July 14th, 2016 · Comments Off on Yamaha unveils the future of MusicCast multiroom wireless audio amid Moto GP bikes
I recently went to the Yamaha Motor HQ in Milan. Not to look at motorbikes mind, although there was a lot of Moto GP machinery there, but to get a preview of Yamaha’s AV and hi-fi range for the rest of 2016.
It was a flying visit – a 6-am Heathrow check-in, returning the next day – but pretty fascinating none the less.
The event, which attracted media from all over Europe, featured a raft of senior Yamaha management. Jun Nishimura, AV Business Unit Director of Yamaha Corporation Japan, opened with a business update, followed by an introduction by Koichi Tsuji, General Manager of Yamaha’s Motor Sports Development Division.
There was even a taped welcome from The Doctor, Valentino Rossi. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it in person, but he sent one of his bikes, so that was OK. There was also a segment hosted by Fabrice Laurent, Director, Europe AV Division, Yamaha Music Europe GmbH, and finally, a presentation by Michael Geise, Product Manager, for Yamaha’s Europe AV Division.
MusicCast was the big over-arching story. There were no new AV receivers announced, although I did get a hands-on with some models announced earlier this year.
“The MusicCast contribution to Yamaha’s total AV business is now more than 40 per cent,” revealed Jun Nishimura. He said there were a number of reasons for its success – “the variety of products and solutions, allowing customers to select by lifestyles and enthusiasm,” then build and sound quality. “Because we develop in house, we can offer excellent stability,” he added. “Yamaha has some twenty years of experience with network products.” Not many people know that.
Of the new product launches, I particularly likes the look of two new ‘hub products’, the 70w stereo WXA-50 amp and WXC-50 pre-amp. These are ultra compact units, that will retail for £400 and £300 respectively this summer. You can use them for standalone hi-fi system; both components support 24-bit 192 kHz Hi-Res Audio streaming, and have AirPlay compatibility with Bluetooth, or upgrade other bits of kit.
The pre-amp can be used to turn any AV receiver or amplifier into a MusicCast component, while the WXA-50 amplifier is small enough to be wall-mounted behind a TV on a shared Vesa mount. Add a pair of loudspeakers and you not only have a kick-ass Tv sound system, but you can effectively turn the TV into a MusicCast client.
The company also announced an expanded soundbar range. Joining the Dolby Atmos enabled YSP-5600 and YSP-1600, is the new £900 7.1 channel YSP-2700 Digital Sound Projector with wireless subwoofer and an entry-level soundbar, the £350 YAS-306.
The YSP-2700 utilises an array of 16 controllable drivers to steer and reflect sound around your listening room. The system has been around for a number of years, and works well, particularly in boxy reflective rooms.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the trip though came from the brand’s musical instrument division, which unveiled the Disklavier Enspire, the first multi-room player piano with built-in MusicCast.
Used with the brand’s Disklavier Radio streaming service, you can actually have Jamie Cullum virtually playing the piano around your house. This was touted as a good thing. “We want to turn your entire home into a true concert hall,” declared Michael Geise. The multiroom piano is available from August.
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Tags: Home cinema · Multiroom · Trade
Both Panasonic and Sony have pledged additional support to help the Japanese earthquake relief effort. Panasonic, through its new subsidiary Sanyo, is donating 4000 solar-powered lanterns. This comes on top of radio, flashlight and battery donations. Sony similarly is contributing radios to help with communications. Here are the releases from the two companies:
Panasonic Announces Additional Aid for Tohoku Earthquake Victims
Osaka, Japan – Panasonic Corporation, a world leading consumer electronics company, announced today the company will donate 4,000 units of solar LED lanterns, in addition to the monetary and in-kind contributions Panasonic pledged earlier to aid victims of the earthquake which struck Tohoku area on March 11.
Panasonic has already committed 300 million yen monetary contributions and in-kind donations of 10,000 units each of radios and flashlights and 500,000 dry batteries on March 12. The solar LED lanterns are manufactured by SANYO Electric Co., Ltd., a Panasonic Group company.
Panasonic and its Workers Unions Association will also launch a fund-raising campaign involving employees of the Panasonic Group companies to support the affected area.
Panasonic and its employees express deep sympathy for victims and sincerely hope for swift recovery of the areas affected by the disaster.
Sony Support for Japan Earthquake Relief Efforts
(Tokyo, March 13, 2011) Sony Corporation today announced that, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the northern region of Japan on March 11, Sony and its group companies will donate 300 million Japanese yen to help relief and recovery efforts in communities affected. Additionally, a disaster relief fund will collect donations across the Sony Group from employees worldwide, and their contributions will be matched by the company through a matching gifts program. The company will also donate 30,000 Sony radios to assist the relief of earthquake victims, while the Sony Group will prepare further product donations going forward, taking into account the local needs.
The Tohoku region is historically important for Sony, with a high concentration of manufacturing sites, and many employees and their families have also been affected by these devastating events.
“In times like these, we are reminded of how important and fragile we are and of the positive impact we can have – both as individuals and, collectively, as a Company – to assist those in need,” said Howard Stringer, Chairman, CEO and President, Sony Corporation.“We will continue to make the utmost effort to help the swift recovery of the affected communities in the region.”
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March 14th, 2011 · Comments Off on Panasonic issues statement on Quake damage to its facilities in Tohoku region
Panasonic Effect Of Earthquake In The Tohoku Region On Business Operations – TheStreet
Panasonic Japan has issued the following press release following the Earthquake:
Panasonic Corporation (NYSE:PC) (TSE:6752) “Panasonic” extends its condolences to everyone who has been affected by the major earthquake in the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, 2011. The effects to our group as of today are as follows.
Damage to Panasonic Group (as of March 14, 2011, 11:00 a.m. JST)
Damage to personnel
Some minor injuries to the employees are reported in our group companies, including AVC Networks Company Fukushima Factory (manufacturing digital cameras), AVC Networks Company Sendai Factory (manufacturing optical pickups), Panasonic Electric Works Co., Ltd. Koriyama Factory (manufacturing electronic materials), SANYO Electric Co., Ltd. Gunma Factory (manufacturing washer/dryers etc). We are currently continuing to gather safety information of our personnel.
Damage to equipment and buildings
Any major fire and collapse of buildings are not reported.
Damage to our production
We are suspending operations in the factory affected by the earthquake and continuing to evaluate further details of the damage.
Forecast of effect by the damage to our business performances
The damage caused by the earthquake is uncertain at the moment. An announcement will be made promptly if a significant impact on Panasonic’s consolidated financial outlook for fiscal 2011 is foreseen.
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Yamaha Music UK has opened the doors of a dedicated Audio Visual Division and has appointed industry veteran (and my good chum) Ian Galloway as Divisional Director. Galloway (pictured above, left) played a pivotal role in the 1981 UK re-launch of Yamaha Hi-Fi, and helped form Yamaha Electronics UK in 1986. He went on to lead the company through the Nineties, during which time Yamaha became the UK’s dominant AV receiver brand.
The new group will encompass Hi-Fi, AV receivers, system products, home cinema speakers, digital sound projectors and desktop audio products. The company says the move shows its determination to expand Yamaha’s UK AV business, after losing share in recent years to Onkyo and others.
Of his return to the Yamaha fold full-time, Galloway says: “I am inspired and excited by my appointment; I think it makes a big statement to the industry as regards the future direction of Yamaha AV & Hi-Fi products. We have a great team and a brilliant R&D and product development plan. I also look forward to continuing to bringing Yamaha’s unique and distinctive musical heritage to our AV marketing activities.”
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Tags: Corporate · Home cinema · Trade
Panasonic is revamping its GUI for 2011. The brand has always taken a very conservative approach to its user interface, keeping it largely unchanged over the years. As these shots reveal, however, it is giving its 2011 line-up of Blu-ray players a face-lift. I took the snaps during a tech briefing about the upcoming BDT110 and BDT210 decks. There’s plenty more that’s new under the hood for 2011, too.
Improved picture processing plus better networking seems to be the order of the day. However perhaps the coolest thing about the new players is the gesture control used to eject the disc tray. No more stabbing little buttons with fingers. It’s about time.
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Tags: 3D · HD DVD and Blu-ray
January 31st, 2011 · Comments Off on Panasonic fine-tunes Blu-ray codec for movies on SD card
An interesting snippet emerged while I was having lunch with Masayuki Kozuka, who heads up R&D for Panasonic’s Media and Content Alliance office. He confided that PHL (aka Panasonic Hollywood Laboratories), the power house behind the development of the Blu-ray 3D specification was currently working on an optimized version of the MPEG4 AVC High Profile codec specifically for SD card.
“We are tuning AVC High Profile for use on SD cards,” he told me. “The idea is to deliver the best possible picture quality on SD card.” His inference was that films could be released in a memory card format as well as BD and DVD. “It’s a bit like Digital Copy,” he added. “Of course we prefer to promote the Blu-ray format, but we think its important to keep compatibility across media. So we are talking to studios at the moment. They are interested…”
Coincidentally, this comes a few weeks after Japanese solid state specialist Hagiwara released the Michael Jackson documentary This is It on a 2GB USB flash memory and a 1GB micro SD card, for the Japanese market only. The former was called a PC Edition, and was encoded in WMV at 720×406 resolution. The SD card Mobile Edition is intended for use in mobile phones.
Films have turned up on various solid state drives over the past few years, usually as part of a promotion, but there’s been no coherent attempt to distribute movies in a high-quality video format on memory cards by the Hollywood studios. Could that be about to change? It would be a curious development given the push toward streaming, but there is certainly no shortage of display devices that an SD movie card could be plugged into. Watch this space.
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Tags: HD DVD and Blu-ray · Home cinema · Trade
The TX-NR5008 is the latest flagship AV receiver from Onkyo. The brand has been the dominant player in the market since 2009, often being the first to introduce new receiver technology. The fact that it has consistently got its product development timing right in such a fast moving market is a key reason for its success. Of course it helps that the AVRs tend to sound good too.
I’ve been a fan of the brand for some years now. Sensing the buzz building around the brand early on, I turned up on its doorstep in Osaka to find out what was making the company tick.
This family-run business was admittedly a little perplexed to find me stalking them on their home turf (apparently no one had done that before), but what I learnt over the following few days was that Onkyo, with a proud heritage in audio stretching back more than sixty years, was as passionate about AV as I was. Suddenly I began to take them a lot more seriously, and the kind of coverage they received in the UK changed.
The TX-NR5008 is an interesting AVR in so much as it has a rather different character than previous models. It’s less visceral; to be honest I liked this facet of the Onkyo sound as it made home cinema so much fun. When I questioned the change with the brand, it confessed that the TX-NR5008 had been tuned with a different set of priorities. The aim was to tone down the aggressive home theatre nature and make it more musical. The thinking behind this was that a more mellow Onkyo would review better in certain quarters. The company may well be right. I just wonder if the kind of buyer prepared to pay over two grand for a hulking big AVR wants mellow. I suspect what they actually want is the kind of gamma-ray slam that Onkyo has made a virtue of. For more read my review over at Home Cinema Choice.
Exclusive Review: Onkyo’s TX-NR5008 flagship AVR | Home Cinema Choice
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Tags: Hi-fi · Home cinema
If you were hanging on for the release of Avatar 3D on Blu-ray, then you might be Pandora-less for a little longer than anticipated. Panasonic has confirmed to me that it’s nabbed the exclusive global distribution rights to the blockbuster title until February 2012. Until that point, it will only be available as a retail incentive to buyers of the brand’s 3DTVs and Blu-ray players.
The news will come as a blow to those who already own 3D screens but were looking forward to adding the world’s most popular 3D movie to their collections. It was widely anticipated that the 3D edition would hit the UK market early 2011. However, Panasonic UK’s press officer Sara Barrett told me, “Just to confirm the Avatar bundle deal does run until Feb 2012.”
This will doubtless bolster the second hand market for the rare disc. Copies are already trading in excess of £80 on eBay.
The length of the Avatar deal is a coup for the Japanese brand which has long been associated with the production, but it does highlight the content dilemma facing 3D fans as they struggle to justify the purchase of new screens when so little 3D Blu-ray material is available to buy on the open market. For the record, the 3D presentation is breathtakingly good. Read my review of the disc over on www.T3.com
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Tags: 3D · Home cinema · Plasma