2002 CES Day Five

Only home theater Neanderthals watch movies with a two-channel audio system, the standard wisdom has it. 5.1, 6.1, 7.1—will surround sound formats ever stop expanding?

Electronics manufacturers here at the Consumer Electronics Show are betting that consumers can't get enough multichannel. Pioneer Electronics has introduced four new A/V receivers with Dolby Digital EX; two of them, the VSX-D711S and VSX-D811S offer 7.1 compatibility, as well as component video switching. The D811S also offers DTS-ES discrete decoding, which outputs a rear-center signal, like Dolby Digital EX.

Outlaw Audio has debuted two new seven-channel devices: one an A/V processor and the other a heavy-duty amplifier. The model 950 is an audio-video preamplifier and 7.1 channel processor, claimed to be the first such product to launch below the $1000 price point. The $899 unit offers Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS-ES, DTS Neo:6, and Cirrus Logic's Extra Surround modes, in addition to offering the standard array of two-, five-, and six-channel outputs. It also includes analog inputs for 5.1 multichannel music from DVD-audio or SACD sources. Digital-to-analog processing is accomplished via premium chips from Cirrus, operating at 24bits/192kHz.

In February, the factory-direct operation will begin distributing the Outlaw Audio Model 770, a seven-channel amplifier rated at 200Wpc. Each channel features five pairs of parallel output devices for maximum reliability and current drive, according to information released in Las Vegas. The amp's power supply is built around a pair of toroidal transformers, allowing Outlaw to pack a lot of circuitry into a package only 17.5" deep.

Amplifier Technologies, Inc.(ATI) is also making headway in the multichannel market with its new AT2000, rated at 200W/8 ohms and 300W/4 ohms. The AT2000 is unique in that it can be configured for two to seven channels simply by installing plug-in modules. Price varies according to the number of channels needed: $1495 for the two-channel AT2002, $2395 for the five-channel AT2005, and $2995 for the seven-channel AT2007. The new amplifier will be available in March.

Harman/Kardon is another company with new multichannel products. The Woodbury, NY–based company has just introduced its PA 4000, a versatile eight-channel power amp that puts out 45Wpc in eight-channel mode. In bridged mode, the PA 4000 delivers four channels of 100W each. It can also be configured for two 100W channels and four 45W, ideal for Dolby 5.1 systems. Suggested list price is $899.

H/K is also promoting its new AVR 8000, a THX-Ultra certified A/V receiver claimed to be "the world's most advanced." It can decode "every multichannel surround format available," as well as offering 24bit/192kHz DACs, HDCD processing, and MP3 decoding. The AVR's amp section is capable of outputting 110W x 5 of low-distortion audio; H/K claims the unit is capable of 85 amperes of peak current. Video highlights include HDTV-compatible component video switching, front panel A/V and digital inputs, and second-zone remote control. The $2799 AVR 8000 can also be used as the heart of a multi-room, multi-zone system.

Sharp Electronics is demonstrating three "1-Bit Super Home Theater" products, the SM-SX200, the DX-SX200, and the SO-SX200. A 200Wpc amplifier, the SM-SX200's digital processing circuit has an astounding 5.6MHz sampling rate. The DM-SX200 is a multi-format multichannel disc player claimed to work with DVD-Video, DVD-Audio and SACD recordings. The SO-SX200 is a multichannel control unit that combines the amp and player into one elegant system. Prices and availability will be announced soon, Sharp representatives told us.

JVC Company of America hopes to take the guesswork out of setting up home theater systems. The company is showing two new 5.1-channel receivers, the RX-DV5Sl and the RX-DV3SL, that feature intuitive onscreen displays (OSDs) that make system configuration and calibration easy. Both units support Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Pro Logic II, and offer progressive video outputs in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. JVC claims that the RX-DV5SL will also decode DVD-Audio discs. It should be available in September at around $550 retail. The RX-DV3SL won't have DVD-A capability, but will sell for $100 less. It will arrive at retailers in July.