Panasonic Fills Out Audio Lineup Details

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NEW YORK —

Panasonic revealed pricing on the new iPod/ iPhone-docking compact audio systems and new soundbar in its 2011 audio lineup, and the company offered more details about a variety of new features and technologies that will be available for the first time in its new 3D Blu-ray HTiBs.

All products were unveiled at International CES, and HTiB prices were revealed shortly thereafter. All products are still scheduled to ship in April.

Of the four compact stereo systems, three incorporate AM/FM tuner and MP3- CD players at suggested retails of $99, $149 and $199. The fourth system lacks a CD tuner and retails at a suggested $179.

The new soundbar, the SC-HTB520, is priced at a suggested $399 and replaces a similarly equipped and priced model. The HTiB prices, as previously announced, are a suggested $399, $499 and $599.

Compact systems:

All four compact systems are thin, vertically oriented single-chassis models. Two can be wallmounted.

The compact systems, along with the three new 3G Bluray HTiBs, are the company’s first such products that take in music in PCM digital form from a docked iPod/iPhone.

Two of four docking stereo systems — the $199 SC-HC55 with CD tuner and $179 SC-HC05 without CD tuner — are the company’s first with ability to select favorite Internet radio stations for playback via their included IR remote.

An Internet radio tuner, however, isn’t built into the two compact systems. Instead, a $1.99 vTuner app loaded onto an Apple iPod Touch or iPhone accesses Internet radio stations via the Apple devices’ embedded Wi-Fi radio. The music is then streamed to the compact systems via stereo Bluetooth. Then, via Bluetooth, the compact systems relay favorite-station up/down commands from their supplied IR remotes to the Apple devices.

The compact line starts with the $99 SC-HC25, which features a CD tuner but no Bluetooth or vTuner control. Features include a push-open dock, motorized sliding CD door, bass and treble controls, single-cone speakers and aux input.

The $149 SC-HC35, also with CD tuner, steps up with a motorized sliding door that hides both the CD mechanism and iPod, wall-mount capability, and 40-watt output.

The $199 SC-HC55, which is also wall-mountable, adds motion sensing for hands-free opening of the motorized door, stereo Bluetooth, vTuner control and two-way speaker system.

The only compact system without a CD tuner is the $179 SC-HC05, which features IR remote control of the loaded vTuner app, stereo Bluetooth, push-open dock, 40-watt output and the SC-H55’s speaker complement.

Soundbar:

The $399-suggested SC-HTB520 with wireless sub replaces the current SC-HTB500, which is similarly equipped and priced. It will join the carryover $199-suggested SC-HTB10, which incorporates a built-in sub.

The new soundbar, like its predecessor, features a wireless sub, one 3D-capable HDMI 1.4 input (1.4 previously and 1.4a now) to connect a 3D Blu-ray player or 3D set-top box, one optical digital input to connect the digital audio output of a set-top box, an HDMI 1.4 output (1.4 previously and 1.4a now) with audio return channel, built-in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 decoders, and Dolby Virtual Speaker to create virtual surround. The HDMI input also accepts multichannel PCM streams from a Blu-ray player.

Compared to its predecessor, however, the new soundbar features taller thinner subwoofer. The new model also features new cosmetics with a black-glass front.

HTiBs:

In launching three 3D Blu-ray HTiBs, the company is increasing its selection of 3D HTiBs to three from two, offering 2D-to-3D conversion for the first time, and offering a 3D Effect Controller for the first time. The latter lets users adjust the degree of 3D effects to their preference.

The 2D-to-3D conversion function converts 2D video on DVDs, Blu-ray discs and SD cards to 3D.

The three Blu-ray HTiBs are also the company’s first HTiBs that:

• up-convert streaming video-on-demand services to full 1080p;

• feature built-in Wi-Fi, whereas previous models used included or optional Wi-Fi dongles; and

• let users customize the Blu-ray home screen with a personal photo uploaded from an SD card.

The top two models at $499 and $599 are also the company’s first HTiBs with HDMI inputs, in this case dual 3D-capable HDMI 1.4a inputs. They’re also the first two Panasonic HTiBs with optional Skype video calling.

All three 5.1 HTiBs feature HDMI 1.4a output with audio return channel, and Cinema Surround Plus, said to simulate 22-speaker surround sound, including 11 height channels. The top two add HDMI standby passthrough.

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