2005 CES: Day Two, Cast of Thousands
But high attendance makes exhibitors happy, so I'm not complaining. And the fact that there was plenty to see on my second day made the demolition derby in the aisles worthwhile.
Marantz, as anticipated, demonstrated its new VP-12S4 single-chip DLP projector using the Gennum VPX scaler and the latest HD2+ DMD chip. The high definition images they demonstrated (all in native 1080i, scaled to 720p by the Gennum for display on the 1280 X 720 DMD) looked outstanding on a 100-inch (diagonal) Stewart Studiotek 130 screen. The rest of the system consisted of the new Marantz SR9600 receiver, DV9500 DVD player, and a Mordaunt Short Performance series speaker system.
The TAG McLaren AV192R surround processor, reviewed by us in mid 2004, is again available, after a change of ownership in the TAG audio group. It's now badged as an Audiolab, but apart from a slight cosmetic alteration (a titanium rather than a black finish) appears unchanged. Nevertheless, there appears to have been some change in the production facilities, so we have requested a new sample to verify that our earlier review remains valid before renewing our recommendation.
Yesterday I reported that Sony and other makers of LCD product were using a newly minted logo, 3LCD. While 3LCD is a marketing approach rather than a company, it did have a booth. Two products in particular caught my eye. One was Fujitsu's new 1920 X 1080 LCD projector (about $25,000 and available now), the other a prototype rear projection LCD set from Epson. The Futitsu looked fabulous on a relatively small, gray screen (it appeared to be a Stewart Grayhawk) with spectacularly good color, crisp, bright images, and apparent high contrast (though no truly difficult scenes were shown). The rear-pro incorporated one of the new auto (dynamic) irises, 1920 X 1080 chips, and performance good enough that I wished it were available now. But no availability date or pricing was announced.
Atlantic Technology challenged the conventional home theater demo paradigm by using a setup dedicated to video games. It was a cooperative effort by Atlantic, Xbox, Vidikron, Dolby, THX, and EA Game, and gave me the chance to try my hand as Grand Prix racer. I managed to complete the circuit the first time and quit while I was ahead. Atlantic's PeterTribeman informed me that the fastest growing segment of the home gaming market is not teens and twentysomethings, but 35-50 year olds. For some buyers, video games provide an additional reason to invest in a good home theater system.
New pre-pros and amps weren't everywhere, but were spotted from Parasound and Carver Digital. Parasound announced the New Classic series, with the 7100 HT controller ($3000, and offering 7.1-channel bass management through its multichanel analog inputs) and companion 5250 5-channel amp ($2500). Both should be available this month and slot into Parasound's range just under its flagship Halo series. Carver Digital's HTP 9.1 Home Theater Audio Video Processor ($3495) will be available later this spring, along with the HTA 5.1, amp ($2995). The latter will deliver 200 wpc into either 5- or 7-channels into 8 ohms, but is only specified into lower impedances in 5-channel mode (300 wpc into 4 ohms, 400Wpc into 2 ohms).
Speakers were, as always, too numerous to mention in any detail. Indeed, if you tossed a fortune cookie in any direction you'd likely hit a speaker made by a Chinese company trying to break into the U.S. market (and catch a similar television manufacturer on the ricochet). But among more familiar names, Atlantic Technology demonstrated his new THX-Select 4200e speaker system in hits game setup. Canton showed its new Canton Karat Reference 2 DC 3.5-way center channel speaker ($5000) designed to be used with the Karat Reference floor standing speakers at left and right. But the speaker selections at the convention center were dominated by in-wall and on-wall designs. While these models are much in demand, it is a little discouraging, since the time good speaker designers must spend on them takes away from the time they have to spend on serious audiophile designs.
And there's no magic involved here. Despite the hype, such designs are compromises. You can't fool mother nature. Still, we do plan to have a look at a number of on-wall models over the coming year; if there are some deserving of your attention, we'll find them.—Thomas J. Norton
The current battle royale over the next-generation optical disc format continued unabated today at back-to-back press conferences. First up was the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), with news of four new members: Texas Instruments, computer giant Sun Microsystems, and two game companies, Electronic Arts and Vivendi Universal. Those last two are especially significant because the gaming industry is huge, and it will exploit the potential of Blu-ray in ways well beyond what movie studios are likely to do.
Speaking of studios, Disney confirmed its support of Blu-ray (while admitting under audience questioning that they've left the door open for HD DVD if it ends up making more economic sense). In addition, 20th Century Fox joined Disney as the newest BDA board members, who oversee an organization that now counts more than 100 member companies since its inaugural meeting last October. However, none of the studios who have expressed support for Blu-ray announced any titles that would be released with the first hardware at the end of this year, and absolutely nothing else newsworthy was said (though the testimonial by futurist and author John Naisbitt was interesting).
By contrast, at the HD DVD press event half an hour (sitting in traffic) later, all the studios in that camp made specific announcements about their initial releases on HD DVD in the fourth quarter of this year. Warner Bros. expects to release over 50 titles , including Ocean's 12, The Polar Express, Troy, and several that are still in production, such as Batman Begins and a new Charley and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp in what looks like a perfect role for him. Paramount will unveil more than 20 titles, including Braveheart, The Manchurian Candidate (the new one with Denzel Washington), Mission Impossible 2, and the currently running Coach Carter.
New Line's initial offerings will include 10 titles, including Rush Hour. Universal talked about three titles: Van Helsing, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Chronicles of Riddick (which should look amazing with its incredible effects, even if it is a horrible movie). And one new name (to me, at least) was HBO, which plans to release the TV series The Sopranos and two miniseries: Angels in America and From the Earth to the Moon with Tom Hanks.—Scott Wilkinson