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New Surround, Connectivity Technologies Going Mainstream

NEW YORK – Object-based surround decoding and the latest HDMI connectivity features are going mainstream, based on recent audio/video receiver introductions.

Onkyo, for example, is bringing Dolby Atmos decoding down to a suggested $499 in AVRs and bringing full-bandwidth 18Gbps HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 copy protection down to $399. For its part, Denon is bringing both Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround sound to the $479-suggested price point while bringing 18Gbps HDMI 2.0 (upgradable to 2.0a) and HDCP 2.2 to $279.

Earlier this year, Pioneer brought Dolby Atmos way down in price to $599 in the Pioneer series and $700 in the Elite series. From Pioneer, Atmos had previously been available only on three Elite AVRs starting at $1,600. None is upgradable to DTS:X. Pioneer also brought 18Gbps HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 down to $399. They’re not upgradable to HDMI 2.0a.

For its part, Yamaha didn’t bring Atmos or DTS:X to recently announced AVRs at a suggested $279 to $849,but it did start HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 at $299, though not with full-bandwidth 18Gbps HDMI. Full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 starts at the $649 price point. The AVRs aren’t upgradable to HDMI 2.0a nor to Atmos and DTS:X. Yamaha currently offers Atmos in $1,699 and $2,199 Aventage-series receivers.

Here’s what Denon and Onkyo recently announced:
Denon: The $479-suggested price point will be Denon’s starting price for A/V receivers with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround decoding.

Two new 7.2-channel AVRs in the opening-price S series consist of the $479 AVR-S710W and $579 AVR-S910W, both shipping in July with Atmos and upgradability to DTS:X via a firmware upgrade sometime in the fall. Both 7.2-channel models support Atmos and DTS:X playback with 5.1.2 speaker configurations. They won’t accept an add-on two-channel amp to support 5.1.4 speaker systems.

The two AVRs complement a previously announced $279 5.2-channel AVR-S510BT in the S series.

The series starts with the $279 model offering full-bandwidth 18Mbps HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, built-in Bluetooth, and upgradability to HDMI 2.0a. It’s not upgradable to DTS:X or Dolby Atmos.

Compared to the $279 AVR, the two latest models add HDMI 2.0a out of the box, built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay, DLNA 1.5, Internet Radio, Pandora, Spotify Connect ad SiriusXM, and a host of other features.

The $479 model features HDCP 2.2 on all six HDMI 2.0a inputs and on its HDMI 2.0a output. The $579 model steps up to offer eight HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2, dual parallel HDMI 2.0a outputs, and other features.

Onkyo: Two of three new AVRs announced by the company at a suggested $499 and $599 are Atmos-equipped but not upgradable to DTS:X. A third new receiver, priced at $399, lacks Atmos but features HDMI 2.0a inputs, HDCP 2.2 and 18Gbps HDMI.

The two Atmos-equipped AVRs will join two previously announced Atmos-equipped AVRs for 2015: the $699-suggested TX-NR646 and $999 TX-NR747. Both of those models are upgradable to DTS:X via a firmware upgrade due sometime later this year. They also feature HDMI 2.0a, 18Gbps HDMI and HDCP 2.2.

The two new Atmos AVRs drive 5.1.2 Atmos speaker setups but do not accept add-on two-channel amps to support Atmos 5.1.4 or 7.1.2.

With the three newly announced AVRs, the company is reducing the opening price for built-in Bluetooth to $399 from $499, but the opening price for built-in Wi- Fi and networking goes to $599 from $499.

Here are some product details:
The three new AVRs start with the $399 TX-SR343, a 5.1-channel model with revamped input and output terminals that are said to be labeled and illustrated for easy setup. A rear-panel USB port with 5-volt power lets users add wireless HDMI A/V streaming dongles such as Google Chromecast. The AVR also features 192/24 DACs, four-in/one-out 18Mbps HDMI, HDCP 2.2, virtual surround mode for 2.1-channel setups, and analog-to-HDMI up-conversion.

The $499 TX-SR444 steps up to Dolby Atmos, 7.1 channels, AccuEQ automatic room calibration and InstaPrevue input-source previewing.

At $599, the TX-NR545 steps up to 7.2 channels and adds high-resolution audio support up to 5.6MHz DSD and 192/24 FLAC, built-in Wi-Fi, networking, AirPlay, DLNA, 384kHz/32-bit DACs, six HDMI inputs (three with HDCP 2.2), Aupeo, Spotify, SiriusXM, Slacker, Pandora and TuneIn.

The three AVRs do not up-scale video to 1080p or 4K.

All are shipping.