Pioneer introduced two new standard Blu-ray players, the BDP-120 and the BDP-320. The BDP-120 is expected to sell for under $300. A new Elite player, the BDP-23FD, offers Kuro Link, a new feature said to sync up with Kuro HDTVs for optimum setup and operation. We'll wait to se on that one.
PSB's SubSeries 500 subwoofer ($2149) propels a 12-inch woven fiber driver into action with a Class H tracking power supply amp rated at 500 watts continuous power, 750 dynamic, and 1500 peak. The combination extruded aluminum and MDF enclosure should be tough enough to stand up to that onslaught of low-frequency vibration. Stop drooling, that's not polite.
Tom Norton broke the news about Dolby Pro Logic IIz, the first surround standard from the surround standard setter to incorporate height channels. It's an enhancement process, like Dolby Pro Logic II; not an encode/decode process, like Dolby Digital or TrueHD. It extracts what Dolby calls decorrelated non-surround elements, so it'll operate on things that belong in height channels, as opposed to, say, footsteps. It can operate in 7.1 or 9.1 configurations, without/with back-surround channels. Dolby's now in discussion with various manufacturers about licensed products. What I have to say about it is that it's a great idea -- I'd rather see folks adding height channels to their systems than useless back-surrounds (Dolby wants to make real sure I label that as my own opinion). And the implementation in speakers may be quite interesting, I imagine, everything from vertical structures (same footprint) to in-walls to speakers with top-mount drivers that bounce off the ceiling. Details here. Oh, and the pic is the Acer Aspire PC, glimpsed at the Dolby booth, and I mention it only because as I walked up to it, it said Luke, I am your father.
Why, it's NAD's first speaker line, the Viso Thirty bookshelf and center channel models. They've got titanium tweeters, four-inch polypropylene woofers, and a $699 pricetag (we need to clarify if that's per speaker).
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
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.
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).