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Technics Returns As High-Res Component-Audio Brand

Las Vegas – Panasonic’s Technics brand is reentering the U.S. home audio market after an absence of 13 years, focusing on high performance and high-resolution audio playback with products that top out at $52,999 for a stereo system consisting of a network player/preamp, floorstanding speaker pair and power amplifier.

A second series of products collectively retails for $5,499 and consists of a stereo integrated amp, and network music player, a bookshelf-speaker pair and an up-converting CD player.

The products were shown at the IFA convention in Berlin in September and were scheduled to ship in Europe by the end of 2014, marking the brand’s return to the CE market there after an absence of six years.

With the U.S. relaunch, Technics is returning to its high-performance audio roots, established when the brand was launched about 44 years ago. “We’re bringing back Technics based on the original legacy of Technics,” said Gene Kelsey, Panasonic VP of A/V products and marketing. Technics delivered “the highest performance available at the time” when it debuted, he said.

With the tag line “Rediscover Music,” Technics will target “quality-focused consumers who are starting to transition to high-resolution audio,” Kelsey said. The company will also target consumers who grew up with compressed music but whose “lifestages have changed” and “are now looking for that next step,” he said. Those consumers want to maintain the convenience of compressed-music files but want a better experience, he said.

The company is targeting April shipments through audiophile distribution channels, excluding online sales, and is demonstrating the systems to dealers here at Venetian Suite 29-111. The products are also on static display at the Panasonic booth.

Technics is still formulating promotion and retail-support plans but will promote the products’ high-resolution audio capabilities, he said.

The Technics line consists of a three-SKU reference-class series and a four-SKU premium series. The R1 reference products comprise the SE-R1 stereo power amplifier, SU-R1 network player/preamplifier, and SB-R1 three-way floorstanding speaker pair. The premium C700 series comprises the SU-C700 stereo integrated amp, SL-C700 network audio player, SL-C700 CD player, and SB-C700 two-way bookshelf speaker pair.

In the reference series, the SU-R1 network audio player accepts digital music up to 32-bit/384kHz and up to DSD 5.6HMz. It features digital coaxial and optical inputs to accept 24/192 PCM and 24/96 PCM respectively. A USB-B input accepts up to 32/384 and DSD 2.8/5.6MHz with asynchronous transfer mode, and DLNA and USB-A accept FLAC, WAV, AIFF up to 192/24, ALAC up to 96k/24, mp3, wma, and AAC up to 48k/16.

Outputs include a proprietary Technic Digital Link output, said to reduce signal degradation when connected to the SE-R1 stereo amp.

The SE-R1 amp features Digital Link input and JENO DSP engine with “high-precision jitter reduction and PWM conversion. The three-way floorstanding SB-R1 speakers feature a 25mm carbon-graphite dome tweeter concentrically mounted in a 160mm flat midrange to deliver point-source sound. They’re complemented by four 160mm long-stroke cone woofers.

In the C700 series, the network player features FM tuner, Bluetooth with aptX and AAC streaming, DLNA, and Ethernet. A USB-A port is available for FLAC, WAV, and AIFF playback up to 24/192, ALAC up to 24/96, mp3, WMA, and AAC up to 16/48. The component also features USB-B port with asynchronous transfer mode to receive PCM up to 32/192 and DSD 2.8/5.6MHz. It lacks Technics Digital Link.

The SU-C700 stereo integrated amp features the JENO digital engine, phono input, and digital coaxial and optical inputs to accept 24/192 and 24/96 audio, respectively. It also features USB-B input with asynchronous transfer mode to accept PCM up to 24/192 and DSD 2.8/5.6kHz. It lacks Technics Digital Link.

The SL-C700 CD player features a high-res remaster function to improve CD sound quality. The SB-C700 two-way bookshelf speakers features 19mm aluminum-dome tweeter concentrically mounted in a 160mm flat woofer. The tweeter delivers sound out to 100kHz.

In 2002, Panasonic dropped the Technics brand name from the U.S. consumer electronics market after a 31-year run but continued to use the name for about three years on turntables and headphones for the professional DJ market. In 2012, Panasonic reintroduced the Technics name on headphones targeted to the DJ market as well as to consumers.