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System Integration for the Connected Home

Home Theater

Onkyo Activates Built-in Chromecast

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Onkyo releases a firmware update to activate the Chromecast built-in audio audio streaming and voice control capability (via Google Home) in select 2016 home theatre and audio components.

Onkyo AVRChomecast built-in is the Google audio streaming platform allowing customers to share a wide selection of music, internet radio, podcasts and other programs from enabled apps. It is supported by iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android devices, Chromebooks and the Chrome browser on Mac, Windows and Linux PCs.

Streaming operates on 5/2.4GHz wifi for streaming with less buffering and fewer dropouts, and supports sampling rates of up to 48kHz for lossless sources. One can also use other apps during streaming, and no special device setup, password entry or pairing process is required.

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Oppo Intros UDP-205 "Audiophile" UHD Blu-ray Player

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Oppo announces a follow-up to the UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player-- the UDP-205, a player the company claims carries superior components for the audiophile set.

Oppo UDP-2015The UDP-2015 uses a pair of ES9038PRO DACs, flagship of the ESS Sabre Pro series, to deliver "best-in-class" audio performance. A toroidal transformer boosts player efficiency, while full metal construction ensure it is less prone to vibrations.

It also features an HDMI audio jitter reduction circuit, support for XLR balanced and RCA single-ended connectors, a set of 7.1-channel analogue outputs and an asynchronous USB DAC input with PCM and DSD file support.

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Yamaha Updates 2016 AVR Firmware

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Yamaha announces owners of a number of 2016 AV receivers will get the latest and shiniest in features, including support for Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma, via firmware update.

Yamaha AVRThe company is still to tell when the update will be available, but it confirms the AVR models getting it-- the RX-V681, RX-A860, RX-A1060, RX-A2060, RX-A3060 and CX-A5100. Some models already have other features making a fully-fledged Yamaha AVR, such as Dolby Atmos and Yamaha MusicCast multi-room streaming support.

As for firmware features, these are Dolby Vision, Hybrid-Log Gamma, Tidal and Deezer. Dolby Vision is the Dolby end-to-end solution for HDR video, currently present in LG and Sony TVs as well as Oppo and LG Blu-ray players. It also finds use by Netflix. Meanwhile Hybrid Log-Gamma is a backwards-compatible HDR broadcasting standard co-developed by BBC and NHK.

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Rotel Intros Home Theatre Surround Processor

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Rotel Electronics announces the RAP-1580-- a home theatre surround amplified processor with support for HDMI 2.0a hardware and Dolby Atmos DTS-X 7.1.4 processor.

Rotel RAP-1580The amplifier section of the RAP-1580 is built on a powerful A/B design, with seven 100W per channel and power from an own toroidal transformer. All channels also use Wolfson 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog converters. Inputs include x8 HDMI video inputs (2.0a), with x2 HDMI video outputs supporting 4K video (4:4:4 @ 60Hz 10-bit colour) and x3 inputs and both outputs enabled with HDCP 2.2.

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Onkyo Intros Mid-Range TX-NR676E

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Onkyo announces the TX-NR676E-- a 7.2-channel network AVR featuring next-generation A/V support, app-based streaming and multi-room audio capabilities.

Onkyo TX-NR676ERated at 160W per channel, the TX-NR676E supports HDMI HDCP 2.2 and is compatible with Onkyo FireConnect wireless speakers. Connectivity comes through x6 HDMI inputs on the back, as well as a front HDMI input and x2 HDMI outputs. Also included are a phono input, x3 digital audio inputs (x2 optical/x1 coax) and x6 analog audio inputs.

On the wireless side the AVR offers dual-band wifi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, Chromecast and DTS Play-Fi casting from supported apps and devices. Customers can also share audio to speakers in another room via powered zone 2 speaker outputs, and support for Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and TuneIn streaming is included. Onkyo Controller allows users to select music from connected NAS and USB sources.

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Panasonic Presents Soundbars, OLED TVs

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Panasonic takes on home theatre with the announcement of a pair of soundbars-- the SC-HTB488 and the SC-SB1 "soundbar concept"-- together with two OLED TVs, the EZ952 and a 77-inch version of the EZ1002.

Panasonic soundbarThe SC-HTB488 is a soundbar featuring 2 independent speakers and 200W total output. It pairs wirelessly with a subwoofer to add more bass to home cinema viewing, and also plays audio from mobile devices via Bluetooth connection. Customers can either wall-mount it or leave it free-standing, and it fits neatly beneath TVs without obscuring the view.

Meanwhile the SC-SB1 "soundbar concept" also has Bluetooth connectivity, as well as an HDMI connection with 4K pass-through. It offers 40W total power through 3-way speakers and "strong" bass via slit at the front, and measures just 43 x 5 x 12cm, making it a compact audio solution.

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Panasonic Intros 4K Blu-ray Players

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Panasonic sets to take advantage of the growing 4K market with the CES 2017 launch of a trio of UHD Blu-ray players-- the DMP-UB400, UB310 and UB300.

Panasonic UB300All models feature dual HDMI outputs, 4K Netflix streaming support and compatibility with high-resolution audio formats such as WAV, FLAC, ALAC and DSD (5.6MHz/2.8MHz). The UB400 also includes vacuum tube listening modes with 96kHz/192kHz upsampling. All players feature wifi connectivity except for the UB300.

Powering the players is the HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) processor, a 4K image engine developed by Panasonic Hollywood Labs. It upsamples native 4K/24p 4:2:0 Blu-ray discs to 4:4:4 4K/60p with 4:2:2 colour upsampling. Panasonic says colour accuracy remains high during upsampling, since it uses a "multi-tap process" to compare a number of pixels in additional to those in the upper and lower positions, creating optimal pixels.

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