This week I spent some time at D&M Holdings (Umbrella Company of Denon and Marantz among other companies) headquarters in NJ as they gave select journalists a pre-CES 2007 preview. Much like the Ghost of Christmas Future in Dickens' A Christmas Carol. OK. You ask what does this have to do with Digital TV? Well, they realize that to fully appreciate 1080p and HDTV, you need good audio. And, not just good audio, but audio and that also includes video processing and scaling.
Denon currently holds the number 2 share in Receivers/Amps/Tuners (at 19.1-percent for 2006 up from 17.1-percent in 2005) behind Sony. Denon's vision of the future of the Connect Home is that the AV Receiver is the central device that controls and processes all signals coming into the home. In, a sense, it's a true A/V media server. The first message that Denon wanted to impart was the fact that all of its AV Receivers in 2007, which are scheduled for mid-year introduction will include HDMI version 1.3. As well, these receivers will support 36-bit Deep Color, and 1080p pass-thru. Depending on the specific receiver model, select devices will include video processing by Silicon Optix, Faroudja, and Analog Devices. And, high-end models include DolbyTrue HD, and DTS Master HD surround sound decoding. Several models will include Dolby Digital Plus processing.
Now, a few weeks ago, there were several stories relating to next-generation optical discs were posted on Digital TV DesignLine and EE Times this week regarding ICs and chipsets from Broadcom, STMicroelectronics, and NEC Electronics that will finally allow true 'Universal' DVD players that can decode and playback both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc. These machines will offer the "best of both worlds" and allow the consumer to buy into the future of high definition DVD. As early as CES 2007 we could see the first products announced that will accommodate this technological feat.
At that time, I speculated that major audio brands have been waiting for these chipsets. I spent some time talking to D&M key executive and product planners from Denon and Marantz. While they would now confirm or deny actually having a product, my gut told me that it is certainly under development. Although, they acknowledged that if would be truly difficult to come out with a true universal high-definition player in 2007 (for any audio company) as the engineering has not been done. So, while the chipsets and optical drives will be come available next year, complete R & D must take place. So, the estimation was that it could be late 2007/early 2008 for a universal hi def player that played everything from CDs, DVDs, HD DVD, Blu-ray, and possibly DVD-Audio and SACD. While it would not be inexpensive, it would certainly find its ways into the Connect Homes of early adopters and custom installations. More to follow.