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Panasonic Expands DVD-Audio Playback In DVD, HTiB Systems

Panasonic is incorporating DVD-Audio playback in three of five component DVD players, one of four DVD-VCR units, two DVD-RAM recorders a two-speaker shelf system with virtual surround sound, and all nine new home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems.

The starting price for a component single-disc DVD-AV player goes to an expected everyday $129 from $179 and for a five-disc changer model to $149 from $229. The HTiBs range in expected everyday prices from $349-$999. Plans for a 10th HTiB without DVD-Audio were dropped.

All of the new component DVDs play back DVD-RAM discs, as do the new HTiBs.

DVD-Audio appears in two DVD-RAM recorders for the first time, but DVD-Audio tracks are delivered only in downmixed two-channel stereo. Nonetheless, the $599 E60 and $699 E80, which adds 80GB HDD, will deliver a DVD-Audio disc’s Dolby Digital backup tracks in 5.1.

DVD-Audio returns to Panasonic shelf systems after two years with the $249-everyday two-speaker SC-DP1 microsystem, which features built-in two-channel Dolby Digital and DTS decoders. It mixes down multichannel DVD-Audio discs to two channels. Virtual surround technology delivers a surround-sound effect from two speakers.

The microsystem and select other DVD products feature HighMAT (High Performance Media Access Technology), which was codeveloped by Panasonic and Microsoft to provide consumers with a consistent interface for selecting and viewing disc-based content, including still images, songs and videos transferred from PCs.

JVC and Apex also support HighMAT.