As you may already know, the intellectual property rights for HQV video processing were purchased by IDT some time ago, and the company has been working on new chips since then. I've seen demos of prototypes a couple of times, but I was under NDA (non-disclosure agreement) until now. I can finally talk about the HQV Vida chip, which will soon be available in AVRs, Blu-ray players, and video processors.
Samsung's new Blu-ray players are an impressive lot, with four new models that boast boot and load times of 15 seconds. All but the entry-level BDP-C5500 have built-in wireless DLNA and Internet capabilities with 1GB of internal memory (the C5500 is "WiFi-ready"). The BDP-C7500 is a high-style, wall-mountable design with a 2-channel analog output, while the C6500 has a 7.1-channel analog output.
I'm very happy to report that Samsung is still bullish on plasma, introducing three new slim lines and two standard-depth lines. All five lines feature a new Clear Image Panel, in which the outer filter glass is affixed directly to the plasma panel with no air gap. This allows them to be thinner and achieve lower black levels in the presence of ambient light.
Samsung's booth was awash in new LCD TVs—no less than eight lines of slim LED edge-lit sets and six lines of conventional CCFL models. As many have expected, there are no new LED backlit sets, which Samsung claims are too expensive and power hungry for the current consumer marketplace.
One of the highlights of CES for me is the DEG (Digital Entertainment Group) awards event, at which content providers, hardware manufacturers, and retailers are recognized for their excellence and innovation. There are three awards for hardware—Sight (video displays), Source (Blu-ray players and the like), and Sound (electronics and speakers). As a side note, I've suggested more than once to the DEG that the Sound category should be split into two—Sound (electronics) and Speakers. Otherwise, one or the other type of product goes unrecognized each year, yet both are essential for a complete home-entertainment experience.
Begun as a collaboration of several companies, the Nordic Tone ended up as Electrocompaniet's first high-end speaker when the others dropped out for one reason or another. First shown at the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival in November, the Nordic Tone's infinite-baffle (i.e., sealed) enclosure is sand-cast aluminum consisting of five sections glued together with vibration-damping adhesive. Its 3-way design achieves a frequency response from 28Hz to 35kHz, and it sounded great, with tight bass, uncluttered mids, and crisp highs, but what else should you expect for $29,000/pair?
I was excited to visit Electrocompaniet and see its new Maestro, an all-singing, all-dancing source component with Blu-ray player, FM tuner, Internet radio, iPod dock, and media streaming with three channels of 120W, all for $8000. You can also get a wireless 2-channel amp for the rear speakers for an extra $2000. Unfortunately, it was experiencing some technical difficulties, so there was nothing to see or hear, but I was told that the Norwegian engineers are working around the clock to update the software before the end of the show.
I've always thought that Gallo Acoustics speakers look great, but they also sound great as I found out when I listened to the new $6000 Reference 3.5 being powered by a Spectron Musician 3 Signature amp and Resolution Audio CD player. It went surprisingly low for a relatively small speaker, and the mids and highs were clean as a whistle.
First announced at CEDIA in September, the AVR500 is a stripped down version of the AVR600 with no preamp outs, no phono input, and two sub outs instead of three. It provides 100Wpc of Class AB power and uses a Pixelworks video processor for $3800.
After five years, Arcam has updated its Solo Music CD/tuner/integrated amp to the Solo Neo by adding a network card with WiFi so you can stream music from your PC. Also available is a USB port for music files on a mass-storage device, all for around $2000.
Swedish speaker maker Perfect8 assembled a 2-channel rig in its Venetian suite that would set you back a cool $1,000,000! Aside from the speakers, which include a pair of Forces and three Cubes with powered subwoofers, the system includes electronics from Ypsilon, an Audio Stone Pythagoras turntable, and ZenSati cables. I heard a recording of cello and pipe organ, which was spectacular—a beautiful, open sound and great bass response. For more on the Perfect8 speakers, <A href="http://blog.ultimateavmag.com/ultimate-gear/eight_is_enough/">click here</A>.
Like Panasonic, Sony is involved in every aspect of 3D, from cameras to displays. At its press conference, the company announced its partnership with the Discovery Channel and Imax to launch a 3D network in 2011. Sony is also sponsoring ESPN's new 3D channel, which is planning to broadcast 85 events in its first year.
Of course, you're going to need a 3D Blu-ray player to go with that new 3D TV, and Panasonic is ready to oblige with the PP-BDT350, seen here with a pair of shutter glasses on top of the DMP-BD85, a 2D model with WiFi and a claimed boot time of 0.5 second. The PP-BDT350 implements HDMI 1.4, and both let you access online content. Not shown is the DMP-BD15, Panasonic's second-generation portable Blu-ray player, which also provides access to online content.