Runco to announce 200-disc DVD changer at CES

We knew it had to happen---it was merely a matter of who and when. Sony or Pioneer seemed likely candidates to first blaze the multi-DVD trail, maybe with a five-disc changer to ease us into the concept, but high-end video-projection company Runco has gotten a jump on both of those giants.

The industry's first 200-disc DVD changer, the Runco SAR-200, is officially scheduled for debut at the upcoming Winter CES. Runco also expects the SAR-200 to be THX-certified. Release date is slated for the end of January 1998, at a retail price of US$14,995.

The multi-DVD changer is a two-piece system comprising the SAR Controller and the SAR-200 transport, connected via a proprietary control cable and an SCSI interconnect. The transport is based on a highly modified Sony 200-disc changer, and also sports a single-disc tray for popping in the occasional rented DVD or quick demo disc.

Audio and video decoding take place in the SAR Controller, which currently supports Dolby Digital (AC-3), with plans for a DTS upgrade soon. In fact, the controller is based on an open architecture that will accommodate a wide variety of products in the coming months. The unit also includes a fax/modem port for software upgrades and remote troubleshooting---a great feature in this world of uncertain standards. According to Runco tech Matt Sanchez, with this phone connection and appropriate upgrades in place, the SAR-200 may likely support the renegade DVD variation, Divx, if needed.

In conjunction with a surround processor like the Theta Casablanca, the SAR Controller can take over control management of all aspects of a system. Operating much like an AMX or Crestron controller, the SAR will likely help define a new product niche for well-heeled home-theater/multiroom systems.

In addition to the SAR-200, Runco will present two new video projectors at CES. The company's 8" CRT projector, the DTV-991, will be driven by the SC-4200 combination line-doubler/-quadrupler, with anamorphic DVD as source. Also debuting at CES will be a three-chip DLP projector, the LightAmp DLP-3, which boasts a light-output rating of 3500 ANSI lumens.