Surge protection is great and – take it from someone whose equipment recently suffered from the effects of a wayward bolt of lightning – really, really, really important. Unfortunately, most of the serious surge suppression components on the market have the bad habit of taking up valuable rack space. SurgeX’s new XC series separates the protection from the plug, giving you the ability to mount a strip of 18 or 24 outlets vertically along the back of your AV rack (or elsewhere) whilst the serious surge-suppressing circuitry (with SurgeX patented Advanced Series Mode protection technology, a remote interface, an Over/Under Voltage Protection LED, a Power On/Off LED, and a highly interactive Self-Test LED) sits separately. SurgeX says the company’s XC series are built to withstand a 6,000V, 3,000AMP AC power surge at least 1,000 times without failing. (They’re probably telling the truth, although since I had to leave after the 965th surge, I can’t say I saw it with my own eyes…) They’re also backed by an 11-year warranty and are built in the USA.
The Integra DTR-80.3 nine-channel receiver ($3000) and DHC-80.3 pre-pro ($2600) and their Onkyo equivalents are the only receiver/pre-pro that upscale to 4K by 2K. That they can be ISF-calibrated for each source component is just as unusual and even more impressive. Pictured: Ten reasons why custom installers like to do business with Integra.
On the day before the show opened, the isles were clogged with crates, ladders, and fork lifts doing the Indy 500 shuffle. For how it all looked when the crowds rolled in, scroll down until you get to the beauty shot taken on Thursday morning, opening day. Viewing the chaos on the day before, you never think they'll be ready to open on time. They always are. Kudos to the dozens of behind the scenes "stagehands" without whom there wouldn't even be a show.
MechoShade’s AcoustiVeil Dimout shadecloth is 100% polyester, PVC-free, and lightweight. It works as a “near-blackout” shade with sound and echo absorption (and a noise-reduction coefficient of 0.575). It’s available in White, Pearl Grey, and Black.
Summit Wireless keeps charging forward in their quest to conquer the wireless home theater audio world. While the company was cagey about upcoming announcements regarding products coming to market, the people in-the-know hinted that exciting things are about to happen. Summit Wireless technology enables wireless 5.1- and 7.1-channel home theater systems. But it’s more than just a set of wireless speakers. The technology allows the user to tailor the sweet spot of the system to any location in the room with the press of a single button. The system automatically figures out where all the speakers are in relation to each other and can process the audio signal to compensate for less than optimum speaker or listener positioning – and it does it with a single button press. It’s quite possible that we’ll soon start seeing the Summit Wireless processing technology showing up in flat panel TVs, in which case adding a simple dongle to the USB port on the TV will enable the TV to send audio to a set of powered, wireless speakers in your home theater.
Aperion Audio is the first company to have actual, real products available for sale. The 5.1-channel amplified wireless Aperion Audio home theater system will be shipping soon for $2,499. The 7.1 version will sell for $2,999. The controller box (which takes the place of an AVR, which is no longer needed since the amps are built into the speakers) has one optical input, once coax digital input, three HDMI inputs, two stereo analog inputs and has decoding for DTS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD.
Harman announced and demonstrated a new audio processing format called QuantumLogic. Extremely complex, what it offers, on both the recording and playback end, is the ability to manipulate the signal in unprecedented ways. For example, it can isolate a solo singer, or just the orchestra, or even just the ambience, and process and move it around in the sound field in almost any way the user (or the recording engineer) desires. The extraction process is nearly total. The process provides extreme flexibility for enhancing (or, it must be said, compromising) the sound, again either on recording or playback. You'll be hearing a lot more about it both here and elsewhere in the future.
The first product to include QuantumLogic will be Lexicon's new MP-20 Media Processor. It has also been implemented in a Ferrari which was on display on the show floor, but that's hardly a mass market item (nor is the five-figure processor!).
THX has been talking about its Media Director technology for some time, but it's finally being introduced to the marketplace. Media Director embeds metadata in the content itself, describing how the content was created and how it should be rendered in order to preserve the creator's artistic intent and assure optimal presentation. To do so, the so-called content descriptors are created along with the content and remain associated with it all the way to the end user's display and audio system, which automatically adjust their settings for optimal playback, offsetting the calibrated settings as needed for that content only.
The first Blu-rays to include Media Director metadata are the new Star Wars discs, but other studios are ramping up to include it in their new releases. On the hardware side, the first player to have Media Director capabilities is the Dune HD Blu-ray/media streamer from HDI Dune (yeah, I had never heard of them, either). As you can see in the photo above, it was implemented in a Sharp Elite TV at the THX booth, and it will be part of the 2012 Sharp Elites. In fact, starting in 2012, products that hope to be THX-certified must include Media Director functionality.
Yes, THX now certifies soundbars, and isn't it about time someone brought order to that sonically chaotic universe? The first bar to win certification is the Teufel Cinebar 51THX, from a German manufacturer. This 2.1-channel bar (with outboard sub, not pictured) is guaranteed to produce SPL up to 105dB at a specified distance of six feet with the right kind of horizontal and vertical dispersion. Also glimpsed at the THX booth: the Acurus A2002 stereo power amp.
Totem Acoustic, you knocked our socks off. Now give them back. Technically, the Element Series was announced at CES and it is against our code of honor to cover anything but new-for-this-show stuff. However, the center speaker is new, so we've wiggled out. It's called the Wood ($4500/each) and it will be joined by the Water sub ($5500) at a time yet unspecified. The existing models include two towers and a monitor. Powered by Arcam electronics, the big Metal tower ($16,000/pair) provided the best sound we've heard at the show so far, with effortlessly natural and well imaged vocals that flourished despite noise from the show floor.
Vivitek was demoing two of its projectors in 2D. A stacked pair of its well-established H9080 LED-based DLP projectors ($15,000 each, shown here) were converged onto a 118" wide, Da-Lite Affinity screen (gain 1.1). A single D8300 ($118,000, shown below) was firing onto a c comparably sized Stewart Firehawk.
Anthem’s new Statement M1 mono block Class D amplifier puts out a paltry 1,000 watts into 8 ohms and doubles that (2,000 watts) into 4 ohm loads. The Class D design allowed the Anthem engineers to jam all the amplifier circuitry into a chassis that’s only one rack unit high. To keep things cool, there’s a special heat pipe cooling system – no fans! – and multiple M1s can be rack mounted directly on top of one another. Ideally, you’ll have a dedicated 240V circuit for the M1s in your system; however, Anthem designed the amp to still be able to generate temporary outputs of up to 2400 watts even when connected to a 120V/15A line. Get one, or seven, for $3,500 each.
There’s a bit of a buzz in the industry – okay, there’s a huge roar – about whether one HDMI cable is better than another. There’s certainly plenty of marketing gimmicks from some of the cable manufacturers that will be noted in the long history of snake oil selling. Out of courtesy (and to keep him from sending any more text messages), I made of visit to the Audioquest booth to see our old Editor, Shane Buettner. There, instead of the sickening scent of snake oil, Shane simply laid out the case for why there are performance differences in HDMI and USB cables from an audio standpoint. But hearing is believing, as they say, and so he finally stopped talking, handed over a set of headphones, and proceeded to play music from a CD through three different HDMI cables. Even in the ludicrous environment of the show floor, there were definitely differences in the sound quality of the audio being transported through the HDMI cable. Interesting stuff, and definitely something I’m going to look into a bit deeper.