show’s digital radio pavilion and in supporting suppliers’ booths.

In other developments:

  • More suppliers will add CD-RW playback capability to more CD and CD/DVD players and changers and to more portables.
  • Dolby Digital/DTS receivers will come down in price to a suggested $249.
  • And Escient’s CD-management technology will be built into a CD megachanger for the first time. In the past, it has been offered an add-on component for select compatible changers.

Escient’s technology downloads disc and track titles and cover art from Escient’s CDDB Web site and displays them on a TV to make it easier to find a disc, particular track or discs by particular artists.