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Surround EX To Make The Rounds

THX Surround EX-equipped consumer products will put in their first appearance at a consumer electronics trade show during the CEDIA Expo.

The format, developed by Dolby Labs for movie-theater playback, is being licensed by LucasFilm for consumer-product applications as part of LucasFilm’s THX Ultra licensing program.

THX Ultra-certified products are intended for use in large home theater rooms. For those rooms, THX Surround EX will add a matrixed rear-center channel to a 5.1-channel home theater system when EX-encoded DVDs are played back through a standard DVD player.

The goal is to prevent the surround image from collapsing to one side when viewers are sitting off to one side of a large home theater room.

The first EX disc, due in November, will be Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, LucasFilm said. At least three other movies — Star Wars-Episode 1, The Astronaut’s Wife and The Haunting — have been recorded in EX for theatrical release, and the EX soundtracks will automatically be transferred to disc when DVD versions become available.

EX-recorded movies still to be released in theaters include Toy Story 2, Bats, Chicken Run, The Fight Club, Minority Report, End of Days, House on Haunted Hill, Spooky House, The Bone Collector and Pitch Black.

THX Surround EX hardware will feature two additional surround outputs, one for the surround back-left speaker, the other for surround back-right.

Here’s what suppliers plan to unveil:

JBL: The company will add EX capability as a running change to its current three Synthesis home theater electronics and speaker systems at no extra charge. It will also be part of the new Synthesis 4 system.

JBL will demonstrate EX in one of the systems at the show. Current owners of Synthesis systems will be able to get an upgrade ROM at no charge.

Synthesis 4 will be JBL’s lowest cost Synthesis system at about $10,000, compared to the other three models that are priced from $27,000 to $65,000.

All four systems feature a new digital parametric EQ that corrects for room-response errors. In replacing an analog EQ, it reduces setup time to about one hour from four to six hours. The four systems also include Logic 7 processing, which derives seven channels from two-channel and multichannel music and movie sources.

Lexicon: An E-PROM upgrade kit, due November 1, will enable dealers to add EX to the MC1, DC2 and discontinued DC1 preamp/processors at a suggested retail of $300. EX-equipped Lexicon processors will be demonstrated at the Sonance and M&K booths. The MC1 retails for $5,995 without EX, and the DC2 comes in three non-EX versions for $2,500 to $3,995.

Mark Levinson: A two-chassis EX-equipped electronics package will be on static display and will ship in the spring starting at about $20,000, depending on the configuration selected. Both chassis will be upgradable via their card cages.

The audio chassis, a THX Ultra-certified preamp/processor, features on-board DACs. The video chassis includes video switching and a video scaler to accelerate scanning rates.

The card cages enable additional outputs and could potentially be used to add DVD-Audio decoding.

Onkyo: The Integra Research-branded seven-channel preamp/processor features built-in Dolby Digital, DTS and THX Surround EX decoding. It ships in the first quarter at about $3,500. — Joseph Palenchar