7.1 Surround Sound Now in Video Streaming Services – Netflix streams certain titles in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1- a codec better than standard DD 5.1 but not lossless as with Dolby HD on Blu-rays. A number of terrestrial TV broadcasters, IPTV services, cable operators and satellite services have also followed suit on some titles. 7.1 surround is a further step because not that many movies have used the 7.1 channel codec (only about 30 total so far), with two surround back channels (which we feel are next to useless, frankly). But VUDU, the Wal-Mart-owned subscription-free VOD streaming movie service has been offering Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in Dolby Digital Plus 7.1; they have been doing DD-Plus 5.1 for several years.
Marantz Two-Channel Hi-Fi Series Grows – Let’s dispense with 5.1 of those 7.1 channels to report on Marantz’ basic two channel series. They have added the CD6004 CD player at $499 and the PM6004 integrated amp at $599. The player adds a USB port to the features of their $349 player; it streams from an iPod, iPhone, connected hard drive or a USB drive. It plays MP3/WMA CDs, stereo SACDs, and displays metadata and CD Text if available. The integrated amp, whose power was not listed, joins two other integrated amps in the Hi-Fi series, and has a torroidal transformer, current-feedback amplication and HDAM circuitry, as with Marantz’s higher-level Reference amps. It has five line inputs, two line outputs, and a MM phono stage.
SiriusXM & Pandora News – Satellite radio service SiriusXM has launched at Best Buy stores its first tuner compatible with its new v2.0 service. It will also expand distribution to 2500 retailers nationwide by the holiday shopping season. The $139 tuner receives 22 additional channels, including more Hispanic-oriented channels. Additional programming will be announced in the coming months. It will include additional comedy channels and more live sports talk programming, as well as Krishna Das Yoga Radio. The additional services are included in the SiriusXM $12.95 per month subscription plan, and are also available thru the company’s smartphone apps and their Internet-streaming service. The company claims that new modulation and compression techniques effectively deliver 25% more bandwidth capacity without reducing the broadcast quality on existing channels. The unit’s including car-docking kit hooks it up with a car stereo system and an optional home-system-docking kit is also available. The unit is called The Edge and it allows pause, rewind and replay for up to 30 minutes of live satellite radio, displays artists’ names, song titles and channel information. A one-touch jumping feature lets users jump to a traffic and weather channel for a particular area, and then jump back to a previously listener channel.
Meanwhile, Pandora Internet Radio—which is free if you don’t mind a few infrequent short commercials—is being offered in more aftermarket car audio head units (Alpine, JVC, Kenwood, Pioneer, Sony), and recently was added to Buick’s IntelliLink Infotainment system. The Buick system uses either Bluetooth or USB to connect a Pandora-equipped smartphone to a 7 or 8-inch color touchscreen radio to access the user’s personalized Pandora stations (voice commands can also be delivered). Other 2012 cars with Pandora include certain models of Chevy, Mustang, Lincoln, Hyundai, Toyota, GMC, Ford Fiesta, Mini, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
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