After traipsing dozens of miles through aisles as crowded as a big city subway train in rush hour, I have seen thousands of light-emitting diodes, if not hundreds of thousands. I have seen every video display technology and their variations known to civilization. I have heard nearly every reproducible sound audible to the human ear.
"Bigger than ever" was a recurring theme at CES 2005. Bigger attendance (more than 140,000), bigger screens (including a 102-inch prototype plasma TV), and bigger bust lines on the manufacturers' spokesmodels. The number of exhibitors also broke the record.
For years, "whole-house" music meant either a pair of speakers in the living room blaring loud enough to be heard everywhere or bad-sounding radio playing through intercom panels. Most people confined their listening to a single room and used table radios and portable music systems in other rooms.
Not long ago, someone figured out it was possible to get good sound from small, inexpensively made speakers - and ever since, the home theater scene has been dominated by compact six-piece rigs that sell for a thousand bucks or less.
Meridian's modular, card-based 800 Version 4 disc player is an upgrade on the company's popular 800 player. It comes with Meridian's V100 video input card and VE12 HDMI/progressive component output card. The V100 provides two composite, two S-video, and one interlaced component video input. You also get the VE00 video encoder card, which generates NTSC and PAL in composite, S-video, and component formats. The 800 Version 4 is supported by Meridian's latest computer-based step-by-step MConfig configuration system. This standout design is available in a black-lacquer or a sleek silver finish and costs from $18,000 to $20,000, depending on configuration.
(404) 344-7111 www.meridian-audio.com
DVD: This So-Called Disaster—MGM/UA
This avant-garde documentary traces the weeks of rehearsal leading up to a 2000 play by playwright and director Sam Shepard, based on his relationship with his own alcoholic father. Shepard assembled a cast that included Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, and Woody Harrelson, and while it's interesting to watch these pros prepare for their curtain call, they all seem to get along too well to make this more than an occasionally interesting behind-the-scenes look at live theater. The best drama—whether fiction or reality television—comes from conflict, but there's none to be found here, despite the disc jacket's claim that the play's characters "set off a powder keg of emotions so explosive that the actors themselves are drawn into the fray." This is just dull, and even Shepard appears to be dozing off during some of the script-reading sessions. The best moment comes when Harrelson and Penn, apparently competing with Nolte for the title Most Scruffy Looking Actor, bust each other's chops on some of their past film choices (yes, Shanghai Surprise comes into the conversation).
Considering that TiVo first announced its HDTV plans two years ago and now offers a high-def version of its hard-disk recorder (HDR) exclusively for DirecTV satellite subscribers, devotees of TiVo who subscribe to cable TV have been increasingly turning to high-def cable boxes with HDRs.
The final day of CES always brings a little sadness with it - sadness that you didn't bring more comfortable shoes. Yet, when all is considered, CES is still one of the most exciting times for consumer electronics geeks (and the Consumer Electronics Association counted over 140,000 of them at the Show). Since all the press conferences and nearly all of the scheduled meetings are over, it's a great day to wander the 1.5 million square feet of the show floor and catch up on all the things you missed (and find some nice surprises, too).
One of the main reasons why dealers and press types come to the Consumer Electronics Show every year is to see first hand the just-released and soon-to-be-released electronic gadgets and home entertainment gear. But, if you've got "connections", the best thing about CES - other than free dinners and drinks - is the chance to get an up close and personal look at technology that's still in the development stage. These "revealing" meetings generally take place in an unassuming hotel room off the beaten path, are bereft of any glowing press releases, and require a secret handshake (or sometimes a signed non-disclosure agreement) to gain access. HP, for example, showed us some things that we could tell you about, but we'd lose the ability to use our knee caps if we did. (I'm just kidding about the knee caps, but we did swear ourselves to secrecy until they're ready to let the electronic cat out of the bag.)
<B>Thomas J. Norton</B><BR>
Finally, news from the audio side of CES. My coverage of the limited surround-sound demos at the official specialty audio venue of the Alexis Park Hotel will have to wait for our upcoming in-depth show report. Today's report will catch up on a few important demos held at hotels near the Las Vegas convention center, plus one surprise discovery at the Alexis. And the news it hot.