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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Dish Network’s $99 Sling Adapter connects to a Dish ViP722 or ViP722k HD DVR receiver with a single USB connection. The adapter lets you access programming from your receiver using a PC, iPhone/touch/Pad, Android, or BlackBerry device anywhere you have a high-speed Internet or 3G mobile connection.
I heard the Fat Lady Sing, and she was in fine voice. The Fat Lady is a floor-stander from Morel of Israel, where the name apparently is politically incorrect. I have to admit that it's descriptive of the cabinet, which is designed to sing along with the speaker and stop short of coloring the sound.
Immerz’s KOR-FX is an over-the-shoulders tactile transducer that converts the lowest bass frequencies into vibrations that you feel through your collar bones. The effect was definitely interesting, but it may have been turned up a little too much for my tastes in order to make sure different attendees actually felt the effect. Tentative price is $189.99 and should be available beginning in April.
I thought I’d seen just about every variation of an iPod case by now, but a quick walk-through of the section of CES devoted to all things iPod brought me to this booth. Beaheadcase has combined a bottle opener with an iPod case because you never know when you might be using your iPod and need to open a bottle of beer. Just remember, don’t drink and download.
Fulton Innovation had what I think was the most exciting booth at CES this year. (Yes, more exciting than 3DTV or a iPod karaoke docks.) Fulton Innovation is the developer of eCoupled intelligent wireless power technology. On display was a Tesla Roadster that was being charged through the air as it was parked over a large eCoupled charging pad. Also on display were eCoupled-enabled cereal boxes that had the eCoupled circuitry printed on the boxes using conductive ink. When placed on a shelf near an eCoupled transmitter, the various graphics on the boxes actually lit up. Another aspect of the technology allows a home to have smart cabinets that will monitor the eCoupled-equipped boxes and let you know what cereals, for example, are in the cabinet – and how full the boxes are. In another section of the CES booth, a wireless blender was being demonstrated. If Fulton Innovation has anything to say about it, in the future when we say “wireless” speakers, we’ll really mean it.
At $700/pair, PSB's Imagine Mini (second from left, on stand) may turn some heads. It did not have any deep bass, but was clean as far down as it went, and even when played loud (though not unreasonably loud) did not fall to pieces. With a good subwoofer, five of them plus a spare (unfortunately they are sold only in pairs), or four with an Imagine center, could make for a sweet, small room home theater setup.