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Components: Surround Decoders Proliferate

Dolby Digital EX receivers and preamps will turn up for the first time at CES, where other suppliers will unveil their first THX Ultra2-certified electronics and their first products equipped with DTS 96/24. Here’s what dealers will find:

Aragon: The brand’s first THX Ultra2-certified products include the Stage One tuner/preamp/processor and five two- and multichannel amps, including the brand’s first seven-channel amp. They’re the first new products from Aragon since its year-ago purchase by Klipsch. They ship in late January.

The $4,000-suggested Stage One tuner/preamp/processor features THX EX and DTS Discrete and Matrix processing, 192/24 DACs, and a one-touch user interface to reduce front-panel clutter and eliminate on-screen character generators said to degrade video signals. Wide-band video ins and out allow for HDTV routing without signal degradation, the company said. An RS-232 allows for software upgrades.

The Ultra2 amps are the $1,500-suggested 2×200-watt 2002, $2,500 5×200-watt 2005, $3,000 7×200-watt 2007, $2,500 2×300-watt 3002, and $3,500 5×300-watt 3005. All ratings are into 8 ohms.

Atlantic Technology: The company is delving into electronics with a preamp/processor incorporating DVD-Audio bass management, routing all signals above 80 cycles to satellites while sending the low frequencies to a subwoofer. The P2000, due February, is projected to retail for $1,695. It will be, the company said, the first commercially available preamp to offer Dolby Digital EX. A matching A2000 six-channel power amp ($1,200-$1,300) is rated as 130 watts per channel.

Denon: The company’s new flagship receiver, the $4,300-suggested AVR-5803, is the company’s first THX Ultra2-certified receiver, its first to upsample composite and S-video inputs to a component output, and its first with proprietary Digital Link 1394 connection to its Ultra2 DVD-9000 DVD-Audio/Video player. It’s the company’s second receiver with DTS 5.1 96/24 decoding. Other features: THX EX and DTS ES Discrete and Matrix decoding, and Dolby Headphone processing to deliver a 5.1-channel experience through two-channel headphones. Ship date is unavailable.

Panasonic/Technics: As part of its effort to phase out the Technics name in home audio, Matsushita will launch no new Technics-branded receivers but will launch new Panasonic-branded receivers. The new models include the company’s first receivers with DTS ES and Dolby Pro Logic II. Each will be available in black or silver.

The $249-MAP SAHE70 open the series with DD/DTS, Pro Logic II, six-channel input, three S-Video ins, and two digital in. It’s due April.

Next, the $349-MAP SAHE100 due May adds DTS ES Discrete and Matrix, DTS Neo: 6,compatibility with Dolby Digital EX soundtracks, DTS Neo: 6, and 6×100-watt amp. At $599 MAP, the SAHE200 adds component switching, more inputs, and 6×100-watt amp.

The $599-MAP DD/DTS 5.1 SAXR10 is only 1.7-inches-tall because of its 5×100-watt digital amplifier. It ships in January.

ReVox: The high-end company will launch its first DVD-receiver, sans speakers. The $7,000-suggested M51, due January, features single-disc DVD-Video player, DD/DTS 5.1 decoding, 5×60-wtt amp, and a six-card card frame allowing for future upgrades to DVD-Audio, digital radio, DD EX and DTS ES, or a multizone card.

Rotel: The company’s first Dolby Digital EX products are two receivers at a suggested $1,000 and $2,000 and a $1,500 preamp processor. All feature DTS ES Discrete and Matrix. They’ll be displayed at the Mirage.

Theta: A new DAC Card for Theta’s Casablanca II Cinema and Music Controller delivers four channels of balanced audio and is capable of processing four 24-bit signals at 96kHz, 192kHz, and 384kHz sampling rates. When three cards are used, the Casablanca can deliver 12-channel audio: front L:CR, surround left and right, side left and right, front left and right subwoofer, surround left and right sub, and rear center (which can also be front center sub).It’s available at $3,990 each.

Pioneer: The company began shipping its first two Ultra2-certified receivers in October in its Elite series at a suggested $3,000 and $4,200. They are also its first with DTS 96/24 and built-in room-error correction.

In its non-Elite series, Pioneer will show four AV receivers, two with Virtual Surround back-surround-channel processing to deliver a 6.1-channel-like effect from standard DD and DTS 5.1 discs. Of the four models, only the top model comes with six-channel amp and DD EX/DTS ES Discrete and Matrix decoding, making it the company’s first receiver with DD EX. Price and ship dates were unavailable.

Yamaha: In expanding its receiver selection to eight from seven, the company will offer its first models with DD EX, DTS 96/24, virtual center-rear channel for DD EX and DTS ES Matrix decoding, and RS-232 port to download new surround-sound formats and upgraded DSP algorithms. The receivers are priced from a suggested $299 to $2,799. Like the ’01 line, four are multizone, multisource models.

DD EX starts at a suggested $299 in the RX-V420, which also features DTS ES Matrix, 5×80-watt amp, virtual rear-center-channel reproduction, and DPL II. The V530 at $399 adds more digital ins and outs. The $499 V630 adds six-channel 6×80-watt amp, and the $590 V730 adds on-screen display, a remote with LCD, and phono input. These four models ship in March.

DD EX and DTS Discrete and Matrix appear in the new flagship $2,799-suggested RX-Z1, due in April. It features DD EX, DTS Discrete and Matrix, DTS 96/24, DPL II, DTS Neo:6, Cinema DSP, and eight-channel amp whose two front-effects channels can be used to power a second zone. Power output is 6×130 watts plus 2×45 watts. It uses 192/24 DACs for all channels, features three 100MHz component-video inputs and one component output, and comes with LCD touchscreen remote.

Three other receivers priced at $899, $1,199, and $1,599 features Yamaha’s proprietary Dolby Digital Matrix 6.1 in lieu of licensed DD EX, and they offer DTS ES Discrete and Matrix.