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Onkyo Rounds Out ’01 Line, Ships 1st Multimedia Products

UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. — Onkyo is rounding out its 2001 Onkyo-brand lineup with its first DTS ES-equipped receivers, its first LCD touchscreen remote, and its first DVD-Video players with MP3-CD playback.

The company also announced commitments from major retailers for its first PC audio products, unveiled earlier in the year along with new shelf systems, home theater solutions and three receivers (see TWICE, April 16, p. 20).

Onkyo unveiled the products in late May during a key dealer meeting. New Integra and Integra Research products, which are franchised separately by Onkyo USA, will be announced later in the year.

The company’s first two receivers to incorporate DTS ES 6.1 (Discrete, Matrix, and Neo:6) also feature THX EX and Dolby Pro Logic II. They are the THX-Select-certified 7×110-watt TX-DS898 and 6×100-watt TX-DS797, due in September at suggested retail prices of $1,500 and $999, respectively.

The two receivers will complement the carryover top-end $2,999 THX Ultra-certified 7×130-watt TX-DS989, which undergoes a running change in June to add DTS ES and Dolby Pro Logic II to its THX EX decoding capability.

In late June, Onkyo will also offer an upgrade kit at a nominal cost to current 989 owners, who can use the supplied CD-ROM and RS-232 cable to transfer the ES and Pro Logic II algorithms from a PC to the receiver’s flash memory in about 40 minutes. The kit will be available through the company’s Web site and at retail.

The three receivers, like the three receivers announced in April at retails of $299 to $799, feature Wide Range Amplifier Technology, which delivers 10-100kHz frequency response. All six models also deliver Pro Logic II.

The two new receivers also come with a feature that Onkyo introduced for the first time on the $799 receiver: the ability to upconvert composite video to S-video, and downconvert S to composite. The feature makes it possible to run a single video cable to a TV from the receiver even if the home theater system incorporates multiple video sources with a mix of composite and S-video outputs.

Also like the $799 receiver and the 989, the two new receivers feature 50MHz HD-capable component video inputs, available only on two models in the previous line.

Another new feature on the two new receivers is the ability to assign a default decoding mode to individual source components.

DVD-Video: Four new DVD-Video players, two of which are the company’s first with MP3-CD playback, are on the way.

The opening price DVD-Video player, the DV-S353 with component output, retails for $199, down from the previous line’s opening $299. The $299 DV-S555 single-disc model adds MP3-CD playback, CD-R/RW compatibility, and a subwoofer output, intended for owners of stereo receivers or lower end home theater receivers that lack sub outputs.

Another new model is a five-disc $299 DVD changer, which will replace a $349 five-disc model and complement a carryover six-disc model.

The other DVD player with MP3-CD playback and CD-R/RW compatibility is the slimline DV-L5, part of a receiver-based home theater solution (see below).

The company will carry over the line’s existing $1,800 DVD-A/V player with progressive outputs, but it has discontinued its 301-disc CD/DVD-Video changer. Other brands have retailed 301-disc models at $500-$600, but Onkyo’s model sold for $800, Friedman said. A 301-disc model in the Integra line continues.

LCD remote: CHAD (Custom Home Automation Device) is Onkyo’s first LCD remote, a preprogrammed/learning model with 2MB of memory and hard buttons to complement the LCD touchscreen controls. It’s due in August-September at a $499 maximum advertised price. A charging base is optional at an approximate retail price of $150.

Multimedia products: The company firmed up pricing and began deliveries in May to J&R Music World. Other retailers committed to sell the products are CompUSA and Circuit City.

Onkyo is targeting existing Onkyo-brand dealers who sell PC products as well as computer specialists, said multimedia director Paul Tamberelli.

Two of the products are external digital audio processors/switchers analogous to high-end outboard sound cards. “No one is making external audio processors for PCs,” Tamberelli said. Both bypass a PC’s internal soundcard.

The $249-suggested SE-U55 processor connects USB-equipped PCs to AV systems or to powered speakers. Digital and analog inputs make it possible to rip songs from connected CD changers, turntables or tape decks. It’s packaged with Onkyo-exclusive software, including music-management and ripping software.

The $199-suggested MSE-U33HB offers the same capabilities for Macs, but it also serves as a three-port USB hub.

The third multimedia product is a surround-sound speaker/electronics package for use with PCs and game consoles. The $349-suggested system, unlike other add-on sound systems, offers DTS and Dolby Pro Logic II decoding, Tamberelli said. Unlike most surround systems for PCs, he added, this one comes with center-channel speaker. For additional flexibility, it also plugs into DVD-Video players and Sony’s PlayStation.

To enable dealers to set up the surround speakers for proper demos, Onkyo will offer extendable arms that dealers can attach to their displays.

Home theater solutions:In receiver-based home theater solutions, the company introduced a third model to join the two announced in April. Last year, the company offered only one receiver-based solution.

The previously announced solutions are due in July-August, slightly later than previously announced.

The third system is sold in two separately priced packages. One package consists of the silver slim-line TXL5 receiver (with DD, DTS and Pro Logic II decoding) and matching DVL5 DVD-Video player in a package targeted to retail for $799. It ships in September. The second package is a $599 six-speaker package, due in August. It consists of two slim towers, bookshelf surrounds, center channel, and powered subwoofer with light woodgrain finishes.

The company plans July availability of a modified version of its $999 Envision system, which consists of a book-size DVD-receiver and wall-hanging satellite speakers. The key change is a slightly more powerful sub.

Shelf systems: As previously announced, the company is expanding its executive-style shelf-system selection to four from three. One of the newest shelf systems, now due in the fall instead of July at $399, is the DWS-5000 with vertical-loading single CD and motorized glass door.

Details of the other systems are unchanged.