CES 2012

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2012 2 comments
Once a bustling center of earth-changing activity, the CES2012 Press Room at the Las Vegas Convention Center looked dull and dismal (well, more so than it did earlier during CES) fifteen minutes before closing time on Friday. Gone is the jovial camaraderie, the fighting for seats, the wrestling matches for the last (free) press lunch, and the incessant questioning. (It’s usually one of two: “Are there any lunches left?” or “What’s the login and password for the Press Room WiFi?”) I was one of the last few stragglers to inhabit the large conference room that’s housed the CES press for as long as I can remember - which, considering the state of my mind at the end of CES, is not too long - Friday, showing just how dedicated I am (and what a loser I am, too). The most important journalist question I asked during the CES grind? “Where are the f’ing free cookies and brownies that they used to give us?”

(On a brighter note, that’s the Griffin HELO TC iOS-device-controlled helicopter I convinced the Griffin booth guy to allow me to leave with.)

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2012 0 comments
Sometimes you wonder how some companies get involved in seemingly unrelated product categories. Amidst more traditional iPod/iPhone/iPad add-ons, accessory manufacturer Griffin was showing off a pair of IR-controlled helicopters that you pilot using your iOS touchscreen device. The $49.95 current model (HELO TC) will be joined soon by a $59.95 version (HELO TC Assault) that was shooting small plastic “missiles” at unsuspecting CES booth gawkers. Although a little tricky to fly at first, the helicopters were a lot of fun to fly using the included iOS app. Movement is controlled either with a virtual joystick or by tilting the iOS device. When asked how Griffin got involved selling remote-controlled helicopters, I was told the “unofficial” story: the staff all like flying them at the office.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2012 0 comments
One of the best parts of CES is the intellectually stimulating entertainment you’ll find at the various booths. Instead of the traditional scantily clad young women with heels so high they can barely walk, this booth chose to use a slightly different type of bird to draw attention.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Griffin’s new smartphone universal remote control uses Bluetooth to send commands to an IR emitter that sits near your home theater system. As a result, the $69.99 Beacon doesn’t require the user to attach any dongles or special transmitters to the phone (something that makes other smartphone remotes a pain in the butt). The IR emitter is battery powered, so it can be placed wherever is most convenient without the need for running a power cable to it. Models are available for both iOS and Android smartphones.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
I’m convinced that Soundmatters is doing something they shouldn’t be doing. It’s got to be illegal, or at least against the laws of acoustics. The company’s new foxLO is subwoofer that’s not much bigger than an external hard drive. Soundmatters says the $149 foxLO is “the world’s first palm-sized hi-fi subwoofer”. While the industrial design is very cool, that alone wouldn’t warrant giving it a listen. The claim of being “a true hi-fi subwoofer”, however, made me give it a highly skeptical listen - after which I became a true believer. This little 2.5” high x 4.5” wide x 6.3” deep unit incorporates an active woofer with passive radiator and a built-in 25-watt amplifier. And it absolutely rocks in a way that something that small shouldn’t be able to do. The foxLO is expected to be available this Spring.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Kogeto’s Dot is a super-clever add-on lens for Apple iPhone 4/4S that lets you take 360-degree videos just by holding the phone horizontally. A free app (Looker) from Kogeto let’s you view the videos. In regular mode, you can pan through the video from side to side by swiping your finger across the screen; or you can watch the entire 360-degree field of view in panorama mode. Videos can be emailed or shared via Facebook and Twitter. Dot kits are available in four different colors (black, red, pink, and green) for $79/each.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
The folks at Etymotic Research were showing off the company’s ETY-Plugs, “the world’s highest fidelity non-custom earplugs.” Instead of just muffling the sound, the ETY-Plugs are actually able to reduce sound approximately 20 dB in all frequencies. That means music and speech sound natural and totally intelligible, just at a much-reduced volume. Since it’s only the overall volume level that’s affected and not the natural frequency response, Etymotic says they are perfect for both musicians and audience members who want to hear what is being played but at a lower volume level. The ETY-Plugs come in two sizes. Both sell for $12.95/pair.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
How do you know when you've had too much?
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
British speaker maker, VIBE (Vented Innovative Bass Enclosures), showed off some interesting hybrid in/on-wall speakers. The PICS (Picture Integrated Cinema Speakers) speaker cabinets are designed to extend into the wall in much the same way that a traditional in-wall speaker would, except the remainder of the speaker extends another inch or two out from the wall. In order to stealthify the speakers, they come with a basic picture frame bezel and a black, acoustically transparent grille cloth. The frame can be painted, or you can go to your local frame dealer and have a frame of your own made. VIBE says customers can choose from a number of images or submit their own image for printing on the grille cloth. Unlike other manufacturers who make art/photo grille clothes, VIBE fuses the image into the cloth. The process is supposed to maintain the acoustically transparent properties of the cloth. According to VIBE, traditional screen printing on grille cloth significantly changes the acoustic properties of the cloth.

Currently, PICS are not available in the U.S. due to a lack of distribution, but the company does intend to bring them to America. While pricing on the entire line was unavailable, the large grille-less speaker in the middle of the photo above sells for around $4,000/ea.

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Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Got modest plans for a modest home theater using modest-sized speakers but want a THX-Certified experience? At CES, THX announced the company’s latest certification program, the THX Compact Speaker System Certification. The new specifications are designed for systems used in rooms up to 1,000 cubic feet and cover two-channel (2.1 - two speakers and one subwoofer - is the minimum requirement) all the way to full-blown 7.1-channel systems.

In the company’s suite, the THX people showed off a sample of a new MK sub/sat 2.1 system based on the MK M7. The speaker hasn’t finished the certification process yet, but THX expects that MK will be the first company to begin selling THX Compact Speaker System Certified speakers. The matching subwoofer was not on display. Expected pricing was not available.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
New at CES from Wolf Cinema is the SDC-10 3D D-ILA projector ($10,000), affectionately known as the Pup. The spec'd contrast ratio is 70,000:1, and that's without a dynamic iris! It offers three lens memories that let you preset the zoom and focus for different aspect ratios, and it can accommodate an anamorphic lens as well. The demo was BBC's Life in 2D and Legend of the Guardians in 3D shown on a 120-inch-wide Stewart Reflection 170 screen, and it looked spectacular.
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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Billed as the "ultimate home-theater experience at CES," a ballroom in the Sands Convention Center was equipped with a Digital Projection Titan projector, Kaleidescape Blu-ray server, Stewart CineCurve screen with masking (Studiotek 130, 14 feet wide), Totem Acoustic speakers, ADA power amps, and D-Box motion actuators in luxurious recliners. Because I'm sensitive to motion sickness, I can't tolerate motion-actuator systems, but the rest of the audience seemed to really enjoy it with clips from Avatar, Monster House, Top Gun, and Fast Five. The picture quality was outstanding, as was the sound.
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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
In collaboration with Mark Levinson (the man, not the company), chip maker Intersil and its subsidiary D2Audio are developing a suite audio-enhancement algorithms called Mighty Cat. The idea is to use mastering tools to optimize the performance of audio hardware, such as soundbars, computer speakers, and TVs; manufacturers would "tune" the algorithms specifically for each individual product and then embed the code in the firmware of that product.

The demo I heard was played on a pair of inexpensive Logitech computer speakers. The ultimate goal is to make the Logitech speaker sound like the $25,000/pair Daniel Hertz M7 on which it is sitting in this photo—an impossible dream, to be sure, but the processing did improve the Logitech's sound dramatically, making it much richer and fuller. Intersil is in negotiations with various manufacturers to incorporate this technology into their products.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
GenAudio astounded me at last year's CES with its AstoundSound 3D audio system, which creates a convincing spherical soundfield from two speakers. This year, the company announced that its launching AstoundSound for CE, an application that manufacturers can include in their products, such as iPod speakers, soundbars, and TVs—in fact, GenAudio is partnering with Analog Devices and other DSP makers to include the algorithm in their chips.

I heard a clip from Kitaro's Earth in Bloom that was downmixed from 5.1 to 2 channels and then expanded by AstoundSound in real time played first on a $12,000 pair of Gheithain pro studio monitors and then on a $300 2.1 Panasonic soundbar, and the result was remarkable, with various sounds flying all around the room, including overhead. Of course, the studio monitors had better sound quality, but the effect was quite pronounced—and enjoyable—from both.

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Scott Wilkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Among various high-end audio products, Meridian also announced an upgrade to its HD621 HDMI switch/audio upsampler (sitting atop a G68 pre/pro in this photo) that adds 3D passthrough. This upgrade is free to existing owners from Meridian dealers.

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