2003 CES, Day One

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) officially starts Thursday, but tradition has established Wednesday as the day several major consumer electronics manufacturers hold press events, hoping to get their messages across before the full-scale onslaught of dealers.

And, as far as audio goes, that message is centered around both wired and wireless networked audio components. Pioneer, Panasonic, Onkyo, Rotel, Philips and others are emphasizing that all audio products should be connected to each other and the Internet, and be able to share content throughout a home. Pioneer went out of its way to state that networks will not necessarily involve a PC, but instead consist of dedicated music server-like components.

Philips' Gottfried Dutne said that his company will be using WiFI, Bluetooth, and other wireless technologies to enable products to share control and content. While audio networking was a hot-ticket item, there was a striking lack of emphasis on SACD hardware in the Philips presentation. Perhaps the company is holding back SACD news until the separate Sony and Philips SACD event scheduled for Friday night. (Sony's kickoff press conference, on the other hand, touched all bases, with home wireless networking, SACD, and high-definition video playback via a blue-laser disc player all mentioned and/or demonstrated. However, a Sony spokesman confirmed that the big SACD news will be announced Friday.)

Denon and Linn, on the other hand, premiered DVD-Audio/DVD-V/SACD players, thus joining the ranks of Pioneer, Marantz, Onkyo, and several others in offering universal machines. Denon's new model, the DVD-2900, is $999 at retail. It incorporates Burr-Brown DSD-1790 24-bit/192kHz audio D/A converters as well as full digital bass management for DVD-Audio and SACD with selectable crossover slopes. The new universal player from Linn, announced earlier last month, has been named the Unidisk 1.1.

The ranks of companies not offering universal players are rapidly dwindling—soon, it seems, they will boast only Sony and Philips.

The digital satellite radio battle is heating up with both Sirius and XM competing for market acceptance. XM revealed that it now has 360,000 subscribers and continues to make deals with auto makers such as Honda, Cadillac, and Nissan to install radios in new cars. Sirius, which boasts commercial-free service (XM runs commercials on most of its channels), is touting its new home receivers from Kenwood and Audiovox, which are expected to be available mid-2003. Sirius says the home receivers will display artist name, song title, channel name, and category. Sirius also demoed a live video broadcast over its network.

Just prior to the show, we received news that speaker manufacturer Atlantic Technology has been acquired by The OAC Group, a management and consulting firm headed by Oscar A. Ciornei. Since its founding in 1989, Atlantic Technology has been organized as a closely-held corporation, with Avi Shapira as Chairman and Peter Tribeman as president. Under the new organization, Ciornei will assume the position of CEO and Tribeman will become chairman of the board.