The Darbee video processor is said to cleanly enhance a video image. Based on what I saw at CEDIA (and based on Kris Deering's review that's available on this site) it does the job surprisingly well. I did notice, however, that if there are artifacts in the source material it will enhance those as well! But the degree of enhancement is adjustable.
The Darbee Fidelio, not yet available, will be a more upscale version of the current Darbee video processor when it ships at a date TBD (the basic Darbee will still be in the line). It is expected to sell for around $2000 and offers not only video enhancement but a touch screen interface, Video EQ, Multiple inputs and modes, and downloadable features.
As lossless surround addicts, we deplore pricey soundbars that don't support HDMI and therefore lack lossless surround compatibility. Definitive Technology does it right with the SoloCinema XTR, as you can see in the picture, with three HDMI ins and one out in addition to optical and analog. The 5.1-channel bar is the first we've heard of to feature the Dolby Volume volume-leveling and low-volume listening mode: a huge plus. Three aluminum tweeters and three pairs of three-inch convex aluminum woofers are under the hood. The outboard sub has an eight-inch woofer in a flat enclosure that can go against a wall or under a sofa, with three spacer feet. In the demo the bar produced surprisingly discernible and well-imaged surround effects to the side and slightly behind the listener. The remote's highly tactile design helps you feel around for the right button in the dark. Product started shipping in small quantities this month but won't hit its stride till October, at $1999.
Digital Projection was featuring Its D-Vision 35 LED ($39,000 with lens) and D-Vision Scope ($34,995). Both are single-chip home theater designs, identical in form factor to the photo here, but very different in their features. The D-Vision LED uses LED lighting for consistent color and long life, though with some sacrifice in brightness. The D-Vision Scope has a higher than HD resolution chip that enables projection of 2.35:1 films without an anamorphic lens and with an on-screen pixel density of 2560 x 1080. Both looked outstanding, though I favored the brightness and big screen capability of the D-Vision Scope.
I could have really used this when I installed and reviewed SunBriteTV’s 4660HD 46-inch weather-resistant outdoor flat-panel HDTV several months ago. In fact, I looked everywhere for (at least I thought I had) and asked anyone who would listen about a surge protector for the HDMI connection going from the system inside my house out to the HDTV on the back patio. Having gone through the pain of a relatively extensive surge from a frighteningly close lightning strike, I’m slightly more aware of the potential downside of too much electricity. As far as I can tell, Ethereal is the first company to offer an in-line surge protector specifically for HDMI connections. The Ethereal HDM-SP is available now for $159.99 – a price that could wind up saving you a lot more if you live in lightning-prone locales like I do.
dotz Cuts Cord Confusion
According to dotz, the average U.S. household has 40 cords, which adds up to 4.5 billion cords cluttering and choasifying homes across the country. dotz’s Cord Identifier Kit comes with 24 clear, round identifiers that snap along both ends of up to 12 HDMI, component, audio, video, power, and etc cords and cables. Different colors make the cords immediately identifiable when digging around behind AV racks, HDTVs, desks, or nightstands. In addition to different colors, each identifier can be further identified by using pre-printed or “write-your-own” punch-out inserts. Kits sell for $16.99.
It seems that every screen maker these days is offering a 2.35:1, curved screen. The advantage to such a screen is its cinematic look. The disadvantages are possible geometry issues, cost, the fact that it can't be retracted, and possible audio concerns (a concave surface near your speakers isn't a plus). Elite joins the parade with its Lunette curved screens, available with several different screen materials, including a new woven acoustically transparent design (with an effective gain of under 0.9) and the company's 1.1 gain non-perf white.
The surprise here is the price structure. In a world where some curved screens command five-figure price tags, a 103-inch diagonal Lunette will set you back about $1500. Other sizes are available. Unfortunately, the woven, acoustically transparent screen will almost double that price. That's because while Elite screens are made in China, the woven material is available only in the U.S.
Epson's long delayed LCOS (reflective LCD) projector caused quite a ruckus when it was demonstrated at the 2010 CEDIA. But it was never released and has now gone back to the drawing board. So don't look for it any time soon.
But there is a new Epson LCD in town, the PowerLite Pro Cinema 6020. The claim of 2400 lumens and a peak contrast ratio of 320,000:1 would, if realized, be industry highs. The refresh rate of 480Hz is said to increase the 3D brightness. At under $4000 when available in November, the projector will come with 2 pair of active 3D glasses, a spare lamp, and a guarantee of an exchange if, on delivery, there is even one dead pixel.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the end of the man-cave era. I’m not sure I could find a better example of anything that would be more proof of the existence of a trend away from the dedicated, tech-dominated home theater room in favor of a new emphasis on stylish integration of the home theater into people’s homes and lifestyles than this very interesting credenza from Adrian Lifestyles Furnishings. In most ways the Lila Pearl Credenza is a very traditional home entertainment cabinet with media drawers, adjustable shelves, and back panels that provide easy access to components and cables. But it’s also one of those pieces of furniture that you will either immediately hate or absolutely love. The company says the finish is “lacquer finish on Lila veneer”. I’m not quite sure what a “Lila veneer” is, but the color was an extremely interesting combination of purple and rose and mother of pearl. It’s not the sort of thing I’d have in my house, but I know several people who would gladly use it for their TV and associated gear. Adrian Lifestyles Furnishings offers a lot of other cabinet designs, including traditional wall unit style furniture, in a variety of domestic and exotic woods, finishes, sizes, and door types. Pricing was not available.
Focal's Sub Utopia EM earns its $13,999 pricetag with the use of an electromagnetic active voice coil, pictured to the right of the sub. This affords its 13-inch driver a degree of control and damping not possible with a conventional passive voice coil. Outboard amp required, 500 to 1000 watts recommended. Focal also showed three multimedia speakers: the Little Bird, the Bird, and the Super Bird, hence the headline. The cool thing is the flat box that goes with them. It combines the functions of a stereo integrated amp, headphone amp, DAC, and active sub, with wireless connectivity for iOS devices. Pricing is $995, $1199, or $1499 for the package depending on size of fowl. Add another $99 for an iOS or USB dongle.
After yesterday's Media Preview appearance, the GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D Array soundbar offered smooth performance with dynamically challenging movie material and the broad on- and off-axis imaging afforded by its folded ribbon tweeter. We'd say it's worth the $999 pricetag.
I always take time out at CEDIA to sample some of the home theater seating exhibits that sprinkle the show floor. OK, so it’s a tough show and the dogs do bark! This jumbo love seat from Cinema Tech is more than just comfy. It not only reclines, but a powered headrest can be raised or lowered, depending on your needs of the moment. It’s available in different configurations (such a single seat). The catch is the price (for the loveseat shown) of about $7500 depending on the leather selected. A number of other manufacturers were also showing theater seats with adjustable headrests.
Cary Audio has made a distinguished contribution to the headphone craze sweeping across the consumer electronics industry with the HH-1 headphone amp. Introduced at CEDIA Expo, the amp is designed and built in the U.S. and teams a tube preamp stage with a solid-state MOSFET output stage, chosen for its tube-like sonic characteristics. Featuring Class A operation at all output levels and a 30-second muting circuit to prevent annoying turn-on pops, the amp sports a pair of RCA inputs with loop-through outputs and is designed to drive headphones with impedances between 30 and 600 ohms. Price: $1,595.
Scheduled to be available later this year, NextGen’s latest remote control extending device is a hockey puck-like device that receives signals from a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth and blasts out the corresponding IR code so you can control your AVR gear using NextGen’s smartphone app. Pricing is expected to be $79.95.