In addition to its AVR600 A/V receiver (expected to ship in March, which is when we're hoping to get a sample for review), Arcam showed an early prototype Blu-ray player. It wasn't quite bug-free, but then it's probably nine months away from market, leaving plenty of time for Arcam to sort them all out. To our knowledge, this makes Arcam and Cambridge Audio, both of them UK companies, the only two small, specialty manufacturers to come forward with a Blu-ray player. The system was producing great sound through a pair of Totem Wind speakers and an Arcam subwoofer
This new spectroradiometer was brought to my attention by William Phelps, video expert and currently working with Meridian on its digital projectors. A spectroradiometer is a sophisticated test tool used to measure and calibrate video displays (we use the Photo Research PR0650 in much of our testing). This SP-100 from Orb is not a product for the average consumer, but something for the calibration specialist, or well-healed video perfectionist, to know about. Not cheap at about $8000, it's nevertheless less expensive than much of its direct competition. According to Phelps, it compared favorably to a $30,000 Minolta device.
3D was a big story at CES. Or at least with several manufacturers, apparently looking for the Next Big Thing. Most of the demos were dismal. The best was from Panasonic. It used shuttered glasses and claimed full HD resolution. More on Panasonic's 3D initiative near the bottom of this blog file (it was posted on the first day). Even Panasonic's however, conducted on their big 103" plasma, suffered from motion lag, uncharacteristic of that form of display, on some of the clips. Much of the material, however, looked stunning.
Panasonic’s DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55 players have been ensconced in our Top Picks since last fall. That they’ve been replaced by the DMP-BD60 and DMP-BD80 is significant in and of itself, but that’s not the half of it. The core DVD/BD functionality remains the same on the new players, which means top notch BD and DVD playback. Both are BD-Live capable (and they still require the user to buy SD media for storage which remains my only gripe with the players). But what’s new is Viera Cast. Through this networked player users can now access Internet sourced content from YouTube, Picasa photo sharing, Bloomberg Weather Channel and now Amazon Video On Demand. I think players like this one, and those from LG and Samsung will expand Blu-ray’s growth exponentially this year. I think there’s a better opportunity for players with more value-add features at higher prices than players that only play movies at even cheaper prices. Not forcing users to choose between Blu-ray and streaming/downloading is a big plus in my book. Plus, nothing will make Blu-ray’s strengths more apparent than easy direct comparison to streaming video. The new players will be available this spring. Pricing was not determined yet but I'd expect them to be in line with current pricing on the BD35 and BD55.
Consumers can now pump up their DVR experience with Digeo’s Moxi high-def DVR. This HD DVR is aimed solely at digital cable subscribers. It requires a multistream CableCARD, and allows users to record two shows while watching already recorded programs. In addition to a slick proprietary interface, the Moxi ships with 500GB of internal storage. That’s 75 hours of HD recording, which more than doubles what I’ve got in my Comcast DVR. But cooler still is that the eSATA port is active and you can increase that storage to 2 terabytes! Remote web scheduling is allowed and happens in real-time. Although On-demand dover cable doesn’t work with Multistream CableCARD there is a host of content that can be streamed from the Internet, including Flickr photo sharing, Finetune, and weather and sports info. Digeo says more will follow. HT has already acquired one of these units for review, so there’s more to follow. Digeo also threw out another tidbit- the Moxi Mate pictured here on top of the DVR will allow users to network the Moxi experience throughout the house cost effectively. As a sign of the times, Digeo is launching this component with Amazon as its exclusive retailer. Or, e-tailer if you will. Available now at $799.
The Panasonic Z1 series should be in a store near you come June. The TC-P54Z1, shown here, is not only roughly 1.5" thick, but can wirelessly transmit a full 1080p/60 image up to 30 feet in the same room without adding additional compression to the image data. Moreover, it weighs just 67 lbs. The inputs are located in a separate box together with the wireless transmitter (shown below the screen, along with the receiver box which must sit near the set.
The 1.25-inch Teteron tweeter in this year-old DCM speaker line is called "synthetic silk." It's said to be as thin as silk, distinguishing it from other synthetic drivers, but is stronger and impervious to moisture. Here it's part of the TFE200 tower ($1000/pair), TFE60C center ($350), and TFE160BDP bipole/diple surround ($500/pair). DCM makes it and the other drivers used in the series, which include 6.5-inch kevlar or glass fiber woofers.
This diminutive speaker (about as high as the water bottle sitting beside it), uses two 3.5", full-range drivers. While it may be used as a surround, its real purpose is as the first speaker specifically designed for use in the new Dolby height format, Pro Logic IIz (discussed in an early blog). No price as yet; this was an early prototype.
The AVR600 ($5000, bottom) is the first HDMI receiver from British manufacturer Arcam and therefore the company's first model to support lossless surround. It's HDMI 1.3, of course -- otherwise why bother? -- with five ins and two outs. The seven times 120 watt amp is Class G, which combines Class AB power output with a linear tracking power supply that ensures peaks are well-supplied with juice. Though Arcam had previously used Class G in HTiB products, this is the first implementation in an a/v receiver. Shipping in February. The company also showed a prototype of a forthcoming Blu-ray Profile 2.0 player (top) – Tom has the details below.
Joseph Audio announced the Pulsar, a two-way stand mount speaker that will retail for $7000/pair when it streets later this year. There's no center channel, but if you can spare the dime you could buy five (or seven) of them for identical performance in each channel!
Both of Samsung’s new BD players, the uber cool hang-on-the-wall BD-P4600 (shown here) and BD-P3600 look good and are fully loaded BD players with BD-Live and full audio decoding. But finally, a manufacturer has acknowledged that not everyone has hardwired Ethernet near their AV gear. Samsung includes a W-Fi dongle for both of these players. The PlayStation 3 has been alone in offering this feature far too long. Bravo Samsung!
JVC’s TH-SB100 raises the soundbar to a new level. Not only does it ship with a BD-Live capable Blu-ray player, this “3.1-channel” system includes left, right and center channels plus a wireless subwoofer for the boom king. Ok, like all “wireless” speakers we’ve seen AC is required, but you get the drift. Available in April for $699.
No pricing or availability was set yet, but Panasonic showed this portable Blu-ray player, which includes the same capabilities as its standard players. It uses the same outstanding UniPhier decoding/processing chip the standalone players do, and here’s a trick- it also has an HDMI out so you can plug it into your TV when you get back home from your road trip. Because you can doesn’t mean you will, but that’s still kinda cool.
Vivitek was the only manufacturer I found showing DLP projection with an LED light source. And there’s good reason for that- the company claims an exclusive deal with Texas Instruments on its LED-based DLP light engines. This technology is significant in two areas- no bulb replacements, ever, and no more color separation “rainbow” artifacts. The H6080FD is full 1080p, and incorporates TI’s DynamicBlack dynamic iris system. The image was being shown on a very small screen by front projection standards, but had a lot of pop and detail with rainbows nowhere to be seen. The 6080 is due later this year at an MSRP of $19,999. This is a new wrinkle we’re very anxious to get a closer look at!