Home-automation stalwart Crestron is demonstrating at CEDIA Expo a Near Field Communication (NFC)-based technology called airConnect that enables homeowners to trigger personal control settings for a home theater system and other devices connected to a central control system by simply holding an NFC-enabled smartphone close to an NFC tag in the room. The tag can be programmed to initiate any number of activities or automated routines, such as turning on system components, closing motorized shades, lowering a projector screen and launching a control app on the phone. The NFC tags, which are 1-inch, paper-thin squares, can be embedded in convenient locations, such as behind a wall keypad. A number of Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices are NFC-enabled and Crestron says it will support iPhone and iPad as soon as they incorporate NFC technology.
Crestron is also demonstrating enhanced AirPlay functionality for its Sonnex multiroom audio system, which allows you to stream audio from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac PC to any room in the house without having to switch audio sources. Hit play and the system detects audio signals and automatically switches to the AirPlay source. The Sonnex system incorporates high-performance digital audio processing, full matrix switching and high-powered amplification.
Security and convenience are two big benefits of having a home automation system. Unfortunately, the various door, window, and motion sensors that are the “eyes and ears” of the system are often big and ugly. At Control4’s mega-booth, NYCE Control was introducing “the smallest Zigbee home automation devices in the world”. And these gizmos certainly are small. The $89 door/window open/close sensors shown on the left of the NYCE display pictured above are not much larger than a quarter. Coming in the very near future will be a garage door sensor ($89) and a special device NYCE calls an “asset protector”. Basically a small white square just like the larger of the two parts of the window sensor, the $89 Asset Protector can be discretely attached to just about anything. The sensor is designed to immediately signal if it senses a large amount of motion. NYCE says you can attach this to the back of an HDTV, for example, as an additional security device that can notify your Control4 system that major movement – as in, someone is trying to take the TV off the way – has been detected.
With nine amp channels and 11.4-channel preamp outs, the Integra DTR-70.4 is armed for nine to eleven bears. Theoretically you could add a stereo amp and get 11.1 channels of joy out of the DTS Neo:X height and width enhancement mode, but that may be the least of this receiver's achievements. It is certification-studded with THX Ultra2 Plus, ISF video calibration for the dual-core video engine, and—a personal favorite of ours—Audyssey MultEQ XT32 auto setup and room correction. We've tried the latter with another product (the similarly featured Onkyo TX-NR3010) and the extra filter resolution makes a notable improvement: the room-corrected sound is less hard and fatiguing and it images better. Plug an Android smartphone into the MHL-HDMI input. Get a look at several HDMI sources simultaneously with InstaPrevue. This being Integra, there are niceties a custom installer would appreciate such as extra 12-volt triggers and IR jacks, and—well, we'd like to go on, but we're tired now.
Almost as popular as in-ear headphones were various mounts for tablets – well, specifically, iPads. Sanus was demonstrating a special under-cabinet tablet mount, while OmniMount showed off a prototype wall mount device that held the iPad snug against the wall using powerful magnets. iPort’s cable-free mounting and charging system called LaunchPort requires a special $149 AP.3 Sleeve for your iPad – but the benefit is that you can magnetically attach your iPad to either iPort’s BaseStation or WallStation and simultaneously charge the device without needing to plug in a sync/charge cable. The $199 BaseStation is an angled block which is designed to sit on a desk or recliner’s arm rest. The $199 WallStation is a relatively small and unobtrusive in-wall installed device that snugly holds the iPad against the wall – and, as does the BaseStation, inductively charges the iPad when on the wall.
StealthCoverArt is a subsidiary of invisible speaker manufacturer Stealth Acoustics. StealthCoverArt makes it possible to choose a frame that fits over your flat-panel TV and then pick from a large selection of Stealth’s artwork, provide your own photo to be printed, or commission an original painting to use as the image that fits inside the frame and hides the TV. When you’re ready to watch TV, the canvas rolls up inside the frame, revealing the flat-panel behind it. Stealth Acoustics’ Image Series includes two-way customizable on-wall loudspeakers with completely flat front radiating surfaces that can be covered by an “Image Wrap” laminated finishes designed to match the screen image used in the StealthCoverArt frame. Pricing varies depending on size, style, and choice of image.
Crimson AV primarily makes mounts for big flat-panel TVs and projectors. And while I was impressed by the company’s attention to even the smallest details of the largest mounts, one of Crimson AV’s smallest devices was getting the largest attention. The $39.95 pocket-eAzl is a cleverly designed stand for iPads and other tablets that folds up into a small brick-like package that’s about the height and depth of an iPhone but only half the width, so it easily fits in a shirt, pants, or jacket pocket when not in use.
JVC announced nine new LCOS projectors at its Thursday CEDIA press conference. As before, these fall into two lines, Procision (consumer) and Reference (pro), each of which have models that differ only in model number (with one exception, the Reference DLA-RS4810 at $5095, which does not have a Procision equivalent).
All but the base model in each line employ JVC’s e-shift2 technology, which upconverts 2D HD content to 4K, i.e. 3840 x 2160 (as last year, the projectors cannot accept a native 4K source). Further video processing then manipulates this upconverted signal to operate with the projectors’ 2K (1920 x 1080) LCOS imaging chips.
E-shift2 is an upgrade from last years e-shift. Compared to e-shift, e-shift2 is said to sample 12 times as many pixels in its processing. It also simplifies the light path for higher brightness. The new projectors are said to produce higher native contrast ratios than last year’s models, with the top of the line designs said to achieve 130,000:1. The lamps in the new lineup are also specified to 4000 hours, with more stable brightness levels with increasing hours. You can also operate the projectors from your smart phone or tablet with a downloadable application.
The top two models in each line carry ISF and (pending) THX 3D certification. E-shift2 now extends down to a new $5000 price point with the DLA-X55R (Procision) and DLA-RS48 (Reference). The top models are the DLA-X95R and DLA-RS66, each at $11,999. The popularly priced DLA-X35 and DLA-RS46, which do not have e-shift, will retail for $3500. 3D glasses and a 3D transmitter are optional. Delivery of these new models is expected before the end of the year.
The last model to commemorate KEF's much-celebrated 50th anniversary is an echo of its historic BBC-approved LS35A monitor. The new LS50's curved baffle includes the famous coaxial Uni-Q array, with the tweeter centered in the woofer, and the specific drivers having trickled down from the bleed-edge Blade über-tower. The ported design plays deeper than the LS35A's sealed design. Even amid the hubbub of the show floor, this was one of the best monitors we've ever heard casually demoed, and it hurts to say that it's priced per pair, at $1500, which will make odd-numbered surround configurations impractical unless you don't mind sticking an extra speaker in the closet. Shipping now.
It's about time KEF offered a product specifically for the growing computer-speaker audience. Though the X300A's ship date is not imminent, the preview demo made us want a pair right away, with the tight imaging we expect of a Uni-Q speaker and good top-to-bottom proportioning. It's KEF's first self-powered speaker, with powerful Class AB amplification and USB bridging the gap from one speaker to another, and each one having its own separate digital-to-analog converter. You might see it in December for $799/pair.
Krell is getting back into the sub-$10K price point with the Foundation pre-pro. At $6000, it offers fully balanced output stages, as you can see from all those XLR outs. Ever conscious that the surround audiophile may also be a stereo audiophile, it supplements its eight HDMI ins and two outs with a stereo preamp mode that keeps the signal entirely in the analog domain. Add some combination of Krell's five-, three-, or two-channel power amps and you've got a compelling system.
Mohu’s original paper-thin indoor HDTV antenna – the $44.99 Leaf – is descended from a special antenna designed to do double-duty as a mudf flap on military Humvees. Soon to come from Mohu is the $120 Sky HDTV amplified outdoor HDTV antenna. Mohu says the sleek Sky HDTV antenna is omni-directional, very lightweight, and extremely easy to install. Mohu also showed the $49.99 JOLT Amplifier that can be used with any HDTV antenna to boost performance.
The Boundary B404 speaker Leon is demonstrating at CEDIA Expo may well be the most indoor-looking outdoor speaker you’ll see (shown above in an outdoor theater setup). Available in mahogany, white or black finished with a high-gloss marine varnish that would be at home on any boat, the weatherproof speaker has two 4-inch aluminum woofers and a 1-inch aluminum/magnesium dome tweeter, specially formulated to withstand the elements. Price: $2,200 apiece.
Though not exhibiting at the 2012 CEDIA Expo, LG Electronics took space in a local restaurant in Indianapolis on Thursday night to announce pending availability of its new 84-inch 4K-resolution flat-panel HDTV. According to Jay Vandenbree, senior VP of Home Electronics, the 3840 x 2160-pixel display will be sold by a limited selection of U.S. retailers starting in October. Manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing has been set at $19,999, about $5,000 less than Sony plans to charge for it’s own 84-inch 4K panel announced for the U.S market on Wednesday. That HDTV should be available in November. Of course, there’s no real 4K content available to view on these televisions, nor any medium to deliver it, so buyers will be viewing upscaled 1080i from their cable boxes or 1080p from their Blu-ray players for the foreseeable future. Both sets are said to accept a 4K signal, though, so viewers will not only be future-proofed but should also be able to use other 3rd party scalers to achieve the best image quality with existing 2K content.
See that USB port on the back of the Marantz SA-11S3 disc player? The advent of computer-worthy USB ports on audio products is a development whose importance can't be overstated. True, there are a lot of great outboard DACs on the market, with more to come—but what if you don't want that extra box and power cable in your rack? One option is to build the DAC into another product such as the Pioneer SC-68 surround receiver, or this Marantz SACD/CD player. Incidentally, it does not do Blu-ray or DVD. The Burr-Brown DAC has resolution of 192/24. Build quality is typically superb, with copper substituting for aluminum in the back panel and some internal parts. Price is $4000.
Marantz was on hand with its latest surround preamp-processor and 5-channel amp. Apart from slightly increased price, the AV7701 7.2-channel pre-pro ($1700) is similar to last year’s model. The 5-channel, 140 WPC, MM7055 power amp is priced at the same $1700.