Anthem showed two new projectors, the LTX 500 at $7500 and the LTX 300 at $5500. Both will ship in April. My photos did not come out, but visualize if you will JVC's newest LCoS models. For that's what they areJVCs with Anthem logos. The Anthem folks freely admitted this; why deny a good thing. I didn't get to experience the Anthem demo; they closed it down three hours before the official close of the show.
Opoma continued its reputation of having the biggest screen at the show. It was well over 10-feet wide, and the new HD8200 projector (discussed far below) was putting up a bright image even at that size. The image was also crisp and detailed. The color was clearly off (with fleeting hints of too much green, especially in flesh tones), but that's a calibration issue and should be easily fixable. l
In the TAD room at the Venetian, speaker engineer Andrew Jones was demonstrating the $30,000/pair TAD Compact reference stand-mount speaker, which features a sophisticated coaxial midrange tweeter driver with beryllium cone/dome material (Similar drivers are used in the far less expensive Pioneer speakers also designed by Jones, though they use beryllium only for the tweeter dome.
OK, I added the "sinister" part. But doesn’t it still sound like a super secret weapon employed by an evil genius in a Bond flick? Sharp showed two new BD players at CES. The most compelling of the two is the BD-HP22U, which is BD-Live out of the gate, including 2GB of onboard storage and a USB port that can be used to expand storage capacity and upload new firmware. The audio decoding is murkier- Sharp’s reps and the logos on the player indicate decoding capability for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The press release is only specific on its ability to output the advanced codecs as native bitstreams. The BDP-HP22U will be available in May for $299.
Now this is an IPTV. Or a PC TV. Or a home theater pc built into a TV? Or a TV with an HTPC built in? Who cares! Anyone who’s used an iPhone or an iPod Touch or a Sooloos knows the future of interface is in touch screens. Allio’s IPTV’s are built around a Vista Media Center platform and have touch screen options on their smaller models. The screen you see here has two Internet-driven streams playing on screen with a third window showing Hulk on Blu-ray (that’s the ever so lovely Jennifer Connelly there). I was able to move, manipulate and resize these windows, images and media using my fingers like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. It’s striking how much the PC gets out of the way when controlled by touch. Cool stuff.
LG’s new feature, the “Picture Wizard” aids the average viewer in optimizing the TV’s picture by offering onscreen examples of what is the optimal setting. They can then see the effect of the changes they’ve made in the setting as compared to the onscreen examples. Setting adjustments in the Picture Wizard include: black level, white level, color, backlight adjustment, tint, vertical sharpness and horizontal sharpness. Calibration made easy.
Say hello to Acoustic Technologies, which made its world debut at CES with a product three years in the making. The Classic is a slim tower using a single three-inch full-range driver. Why not do woofers and tweeters? Because they insert a crossover, and with it various irregularities and ill effects, into the signal path. Don't laugh -- this speaker had a highly natural, pleasing, gentle, ungimmicky sound with a well developed midrange and good soundstaging. Vocals sounded just right. Complementary models will arrive next year to bring the new company into surround territory.
We've seen the Meridian 810 Reference Video System before; it's the first 4K x 2K video projector available to the consumer. It won't come cheap a just a few thou south of $190,000 for the projector, video processor (needed to scale available 1920x1080 material up to 4800 x 2400. It looked fabulous, even though even better images are possible from it with native 4K program material (essentially non-existent to you and me). They had to settle for a 10' wide projection screen (a curved, 2.35:1, Stewart Studiotek 130), and were claiming 48 foot-Lamberts! Clearly the projector is intended for a much larger screen.
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.