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Recordable DVD, DVD-Audio Debut At CES

LAS VEGAS -- Amid the collection of black boxes in the Pioneer Electronics booth here at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) were two shiny gold prototypes of the future for Digital Versatile Disc (DVD). Pioneer demonstrated working models of both recordable DVD video and DVD-Audio. The recordable DVD prototype is based on a specification not yet settled upon by the DVD Forum, the trade body that designed the DVD specs.

Why hasn't the spec been finalized?
At least one Pioneer representative said it was because the competing interests are more interested in getting their piece of the pie than deciding what's best. Once the specification is finalized, Pioneer could have a player out in six months. The prototype player holds 4.7 gigabytes of data. Using a bit stream of 6-bits, the prototype model could save a little more than two hours of video to the rewritable disc. A final product could have a variable bit rate, which would be something like the SP, LP, and EP recording modes on VCRs. By lowering the bit rate, more video could be saved to the disc at a lower video quality.

The DVD Audio specification, on the other hand, has been finalized, and Pioneer and others are readying players for release by the end of this year or early in 2000. Kenwood America announced it would have a DVD-Audio player out by year-end. Pioneer was the only major vendor demonstrating DVD-Audio players at the show, and said by next year a new deck could be shown that combines DVD-Video and DVD-Audio in one player. That machine would replace the DV-09, currently the top of the Pioneer DVD line, and sell for between $1,000 and $1,500.

Other vendors had their own DVD surprises in store. Panasonic, a division of Matsushita, announced the DVD-A320, the top of its DVD line, which would include both Dolby Digital and Digital Theater Sound (DTS) decoders. Dolby Digital and DTS are two high-fidelity surround-sound audio formats that just a few years ago sold for between $500 and $1,500 each. Now, both are in a unit that will sell for $599. Victor Company of Japan (JVC) also had a few surround-sound surprises up its sleeve. The company unveiled the XV-DX1BK, its entry into the Divx business, which has a built-in Dolby Digital decoder. The player, due in June, will sell for $699.95.

JVC also introduced the XV-701BK DVD player, which has a Dolby Digital decoder built into the unit for $599.95, and the RX-1028BK and RX-888BK amplifiers, both of which have Dolby Digital and DTS decoders. The 1028 will sell for $900 and the 888 will sell for $550.


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