Running wires to the rear speakers of a 5.1 or 7.1 system is always problematic. Several companies demonstrated wireless add-on devices, but the Link-Mount is the most unusual and clever solution I’ve seen so far. The wireless receiver/amp is built into a universal speaker wall bracket. A DC power cord is then run through the wall to a termination plate where you connect the wire to a transformer plugged into an electrical outlet. Since it’s DC running through the wall, no electrician is necessary. Pricing is in the $400 range for a pair of brackets and a transmitter.
The Revel Ultima2 Salon2 speakers were driven by Mark Levinson electronics. Nothing new here either, but with a simple piano-bass-drums recording featuring Ellis Marsalis (not even an SACD, just a CD) the system sounded so natural we could have sat there all day. Total pricing just south of $122,000.
A trip back to the Toshiba booth will be needed to get a look at Toshiba's demo of glasses free (autostereoscopic) 3D. The crowds waiting to see this technology were huge. Still, I think all the hoopla about 3D without glasses is going to leave a lot of people disappointed. I suspect that it will either be years away (if it's ever perfected at all—not all technical challenges have a ready solution) or a serious step backwards in image qualitywhether from Toshiba or anyone else. But I could be surprised. A similar demo from Sony, while hardly flawless, looked better than I expected.
We're pleased to announce that the Kondo/Audio Note exhibit has won the Home Theater 2011 CES Blog's Award for Distinguished Achievement in Slogan Writing. See above. Really, isn't this what audio is all about?
Five years in the making, Totem Acoustic's Element Series features a massive large-diameter magnet structure suitable for arm curls. Even the littlest member of the family -- as it happened, the one we got to hear -- combined the naturalism and balance typical of Totem with a new bass solidity, mated with Accuphase electronics. Pricing ranges from $5995 to $13,000 for the flagship. Note that the competition Totem is aiming at sells products for much more than that.
They include the T 787 ($3499) and T 757 ($1499) a/v receivers, with seven times 120 and 60 watts respectively, both fully up to date with HDMI 1.a for 3D compatibility. Also shown was the T 187 pre-pro ($2499). The pricier receiver and pre-pro can be outfitted with an optional Control4 module.
The SS-AR1 floorstander ($27,000/pair) has appeared at various shows in the past and we've seen it before. But CES 2011 marked its real entry into popular consciousness as part of a Sony division that also includes ES receivers and projectors. Ray Kimber of Kimber cable and IsoMike recording fame and Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds lent their credibility to the proceedings. The speaker's blend of woods includes a cabinet of Hokkaido maple that's harvested only in November when it's at the peak of its powers. Drivers are designed by Sony and custom made by ScanSpeak. The piano black finish is done by a company that makes, um, pianos. Demos included a Nat King Cole tune in which the strings were vivid yet unhyped and the voice reproduced so well, it practically burnt a hole in our brain. We're convinced this is a very fine speaker indeed, and not at all surprised, having liked Sony's long-gone SS-series speakers from the 1990s.
Dolby Home Theater v4 is, as the name suggests, the fourth-gen implementation of sound enhancement for PCs from Dolby Labs. It incorporates trickle-down technology from Dolby Volume (best known for its use in surround receivers) including volume leveling, dynamic enhancer, and spatial virtualizer. First of two demos at the Central Hall sanctum involved a laptop with and without DHTv4. It was a huge difference: muffled sound versus rather bright sound. In the second demo, another laptop bitstreamed into an Onkyo receiver with Focal sat/sub speakers. This time the benefits were more subtle, though still discernible: a larger soundstage and more solid imaging. The technology will be shipped with laptops including Acer, Lenovo ThinkPads, and more to be announced. In another corner of the Dolby booth a Nokia N8 smartphone with built-in Dolby Digital Plus (a high-quality lossy surround codec) mustered pretty good surround via Harman Kardon receiver and Focal floorstanding speakers.
We're pleased to announce that the D'Agostino Momentum monoblock amp has won the Home Theater 2011 CES Blog's Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cosmetics. It sounded good too, but man, look at that thing. It is the first product from Dan D'Agostino's new company -- you may remember him as Mr. Krell.
While I don't have a great shot of Sharp's XV-Z17000 DLP 3D projector, it looked bright and beautiful on a 100" screen with a stated gain of 1.0. It was clearly one of the best 3D projectors I've seen so far, and also the least expensive at about $5000.