At some point, CES ceased having much of anything to do with the home theater experience, and became primarily about TV makers launching the latest, biggest, and thinnest TVs. Oh, and there are also a couple of floors of stratospherically expensive high-end audio gear, and now headphones.
As a general rule, home automation is pricey. When you add motorization into the mix, it can get even pricier. SABAJ, a vertically integrated, extremely automated manufacturer located in Poland, showed off a motorized TV lift mechanism designed to raise flat-panel TVs up out of hidden cabinets that is surprisingly affordable. The company’s various lift mechanisms include an RJ45 socket for use with home automation systems, power guard circuitry to prevent the mechanism to lower the TV if it is still on, an active safety system that stops the downward movement and raises the screen slightly if something gets in the way, a three-button programming sequence for programming a preset viewing-position, and comes flat-packed so shipping costs are low. The TV-LIFT K-LINE ECO and K-LINE PREMIUM models are designed for flat-panel TVs up to 60 inches and up to 155 pounds (depending upon the K-LINE model). Product will be available in the US market very soon, and pricing will likely start at well under $1,000 for the lift mechanism.
Waterproof iPad and iPhone cases don’t automatically jump out as being prime home theater-related items; but as outdoor TVs from companies like SunBriteTV and Seura become more and more popular, along with weather-resistant speakers (such as the Soundcast Outcast wireless speakers), plenty of iOS and Android devices are making their way out into the elements. I originally thought the various storage bags from LOKSAK were little more than high-teched-up versions of the basic Ziploc storage bags found in kitchens everywhere. In reality, these amazing bags are not only resealable, they’re also completely waterproof, dust proof, and humidity proof. In fact, the many different sizes of LOKSAK bags are all rated to withstand being submerged in 20 feet of water for up to two weeks. Most amazing, however, is the fact that the touchscreen on your tablet or smartphone will operate exactly as if there were no bag material present at all. And, just as remarkable, you can make/take phone calls without opening the bag – including using the phone’s built-in speaker and microphone! With all that technology going for it, you’d expect to pay an iPremium price for an aLOKSAK; instead, aLOKSAKs start at under $8 – for a package of three aLOKSAKs.
"Blue" and "Air" has become our notebook slang for products including both Bluetooth and AirPlay wireless capability. There are quite a few of them at this CES. HRT, a new company, features them in the Stage speakers, with analog amplification, preamp, and USB DAC built into a separate module. One-inch tweeters are treated fabric, 3.5-inch woofers are aluminum, and the system sounded fabulous with CD-resolution files of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (and we think it could have sounded even better with a 24-bit file). The price is $999 with Blue and Air or a hundred bucks less without—but why would you do that? Shipping in June.
Sometimes journalists need a little jump start before an evening filled with new product pitches and demonstrations from eager company execs and PR folks. One of the more creative ways of providing chilled beverages involved a giant block of ice with a carefully carved, very clever martini slalom. Sometimes low-tech is cool, too. (And refreshing!)
Sharp showed its 8K HDTV at last year's CES, and it was here again for 2013. It remains a technological tour de force, but is unlikely to be a real product any time soon. One doubling of resolution at a time, please!
Just when you thought eating utensils couldn’t get any better than the plastic spork, HAPILABS develops the HAPIfork – “an electronic fork that monitors your eating habits…and alerts you with the help of indicator lights and gentle vibrations when you are eating too fast.” In addition to larding it over the knife and spoon, the HAPIfork also connects to your iOS/Android/Windows device and keeps track of your eating performance, or you can use an online dashboard at HAPILABS website. (Now that I think of it, it could also be used to aid in training aspiring eating contest champions…) The HAPIfork has a unique HAPIbutton that lets you track HAPImoments by pressing and holding in the HAPIbutton from 1 (“meh”) to 10 (“orgasmic”) seconds. No doubt the next HAPIgadget to appear will be a HAPIremote that will warn you when you’ve been sitting on your butt for too long in front of the TV. It should also track how often you change the channel. And how often your family fights over who gets to hold the remote control.
James Loudspeakers got the memo on bringing the big subs. Their pro audio speakers are complimented by these massive 18" drivers. Their demo room seemed to lack real low end power though. This seemed to be an issue in a lot of rooms at CEDIA this year. Big subs with lackluster bass performance in their demos. I bet with the right setup and room, these would play nice though.
Though the Mirage brand name is on ice, its Omnipolar speaker technology lives on in two new 360 Series satellites from Jamo. The larger of the two, the S35, is the size of a grapefruit, has a 3.5-inch woofer, and will be sold in groups of four with a conventionally shaped center and sub. The smaller S25 has a 2.5-inch woofer and will be sold in a five-pack. Available colors will be determined based on dealer feedback at the show with shipping later in the year.
JBL has continued to refine the design and performance of the flagship Project Everest DD66000 speaker it introduced six years, culminating in the $75,000-a-pair DD67000 unveiled at CES. Upgrades include a refined crossover network and extended frequency response thanks to new cast-aluminum-frame woofers, featuring three-layer laminated cone construction and 4-inch voice coils, a mid/high-frequency compression driver with a 4-inch beryllium diaphragm, and an ultrahigh-frequency compression driver with a 1-inch beryllium diaphragm and 2-inch neodymium magnet. Both compression drivers are mounted in JBL’s computer-optimized Bi-Radial horns, made from acoustically inert SonoGlass to eliminate unwanted colorations and shaped to optimize dispersion.
Available in rosewood or maple, the furniture-grade cabinet retains the curved and angled surfaces of its predecessor, including the signature flared horn, and introduces a carbon-fiber baffle trim panel. The speakers will be available in February.
Klipsch likes to bring its trombone to jazz bars and jam after hours.... No, no, that's not it. Klipsch is introducing horned speaker design to soundbars. Yes, that's more like it. The two HD Theater Series bars shown include the SB 1, $599, with two three-inch IMG (injection-molded graphite) woofers and a silk tweeter on each side; and the SB 3, $799, similar but with 3.5-inch woofers and more power. Both speak wirelessly to 10-inch subs though the larger bar has a more powerful and deeper sub. The big guy can produce SPL of up to 110dB (in other words it's very loud). Both have optical and stereo analog ins plus a mini-jack on the SB 3. Klipsch also showed the fifth generation of the legendary Quintet sat/sub set. It now comes in a BMC enclosure, a type of forged stone polymer that's high-pressure injection-molded and is acoustically inert. The motors take up the entire innards of the enclosure. 90 by 90 degree horns surround the 0.75-inch aluminum tweeter and the woofer is another 3.5-inch IMG driver. The new Quintet will be sold in 5.1 sets for $899, same price as the original Quintet, or in five-packs with no sub for $549. When I have more time remind me to tell you about the amazing $2,000 Stadium powered speaker with its opposing subwoofer drivers and quadruple-threat connectivity: AirPlay, Bluetooth, wi-fi, and DLNA.
Just what the world needs: another wireless music system. Klipsch agrees, which is why it put audio quality first in the high-performance Stadium Music Center debuting at CES. The all-in-one system gets high marks for supporting connectivity via AirPlay, Wi-Fi, DLNA and the CD-quality aptX version of Bluetooth in a package that looks bold and sounds even bolder.
An on-the-fly demo with Red Hot Chili Peppers, featuring Flea’s muscular bass lines front and center, was impressive and had me looking around for a separate subwoofer. Not needed. The ring between the Stadium’s speaker modules joins a pair of 5.25-inch woofers that produce surprisingly deep bass to complement the rich sound delivered by pairs of horn-loaded 1-inch tweeters and 3-inch midrange drivers. The point of the system: You don’t have to sacrifice sound quality for convenience, according to Mark Casavant, senior vice president of product development. He’s not kidding.
Available this summer for $2,000, the system is housed in a brushed-aluminum cabinet with grille covers that come in several lifestyle colors.
Purposely resembling a mini band shell in a nod to the full-size Klipsch Music Center in the company’s home state of Indiana, the smaller Music Center KMC 3 will be available this spring for $400 in several bright colors. The system produces robust sound through a pair of 2-inch drivers and a 5.25-inch woofer, supports aptX Bluetooth and has a USB charging port and auxiliary input on its back panel.
Times change. The once illustrious speaker brands Klipsch, Jamo, and Energy now belong to conglomerate VOXX (along with RCA, AR, and others). This lonely kiosk on the main convention center floor didn't look too encouraging, given the vitality of those brands at past shows. At the Venetian, where most of the audio exhibits are held, things looked slightly better. I'd expect the Klipsch name to be kept relatively sacrosanct, and there were some nice looking Jamo floor-standers on static display. But the Energy Demo was relegated to a modest-looking sound bar.
Texas Instruments, developer of the DLP imaging chips used in many of today’s video projectors, is demonstrating at CES 2013 a new architecture that makes the already minuscule pixels in Pico projectors even smaller. Dubbed Tilt & Roll Pixel, or TRP, the technology is said to double resolution to 1280 x 800 and increase brightness by as much as 30 percent, making it possible to project larger images from ever-smaller projectors (like the one built into Samsung’s Galaxy Beam phone). At the same time, power consumption is reduced by up to 50 percent.
This 21:9, 29-inch may not be just the ticket for that big screen home theater, although it can display 2.35:1 films without black bars. But its primary application will be for a computer monitor, where it can display multiple images at once, including a 4-screen split for multitasking.