The overwhelming trend in flat-panel pricing, as any dealer can attest, is sharply downward, in the direction of commodity status. But Pioneer Electronics is going against that grain, eschewing commodity pricing and the customers that seek it out, to focus on a new high-quality, premium-brand strategy and product line. “This is game-changing technology,” said Russ Johnston, senior vice president of marketing and product planning for Pioneer USA.
The plasma manufacturer next month will begin shipping an eighth-generation line developed under the codename “Project Kuro” (the Japanese word translates to “black”). The line will feature radically re-engineered panel, filter and video processor technologies that aim at providing significantly deeper black-level reproduction than Pioneer’s first-tier competitors currently provide. “The flat-panel engineering team was asked to design these displays from scratch,” explained Haga. CustomRetailer first reported on this ambitious project during January’s Consumer Electronics Show.
The eight Project Kuro models will roll out through September. They include 42-, 50- and 60-inch screen sizes with prices ranging from $2,700 through $7,500. Four models (two with 1,080p resolution and two with XGA resolution) are in the specialty dealer-oriented Elite range and four are in the regular Pioneer range (also two 1,080p and two XGA models).
The sets boast a new panel cell structure with a new electron source at the base of the cell; Johnston claimed it will reduce idling luminance by 80 percent over previous panels and affect an increase in the gradation in darker scenes threefold. A new direct color filter, he added, contributes to the reduction of secondary reflections and ambient light, while a new video signal processor includes an “optimum” mode that automatically sorts content based on the input signal and adjusts parameters based both on the source and on factors such as room lighting conditions.
Leveraging its 70-year history in audio product development, Pioneer said it has also beefed up the speaker and amplification quality on the new sets. All are supplied with a detachable-speaker complement.