The new Lexicon MP-20 Media Processor is not yet shipping, but promises to be killer, both for your home theater and your bank account (the exact price has not yet been announced, but should be somewhere south--but not too far south--of $20,000). It incorporates Harman's new QuantumLogic audio processing (more on this below), 12.4 channels, 192/24-bit audio resolution, 8 HDMI 1.4a inputs, 1080p video scaling, a large front panel screen interface with soft buttons for selection the desired options, auto calibration and room EQ, and more.
You might want to start looking around for a great set of speaker stands (the ones GoldenEar Technology used were filled with sand and lead shot) or upgrade the shelving on your bookcase/wall because the new Aon 2 and Aon 3 from GoldenEar Technology are so f’superb they demand something extra f’special underneath them. The new Aons will catch your eye from the start thanks to their “truncated pyramidal construction” which results in a speaker cabinet that not only looks good but is also integral to the sound quality due to the absence of parallel cabinet walls and minimal front baffle area. Like the mind-blowing Triton Two towers from GoldenEar, the Aons incorporate the same High Velocity Folded Ribbon (HVFR) high-frequency driver. Each Aon model also has two side-mounted planar low-frequency radiators (8-inch in the Aon 3 and 6-inch in the Aon 2). The result of the way these drivers couple with the room, the Aon 3 (that’s the model I spent some time listening to) had an f’incredible amount of bass output. These speakers are sure to make some noise when they start shipping later this year for $399/each (Aon 2) and $499/each (Aon 3).
Harman announced and demonstrated a new audio processing format called QuantumLogic. Extremely complex, what it offers, on both the recording and playback end, is the ability to manipulate the signal in unprecedented ways. For example, it can isolate a solo singer, or just the orchestra, or even just the ambience, and process and move it around in the sound field in almost any way the user (or the recording engineer) desires. The extraction process is nearly total. The process provides extreme flexibility for enhancing (or, it must be said, compromising) the sound, again either on recording or playback. You'll be hearing a lot more about it both here and elsewhere in the future.
The first product to include QuantumLogic will be Lexicon's new MP-20 Media Processor. It has also been implemented in a Ferrari which was on display on the show floor, but that's hardly a mass market item (nor is the five-figure processor!).
The new Polk LSiM flagship lineup was mentioned in an earlier blog, but here's a shot of the whole family, from the top of the line LSiM 707 floorstanders ($4000/pr) on down to the two different center channels speakers (both of them 3-ways). This range was announced and first shown as last year's CEDIA, but production has been much delayed (see below for one reason why!). But they are now ready to ship. We're anticipating a review system real soon now.
JBL showed, but did not demonstrate, its new Studio 5 series. Intriguingly styled, with the tweeter horn cleverly incorporated into the cabinet structure, it consists of 5 models: the Studio 530 bookshelf ($689/pr), the Studio 580 tower with dual 6.5-inch woofers ($899 each), the Studio 590 with dual 8-inch woofers ($1119 each), the Studio 520C center, and the Studio 550P sub ($689).
Kaleidescape's CD/DVD/Blu-ray server gets around the copy protection issue with Blu-rays by having the user load his or her Blu-rays into this carousel-like unit--the Vault. The discs are then loaded onto hard drive servers and played from there. But they will only play from the server if the unit confirms that they are still in the Vault. If not, the server will no longer play the disc file. That's not a limitation with CDs or DVDs, which can also be loaded into the Vault, but can be removed (but still play) after copying onto the hard drives. The Vault holds over 300 discs, but the number of Blu-rays you can load will depend on how big a server you purchase. No word on whether the pretty blue light is standard or just a show special.
KEF's new R-series, mentioned in an earlier blog, was inspired by KEF's far pricier Blade ($30,000/pair), shown here in its dress whites. It sounded surprisingly good on the open show floor, with a tight, punchy bass that was undoubtedly helped by the lack of room modes--though the latter can hardly be blamed on any speaker. When I placed by hand on the composite cabinet during those heavy kick-drum hits, I felt practically nothing.
I reviewed the Aragon 8008 amplifier for Stereophile back in the mid-'90s and loved it. I often wished I'd bought it, in fact, as it was a near perfect match for my Energy Veritas v2.8 speakers. When Mondial (the original source company) folded, the Aragon line (and the lower end but also well-regarded Acurus products) was acquired by Klipsch. That company never really supported either of these lines. The rights were recently acquired by a company called Indy Audio Labs, which has just re-launched the 2-, 5-, and 7-channel Acurus amplifiers (200w/ch intro 8 ohms, all).
Later this year Indy plans to re-introduce the Aragon 8008 mkIII, 2-channels at 200W/ch (8 ohms) at $4000 and the Iridium, a 400W (8 ohms) differential monoblock, successor to the Aragon Palladium, at $4000 each. Apart from some added control and status features, the amps are said to be nearly identical in design to the earlier versions, though to my recollection the original Palladium was lower powered (but biased heavily toward Class A). And, of course, those 1990s models were considerably cheaper. Time marches on.
We showed the $400 PSB M4U 2 headphones in an earlier pose. Here they're worn by PSB chief Paul Barton. They're not only highly effective at noise cancellation (Barton claims about 18dB below 1kHz)) but sounded exceptional. The detachable chord can be attached to either side, and the phones will work for audio even with the batteries discharged. They will be available in December
Most recliners have a high back, which can interfere with the audio your ears receive. My long-term HT seats have long had this problem, which I minimize by using a different chair for serious music listening. It's hard to find a low-backed recliner, but the Axis model from Canada-based Palliser might be just the ticket. The rear headrest can be extended when you're in a more laid-back (literally) than critical mood. At roughly $2000 per seat (with power reclining and various shades of leather, straight and curved multi-seat configurations available), if they seem expensive, you haven't priced many premium HT seats. They're manufactured in Canada and Mexico.
You can pay thousands for a good screen, or paint your own for the low hundreds. Screen Goo Americas (probably the company with the most memorable name in the business) offers four flavors: Reference White (roughly unity gain) HIgh Contrast, Max Contrast, and Ultra Silver 3D (high gain, preserves light polarity). All of them may be rolled or sprayed on an appropriate flat, smooth surface. The even make a screen paint for rear projection! It's also said to be flexible enough that the screen can be moderately curved after painting. We're not saying that it can equal a professionally produced screen, but the demo we saw looked mighty impressive. If the cost of a screen is keeping you from acquiring a projection system, this approach might well help.
Draper is a major screen manufacturer but doesn't get a lot of play in the press. The small 2.35:1 screen shown here is curved, though that's not easy to spot in the photos. Draper can make any of its fixed screen sizes in a curved configuration for about a 50% premium over a comparable fixed screen. If that sounds like a lot, check out the competition from manufacturers who have grabbed more ink.
This projector mount from Chief ($189) was not in the full-line catalog available at the show, but looks husky enough to handle many home theater projector. It might be useful for those who want their projector mounted high but don't want to hang it from the ceiling, Instead, it's mounted to the rear wall. But since in this case the projector will be mounted near the rear wall, you must be sure that the projector is compatible with the throw distance to your screen.