You can't call it a sound bar, but the goal of Niro Nakamichi's latest system is to eliminate the need for rear speakers in a home theater. The new system uses two speaker cabinets - one below the TV that produces the LCR signals, and one above the TV that creates the pseudo surround information. The system also comes with a subwoofer and processor/amplifier. The system uses psychoacoustics to create its effects and doesn't rely on sound reflections off the side walls as many other no-rear-speakers systems do. Although it still can't compete against a full-blown discrete speaker system, I must say that in the brief amount of time I had to listen, it blew away any other soundbar I've ever heard. Of course, at $1,899 for the system, it's more expensive than any other sound bar that I can remember listening to. The cosmetics are a little industrial for my tastes, but it's definitely a high-performance system to consider if you can't have rear speakers.
This marriage of high-end speaker company and high-end media server is one of the most exciting things at the show. The speaker is thiel's SCS4D stand-mount, an IP-based speaker with 32-bit DSP, 200 watts of internal Class D power, and 6.5-inch coaxial driver array. Its tightly focused and well-balanced sound is a stunning example of the Jim Thiel legacy. The Olive media server can rip or burn via slot-load CD drive, has 2TB of storage, and in the back are both analog and USB inputs, so you can add more source components to this self-contained system. Server's wi-fi but speakers need an ethernet connection. Starter system with one zone is $7900, additional zones (basically more speakers) $5250 per zone.
The MPS-2510P active reference monitors from the rejuvenated MK Sound were sounding good, with their dual 5.25-inch woofers, trio of one-inch silk domes, and onboard dual 180-watt amps, one for the woofers and one for the tweeters. Price $2999. The MX-350 dual 12-inch sub ($2299) has improved 400-watt amps for each driver.
Sennheiser's RS170 headphones are full-sized, wireless, and surround-savvy -- the latter coming in the form of a proprietary, not licensed, technology. The company's previous surround products had used adaptation technology licensed from SRS. Price $150.
A few years back the maker of Energy and Mirage speakers, Audio Products International, was bought by Klipsch. Then a company celled Gentec International gobbled up all three brands. Unfortunately, Energy and Mirage went through the succeeding years with little new of interest to the serious audiophile. A shame, because the Energy Veritas v2.8 from 1994 remains one of my all time favorite (and underappreciated speakers). I still own a pair and although they were never ready for home theater (a matching center channel was never made for the original Veritas'). I break them out every time I need a (still excellent) 2-channel referenced. That's not often these days, but as little as time as they get in my listening room they aren't going anywhere.
These massage chairs from Weightec use lighted, moving symbols to let you know what kind of massage you're going to get. We like the one with the little footprints at far right. It will free up children, pygmies, and monkeys for other kinds of work.
LG's new LED LCD TVs are now ultra slim, including one model that is an incredible 6.9mm thin. The Infinia range includes full LED backlighting technology (Full LED Slim, in LG's phrase, but a bit thicker than that 6.9mm set). Some LG sets will now offer 480Hz operation thanks to a newly developed ASIC. The company also plans on marketing a 15" OLED display.
B&W's MM1 multimedia speakers are two-way babies with three-inch woofer and one-inch tweeter, 18 watts, and the company's DSP, which is said to eliminate the need for a sub. Look for them in February, price n/a.
We've missed Optoma's engaging big-screen demos the past few shows, but we had to miss them again this year. The featured attractions here were several project 3D demos using video projectors. Unfortunately, they were disappointing compared to the 3D demos elsewhere at the show, with decent 3D effects but noticeably compromised resolution.
DTS, one of the home theater world's guardians of surround standards, was showing these dongles which are designed to adapt stereo signals to surround headphone use. The resemblance to vacuum tubes was neither here nor there. The company was also talking up its DTS Premium Suite of licensed DSP technologies. They include DTS Connect, for upconverting two channels to 5.1; DTS Surround Sensation, for headphones; DTS Symmetry, which balances levels among input sources; and DTS Boost, which makes laptop sound louder, clearer, and more immersive. Also new to us was the 7.1-channel version of Neural, the stereo-to-surround technology purchased from original developer THX a year ago.
Pure Acoustics, hitherto a pure speaker manufacturer, is moving into compact systems both surround and stereo. In the former category are the RZ-3200 5.1-channel system and the UX-99 5.0-channel system, both with DVD drives plus USB and iPod connectivity. Pure also showed a bevy of colorful satellites, pictured.