THE ANNUAL Consumer Electronics Show is just over. I couldn't get there this year, but it will be coming to me in waves of press releases over the next couple of months. The first batch is here already. There's a lot there, so I'll get right to it.
RCA says "Think Digital" and backs up that slogan with some all-in-one digital television receivers that can handle locally transmitted DTV and HDV broadcasts, DirecTV and USSB satellite programming, and of course conventional over-the-air and cable-delivered analog broadcasts.
Those new sets have wide-screen 55- and 61-inch displays and are designed to operate as closely to current analog sets as the CA and Proscan engineers could manage. As you can imagine, these sets have impressive price tags as well as impressive features. The suggested retail for the RCA P55000 is $6,999. The Proscan PS61000 has a suggested retail of $7,999.
RCA also has a set-top digital TV converter that will adapt current conventional television receivers to the new technology. This model RCA DTC100 converter is a hotshot product that offers many of the features of the TV sets described above. It won a Best of Show award in the CES Innovations Design and Engineering competition. Suggested retail is $649.
Obviously, two things need to happen as part of the process of converting the nation to digital TV. There must be, and the FCC has decreed that within a few years there will be, general availability of DTV broadcasts. And the prices of the gear must drop drastically. I'd say that about one-tenth of the current levels would be about right.
For now, we are going to see all-out designs that show off all that the new technology can accomplish, and those products are bound to be expensive. Soon the digital TV products will be more moderately designed in terms of features, size and cost. Obviously a 55-inch TV set won't fit in many kitchens, bedrooms, offices, dorm rooms or other places where we now enjoy moderately sized and economically priced TV sets. And the idea of buying a $649 converter to use with a $150 TV receiver is just plain silly.
I'm watching and waiting to see what the first 19-inch digital TV sets will look like and will cost. As soon as they appear, I'll pass the word.
The hot new audio-video product category is the pre-pro. That's home theater geek speak for preamplifier-processor. The pre-pro is an audio-video receiver without the amplifier channels and usually without the AM-FM tuner section. It's a nice way to set up a home theater installation. Choose a pre-pro to handle switching and control tasks and add external amplifier power.
Rotel used the CES to introduce a high-performance pre-pro, the model RSP 985. This relatively compact unit includes Dolby Digital, DTS, THX and Dolby Pro Logic processing. With six AV inputs and six digital inputs, this unit can deal comfortably with almost any of today's audio or video signals. Like most of today's similar units, the RSP 985 does not directly accept turntable input. But also like many AV control centers, the Rotel RS 985 has a six-channel input that can deal with any foreseeable (but currently undetermined) surround-sound format. Suggested retail price for the Rotel RSP 985 pre-pro is $1,999.
Rotel will also provide the power for your home theater system in a totally redesigned version of the RB 985 multichannel power amplifier. The RB 985 Mk II puts out 10 watts of power in each of five channels. Yes. Five channels rather than the six mentioned above. That's because the sixth channel of a home theater system is the low-frequency-effects channel and most subwoofers today have their own amplifiers. The RB 85 lists for $999.
PSB Speakers, located just a few miles from here in Pickering, Ont., has taken a fresh look at its high-flying Stratus Silver tower speakers and introduced the Stratus Silver-i. A change that seems to be mostly cosmetic, the addition of a pedestal base, actually directly affects performance. It provides just a bit more enclosure volume, which translates into increased efficiency and deeper bass response. It looks good, too.
PSB offers the Stratus Silver-i in black ash or dark cherry wood veneers for $1,799 a pair and in high-gloss black for $1,999 a pair.
You can buy a pair of PSB Alpha mini-speakers as part of the new and unique NAD Music System.
The electronic heart of the system is NAD's new L40 CD receiver, which combines CD player, FM stereo tuner, amplifier and control center. The compact system even includes a pair of five-foot premium speaker cables from Phoenix Gold. Price of the complete NAD Music System is $799. You can buy the L40 CD receiver by itself for $599.