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Denon Bows 19 Products, Delays A/V Server

Denon opened a multi-city dealer tour here with the introduction of 19 new products, including an expanded selection of DVD players with upscaling DVI, its first DVD players with HDMI outputs, and its second universal DVD player with SACD/DVD-Audio 1394 outputs.

The company also unveiled a $6,000 receiver that will be the industry’s highest priced receiver and the first A/V receiver with 10 amplifier channels and total 16-channel output. The industry’s highest price receivers range up to about $4,500 from such companies as Onkyo, Sony and Yamaha. A handful of other receivers feature 12-channels to 16-channels of amplification, but those models are designed exclusively for distributed-audio purposes and lack surround-sound decoding.

In other receiver highlights, Denon lowered the opening price point for 100MHz component-video switching and for composite-to-component video conversion to a suggested $399 from $4,300 with the introduction of its AVR-1705. The company also expanded Dolby Pro Logic IIx surround decoding to receivers priced down to a suggested $299.

Although the company didn’t announce receivers with 1394, DVI or HDMI inputs, it hinted that the $6,000 AVR-5805 could get them when it ships in November.

Among its new DVD players, the company lowered the opening price of models offering DVI outputs (with HDCP copy protection) to a suggested $269 with the launch of the DVD-1910. DVI became available for the first time from Denon with the $2,000-suggested universal DVD-5900 announced last September.

Also in the new DVD lineup, the company is pairing DVI and HDMI outputs for the first time with the unveiling of the universal SACD/DVD-Audio DVD-3910 and DVD-2910, which are priced respectively at a suggested $1,299 and $729. Their HDMI outputs are capable of transmitting multichannel DVD-Audio in digital form, per recently approved DVD-Forum specifications.

Like the current DVD-5900, the 3910 adds 1394 output to carry DVD-Audio and SACD streams to 1394-equipped receivers and proprietary Denon Link digital output to carry DVD-Audio signals. Neither HDMI nor Denon Link, however, has been approved by Sony and Philips to carry SACD signals.

The DVI and HDMI outputs on Denon’s DVD players upconvert video to 480p, 720p and 1,080i.

In twin setbacks, the company delayed the shipment of its first-ever networked A/V server and delayed a return to the multichannel separates market. The company didn’t announce a new target date for the Denon Network Server, previously announced for late second-quarter shipment. President Steve Baker said development “is taking longer than anticipated” and noted that “the marketplace and technology are moving at blazing speed.”

HD video networking or digital cable reception weren’t included in the original server, which featured standard-definition PVR, music server, two NTSC analog-cable tuners, two FM tuners and CD drive. It delivered audio and standard-definition video to multiple zones to client devices over an Ethernet network.

As for the multichannel separates, engineering staff priorities forced the delay until sometime next year, said Baker. Shipments were planned for the late second quarter to complement two-channel separates. The products were to include an A/V processor, DVD transport and seven-channel digital amp.

Down the road, Denon will enter the DVD-recorder business and offer receivers that can be upgraded by inserting new circuit cards, but the company didn’t offer a timetable.

With the product launches, Denon hopes to maintain its leading market-share positions in the specialty A/V channel, where the company held top dollar share in combined sales of A/V and stereo receivers during the January-May period, Baker said in citing NPD sell-through statistics. NPD also found that Denon held second-place market share in DVD players (excluding recorders) in the channel during that time.

During that period, the average sell-through prices of Denon receivers and DVD players through the specialty channel were higher than the channel average, NPD also found. Denon’s average A/V receiver price was $599, compared to the channel’s average $313. The channel’s average DVD player price (excluding recorders) was $193, but Denon’s average price through the channel was $474.