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HTiBs Ditch The Surround Speakers

Surround speakers? We don’t need no stinkin’ surround speakers.

Philips is launching its first home theater in a box (HTiB) system with two-speaker surround sound, and Sharp is unveiling a system that packs all speakers but the subwoofer into one set-top chassis.

They’ll follow a handful of other two-speaker systems from Bose, Denon, JVC and Sherwood. They use a variety of technologies to deliver a virtual surround field.

Denon, Sherwood and Sharp are using Dolby Virtual Speaker; Bose and JVC use their own proprietary technologies; and Philips is putting in its two speakers with a technology called SonoWave. It uses a combination of DSP and independent drivers aimed at precise angles in each enclosure.

Philips’s system is the HTS6500 with DVD-receiver, two satellite speakers and a subwoofer. It ships in May at a suggested $399 with HDMI output that up-scales DVD video to 1,080i.

With Microsoft’s Plays From Device certification, it connects to USB-equipped flash-memory and HDD music portables and plays protected WMA songs (purchased or rented) and MP3 songs. Songs can be selected by artist, title and genre through the HTiB.

The HTiB’s USB port isn’t USB Host, which would enable the HTiB to play songs only from connected flash-memory portables, the company said. Portable HDD music portables are themselves USB Host devices, and they can’t be controlled from another USB Host devoce because of software conflicts, the company explained.

The HTiB features MP3 and WMA decoding and playback of disc encoded with video in MPEG-4, DiVX versions 3.11 to 6, and DiVX Ultra. For its part, Sharp plans April availability of the SD-SP10 at a suggested $349.99. It incorporates all front speakers, electronics, and amplification in a single, compact settop enclosure connected to an outboard subwoofer. A DVD player, however, isn’t included in the package.

The 4-inch by 16.9-inch by 10.25-inch enclosure houses decoding for Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic, and Dolby Virtual processing. The enclosure also houses a 2×35 plus 1×70-watt 1-bit amplifier, whose technology is said to use 50 percent less power than analog amps while running 80 percent cooler and being thirds smaller.

Sharp’s patented 1-bit amplification technology samples digital audio signals at a rate of 5.6MHz and maintain the signal in digital form until the speaker outputs.