Crimson AV primarily makes mounts for big flat-panel TVs and projectors. And while I was impressed by the company’s attention to even the smallest details of the largest mounts, one of Crimson AV’s smallest devices was getting the largest attention. The $39.95 pocket-eAzl is a cleverly designed stand for iPads and other tablets that folds up into a small brick-like package that’s about the height and depth of an iPhone but only half the width, so it easily fits in a shirt, pants, or jacket pocket when not in use.
Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Some of the automation systems on display at CEDIA are so technologically advanced that they certainly do seem like magic. But not far from the convention center, I found a clue to what’s really going on. If there’s an entire area just for elves to park their cars, what other fantastical creatures might be working behind the scenes? Leprechauns? Fairies? Now I understand why so many of the presenters talk about using wizards to program their systems.
What’s not to love about a leather recliner with diamond stitching, a built-in cup holder for your brewski and an optional LaunchPort swivel-base that holds and charges your iPad? Your biggest challenge will be to not fall asleep during the big game. Best part: You can position the motorized backrest and footrest from a smartphone/tablet or home automation control panel from Crestron, AMX, Control4, Savant and others. Available for $5,500-$6,000 apiece with or without the stitching.
Mozaex founder Douglas Kihm has been thinking about building a pair of super headphones since he was a kid, a dream he has finally realized with the BluWavs, which he is billing as the "world's first 7.1 discrete HD headphones." Each of the bulbous earcups contains five mini drivers, including what he calls a "vibration subwoofer" that literally shakes your head for a tactile experience. Each set of headphones comes with the Blender Console, which looks like a '70s-era equalizer and is available in analog and digital versions. In addition to a 15-band EQ for the front L/R channels, the blender has discrete level controls for each channel so you can really screw up...er, personalize the sound.
The 7.1-channel surround field was impressive while listening to DTS HD Master versions of the soundtrack for Tron Legacy, Peter Gabriel's Growing Up Live and Omar Hakim's Listen Up live jazz jam. Package prices range from $1,295 to $2,595, depending on the version of the Blender.
Just what the world needs, another A/V receiver, I thought as I approached the Sherbourn booth. But the new SR-8100 (7 x 80 watts) and SR-8200 (7 x 125 watts) receivers---the company's first---have a refreshingly uncluttered look and low-profile design, support Bluetooth streaming and are covered by a generous 10-year warranty. Other goodies include multiple HDMI 1.4 inputs (seven and four, respectively), automatic room correction and an audiophile-oriented Class AB amplifier section. The $999 SR-8100 is expected to be available by the end of the year while the $1,999 SR-8200 is slated to ship in early 2013.
The last model to commemorate KEF's much-celebrated 50th anniversary is an echo of its historic BBC-approved LS35A monitor. The new LS50's curved baffle includes the famous coaxial Uni-Q array, with the tweeter centered in the woofer, and the specific drivers having trickled down from the bleed-edge Blade über-tower. The ported design plays deeper than the LS35A's sealed design. Even amid the hubbub of the show floor, this was one of the best monitors we've ever heard casually demoed, and it hurts to say that it's priced per pair, at $1500, which will make odd-numbered surround configurations impractical unless you don't mind sticking an extra speaker in the closet. Shipping now.
It's about time KEF offered a product specifically for the growing computer-speaker audience. Though the X300A's ship date is not imminent, the preview demo made us want a pair right away, with the tight imaging we expect of a Uni-Q speaker and good top-to-bottom proportioning. It's KEF's first self-powered speaker, with powerful Class AB amplification and USB bridging the gap from one speaker to another, and each one having its own separate digital-to-analog converter. You might see it in December for $799/pair.
Paradigm is greeting its 30th anniversary with two extraordinary limited-edition speakers, the monitor-size Inspiration (only 300 to be made) and the Tribute tower (only 200 to be made). The camera flash made their dark gloss cherry enclosures gleam red though under ordinary lights they were duskier. Under the surface are seven layers of medium-density fiberboard. The tweeters are pricey beryllium and the seven-inch woofers are C-PAL carbon-anodized pure aluminum. The demo featuring the tower wowed us with awesome, effortlessly extended bass, sweet tangy brass, and a close-up and personal vocal perspective. While a companion center was not shown, there's probably something suitable in the Reference line, so there's no reason not to contemplate using these babies in a surround system. The monitor and tower ship in late October for $1299/each and $2999/each respectively. Get 'em while you can.
The Paradigm Millenia CT system is a smaller 2.1-channel version of the amazing-sounding MilleniaOne 5.0 sat/sub set, which earned a rave from us when we reviewed it rather late in the game. What appears to be a single module in the pic is actually an Apple TV box sitting atop a similarly proportioned Paradigm module which accepts input from both Apple TV and your optical-digital signal source of choice. Amplification is in the sub. Pricing is $699 with sub; there is also a larger MilleniaOne CT at the same price without sub. Both ship September. Paradigm also showed a Soundtrack 2.1-channel soundbar ($799, shipping October) with two one-inch aluminum tweeters, two 4.5-inch mid-woofers, two passive radiators, and outboard eight-inch side-firing sub.
As lossless surround addicts, we deplore pricey soundbars that don't support HDMI and therefore lack lossless surround compatibility. Definitive Technology does it right with the SoloCinema XTR, as you can see in the picture, with three HDMI ins and one out in addition to optical and analog. The 5.1-channel bar is the first we've heard of to feature the Dolby Volume volume-leveling and low-volume listening mode: a huge plus. Three aluminum tweeters and three pairs of three-inch convex aluminum woofers are under the hood. The outboard sub has an eight-inch woofer in a flat enclosure that can go against a wall or under a sofa, with three spacer feet. In the demo the bar produced surprisingly discernible and well-imaged surround effects to the side and slightly behind the listener. The remote's highly tactile design helps you feel around for the right button in the dark. Product started shipping in small quantities this month but won't hit its stride till October, at $1999.
The Tannoy people say they fine-tune their systems for music first and everything else second. We think that's a good attitude. The new Definition Series features "dual concentric" driver arrays with the center physically positioned and time-aligned to the acoustic center of the mid-woofer, reducing phase issues to nil, we were told. Internal bracing uses "differential materials technology" including a free-floating structure to protect the crossover. These speakers all have dual woofers with models including the 10-inch DC-10T and 8-inch DC-8T towers, 6-inch DC-LCR, and 12-inch Definition sub. The 7.1-channel system demoed—with big towers in front, smaller ones behind, center, and sub—totals $29,600 and it sure did sound musical with the evil-singing-cockatoo clip from Rio.
The long-awaited debut of the Atlantic Technology H-PAS PowerBar 235 will come in about two weeks, when it will finally ship, offering the most extended bass you can get in a bar thanks to ingenious multi-chambered enclosure design. Numerous tweaks over the last few months include the addition of DTS decoding, and Atlantic makes a big point of having on-board Dolby Digital decoding as well, as opposed to counting on a conversion to PCM (which we're told some new LG TVs won't do). More tweaks: vocal enhancement to push dialogue forward, left-minus-right surround expansion, a less aggressively illuminated display that fades to black after confirming setting changes, and replacement of the see-through grille for something more discreet.
After yesterday's Media Preview appearance, the GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D Array soundbar offered smooth performance with dynamically challenging movie material and the broad on- and off-axis imaging afforded by its folded ribbon tweeter. We'd say it's worth the $999 pricetag.