It is hard to walk from the Sands Convention Center to the audio exhibits at the Venetian Towers without noticing this tempting array of candy apples. They sure looked better than the modest fruit distributed with the press room's box lunches.
GenAudio astounded me at last year's CES with its AstoundSound 3D audio system, which creates a convincing spherical soundfield from two speakers. This year, the company announced that its launching AstoundSound for CE, an application that manufacturers can include in their products, such as iPod speakers, soundbars, and TVsin fact, GenAudio is partnering with Analog Devices and other DSP makers to include the algorithm in their chips.
I heard a clip from Kitaro's Earth in Bloom that was downmixed from 5.1 to 2 channels and then expanded by AstoundSound in real time played first on a $12,000 pair of Gheithain pro studio monitors and then on a $300 2.1 Panasonic soundbar, and the result was remarkable, with various sounds flying all around the room, including overhead. Of course, the studio monitors had better sound quality, but the effect was quite pronouncedand enjoyablefrom both.
GoldenEar Technology continues to produce thoughtful, independent-minded, and well-engineered new products. Pride of place in the company's exhibit went to the Triton Three powered tower, whose 800-watt DSP-enhanced digital amp drives a 5- by 9-inch sub driver, further reinforced by two 6.75- by 8-inch passive radiators. With the top end handled by GoldenEar's signature folded ribbon tweeter and Audio Research electronics, the speaker left the room awash in delicious sound. Another notable debut was the SuperCinema 3D Array soundbar. This LCR bar includes, in triplicate, the folded ribbon and a 4.5-inch woofer. Cancellation of inter-aural crosstalk gives it the ability to sound anywhere from slightly to considerably (almost unnervingly) bigger than the width of the bar itself. Since it's an LCR, factor in the cost of surrounds and sub. Pricing for either one: $999/each. Also shown was the Invisa HTR 7000 in-ceiling speaker, the first product in that genre to include the folded ribbon ($499).
Available either alone ($1000) or with a small subwoofer and surround satellites ($2000), GoldenEar's new SuperCinema 3D Array is an unpowered soundbar (requires an external, customer-provided AVR) that appears to effectively compensate for the limited spacing of its left/right channel drivers by a second set of internal drivers to "effectively cancel out [the] crosstalk distortion between the left and right channel[s]." I spend some time listening to it, and was surprised at how effective it was. More importantly, its overall performance, while no substitute for good, well separated conventional speakers (of which GoldenEar makes more than its well-received share) was remarkable and well worth considering by those who need a space-saving, home theater solution.
Photo by Barb Gonzalez
After failing miserably last year, Google TV has risen phoenix-like from the ashes to become an important part of several major companies' IPTV strategy. As you may recall, Google TV tried to integrate streaming services with broadcast and pre-recorded DVR content into a unified Android environment, but the user interface was clunky, and too many services blocked access from that particular platform.
Now, it seems Google TV is getting a second chance from LG, Sony, and Vizio, all of whom introduced products that include the service. LG announced two LED-LCD TVs (LMG860 and LMG620; LG's Android Market interface shown above), while Sony unveiled the NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray player and NSZ-GS7 network media player (a media-streaming box like Roku). Interestingly, Sony had a TV with Google TV last year, but not at this year's show. Vizio introduced three LED-LCD TVs with Google TV (R3D470VS, R3D550VS, and R3D650SV) along with the VBR430 Blu-ray player and VAP430 streamer box.
In collaboration with Mark Levinson (the man, not the company), chip maker Intersil and its subsidiary D2Audio are developing a suite audio-enhancement algorithms called Mighty Cat. The idea is to use mastering tools to optimize the performance of audio hardware, such as soundbars, computer speakers, and TVs; manufacturers would "tune" the algorithms specifically for each individual product and then embed the code in the firmware of that product.
The demo I heard was played on a pair of inexpensive Logitech computer speakers. The ultimate goal is to make the Logitech speaker sound like the $25,000/pair Daniel Hertz M7 on which it is sitting in this photoan impossible dream, to be sure, but the processing did improve the Logitech's sound dramatically, making it much richer and fuller. Intersil is in negotiations with various manufacturers to incorporate this technology into their products.
One of the surprise finds I stumbled upon on the last day of CES was a company called iOmounts. They make a very clever magnetic mounting system for iPhones and iPads (or any flat tablet or touchscreen device, really) that’s easy to use, very stable, and is designed for quick release. The mount uses a stainless ball with a round magnet that’s sculpted on one end to fit the ball. The other end is flat. A thin circle of metal gets attached to the back of your iOS device, and this is what is held in place by the flat end of the magnet that’s attached to the ball. While the magnet is holding the device, you can slide it around the surface of the ball in order to position the iOS device at almost any angle. When you’re done, you simply pull the device away from the magnet and go on your way. It’s a great idea for someone who wants to use his/her iPad as a second monitor - or especially for anyone who uses an iPad/iPhone as a temporary remote control in a home theater. The iOmounts come in two sizes. The shorter version starts at $69, while the taller version starts at $89. A wall mount will be available for $49. Everything (except the magnets) is made in Colorado, and they’re expected to begin shipping in March.
The big news from Monster Cable is that Monster Cable is no longer Monster Cable. It's just Monster, period. For the first time the company's well-attended press event made virtually no mention of cable products (aside from a press release on ISF-certified HDMI cables). We're guessing Monster is not withdrawing from the still lucrative cable market. It's just that Head Monster Noel Lee has found something even more lucrative and au courant: designer headphones.
JVC demonstrated three of its projectors, the DLA-X30R ($3500), DLA-X70R ($8000), and the DLA-X90R ($12,000). The DLA-X30R was demonstrated in 3D with an anamorphic lens on a 2.35:1 source. The ability of the JVC projectors to do 3D with such an add-on lens new for 2012. Previously, and with some other projectors, the internal processing did not have enough horsepower to handle both 3D and the anamorphic vertical stretch needed for use with an anamorphic lens.
The DLA-X70R was used for a 2.35:1 2D source, but here by using the zoom method to fill the screen (a convenient option here thanks to the lens memories that all three projectors offer. A review of the DLA-X70R is in the works and should appear in our May 2012 issue. Both of these projectors were used on Screen Innovations Black Diamond screens (1.4 gain, 100-inches wide) in a well-darkened space.
The DLA-X90R was demonstrated in JVC's 4K e-Shift theater on a 150-inch diagonal (about 130-inches wide) Stewart DT Reflection screen (gain 1.7). the images were stunningly vivid, and the demo all too brief!
At the conclusion of Sony's press conference, American Idol sensation Kelly Clarkson performed her tune "Mr. Know-It-All" with acoustic guitar. The sound system was too loud, and I'm not a big fan of hers, but the audience seemed to enjoy it immensely.
Like most cable manufacturers these days, Kimber Kable's top speaker cables sell at "If you have to ask" prices. Shown here is how they are internally constructed, which looks like a braided mesh of cables over a flexible inner core.
As reported by our colleague
Darryl Wilkinson, the Klipsch press conference mentioned the G-17 Air compact system, whose drivers and flat enclosure hail from the new Gallery line, and the ginormous one-piece Console, the latter to be produced in Klipsch's hometown of Hope, Arkansas. But the latter was not shown at the time, so here it is. Interesting, the bleeding-edge Palladium and other higher-end Klipsch lines are moving their manufacturing from China back to Arkansas due to higher costs in the former. This isn't a knock against the Chinese but we can't help feeling pleased that more Klipsch speakers are going to be made in America.