Room Caster is the name of a high-end wireless technology that connects devices within a room. THX is working on it with San Francisco-based Radiient Group. It works with high-bandwidth signals in the 5GHz band, with as many as eight channels and resolution of up to 24 bit, 192kHz. The only compression used is whatever's inherent in the source signal. The demo showed it working smoothly. Likely uses will be in surround receivers, source components, and docking devices. Prototype transmitter pictured.
Sherwood has just released its first soundbars to the consumer electronics audience, and with prices set at $160 and $130, they won’t leave you without any change in your pocket. The SB-4221i ($160) features dual 2.75-inch drivers that are driven by a 15 watt per channel amplifier. Sherwood’s $160 model also has dual built-in subwoofers that are driven by a 30 watt RMS amplifier.
Now that 240 has been designated the lucky number of this year’s CES, multiple companies are showcasing their own versions of the technology. VIZIO’s version comes in the form of its XVT series. The 55-inch VF551XVT LCD HDTV ($2,000) features 240Hz technology coupled with 1,000,000:1 Mega Dynamic Contrast with local dimming.
Another big trend at the 2009 CES is ultra thin LCDs and plasmas. But that was a trend last year, too, and few of the sets have yet reached the market. Interestingly, the 9mmn plasma that Pioneer showed last year was a no-show this year. Are consumers willing to pay a premium for extra skinny displays? Are they unhappy with their current 4" thick flat panel. The jury is still out
Another big theme this year is enhanced contrast, for which we have SED, Pioneer Kuro, LED backlighting with local dimming, and Home Theater mag to thank (OK, we're blowing our own horn here a little bit for continuing to make a big deal out of better blacks). Clearly, LG believers it is Mega-ready.
The media server category is growing. Sooloos distinguishes itself by concentrating on its touchscreen interface. You can import iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries, though ripping through Sooloos will allow true gapless playback by encoding each CD as a single long file. The basic configuration holds 2500 CDs though a test version has done up to 100,000. Touchscreen is fanless, therefore totally silent, and suitable for your listening room. Rendering and storage components are separate and can be kept in a closet. You can search with multiple criteria -- jazz, or jazz with Thelonious Monk, or jazz with Thelonious Monk recorded in the 1950s. There's Rhapsody support. Meridian made a wise move by getting involved with these people (and vice versa).
For those days when your significant other tells you to turn the volume down, Audio-Technica has a new set of headphones that will make your home theater experience a much more private one. Its latest bunch of headphones are easy on the ears and eyes, and they come in both in-ear and on-ear varieties.
The A-shaped Avalon Aspect boasts 92dB efficiency, which should make it compatible with home theater use as long as you're willing to buy five of them -- no complementary center or other models yet. For $8500/pair you get two 7-inch kevlar woofers and a one-inch proprietary neodymium composite tweeter. The latter gets a waveguide-like treatment thanks to a foam structure built into grille. You won't see it unless you pop the grille and look at the underside, as Avalon showed us.
Built (that's the company's name) apparently makes interesting accessories, such as a unique backpack for a laptop. But that wasn't my main interest here. Take a look at the odd-looking "wall" that was used to set off Built's exhibit. It consists of an accordian-like construct of stiff brown paper, and when stretched out becomes free-standing with an outside edge that resembles thin vertical ribs with gaps in between. I immediately thought "acoustic room treatment." Just a thought, of course, and it might not work at all, but it's perhaps an interesting idea for a cheap (perhaps--I don't know the price of the product) diffusor. The product itself is made by a Canadian company called Molo, the paper is fire-retardant, and it apparently comes in a variety of colors.
Here's as closer view of the satellite in the systse described above. That's a ring radiator tweeter you see here, a tweeter design that's been popular in new speaker systems over the past couple of years.
Strictly speaking, we should be telling you more about NAD's first Blu-ray player, and you've already heard about its a/v receivers, but the Viso Two HTiB got our attention with stylish looks. It's a DVD (and DVD-Audio) player with built-in 50-watt stereo amp and Dolby Virtual Speaker (and Dolby Headphone). Price is $1299 if you want something really cool looking to play your old DVD library in the bedroom. But what's that underneath?
In other Dolby news, Dolby Volume, tamer of blaring ads and dodgy surround levels, is coming to Toshiba Regza TVs in both the U.S. and Europe, as well as in a Harman Kardon receiver. It's also built into the cool Airfonix transmitter/receiver device pictured above, which accepts two-channel sources both RCA and XLR. Dolby's mobile strategy is (of course) Dolby Mobile, which manipulates the soundstage in cells and other portable devices. Dolby Axon provides surround-like effects in online voice gaming applications. And Dolby Digital Plus is now being used in Italian as well as French television broadcasts.
With networked TVs and media sharing devices we can get online content from partners like YouTube, Netflix, CBS.com, etc. Now Boxee offers a software solution that creates an easy meny to find online content that works on computers including Macs and Linux-based operating systems. What’s really cool is that you can put the software on a flash drive and add it to an AppleTV. This adds the capability of watching many online streaming video partners including video streaming like Netflix, Hulu, CBS.com and MTV to the previously limited partners on AppleTV.
No, this is not a typo. LHX isn't a take-off on THX, but rather the designation for LG's top of the line flat panel LCD sets. See the vital stats above. Note the wireless capability. Wireless HD video is one of the big stories at CES this year, with most of the major manufacturers showing their own wireless solutions (generally for their top of the line sets) and add-on wireless devices from vendors such as Gefen and Radiient. But before you take the plunge, be sure that the wireless capability you're about to buy does not apply additional compression to the HD source.