One definition of high end is a product that caters to a high end clientele. That sent Meridian in search of "a speaker that doesn't look like a speaker." The result is the charmingly cone-shaped M6. In the tradition of a company that pioneered powered speakers before they became fashionable, it juices each woofer with 350 watts and each full-range driver (not tweeter) with another 125. Yet its wide off-axis response demonstrates good social skills. Shipping in late February for $9000/pair. Also at the Meridian booth was the second Sooloos iPad app, which takes a slicker and more graphic (that is, less text-based) approach than the original.
MK's M7 speaker is the first—anyone's, not just MK's—to receive THX Compact Speaker certification. That means it produces sound pressure levels of up to 105dB in rooms up to 1000 feet and at distances of up to eight feet. Price $1000/pair. MK also showed a few prototypes including the MP9 three-channel soundbar, available in white or black gloss for $1000, and an in-wall sub with dual eight-inch drivers in an aluminum-steel enclosure with 400-watt hybrid amp. Look for both in June or July.
The coolest trick at CES was Summit Semiconductor's WiSA (Wireless Speaker & Audio) technology and the way it could literally move the sweet spot from the usual front-and-center position off to the side or to the back of the room. It was uncanny. WiSA spreads uncompressed high-res signals wirelessly among powered speakers. You're looking at the power/receiver board that makes it work. WiSA will surface first in Aperion products. The loudspeaker industry would be crazy not to jump on this, especially since it can be built into speaker systems selling for less than $1000.
Aerial Acoustics has long been known for great-sounding speakers but not, until now, for those with high sensitivity or efficiency ratings. The Model 7 changes that with an efficiency rating of 89dB, something that can run off a decent receiver with, say, 50 watts per channel. Price $9850/pair.
As Dynaudio's first wireless speaker, the Xeo stays right up to date with a significant CES 2012 trend. Getting that capability with the usual sweet Dynaudio sound will cost you $4500/pair for the floorstander or $2300/pair for the stand-mount. However, if you add additional pairs, you can reduce those speaker prices by the $350 cost of the transmitter/receiver kit. The signal is uncompressed, naturally.
One more step along the road to the eventual domination of the human race by robots is the creation of cute little baby seal robots that are supposed to soothe lonely and ill people’s feelings and make them feel that something actually cares about and loves them. Of course, it’s just a dang robot with no feelings or real fur. I know just posting this has put me on the robot empire’s hit list. I will definitely be keeping a close eye on my iRobot Roomba from now on...
Russound showed off the company’s AirGo Outdoor Sound System, which Russound says is “a portable amplifier speakerdock for an Apple® AirPort Express”. (You supply the AirPort Express.) The single-point stereo speaker sounds fantastic, and the incorporation of the AirPort Express means you can stream music from any compatible device to the AirGo wherever you can connect to your network. Since AirPort Expresses can simultaneously be used as a WiFi repeater, the AirGo will also act like a local hotspot and extend your network for backyard parties. Because the amplifier is a beefy 40 watts, anything but a car battery (pretty difficult to carry) would be drained in short order. So the AirGo Outdoor Sound Station is designed for AC use only. Not to worry, the speaker is fully weather-resistant (don’t plan on submerging it, though). According to Russound, the AirGo Outdoor Sound Station is just the beginning of a series wireless and outdoor products.
HiFiMAN invited numerous journalists to a press conference this morning, fed them a standard hotel buffet breakfast, and then explained why the company uses planar drivers in their over-the-ear headphones. EiC Rob Sabin shows why he will never be able to have a second career as a fashion model in the picture above - but the smile on his face does indicate the fact that the HE-400 over-the-ear headphones ($399) sounded pretty darn good. One benefit of the planar driver is that it does not require high voltages as an electrostatic driver would, which means its easier to drive with portable audio devices.
“People have been conditioned to accept poor quality sound, and we are here to change that,” claims Dean Kurnell, President of ClarityOne Audio. (Actually, we at HT Mag are here to change that, but we appreciate the help...) The company’s PureSound processor is designed to eliminate the distortion in analog speakers caused by magnetic field build-up that “occurs in traditional crossovers where only a single wire coil is used.” The patented technology is supposed to provide the most direct route possible for the signal while minimizing distortion between input and output.
The company’s first products to feature the PureSound processor are a series of earbuds and over-the-ear headphones. The PureSound technology allows ClarityOne to use 8 ohm voice coils in their models. Most other manufacturers, according to ClarityOne, use voice coils with a much higher resistance - including some that are more than 32 ohms - in order to mask distortion. In addition to providing better sound, having a lower-resistance voice coil means the player driving the earbuds/headphones doesn’t have to work as hard so the batteries’ charge lasts longer.
Even the most dialed-in, industry-savvy tech writer misses a thing or two along the way, and Sonic Emotion is a company that’s been totally off my radar. (In my defense, they’re only now trying to break into the U.S. consumer market.) The company’s technology, Sonic Emotion Absolute 3D, is supposed provide “all listeners an immersive 3D sound experience from a single device - regardless of their positioning in the room, device location and room dimensions - using any input format...” Despite the fact that that is indeed quite a claim, during a demo this afternoon the folks at Sonic Emotion quickly proved they’re more than just talk. Using an AudioSource S3D60 and a variety of demo material, the presenter quickly convinced the group of us jaded press people that the technology actually does provide a very impressive 3D sonic expansion of two-channel sources from a single box. According to Sonic Emotion, the technology is not room-dependent (as some other simulated surround devices are). The effect was quite good, and it was stable regardless of where I stood in the demo area. Look for more products incorporating Sonic Emotion technology coming later this year.