I reviewed the Aragon 8008 amplifier for Stereophile back in the mid-'90s and loved it. I often wished I'd bought it, in fact, as it was a near perfect match for my Energy Veritas v2.8 speakers. When Mondial (the original source company) folded, the Aragon line (and the lower end but also well-regarded Acurus products) was acquired by Klipsch. That company never really supported either of these lines. The rights were recently acquired by a company called Indy Audio Labs, which has just re-launched the 2-, 5-, and 7-channel Acurus amplifiers (200w/ch intro 8 ohms, all).
Later this year Indy plans to re-introduce the Aragon 8008 mkIII, 2-channels at 200W/ch (8 ohms) at $4000 and the Iridium, a 400W (8 ohms) differential monoblock, successor to the Aragon Palladium, at $4000 each. Apart from some added control and status features, the amps are said to be nearly identical in design to the earlier versions, though to my recollection the original Palladium was lower powered (but biased heavily toward Class A). And, of course, those 1990s models were considerably cheaper. Time marches on.
Add on anamorphic lenses to provide a 2.35:1 image on a 2.35:1 screen are a popular though pricey option. Panamorph is one of the best known names in the market. Its prism-type lenses are more affordable than the more visibly "normal" round lenses, but they work well. Round lenses, such as those from Schneider (below) are more flexible with regards to throw distance (they offer focus separate from that of the projector's own lens) but their prices are higher. We've seen superb setups with both types of lenses.
You can pay thousands for a good screen, or paint your own for the low hundreds. Screen Goo Americas (probably the company with the most memorable name in the business) offers four flavors: Reference White (roughly unity gain) HIgh Contrast, Max Contrast, and Ultra Silver 3D (high gain, preserves light polarity). All of them may be rolled or sprayed on an appropriate flat, smooth surface. The even make a screen paint for rear projection! It's also said to be flexible enough that the screen can be moderately curved after painting. We're not saying that it can equal a professionally produced screen, but the demo we saw looked mighty impressive. If the cost of a screen is keeping you from acquiring a projection system, this approach might well help.
Anthem’s new Statement M1 mono block Class D amplifier puts out a paltry 1,000 watts into 8 ohms and doubles that (2,000 watts) into 4 ohm loads. The Class D design allowed the Anthem engineers to jam all the amplifier circuitry into a chassis that’s only one rack unit high. To keep things cool, there’s a special heat pipe cooling system – no fans! – and multiple M1s can be rack mounted directly on top of one another. Ideally, you’ll have a dedicated 240V circuit for the M1s in your system; however, Anthem designed the amp to still be able to generate temporary outputs of up to 2400 watts even when connected to a 120V/15A line. Get one, or seven, for $3,500 each.
MechoShade’s AcoustiVeil Dimout shadecloth is 100% polyester, PVC-free, and lightweight. It works as a “near-blackout” shade with sound and echo absorption (and a noise-reduction coefficient of 0.575). It’s available in White, Pearl Grey, and Black.
Summit Wireless keeps charging forward in their quest to conquer the wireless home theater audio world. While the company was cagey about upcoming announcements regarding products coming to market, the people in-the-know hinted that exciting things are about to happen. Summit Wireless technology enables wireless 5.1- and 7.1-channel home theater systems. But it’s more than just a set of wireless speakers. The technology allows the user to tailor the sweet spot of the system to any location in the room with the press of a single button. The system automatically figures out where all the speakers are in relation to each other and can process the audio signal to compensate for less than optimum speaker or listener positioning – and it does it with a single button press. It’s quite possible that we’ll soon start seeing the Summit Wireless processing technology showing up in flat panel TVs, in which case adding a simple dongle to the USB port on the TV will enable the TV to send audio to a set of powered, wireless speakers in your home theater.
Aperion Audio is the first company to have actual, real products available for sale. The 5.1-channel amplified wireless Aperion Audio home theater system will be shipping soon for $2,499. The 7.1 version will sell for $2,999. The controller box (which takes the place of an AVR, which is no longer needed since the amps are built into the speakers) has one optical input, once coax digital input, three HDMI inputs, two stereo analog inputs and has decoding for DTS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD.
There’s a bit of a buzz in the industry – okay, there’s a huge roar – about whether one HDMI cable is better than another. There’s certainly plenty of marketing gimmicks from some of the cable manufacturers that will be noted in the long history of snake oil selling. Out of courtesy (and to keep him from sending any more text messages), I made of visit to the Audioquest booth to see our old Editor, Shane Buettner. There, instead of the sickening scent of snake oil, Shane simply laid out the case for why there are performance differences in HDMI and USB cables from an audio standpoint. But hearing is believing, as they say, and so he finally stopped talking, handed over a set of headphones, and proceeded to play music from a CD through three different HDMI cables. Even in the ludicrous environment of the show floor, there were definitely differences in the sound quality of the audio being transported through the HDMI cable. Interesting stuff, and definitely something I’m going to look into a bit deeper.
KEF's new R-series, mentioned in an earlier blog, was inspired by KEF's far pricier Blade ($30,000/pair), shown here in its dress whites. It sounded surprisingly good on the open show floor, with a tight, punchy bass that was undoubtedly helped by the lack of room modes--though the latter can hardly be blamed on any speaker. When I placed by hand on the composite cabinet during those heavy kick-drum hits, I felt practically nothing.
Voco is just one of the many manufacturers hawking wireless multiroom media streaming systems. In addition to being relatively inexpensive, Voco differentiates itself from the competition by giving you the ability to use your voice to find songs, podcasts, internet radio stations, and even YouTube videos. (You can also use your fingers if you’re the quiet type – or a quiet typer.) The system has the capability of streaming up to three audio sources (from your iOS device, CD player, computer, etc.) to up to 10 Voco device equipped zones. Voco V-Zone receivers start at $199.99.
Most recliners have a high back, which can interfere with the audio your ears receive. My long-term HT seats have long had this problem, which I minimize by using a different chair for serious music listening. It's hard to find a low-backed recliner, but the Axis model from Canada-based Palliser might be just the ticket. The rear headrest can be extended when you're in a more laid-back (literally) than critical mood. At roughly $2000 per seat (with power reclining and various shades of leather, straight and curved multi-seat configurations available), if they seem expensive, you haven't priced many premium HT seats. They're manufactured in Canada and Mexico.
Schneider Optics offers a wide range of some of the most respected anamorphic lenses in the business. Interestingly, they also market their own projector, not widely known in the states, that includes an anamorphic lens on a built-in track. The projector is priced around $25,000, with the anamorphic lens. It was on static display only.
This projector mount from Chief ($189) was not in the full-line catalog available at the show, but looks husky enough to handle many home theater projector. It might be useful for those who want their projector mounted high but don't want to hang it from the ceiling, Instead, it's mounted to the rear wall. But since in this case the projector will be mounted near the rear wall, you must be sure that the projector is compatible with the throw distance to your screen.
Once a pioneer of the home AV furniture world, the venerable CWD brand has been resurrected by one of the company’s original founders. But where the original CWD furniture was almost exclusively RTA (ready to assemble) – I think we called it “knockdown” back then – the current iterations are pre-configured and shipped mostly assembled. In other words, they’re more along the lines of fine traditional furniture rather than just an AV rack. The cabinets don’t include any particle board pieces, and each unit has a multitude of AV-friendly features such as generous ventilation and cable management. Customers who’d like to configure and price a unit for themselves can visit imagecraftersinc.com and use the online configuration tool.
BDI says they have “high performance furniture”. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but I do know the stuff they make is incredibly awesome with unique features, such as hidden wheels and integrated levelers, flow-through ventilation slots (in bottom panels, shelves, and back panels), IR-friendly glass, precision hardware (including things like soft-close hinges), as well as sliding - or removable - back panels. During past conventions I’ve breezed by the BDI booth, slowing down just enough to take in the different designs. This CEDIA, however, I spent some time with the folks at BDI who demonstrated for me just how well thought out and intelligently designed the company’s furniture is. The OLA cabinet pictured above has a gently curved front along with curved, tinted glass doors on either side of the center shelf. The stand will hold up to a 73-inch TV weighing 150 lbs or less. It’s also available in chocolate stained walnut finish. The price is under $1,500.