The Reference 3.5 from Anthony Gallo Acoustics replaces the Reference 3.1. It was shown at the last CES but is now moving into production. New features include a patented cylindrical piezo film tweeter. The woofer enclosure, just one-quarter of a cubic foot in volume, includes a dampening material that is encased in plastic mesh and therefore does its job exceptionally well. Results: sassy crystalline highs, well-developed and well-controlled bass, and since Anthony has a good ear, a musically adept midrange as well. A second set of speaker terminals is provided for speaker-level output to a sub.
While at least one other major manufacturer besides Sony (Samsung), this entry from enTourage Systems, the Edge, takes a...ah...page from another book. One size of this device is a relatively large screen e-Reader, the other offers an LCD display with some of the functionality of a tablet netbook. You can write on the screen in longhand, or type on either an electronic keyboard or an external keyboard attachable via USB. You can surf the web in full color. The only downside is the 3 lb weight (which felt unusually heavy when I lifted it. About $500, next month (February).
A demo of Toshiba's new top-of-the-line Cell LCD HDTV, with its 500+ zones of full backlit LED local dimming side-by-side with last year's LED local dimming set with far fewer LED zones, was exceptionally effective, even if too much was made of the new set's increased brightness (and too much of it used for the darkened demo room) . Toshiba claims a peak of 1000 cd/sq meter -- that's close to 300 foot-lamberts, nearly 10 times what I'd recommend for a good picture in a darkened room. Hopefully
a movie or cinema mode will produce a more sensible brightness level.
We maintain that a well-voiced sat/sub system can be a thing of joy and Epos is one good place to look for one. The 8VS 5.1 system includes a satellite that looks smaller than its 9.25-inch height with matching center and sub. Tweeter is aluminum, woofer is kevlar, and price is $1750. Nice black gloss finishes too.
Like other manufacturers at the show, LG was showing off the claimed better blacks of its new sets. TruBlack is the company's designation for the upgraded black levels in its new plasma sets, like the 2010 PK950 shown here. While it wasn't easy to see the improvement on the brightly lit show floor, the new set did look subtly better.
Resolution Audio's Cantata audio server is pleasingly slim but not enough to crowd out the slot-load CD drive. Network connectivity is ethernet and you can also connect source components via SPDIF, XLR, or RCA. iPhone and iPod touch control is available. Price is $6000 and the company offers a similar-looking stereo integrated amp that would complete the set nicely.
Perhaps the biggest surprise at the show was the first self-contained consumer 3D projector, the LG CF3D ($10,000, late spring). Its an SXRD (LCOS) design with two separate light paths. There are six SXRD chips in the design-an oddity as SXRD chips are made by Sony and their use outside of Sony projectors are rare. The projector was on demonstration. The demo used polarized glasses (not shutter). An anime excerpt was very effective on a large screen, crisp, bright, and dimensional, but a live-action 3D clip of carnival in Brazil did not look anything close to high definition, 3D or not. Like the JVC 3D clip, above, we'll have to blame the source material on that score-for now.
PS Audio, best known for its high-end DACs and powerline accessories, has augmented its Perfect Wave DAC ($2000) with The Bridge ($500). The latter allows anything on your home network to send signals to the DAC via wi-fi or ethernet. Yup, there's iPhone/iPod touch control and the company may add Google's Android phone to that list "if it gets popular enough."
As we stepped through the door at Lenbrook's joint PSB and NAD exhibit, PSB's Paul Barton said: "Have you heard the NAD digital amp?" The M2, winner of a CES Innovations 2010 award, was playing with PSB's floorstanding flagship Synchrony. It had a tight and crisp though not terribly warm sound compared to what we have heard the same speaker do with analog amps. (Incidentally, the Synchrony is one of our all-time favorite towers.) Power output 250 watts times two into either four or eight ohms. Price $5999. NAD also showed its new M56 Blu-ray player, which is fully up to date with BD-Live capability, and at $1999, it ought to be.
The popular new e-readers aren't exactly our beat at the show, but they could be significant to the publishing business if their promoters have their way. They might even be the way you'll read your favorite magazines (like Home Theater. Sony has three models, including the new Sony Reader Daily Edition. At $400, it's not only the largest of the three (7"), but the only one of Sony's offerings that let you download on-the-go via 3G.
Panasonic showed two new portable Blu-ray players, the 10.1-inch DMP-B500 and the DMP-B100 (shown here). They don't have full HD resolution, but that shouldn't be a negative with such small screen sizes. I want one; they looked better, with a BD disc, than any portable DVD player I've ever seen. The one missing feature is an external video input. Why is that important? The player could then perform double duty as an off-screen monitor for use with a big screen projection system when it isn't needed as a portable device. An OLED display instead of the LCD imaging used here would also be nice, but a $3000 portable OLED Blu-ray player might be a hard sell
Though Quad is best known for its venerable flat-panel electrostatic speakers, which are true audiophile classics, it has been marketing more conventional box speakers for several years. Thus it is no surprise to find the company releasing its first sound bar. The three-channel L-ite has drivers of silk and kevlar that are designed and manufactured in house. The bar is $699. Add $500/pair for matching surround satellites and $1100 for the 10-inch, 300-watt sub. Shipping in March.