Hot New HT Products

The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) Expo is increasingly the venue for new product debuts. Among the hot new home theater products on display in Indianapolis are the world's first cable-ready HDTV, from Panasonic and the world's first combo DVD/DVD-A/SACD player with high definition multimedia interface (HDMI), from Pioneer.

Leveraging "plug'n'play" agreements reached last year by the cable industry and electronics makers, Panasonic's PT-53WXD63 is a 53" widescreen (16:9) high-definition projection set, distinguished as the first integrated DTV set that can connect directly to HD cable feeds, without the need for an external tuner or converter box. Certified by CableLabs, the PT-53WXD63 needs only an authorized "CableCARD" to begin receiving high definition and premium channels without a set-top box (STB).

The new cable-ready HDTV receiver is at the forefront of a wave of new cable-ready products. "Panasonic plans to support the Digital Tuner Mandate not only by making models that include the digital tuner, but by adding the CableCard feature to all our ATSC models as well," said Ed Wolff, a Panasonic vice president of merchandising. "In the next few years our industry will undergo a remarkable change. We will be adding ATSC tuners into all our TV products." Over the next 90 days, Panasonic will roll out six new models with ATSC/CableCard capability, Wolff stated. The $2299.95 PT-53WXD63 also features Photo Viewer SD Memory Card and PCMCIA card slots for viewing still picture images on the TV screen. The set also has an HDMI connector with HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection), making it even easier to incorporate into a home theater.

HDMI is also a hot buzzword at Pioneer Electronics, which has introduced what it claims is the world's first universal disc player (DVD/DVD-Audio/SACD) with that interface. The Pioneer DV-59AVi is a new reference DVD player that offers both HDMI and i.LINK connectors for "the best in both digital audio and digital video connectivity." According to Pioneer, HDMI connectivity gives the DVD player "greater functionality," because its pure digital connection eliminates unnecessary processing—in particular, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversions that can degrade signals. "i.LINK" is Pioneer's name for the IEEE 1394 interface, an industry standardized four-pin format also known as "FireWire."

High-bandwidth digital connections provide a "one-wire high-bandwidth solution for both audio and video, while still maintaining copyright protection," said Russ Johnston, senior vice president of marketing for Pioneer Electronics USA. "Offering a DVD player with a has been a goal of ours for some time now. The DV-59AVi marks the beginning of a new era in DVD player technology and connectivity."

In addition to its high-definition audio capabilities, the DV-59Avi features 216MHz/14-bit video processing and Pioneer's "PureCinema" progressive scan circuit to faithfully reproduce film-originated material using 2:3 pull-down "inverse telecine technology." A "T-REX" chip allowing for up-conversion of traditional DVD video signals to high definition resolution. The DV-59Avi offers "optimal video transfer and processing" and progressive scan output, and a host of user-adjustable video tweaks, including progressive motion, PureCinema, YNR, CNR, sharpness, detail, white level, black level, gamma, black setup, hue, chroma level, and chroma delay.

The DV-59AVi has three Burr Brown 192kHz/24-bit chipsets for audio processing, six-channel analog audio output, bass management, and compatibility with Dolby Digital, DTS and SRS TruSurround. The company's proprietary Legato Link Pro is claimed to offer "refined frequency range expansion technology for better music." The player is said to offer "superior DVD video playback" with the ability to scale a typical DVD video signal to HD quality. Its ability to playback both DVD-Audio discs and Super Audio CDs should guarantee the DV-59Avi a home in many upscale entertainment systems. Suggested price will be $1600, with availability sometime this winter.