CES 2003: New SACD Players from Zenith and Pioneer [HFR]

CES: Earlier today, a series of vendors held press conferences to announce their new products one day prior to the start of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2003). This enables these companies to get the undivided attention of the media before the show starts. And gives reporters some early CES news.

In the area of SACD player news, we heard about new SACD capable players from Pioneer and Zenith. We also heard some tidbits from Philips and Sony. Here are today’s highlights in the SACD arena:

Zenith Announces Its First SACD/DVD-A Player
Zenith announced several new DVD products including three single disc DVD Video players: the models DVB312, DVB317 and DVB318. All three of these models include progressive scan DVD Video playback and MP3 decoding, compatibility with DVD Videos, CDs and CD-R/CD-RW discs, and JPEG and WMA files; and component, progressive scan, and S-video outputs. In addition the DVB317 and DVB318 also include a variable-speed shuttle on the remote control, and digital audio outputs.

Of interest to high resolution audio fans will be the DVB317 player that adds DVD Audio playback and the DVB318 which adds Super Audio CD and DVD Audio to the feature list. All three of these new DVD players from Zenith are scheduled to be released in the 2nd Quarter of 2003 at prices of under $100 (DVB312), $150 (DVB317) and $200 (DVB318).

Pioneer Announces 3 New SACD/DVD-A Products
Pioneer announced two new products with both SACD and DVD-A playback. The new DV-563A is a single disc DVD Video player that features playback of compressed music formats, progressive scan, and a photo viewer for digital images. In addition, the DV-563A plays both Super Audio CD and DVD Audio discs. Other features in the DV-563A include bass management, DVD-R/RW playback, separate audio and video circuits, 10-bit video signal processing, twin-Wave Laser Pickup for CD, CD-Video, CD-R, and CD-RW playback, Dolby Digital and DTS outputs, Component and S-Video output, Pioneer’s “Viterbi” Error Correction system and slow motion playback. The DV-563A is scheduled to be available in June at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $270.

Pioneer also announced a line of five “home theater in a box” systems. Two of these models – the HTD-630DV and the HTD-530DV – will include SACD and DVD-A playback. Both of these models feature progressive scan DVD playback, DTS-ES and Dolby Digital EX and Pro Logic II decoding and a 96/24 digital to analog converter. They also feature 600 watts of power, a 5 disc changer, front speakers, a subwoofer, center channel and surround speakers. The HTD-630DV is distinguished from the 530DV model through its use of wireless surround channel speakers.

The HTD-630DV and HTD-530DV systems will be available in the summer. No pricing information was available at the announcement on these two upcoming products.

Philips and Sony Hold Their News For Friday
Unlike Zenith and Pioneer, the story on SACD products was a bit different today from Philips and Sony. At the Philips Press Event, 5 large speakers were set up and were playing several tracks from Multichannel SACDs including “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and “2 Way” by Ginuwine as the audience filed in the room. When the event started, mention was made of the Multichannel SACD intro and Philips’ pride in the format’s success to date and Philips’ role in that process. Attendees were then told to be sure and attend a Press Conference on Friday night where some SACD industry announcements would be made.

At the Sony Press Event, SACD got a bit more play with Fujio Nishida, the President of Sony Electronics America touting the high quality audio and video playback of the Sony NS999ES Multichannel SACD/DVD Video Player that was released last October (see web link below for more details). But that was about it for SACD news at Sony tonight.

After the formal presentation, I did wander over to the Sony booth where both the NS999ES and XA777ES Multichannel SACD players were on display. One of the Sony representatives told me that Sony wouldn’t be announcing any new SACD players this week at CES. Instead, new SACD player announcements from Sony will come later in the year. So we’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

But speaking of CES, he also suggested that I be sure to attend the Friday evening SACD News event for some very interesting SACD developments. So, I’ll be sure to drop by the Friday event and let you know what is announced.