Control4 added a new 7-inch portable touch screen controller with a capacitive full-color LCD panel that you can carry with you tablet-style through your home or use as a tabletop touch screen with it resting in its docking station. While portable and tabletop touch screens are quite cool just because they’re touch screens, the new 7-inchers from Control4 ooze even more coolness because they can be used as intercom devices that will allow you to have a conversation with another person in your home via another Control4 intercom device without requiring either person to hold down a button. Since they’re wireless and portable, you can use these touch screens to bring temporary system control or intercom access to rooms or areas of your home that don’t need a dedicated touch screen. MSRP $999.
The Onkyo TX-NR5009 ($2899) and TX-NR3009 ($2199) and their Integra equivalents are the only receivers that upscale to 4K x 2K. But they weren't as photogenic as the two docking systems, the iOnly Play, left, with cool sliding cover over the dock; and the iOnly Bass, right, which is large enough to accommodate an iPad. Pricing $249 for either.
Once a pioneer of the home AV furniture world, the venerable CWD brand has been resurrected by one of the company’s original founders. But where the original CWD furniture was almost exclusively RTA (ready to assemble) – I think we called it “knockdown” back then – the current iterations are pre-configured and shipped mostly assembled. In other words, they’re more along the lines of fine traditional furniture rather than just an AV rack. The cabinets don’t include any particle board pieces, and each unit has a multitude of AV-friendly features such as generous ventilation and cable management. Customers who’d like to configure and price a unit for themselves can visit imagecraftersinc.com and use the online configuration tool.
Add on anamorphic lenses to provide a 2.35:1 image on a 2.35:1 screen are a popular though pricey option. Panamorph is one of the best known names in the market. Its prism-type lenses are more affordable than the more visibly "normal" round lenses, but they work well. Round lenses, such as those from Schneider (below) are more flexible with regards to throw distance (they offer focus separate from that of the projector's own lens) but their prices are higher. We've seen superb setups with both types of lenses.
Panasonic brought along its 152-inch, 4K plasma. It was surprising how small it looked on the open show floor, until a passerby stood in front of it to provide a sense of scale. I don't even want to imagine how much it adds to an electric (including air conditioning!) bill. Of course if you can afford the set, that probably won't matter much to you.
Panasonic was demonstrating its new PT-AE7000 3D projector ($3500) on a 100-inch (diagonal) Joe Kane Affinity screen (gain 1.1) from Da-Lite. Granted that the 3D program material was all animated, which is almost always impressive on a video display, it nevertheless looked superb. The trailers from Toy Story 3, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast all had me salivating for the full releases (scheduled for October--at least for the latter two). It was interesting to see that the 3D re-processing of the older hand drawn animation on Lion KIng and Beastlooked very good, with a minimum of the layered cardboard cutout effect. Kudos here to both Disney and Panasonic.
Projectors are always big at CEDIA, and Panasonic has two new models on display. I already covered the PT-AE7000U in a previous post, but new at the show is the PT-AR100, an entry-level, 1920x1080 LCD model spec'd with 2800 lumens of light output and a dynamic contrast ratio of 50,000:1. Features include a 2x zoom lens, lockable joystick to adjust the horizontal and vertical lens shift, and the ability to change the lamp and filter without unmounting the unit. It will be available by the end of October for a list price of $1999.
In addition to its mainstream consumer plasmas, Panasonic makes a line of professional models for broadcast monitoring and high-end custom installations. New from the company's pro division at CEDIA is the 65-inch TH-65VX300, which boasts over 12,000 steps of gradation and the ability to reproduce the DCI color gamut as well as Rec.709, SMPTE-C, and EBU. It provides circuit-board slots to customize the input complement, and its internal scaler can be bypassed if you have a better outboard processor. It looked quite good under less-than-ideal conditionswhich it should for $6250.
A whirlwind tour of the Paradigm booth: The Monitor 7 line is the latest version of a killer value series. It has fewer SKUs, and one of them (the Mini Monitor, $279/each) will soon be reviewed in our pages. The Paradigm Cinema Series has gotten its first rethink in 10 years. For a 5.1-channel treatment, mate the Cinema 100CT sat/sub set ($1249, pictured) with the MilleniaSub ($1399). The Millenia LP updates the flat speaker line with 4.5-inch woofers and one-inch tweeters, in various configurations, in 1.75-inch-deep enclosures.
CEDIA Expo 2011 is history, but the memory lingers on. Many manufacturers go to great trouble and expense to dazzle showgoers with their booths, and I always photograph a few of the best ones as I wander the floor. My favorite this year was the Klipsch booth with its floating translucent columns encasing LEDs that provided an ever-changing light show. But it wasn't the only booth that caught my eye…
Pioneer also introduced three new Blu-ray players, all of them manufactured in-house (last year's Pioneer players were made by Sharp). All of them are 3D capable. The non-Elite BDP-140, not shown, at $199, can play back SACD via its HDMI output (and of course CD and Blu-ray as well!). The two models shown, the Elite BP-52FD and the Elite BDP-53FD (the latter available in November for $500) are loaded with the features shown in the display card. My only disappointment is that they do not have a coaxial digital output, but are limited to HDMI and optical. None of the players includes multichannel analog outputs or component video outputs, the latter deletion mandated for all players released after July 2011, the former an industry trend as HDMI becomes more widespread.
Not much information was available on this Elite NP-M50 streaming device, but at $700, with an asynchronous DAC, it should be a hot ticket. A similar NP-M30 deletes some capabilities, including the asynchronicity in its DAC, will go for for $500. December availability for both.
To dramatize the efficiency of its two Class D receiver models, Pioneer hooked up one of them to a meter that monitored power consumption in real time as compared to a Class AB model. At left is the Class D SC-57. At right is the Class AB VSX-1021-K. Though rated for more watts, the SC-57 sucks up less power. Pioneer also showed three new Blu-ray players ranging from $199-399 and made a point of saying they are built to last, unlike all too frequently disposable competitors.
Home Theater editor Rob Sabin, senior editor Tom Norton, and I chat about what we saw at the 2011 CEDIA Expo, including the new Sharp Elite LCD TV that looks like a worthy successor to the now-legendary Pioneer Kuro plasma, home-theater projectors with 4K resolution or 2.35:1 native aspect ratio, Epson's first LCoS-variant projector that produced a spectacular image for less then $5000, 3D, Atlantic Technology's bass-friendly soundbar, GoldenEars' and Definitive Technology's new bookshelf speakers, PSB's noise-cancelling headphones, answers to chat-room questions, and more.
The Polk SurroundBar 500 ($999) was first announced a year and a half ago but took some fine tuning. It moves the messy details of connectivity to an outboard rack-size box, left, allowing the enclosure to be just 0.9 inches deep. It can operate in three-, five-, and seven-channel modes. The woofers at the sides have dual voice coils to make such complex motion possible. The picture may not do justice to the dimpled surface of the drivers, which we assume is for air-flow control. Oh, and have we mentioned that Polk has overhauled its excellent LSi Series for the first time since 2002? There are two towers, a monitor, two centers, and a surround. One or more of them will prove quite reviewable.