Sometimes you wonder how some companies get involved in seemingly unrelated product categories. Amidst more traditional iPod/iPhone/iPad add-ons, accessory manufacturer Griffin was showing off a pair of IR-controlled helicopters that you pilot using your iOS touchscreen device. The $49.95 current model (HELO TC) will be joined soon by a $59.95 version (HELO TC Assault) that was shooting small plastic “missiles” at unsuspecting CES booth gawkers. Although a little tricky to fly at first, the helicopters were a lot of fun to fly using the included iOS app. Movement is controlled either with a virtual joystick or by tilting the iOS device. When asked how Griffin got involved selling remote-controlled helicopters, I was told the “unofficial” story: the staff all like flying them at the office.
You will see a few asides in these postings that are not speaker-related, but interesting nonetheless. Shown in the photo is the first preamp ever produced by audio specialist Audio Research, the SP-3 from the mid 1970s. It was on static display in the Audio Research room. Audio Research founder William Z. Johnson passed away in 2011. Johnson and his company were key players in the birthing of high-end.
Las Vegas was built, in large part, on the acquiring and spending of golden nuggets. Today, of course, golden nuggets (in the form of dollar bills) are handed over to the casinos in enormous quantities. There was a huge golden nugget, however, to be found in the GoldenEar suite at the Venetian - and this one didn’t get put on the closest gaming table. Sandy Gross and team have put together an absolutely unbelievable LCR soundbar that’s so flipping good, it was THE most exciting audio product I heard the entire Show. Somehow this amazing 49-inch wide soundbar sounded as if it were more like 15 feet wide; and combined with two of GoldenEar’s ForceField 3 subwoofers ($499/each), the $999 SuperCinema 3D Array was easily one of the best sounding soundbars I’ve ever heard in just about any price range, especially when it came to reproducing two-channel music - a task most soundbars fail abysmally at. Thankfully, in this case, what happens in Vegas isn’t staying in Vegas - and we’ll be getting one of the first samples for review in the next few months. Stay tuned...
After flying under the radar for awhile, BenQ is back with a new home-theater projector, the W7000 ($3999, currently shipping). Like all BenQ projectors, this one is based on DLP, but it's the company's first 1080p model to offer 3D, using active glasses with DLP Link instead of IR or RF sync. The W7000 is said to produce the Rec.709 color gamut and 2000 lumens of light output, and its dynamic iris is available in 3D mode. I watched a bit of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides presented on a Screen Innovations Black Diamond II screen, and it looked quite good, even with some room light, though darkening the room completely certainly looked better.
At CES, legendary audio company McIntosh introduced a special 50th Anniversary Limited Edition McIntosh MC275 tube power amplifier. According to McIntosh, the 75-watt x 2 MC275 was designed and engineered in 1961 by McIntosh co-founder Sidney Corderman and the McIntosh Engineering Team, and it's been an object of desire for McIntosh aficionados ever since. Adding to the excitement of the introduction, McIntosh handed out what has to be one of the best press kit flash drives in the history of CES: a miniature version of the MC275 with 4 GB of flash memory hidden inside one of the output transformers. McIntosh says they are only building 275 of the 50th Anniversary Limited Edition MC275 (hmmm, I wonder where they came up with that number?), so it's destined to be a highly sought after piece of gear. I'm not sure how many mini-MC275 flash drives McIntosh has to give out, but I know it's going to be quite a collector's item, too. Now, if I could just figure out where to connect the speaker wires...
Cambridge Audio has always made fine-sounding a/v receivers but in past years the British brand has had trouble keeping up with the latest features, as often happens with smaller manufacturers competing in the feature-frenetic a/v receiver space. But Cambridge is catching up with 3D and other must-haves with three new models. The Azur 751R has 200 watts times seven, Anchor Bay video processing, an extra sub-out for zone two, and Audyssey 2EQ auto setup and room correction (note that it does not equalize the sub channel). The Azur 651R is similarly equipped with 175 watts times seven ($2200). The Azur 551R ($1200) has 110 watts times seven, Faroudja video processing, and proprietary CAMCAS auto setup but no room correction. Note that these power ratings are into six ohms, so the more customary eight-ohm ratings would be a bit lower (for instance, 120 times seven in the top model). Still, the six-ohm ratings suggest how the receivers will perform with slightly more demanding speakers. And these receivers are far from underbuilt. All have heavy damped metal chassis with large toroidal power transformers and an X-tract heat control system involving a large central heat sink and cooling fans, allowing high performance in a not-too-tall form factor.
Kogeto’s Dot is a super-clever add-on lens for Apple iPhone 4/4S that lets you take 360-degree videos just by holding the phone horizontally. A free app (Looker) from Kogeto let’s you view the videos. In regular mode, you can pan through the video from side to side by swiping your finger across the screen; or you can watch the entire 360-degree field of view in panorama mode. Videos can be emailed or shared via Facebook and Twitter. Dot kits are available in four different colors (black, red, pink, and green) for $79/each.
Cardas is best known for bleeding-edge cables but is moving into earbuds with the EM 5813 Ear Speakers. Their heavy and lustrous metal casings are brass in the $425 model and steel in the $325 model. Despite their weight, they fit well and don't fall out easily if you pick the right cushion size (took me a couple of tries). Cardas went to a lot of trouble to make the tube mimic the shape of the cochlea, in proportions that adhere to the Golden Ratio, a longtime Cardas design obsession. (It seems to have resulted in a long string of great-sounding products.) The diaphragm is about the size of the eardrum.