HE 2004 Day Two
Spectra has a convincing surround sound demo in room 627 at the Hilton. With a 55" Fujitsu plasma screen providing the image, Tetra "Manhattan" series loudspeakers, named appropriately for this venue, deliver the sound. The system consists of Manhattan 305s in the front left/right spots, a 505c in the center position and a pair of 120Us in the rear.
The "U" suffix stands for "Universal use" meaning the speaker can be used in any position in a home theater setup. The 120U is a versatile speaker ideal for use in small- to mid-size surround systems. A pair of the speakers can be wall-mounted with custom brackets, placed on a bookshelf, or set up on stands. The special enclosure design with sloping front baffle minimizes internal standing wave colorations, yielding a "lifelike soundstage projected well out into the room," according to company execs.
The fully shielded 120U has an unusual top/side port designed to make use of the wall behind it if stand- or bracket-mounted. Drivers include a 5" polypropylene woofer from SEAS, and a 1" Morel soft dome tweeter; a simple crossover and Cardas internal wiring are the icing on the cake. The 120U is available in satin black, red cherry, natural cherry or white. Near-flush-mount brackets with rubber isolation pads are now available that hold the 120U far enough from the wall to prevent the wall from resonating, and to leave room for speaker cables. Price is $675/each USD.
Bigger and better: Down the hall, in room 649, Tetra is demonstrating its flagship 505LTD loudspeaker, in cooperation with Birdland Audio. The 505LTD is appropriate for left-right front use in large home theater systems, features Tetra's tetrahedral top module, an equilateral pyramid that damps out internal standing waves. It's made of 1" MDF with extensive bracing and full front and partial rear baffles of solid cherry wood.
Drivers include an 8" Morel NeoLin woofer 1" ScanSpeak tweeter; crossover networks are simple with low parts count, but high quality parts - Chateauroux polypropylene Solen Fast caps and Hepta-Litz air-core inductors and Cardas internal wiring. Rolloff is 12dB/octave, according to Tetra president Adrian Butts. The 505LTD is recommended for medium- to large-sized rooms, and is priced at $8,000/pr USD.
Monster Home Theater: The high-end industry's own firebrand evangelist, Monster Cable CEO Noel Lee, plans to make major inroads into the home theatre market this summer (see Wes Phillips's report) with a program called the "Monster Reference Home Theater Music Experience" (MRHTME). More than 300 retail outlets will be involved by this coming July, according to information released at HE 2004. Monster will not only be marketing audio components under its own brand name, but will also offer furniture to house them.
The concept is an outgrowth of market research done by Monster that proves that consumers aren't interested in seeing racks full of equipment in their homes, regardless of how sleekly designed or how exotic. That may come as a surprise to hardcore gear heads who think that stacked amplifiers and video processors and snake pits of cables are the ultimate in interior decorating. Monster intends to deliver a home theater experience "that fits in people's homes and lifestyles," Lee told attendees at HE 2004.
Lee said that the ever-growing popularity of flat-panel televisions isn't necessarily due to better picture quality, but to the fact that flat panels eliminate the big ugly box. Some ugly boxes can't be redesigned, but they can be hidden - a fact that custom installers and cabinetmakers have known for years. Toward that end, Monster will offer credenzas to house home theater equipment. The furniture will feature inboard fans to keep everything running cool and IR repeater systems that will enable remote control of everything contained within even when the doors are closed. A very modern riff on the console entertainment systems of the 1950s and '60s, the top-of-the-line "Eleganza" series will include frames to hold three common sizes of flat panel TVs, with prices ranging from $3000 to $7000.
Monster also plans to market its own brand of matching speakers and subwoofers, as well as a series of sofas with built-in "butt kickers." Among the retailers to sign on with the program is Denver-based upscale chain Ultimate Electronics.