I profiled the KEF Concept Blade speaker <A href="http://blog.ultimateavmag.com/ultimate-gear/blades_of_glory/">here</A>, but since there's only one pair in the world, there was no way for me to hear it until the company brought it to CES and set it up in a room at the Hilton with an Audio Research CD5 CD player and DSi200 integrated amp. Listening to Patricia Barber in a live recording and a tenor sax with rhythm section, it sounded quite good overall, with very clean, tight low bass, but the upper bass and vocal range was slightly congested. The KEF rep agreed and said it was the room, and I couldn't disagree—hotel rooms generally make lousy listening environments.
For its new gallery on-walls, Klipsch borrowed technology from other product lines, including the distortion-killing "linear travel suspension" tweeter from the new Reference line and the woofer from the bestselling Quintet sat/sub set. There will be four passive models, including the big placement-friendly G42 LCR, with its 90 x 90 degree Tractrix horn, available in summer. Prices range from $199-699. There are also three active models, which are Apple AirPlay certified, priced at $400-800. The picture shows some of the passive models and does not do them justice. They looked really good.
We're pleased to announce that the Kondo/Audio Note exhibit has won the Home Theater 2011 CES Blog's Award for Distinguished Achievement in Slogan Writing. See above. Really, isn't this what audio is all about?
In a session separate press event run by LG Display (the division of LG that makes the LCD imaging panels for LG and others), we had an opportunity to view LG's shutter glasses and FPR passive glasses sets side-by-side, in three separate setups, only one of which is shown in the photo. The FPR technology, by necessity, discards half of a source's native vertical resolution—inevitable in 3D displays with passive glasses. That is, each eye-image is 1920 x 540. The loss was not obvious in the demo, though for me, apart from some unfortunate ghosting (not uncommon in LCD 3D active shutter sets, but not on plasmas), I found the shutter-glass displays to be a little punchier and brighter (the passive FPR showed no ghosting). The FPR technique is claimed to retain greater measured brightness, as shown in the photo. Other viewers present thought that the FPR was brighter, but I did not (a gamma difference, perhaps).
LG opened the "press day" by announcing its line of "Smart" products. Smart appears to be the company's new go-to word for many of its new products, ranging from Smart washers, dryers, ranges, and refrigerators ("Honey, the fridge says we need milk and ice cream"), to HDTVs, with cell phones and other devices occupying the vast middle ground in between.
To touch briefly on that middle ground, there was prototype of an LG mobile 3DTV that can be viewed glasses-free (autostereoscopiceasier to do for a single viewer). And there's a new LG smart phone, the Optomus 2X, said to do full 1080p. Better sit close.
But it's LG's TVs that interest us most. There are 31 new LG LCD sets, 10 of which are 3D. The Cinema 3D sets employ LED edge lighting. Three "Nano" 3D sets have full LED backlighting with local dimming. Nano technology, which is new this year, employs smaller LEDs imbedded in a membrane that also incorporates the required diffusion, making the entire structure thinner and, presumably, more easily and efficiently produced.
There are also 12 new LG plasmas, 8 of them 3D.
LG's Smart TV technology, used in many of the higher end models, is a new menu layout that simplifies use of the sets' extensive Internet features. In addition, the new LG ST600 module/set top box, available separately, can bring SmartTV to any HDTV with an HDMI input. Another approach to adding this feature to your existing HDMI HDTV is the new BD690 3D Blu-ray player, which includes an on-board 250GB hard drive plus the SmartTV platform.
But the big LG story is the use of passive glasses in many of the company's new LCD 3DTVs, rather than the active shutter glasses now employed in most current 3D sets. LG calls its passive glasses technology FPR, for Film Pattern Retarder. The sets in the LG lineup that will continue to use shutter glasses include all of the Nano models (and all of the plasma sets as well). There are many upsides to passive glasses, but downsides as well (see the following blog entry).
No prices were quoted, but all of the new sets should begin shipping by early spring.
One real advantage of LG's passive glasses technology is the lighter, cheaper passive glasses, shown here in this lightheaded demo setup. Notice the flip-down glasses on the right, for eyeglass-wearers. The FPR technology employs circular polarization, so you can tilt your head without the image fading out.
In addition to its plasmas, LG's new LED LCDs embody the Infinia design concept and offer WHDI wireless HDMI connectivity and Skype capability. Show here from left to right are the LE8500 (backlit with local dimming) and LE7500 (edge lit with some addressable "zones"), which are both only 1 inch thick. Not shown is the flagship LE9500, which is 3D-capable with a refresh rate of 480Hz (actually, 240Hz with backlight scanning). Again, pricing was not announced, and these sets should hit the market in the spring and summer.
For as long as I've been attending CES, the first press conference of the show has always been LG's, and as in years past, the place was packed at 8:00 AM. The company introduced its new Infinia line of flat panels, including the plasmas shown here—from left to right, the PK750, PK550, and flagship PK950. (Actually, the PK550 is not part of the Infinia line, which is characterized by a single piece of glass that extends across the screen and bezel.)
LG's super-slim prototype caused a stir at the company's press conference. Even with LED backlighting and local dimming (with 240 dimming zones, over twice as many as most such sets), this panel measures only 6.9mm thick—that's about a quarter of an inch! This thing doesn't even have a model designation yet, so don't expect it in stores any time soon, but it sure is cool.
Here's a way to encourage your kids to write on the wallthat is if the wall is an LG Touch TV which functions like a huge, modern-day, multi-colored Etch-A-Sketch. It's also a 2D plasma HDTV. But it's clear that not all of us are Rembrandt.
LG demonstrated the 3D LCoS projector we've seen at a couple of previous shows. The CF3D was unfortunately no better than before. This time the issues were a very slight image softness and, more importantly, a badly skewed white balance. Skin tones looked painfully sunburned. Hopefully this can be calibrated out, the if any effort was made to produce a semblance of accurate color here it did not show.I left after about five minutes as the image was uncomfortable to watch.
I normally would have enjoyed viewing this 84-inch LG LCD/LED 3D 4K set immensely (though it's not yet an available product). It enables full 2K 3D with passive glasses. But dropping my camera, resulting in serious damage, sent me scrambling to the Canon booth to see if they recommended my having it repaired (not at the show, of course). They did not. I needed a new camera anyway. Fortunately, with three days of the show left, I had brought along a spare.
This German manufacturer is strictly two-channel but still captured our attention with the Dixie! stand-mount speaker, a smallish member of the Birdland Series. First it was the cool stand, then it was the beautifully layered sound of a blues recording. Some drivers are custom made, while others are off the shelf but modified by Lindemann. Guys: Please, please, please do some surround products. At least sell your speakers in odd-numbered configs. We're not too proud to beg.