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A Systematic Look At Home Theater

Here’s what dealers will find in new HTiB systems at CES:

Audiovox: At least two HTiB systems will be unveiled. They are the $149-suggested DV1201 200-watt DVD-equipped system and the $199 DV1600 350-watt system with digital amplification. Additional details were unavailable.

Infinity: The company’s first complete home theater audio package, the $1,099-suggested TAS-1000 Total Audio Solutions system, combines the company’s TSS-750 5.1-channel speaker system with a high-performance DVD-receiver. It’s due in the spring through distribution channels that will be “slightly broader” than the company’s existing channels, which consist of specialty dealers and a single national chain, Circuit City, said sales and marketing VP Eli Harary.

With that distribution in mind, the company will offer a modular active display that can be placed on a gondola or used as part of an end-cap display. It will feature surround speakers suspended from two arms to surround a consumer with speakers, and a 15-inch LCD monitor.

The speaker system includes four two-way satellites, a dedicated center channel and a powered subwoofer employing a 10-inch, side-firing Metal Matrix Diaphragm (MMD) woofer and built-in 150-watt amplifier. The satellites feature a 3.5-inch MMD woofer with 0.75-inch MMD tweeter, and the center features dual 3.5-inch MMD woofers flanking a 0.75-inch MMD tweeter.

The DVD-receiver delivers 5×50-watt output, and incorporates a premium DSP processor and D/A converters to provide high-resolution, dynamic multichannel sound with an expansive, 360-degree soundfield. It is compatible with all popular 5.1-channel surround sound formats such as Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 formats, and includes comprehensive sound tailoring and bass management facilities.

The TAS-1000 ships in the spring.

JBL: The company returns to the video display market with an HTiB system bundled with a 50-inch plasma TV. The Cinema Vision system includes a DVD receiver and speakers at a suggested $15,000, including dealer delivery and setup.

It ships in the spring with an A/V receiver with integrated magazine-type DVD-Audio/Video changer, digital 7×100-watt amplification, wall-mountable speakers that complement the monitor’s styling, 10-inch 200-watt subwoofer, and proprietary digital-video connection between the monitor and the DVD-receiver. The receiver incorporates Dolby Pro Logic IIx and Harman Logic 7 surround processing.

JVC: The company is launching its first two HTiBs with Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES, one of which is also JVC’s first HTiB with DVD-recorder. That system includes DVD-RAM recording. The other features DVD-Audio/Video player. Both feature separate receivers and separate DVD.

In other introductions, DVD-Audio will turn up for the first time in one microsystem and two minisystems, each sporting two speakers. They mix down multichannel DVD-Audio to two channels but use proprietary 3D Phonic processing to replicate a 5.1-channel soundfield. Other DSP models include dance club, hall, and stadium. They will also be the company’s first shelf systems with DVD-Video.

KEF: The speaker maker will launch its first HTiB system, which features a 2.1-channel speaker system that delivers a 5.1-channel soundfield. The KIT100, due in the first quarter at around $1,500, features a DVD-tuner, outboard subwoofer with all system amplification, KEF Uni-Q PointSource L-R speakers, and NXT-developed flat-panel drivers behind the two main speakers to deliver the virtual surround channels. The single-disc DVD-tuner plays MP3 CDs, and the tuner features RDS.

Klipsch: The first HTiB system to be announced with pending THX certification is Klipsch’s $4,000-suggested KES-6100, due in May with single-disc universal DVD player and video transcoder, which upconverts all video inputs to component output and downconverts component output to S and composite.

Although the system will downconvert component video, it will only downconvert standard-definition (SD) component outputs from such sources as SD digital cable boxes and DVD players. The HTiB, in turn, would connect to the S-video and composite inputs of such devices as VCRs, PVRs, and DVD-recorders.

It also features Faroudja DCDi processing to upconvert video to 1,080i.

Thanks to wideband high-definition (HD) video switching, consumers need only use a single component video cable from the HTiB to route all SD and HD video sources to an HD display, the company said.

The system’s other features include second-zone output, THX Surround EX, DTS ES, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Neo:6, learning remote, and second-zone IR remote.

Panasonic: In the 2004 lineup, the main changes include upgraded cosmetics to integrate better with Panasonic’s flat-panel video displays and improved ease of use, achieved in part by adopting larger displays and incorporating direct-access buttons to select a DVD changer’s discs. Cosmetic changes include speakers with metal-mesh grilles instead of cloth grilles. The speakers will continue to be silver.

All models feature DVD-Audio/Video player.

A $249 DVD microsystem, like its predecessor, features two speakers and virtual 5.1-channel surround technology for use in secondary rooms. It ships in May. The opening-price DVD-A/V HTiB, the HT670, won’t be displayed but will ship in May at $299 to replace an existing $299 DVD-A/V system.

The $349 slim-chassis HT-720 ships in April, and the $399 HT820V with DVD/VCR combi player ships in May. The $499 slim-chassis HT920 ships in May with thin Tall Boy tower speakers that can be mounted on the wall or on chrome poles that adjust speaker height to match the height of a video display.

The current HT1000 with DVD-receiver/RAM recorder and multichannel DVD-Audio playback will continue at $999 MAP with Tall Boy tower speakers.

RCA: The RTD500 HDD-equipped Home Theater Music Jukebox is a less expensive version of the current $699-suggested RTD750 but offers additional features. It’s due in June at a suggested $449 if the company goes with a 20GB HDD, the same capacity as the current system.

Both systems make it possible to transfer ripped songs to Lyra portables via a front-panel USB port.

Upgrades will include five-disc DVD-receiver instead of single-disc receiver, jpeg picture viewing, progressive-scan output, and two embedded databases: the GraceNote database of album and song titles and the Loudeye database of more than 250,000 album covers. The embedded databases provide instant disc recognition. The current system taps into the on-line versions of the databases.

Database updates can be downloaded for free via PC, then burned to disc. The disc can be inserted into the HTiB to transfer the updates to the HTiB’s firmware. Consumers can also opt to buy a disc burned with the database from RCA.

The new model lacks the Internet radio and home-PNA home-network capabilities of the 750. It wasn’t certain whether the 750 would be carried over.

Sherwood: The $349-suggested HTS-6500 consists of a 5×100-watt receiver, five speakers, and a powered subwoofer. The receiver incorporates Dolby Digital, DTS, and Dolby Pro Logic II decoding as well as Dolby Virtual Speaker, which delivers a 5.1-channel soundfield from the main left-right speakers. It also features six-channel direct input for connection to DVD-Audio and SACD players.

The HTS-6500 does not come with a DVD player. “The major retailers we talk to tell us that there are 20-odd million DVD players in the U.S. that are not being used with 5.1-channel receivers,” said Sherwood VP Jeff Hipps. ” The 6500 is aimed squarely at that group. They have the DVD, now let’s see if we can’t get them into component-quality 5.1.”

The system’s two-way satellite speakers feature a 1-inch dome tweeter and 40-inch woofer. The center-channel features D’Appolitto-array drivers. The powered sub features an 8-inch driver and 100-watt amplification.