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Audio Components Get Feature Upgrades

Enhanced audio and video are the key drivers of new component-audio introductions here at International CES.

Here’s a sample:

Anthem: The $4,699-suggested AVM50 preamp processor adds 1,080p up-scaling and video-format up-conversion to HDMI to its predecessor, the AVM30. It also had four HDMI inputs and Zone two component-video output.

Lexicon: Two new electronics components include the latest version of the flagship RV-8 A/V receiver, which incorporates eight-channel A/V preamp, seven-channel amplifier and AM/FM tuner. The $6,995-suggested RV-8 Version 2 (RV-8 V2) upgrade adds Radio Data Systems (RDS) capability, the latest version of 5.1 Logic 7, Dolby Pro Logic IIx and Lexicon LIVE, which acoustically modifies both the room size and reverberation time. When multichannel recordings with little or no center channel output are played, Logic 7 also stabilizes the center image and improves the front soundstage.

Also new: the THX Ultra2-certified MC-12 HD preamp/processor, which is based on the flagship MC-12 Digital Controller and adds HDMI. It features six HDMI inputs, one HDMI output with onscreen display, and up-conversion of composite and S-video inputs to component video output. The 12-channel controller has 12 configurable inputs and three zones. It’s available at a suggested $13,999 with balanced XLR connections with equalization, $10,000 without EQ, and $9,999 without balanced connections or EQ.

Meridian: The $8,000 G95 is also the company’s first all-in-one product, packing a DVD/CD drive, AM/FM tuner, five channels of audio and surround processing, and digital amplification in one chassis.

Pioneer: In launching four new receivers, Pioneer plans to unveil what could be the industry’s first three receivers with dual XM/Sirius-ready capability. The company will also bring down the price of 1,080p passthrough capability to a suggested $399.

The XM/Sirius-ready receivers are due in the spring starting at a suggested $299 and feature Neural Surround decoding to reproduce XM’s Neural-encoded channels in discrete 5.1-channel surround sound.

Pioneer also plans to supply the optional SiriusConnect tuner/antenna combination at a suggested $49 and XM tuner/antenna combination at $59. The XM model features pull-out 9-volt-battery-size minituner that can be removed and placed in a car docking kit. The former is due in May; the latter’s ship date was unavailable.

When a satellite tuner/antenna is connected, the receivers control satellite channel selection through their supplied remote and front-panel controls, and they display the satellite broadcasters’ metadata on onscreen displays and on their front-panel displays.

The trio of satellite-ready receivers starts with the $299-suggested VSX-817, a 7×110-watt model with automatic room equalization, front-panel miniplug input to connect all types of portable digital audio players, and Sound Retriever DSP to enhance the quality of compressed-music files to near-CD quality, the company said.

The step-up $399-suggested VSX-917, also due in April, adds such features as 1,080p HDMI passthrough, more connections and LCD preset remote.

Due in June at an unspecified price, the VSX-1017 adds 7×130-watt Direct Energy amp, THX Select2 processing and certification, and such features as iPod connectivity. Through an optional iPod dock/recharger from Pioneer, the receiver reproduces iPod music files, displays iPod menus and metadata on a connected TV screen, and controls iPods through the receiver’s supplied remote.

All four new models, including the $199-suggested VSX-517 5×110-watt receiver, feature updated proprietary Front Stage Surround processing, which delivers 5.1-channel surround when the surround speakers are placed up front. Unlike previous versions, the new version uses more DSP and is less reliant on sound reflected off side walls. They also feature Windows Media Audio 9 decoding.

NAD: Two multichannel amplifiers and two DVD players will make an appearance at the company’s off-site display at the Hard Rock Hotel.

The $1,199-suggested T 585 universal DVD player features 1,080i up-scaling HDMI output and SRS TrueSurround to create five-channel audio through two speakers, including a stereo TV’s stereo speakers, the company said. Features include MP3/WMA-CD playback. Integration with custom installed home theaters and home automation systems is available through rear-panel IR inputs, 12-volt triggers and RS-232 port. It’s available.

The $399-suggested T515 DVD-Video player also features HDMI output, MP3/WMA-CD playback and DiVX-encoded DVD playback. It’s available.

The $2,499-suggested 7×140 T975 and $1,499 5×100 T955 are rated with all channels driven simultaneously at 20Hz-20kHz with 0.08 percent THD into 4-ohm and 8-ohm loads. Their PowerDrive circuits automatically detect a speaker’s impedance and adjusts the amps’ power supplies to work best with that load.