While DTS was industriously showing the 11.1-channel version of its Neo:X technology at South Hall, Onkyo was demoing the same technology at the Venetian, but in more low-key way, and with a mere 9.1 channels (5.1 plus back-surround and height, no width). We can't explain why, but it sounded better, even with the same demo material. The guy in the pic must have agreed as he slowly levitated into the air, somehow drawn to the height channels like a moth to flame, and spontaneously combusted.
You'll probably read some blogs from our two-channel colleagues about The Sonus Faber, a fridge-size floorstander selling for $200,000/pair in a limited production run of 30 pieces. Playing a solo cello recording, TSF mustered some of the best sound at the show. But there were also brand new home theater worthy models at Sonus Faber's suite in the Venetian, namely the Toy Monitor Grand (center) and Toy Wall (upper righthand corner). They're sold in pairs, for $2,000 in both cases, but you can add the Toy Center for $995/each.
The Martin Logan C2 ($799/each) and FX2 ($649/each) are eyebrow raisingly affordable entries from this longtime champion of the electrostatic speaker. What raised our other eyebrow is that we liked the model playing better than the most costly ones we've heard in the past. Go figure.
While it wasn't new, and didn't have the ultimate refinement of the Revel/Levinson system playing in the adjacent room, the imaging of JBL's massive horn-loaded Synthesis 1400 was striking and endlessly engaging. With two of these, you don't need a center speaker. With Mark Levinson electronics, the system weighed in at $44,500.
Here's a way to encourage your kids to write on the wallthat is if the wall is an LG Touch TV which functions like a huge, modern-day, multi-colored Etch-A-Sketch. It's also a 2D plasma HDTV. But it's clear that not all of us are Rembrandt.
Polk Audio's Blackstone series comes in the three versions shown including wireless sub not shown. The demo featured smooth and gentle mids. For more information see our review coming a few months after you read this.
The products Meridian promised at CEDIA 2010 are realities. They include the Media Core 200 (shown) whose "more accessible" $4000 price point will probably make you want to fling a whole bunch of these 500GB babies around your well appointed home. It combines Sooloos media server software with iWhatever or computer input, and we're not being sarcastic when we say that's a winning combination. Also shown were the Media Core 200 stereo preamp ($3000) with the DSP3200 powered speakers. The former includes a stereo width control: key in how far apart your speakers are, and it'll make the distance seen even wider (in a good way). After all, real people don't always put their speakers where they should go.
This German manufacturer is strictly two-channel but still captured our attention with the Dixie! stand-mount speaker, a smallish member of the Birdland Series. First it was the cool stand, then it was the beautifully layered sound of a blues recording. Some drivers are custom made, while others are off the shelf but modified by Lindemann. Guys: Please, please, please do some surround products. At least sell your speakers in odd-numbered configs. We're not too proud to beg.
The Principal Grand subwoofer from Vienna Acoustics packs a 12-inch pulp-carbon driver into an enclosure with two separate chambers for the 300-watt amp and crossover. The latter, as shown in the pic, is on the bottom. The company, which actually manufactures in Vienna, is fussy about its drivers, in this case source from ScanSpeak because it's important for a sub "to play more than one note." Amen. Pricing ranges from $3000-4000 depending on finish. Also shown was the Strauss Series In-Waltz in-wall speaker, with features derived from an on-wall cousin.
The BDP-1 Player, as Bryston calls it, does not include a hard drive or streaming capability. Instead, taking a high-performance approach to the music serving process, it accepts high-res music files via digital in and feeds digital out to the Bryston BDA-1 DAC. Player at top, DAC at bottom. Pricing: $2150 each.
An intriguing part of Sony's enormous booth in the Central Hall discussed the "Monolithic Design" philosophy, which gives Sony Bravia TVs a commanding "on/off presence" -- in other words, they look cool whether the screen is active or dark. One aspect of the philosophy in action is a six-degree tilt that suits "low, contemporary furniture."
Wisdom Audio's LS4 ($100,000 in a 2.2-channel configuration) is 84 inches tall, making it a suitable mate for the fridge-size sub the company introduced at CEDIA 2010. It uses subs for frequencies below 80Hz -- and handles frequencies above that with planar biamped polyamide-film drivers, imprisoned in heavy steel plates, coaxed into motion by 1030 magnets in front of and behind them. String the magnets end to end and you could measure their length in terms of football fields, or so we were told, and at that point, after a long day, our head began to swim, though this certainly wasn't Wisdom's fault. One point the Wisdom people made that we loved: As an on-wall, this model basically prevents the purchaser from putting the speakers in the wrong place, so he actually gets the performance for which he paid so dearly (assuming his installer is up to snuff).