It's a Wrap
CES 2010 is now just a memory, but hopefully not a fading one. On my last day or two I saw a few things that I couldn't get posted while still in Vegas. IDT, the company that now owns the HQV Reon video processing technology, showed a number of interesting new technologies. The most intriguing was a small, nondescript box (no wasted funds on here on cosmetics!) that can perform all the Reon video processing functions, including deinterlacing, upconverting, and noise reduction, plus flesh tone correction&$151;the latter said to be more sophisticated than the flesh tone correction offered in some televisions. No decision yet as to whether it will be marketed under IDT's own brand name or by a third party. The price could be as low as under $100, which would be a huge plus for those whose HDTVs have mediocre built-in video processing.
Audio Foundry, LLC plans to market a similarly small device with a different purpose.
When inserted into the video chain via HDMI prior to the display, the VideoEq is said to offer outboard 10-bit 3D color lookup tables for grayscale and gamma calibration. A Pro version adds a 6-axis color management system, automated calibration and setup when used with Calman 4.0 (a color calibration program available from Sencore), and additional configuration options. While it's a tool more appropriate for experienced calibrators (it obviously becomes a permanent part of a calibrated system), it might also be used by skilled videophiles that own or can borrow appropriate test gear. I salivated while anticipating how it might fine-tune my 3-year old JVC RS-1 projector, which lacks fully adequate color control. While it calibrated well enough when new, it could now use more tweaking than the on-board controls offer, though it's still producing more than sufficient brightness from its 600 hour lamp. The VideoEq has a $798 MSRP; the VideoEq Pro is $1198.
I also had the chance to hear the new Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamond speakers ($15,000/pr) in an off-site hotel suite (their show-floor booth was static only). While hardly cheap at $15,000, they offered as much or more than other speakers at the show with price tags four or five times as high. B&W also showed a new, feature-rich flagship subwoofer, the DB1 ($4500). It employs two active 12" drivers together with automated DSP equalization.
Usher has also moved to diamond tweeters in a number of its higher-end models. It replaces Berylium which is now, is seems, so 2009. The Usher diamond tweeter is, to be precise, a proprietary metal alloy base layer on which an amorphous "diamond-like" carbon layer is vapor deposited on both sides. To quote Usher's Diamond DMD brochure, "pure diamond is carbon atoms arranged solely in sp3 bonds; amorphous diamond-like carbon has mixed sp3 and sp2 bonds to achieve its desirable properties." I'm glad they cleared that up.
The Dancer Mini-Two Diamonds ($5000/pr) I heard at the Venetian Hotel, home to most of the high-end audio displays (seen in the photo), were very impressive. They are a follow-up to the Dancer Mini-Two, which used a beryllium dome tweeter (or more precisely, a mixture of titanium and beryllium). The good news here, apart from the new speaker itself, is twofold. First, there will be a matching center channel speaker (price not yet set but an educated guess is around $2200). Second, and perhaps unique in the industry to my knowledge, owners of the previous Usher BE series speakers can get their tweeters replaced with the DMD Diamond tweeters at cost. And that includes the popular and well-reviewed Be 718 "Tiny Dancer," which also has a new Be-718 Diamond version (contact your Usher dealer for replacement details).
The bad news? The JPW Aluminata speaker cables used in the system cost more than the speakers!
Another CES, another flood of components to evaluate. Whether its 3D video, new speakers, or new electronics of every description, you can be sure that much of what we will be reviewed in the pages of Home Theater magazine throughout the next year.