There are quite a few add-on devices that will turn your iPod touch into a remote control, but most of them are cumbersome or require some sort of obtrusive dongel. The most interesting one I’ve found so far is the Surc, which is an iPhone case with a built-in IR emitter. The case isn’t much larger than the iPhone itself, and it’s easily removable if you only want to use it at home. A free app is available that lets you customize the remote by adding in remote control code sets already in the Surc database – or you can teach the remote codes that aren’t yet available. Multiple rooms and macros can be easily programmed into the iPhone/Surc combo in minutes. It’s extremely easy to set up, and the UI is configurable (buttons can be moved, added, or removed). Availability is targeted for early 2011 with pricing yet to be determined. Surc cases for the iPod touch and iPad are in development. You can learn more at www.getsurc.com.
The new Speaker Box 5 from Project (the turntable people) sounded ridiculously dynamic for such a tiny feller. Distributed by Sumiko, they will sell for $400/pair in a variety of colors, such as this fire engine red. The electronics shown here are not included!
The Xi3 Modular Computer is small, cube-like, completely modular, and less than 4 inches per side. It uses 64-bit x86 dual core processors running at 2.0 GHz and, since it uses less than 20 watts to operate, it is totally silent due to the lack of fans. The silent operation and solid state storage make it a great choice for a home theater PC or DVR. Pricing starts at $849 (with Linux operating system – add $149 for Windows 7). Additional storage memory and thin clients are available. The computer can be ordered in different colors and various configurations.
Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems showed its new $42,000/pair Momentum monoblock amps, shown here with the Wilson Audio Sashas, dCS Puccini SACD playback system, Weiss Firewire to coaxial digital converter, and high-rez music from a Mac laptop that together teamed up with them to produce one of the best sounding rooms at the show.
I know that we in this country are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the form of some sort of iPod accessory; but I draw the line at karaoke – especially iKaraoke. Friends don’t let friends karaoke.
Focal showed off a new multimedia speaker system called the XS Book. The system consists of a powered speaker (2 x 20 watts) that takes an analog audio output from your computer. A speaker cable is then run from the amp in the first speaker to the companion speaker. Even though the system doesn’t include a subwoofer, Focal claims a frequency response of 50 Hz to 22 kHz, which is very believable based on what I heard during a demo at Focal’s suite in the Mirage. In fact, these speakers are good enough to be used as main bookshelf audio or TV speakers in a small room. They’re compatible with Omnimount brackets for on-wall mounting. Pricing is expected to be $399.
Xbox Kinect users already know how cool it is to use motion control. PrimeSense, the folks who developed the technology behind the Kinect, are now actively licensing it to other companies and hope to have it built in to TVs in the near future. Computer maker, Asus, will be the first computer company to develop a product that will allow you to stream content from your PC to your TV and control it using hand gestures.
Accessory and cable maker Accell introduced the UltraCat HD, a transmitter/receiver package featuring HDBaseT technology. It can be used to send uncompressed full HD digital video, audio, 100BaseT Ethernet, power, RS232 and infrared control signals over a single Cat5e cable for up to 100 meters (approximately 328 feet). Accell says the extenders are optimized for HD video and support all resolutions and video formats including 1080p, 4K, and 3D. HDBaseT technology is an exciting alternative to HDMI for many applications and can even be used to power devices (including TVs) when built-in to the device. We should start seeing more HDBaseT-enabled products later this year.
Quality home theater demos were thin on the ground anywhere at CES, but particularly rare in the Venetian hotel. This is the venue for high performance audio, which for far too many audiophiles does not leave room for either multichannel music or any combination of audio and video. But the Wolf Cinema room was an exception, combining the $25,000 Wolf DCL-200FD LED-lit DLP projector with an ISCO anamorphic lens ($10,000) on a 120" wide, 2.35:1 screen. The latter was said to be a 1.4-gain Screen Innovations design, but I need to check up on that, as the only 1.4-gain screen listed in SI's brochure is the dark gray, Black Diamond HD. The speakers were from the Sonus Faber Toy series, together with three T-1 REL subwoofers. The result was exceptional video and audio, even if the former cost several times the latter. The pre-pro was a Primare, no longer distributed in the US by Sumiko (Sumiko distributes Wolf projectors).
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