The Arcam AVR600 is one of the best receivers we've ever reviewed. Making its debut at CES was the slightly slimmed down AVR500, with 100 watts times seven, versus the older model's 120. Arcam's Class G amp topology has to be heard to be believed. A preamp-processor and multi-channel power amp were also on display.
In addition to its usual tsunami of new sets, Sony is offering an optional angled stand for many of its models up to 55". The stand tilts the set upwards slightly, so when the set is positioned on low, European-style furniture (think IKEA) it aims upward at the viewer. If you like the stand but not the angle it will also accommodate the usual vertical stance.
Panasonic not only made the biggest push for 3D at the show, it also had the most consistently effective demos. All used shutter glasses, and all of Panasonic's new plasma sets are claimed to use faster phosphor elements to minimize left-right crosstalk (lingering images can be an issue when separate images must be presented for each eye. (Hopefully the new phosphors won't compromise color accuracy. The color in the demos looked fine, but such demos invariably deviate from the D6500 color standard.)
Toshiba showed a split-screen demo of 4K resolution on a relatively small LCD set. The purpose was apparently to show how their new Cell processing can upconvert 2K sources to 4K. You can't see anything in the photo, but on-scene the 4K was a bit sharper-though the 2K side looked softer than I would expect from good 2K material.
The Sony SS-AR1 has been around since 2006 but we didn't notice it till this show. The three-way, four-driver floorstander features a chambered enclosure with a baffle of Hokkaido-grown maple and side panels of Finnish birch, both of which the designers prize for their "generous reverberation." Drivers include aluminum woofers, sliced-paper midrange, and a tweeter backed with six concentric neodymium magnets. Pricing in mid to high four figures. This is the kind of thing a big manufacturer will do just to prove it can. But don't scoff. We've reviewed other Sony SS-series speakers in the distant past and they were, in fact, superbly musical.
No, I'm not going into Canon's consumer HD cameras here, But rather give a shout-out to the Canon tech folks whe helped me with a minor problem that locked out the Canon camera I was using at the show. I was in a near panic, pondering the potential waste of two hours of show time to go back to the hotel for my spare camera, when it occurred to me that Canon might just have a booth at a consumer electronics show. Duh! They did, and they got me going again.
While Atacama makes conventional speaker stands like the ones at far left and right, the star attraction is obviously the Aurora 6 at $449/pair. That price includes the glass columns but not what fills them. So how would you fill your Auroras? This could be a creative opportunity for folks who collect stones, marbles, or beach glass. How it would affect the resonant character of the stand we cannot say.
Sonneteer's Morpheus audio server will play anything your home network dishes up through a PC or other device. You can supplement it with Sonneteer's 3TB external hard drive, which adds the convenience of a slot-load CD drive for burning. The basic unit has 50 watts times two and sells for $3995. Double that if you add the extra drive. One angle that came up in our discussion was the fact that the system rips with metadata from free providers; a more deluxe service costs extra. If you're buying a pricey audio server, find out where it's getting its metadata and consider how that will affect the experience of using it.
Mark Fleischmann posted an earlier blog with these LG speakers. They are strictly prototypes, with no definite plans for production as yet, and if they do produce them they may not reach the US market.
Hipper audio servers like Cary Audio Design's Music Server are coming with iPhone/iPod touch control. Cary wrote its own app for this purpose. The product has 1TB of onboard storage and can accept an external drive via USB. It backs itself up automatically and comes with Shoutcast internet radio. Pricing was roughly estimated to be $2000-2500.
Every live action 3D sports broadcast will require special cameras for image capture. This one was on display in the Sony booth (though it's not made by Sony). Even the individual who has everything won't want to use it to cover that cruise of the Greek islands.
Van Den Hul's HDMI Flat 180 is pleasingly plump, tomato red, and has a hinged connector that can take sharp turns. Every phat HDMI cable should be so agile. It's HDMI 1.4 compatible, and at $175 per meter, it ought to be.
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.
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.