The Polk SurroundBar 500 ($999) was first announced a year and a half ago but took some fine tuning. It moves the messy details of connectivity to an outboard rack-size box, left, allowing the enclosure to be just 0.9 inches deep. It can operate in three-, five-, and seven-channel modes. The woofers at the sides have dual voice coils to make such complex motion possible. The picture may not do justice to the dimpled surface of the drivers, which we assume is for air-flow control. Oh, and have we mentioned that Polk has overhauled its excellent LSi Series for the first time since 2002? There are two towers, a monitor, two centers, and a surround. One or more of them will prove quite reviewable.
The venerable Baltimore-based speaker maker showed three new monitors, two new soundbars, and three new subs. The three StudioMonitors include the SM65, an LCR with two 5.25-inch woofers ($449/each), SSM 55, a two-way design with 6.5-inch woofer, $299/each), and SM 45, two-way, 5.25-inch ($199/each). The two larger models have passive radiators on top; the smaller one is back-ported. All have woofer phase plugs whose rubber surfaces are dimpled to control air flow. These speakers are voiced for the audiophile on a budget, as opposed to the home theater buff looking for deep thrills, so the bass is said to trade off midbass force for greater extension. Shipping October. DefTech's two new soundbars include the XTR-SSA5 ($999) which has woofer-tweeter-woofer arrays for three front channels plus some extra drivers that sorta kinda contribute to surround effects (it's a long story). With Pink Floyd's "Money," the five-channel bar managed to break the cash-register effects free from the bar, about a foot out and to the sides. The three-channel version is the XTR-SSA3 ($799). Three new subs range in price from $599-799 and have remote controllable preset EQ modes. Coming this fall is the ProCinema 400 sat/sub set ($599).
Klipsch now makes headphones, as shown by Brooke Hilsmeyer. The killer is the MODE noise-canceling model which sounded great and worth $350. There is also a smaller non-NC Reference 1 and an S4A earbud, designed especially for use with Android devices.
Last month, Sharp unveiled its new Elite-branded LED-backlit LCD flat panels, which I hadn't seen until now. Licensing the Elite moniker from Pioneerwhich collaborated on the new panelsSharp has hit a grand slam, filling a distinct void in high-end flat panels left by Pioneer's departure from the TV business. The PRO-X5FD has all the bells and whistles3D (including 2D-to-3D conversion with user-controllable effect), access to online content (Netflix, Vudu, etc.), THX certification for both 2D and 3D, and ISF certification to name a few.
Control4 added a new 7-inch portable touch screen controller with a capacitive full-color LCD panel that you can carry with you tablet-style through your home or use as a tabletop touch screen with it resting in its docking station. While portable and tabletop touch screens are quite cool just because they’re touch screens, the new 7-inchers from Control4 ooze even more coolness because they can be used as intercom devices that will allow you to have a conversation with another person in your home via another Control4 intercom device without requiring either person to hold down a button. Since they’re wireless and portable, you can use these touch screens to bring temporary system control or intercom access to rooms or areas of your home that don’t need a dedicated touch screen. MSRP $999.
At yesterday's Sony press conference, the company didn't demonstrate the new VPL-VW1000ES 4K projectorthat had to wait until this morning at Sony's booth on a Stewart Ultramatte 150 screen measuring 180 inches diagonally. As with most Sony presentations, this one was mostly talking and not much demo material, but that material was worth the waitexcept for the first clip, which was from Resident Evil at 1080p upconverted to 4K. The clip exhibited severe banding and solarization, which I learned was due to sourcing and processing issues, not the projector. (The original file was 16-bit, which was truncated to 10-bit in the server and then 8-bit for HDMI to the projector.) Also, this clip was projected using Motionflow frame interpolation, which I don't mind, but Tom Norton objected to that more than the banding.
By contrast, the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man due next year was in native 4K from the server, and it looked, well, amazing. Detail was stunning, and the blacks were better than yesterday's showing of the same clip from the Sony 4K digital-cinema projector. After the formal presentation, I confirmed that the VW1000ES can indeed accept a 4K signal over a single HDMI 1.4 connection. Of course, that won't help most consumers see native 4K content, which will be nonexistent for at least a couple of years to come.
But for me, projectors were the main attractions in the Mitsubishi booth. The currently available HC9000D LCOS design (2D and 3D, $6000) looked fabulous in 2D (it was not being demonstrated in 3D when I was there). I was surprised, in fact, at how bright it looked on its 143-inch diagonal, 16:9, Stewart Studiotek 130 screen (gain 1.3).
Few home automation things – especially in a home theater – can match motorized shades for sheer (or blackout) sex appeal. Whether the shades are coming down in preparation for a movie, or going up after the movie is over, it’s difficult to avoid being mesmerized by the seemingly magical movement of the shade material. But motorized shades have traditionally had two major drawbacks: cost and installation issues (which add to the cost). Lutron’s new wireless motorized cellular shades give the treatment to expensive, difficult-to-install window treatments. The new shades are exciting for several reasons: They’re motorized! They’re affordable! They’re cordless! And I can install them myself! (Yes, I’m drooling over shades…)
Carver's assets have been bought from their previous owner by the Carver Holding Group and many of the company's world-beating products will be reintroduced in early 2012. That will include amps of seven, five, and two channels, not to mention mono-blocks. What caught our eye was a new product, the CSB-601 2.1-channel soundbar. In development is a surround pre-pro. Welcome back.
The so-called Future Technology Pavilion was open for a press tour on Wednesday, press conference/setup day (the show formally opens on Thursday September 8). Much of the content here was of limited A/V interest, but will be of interest to custom installers who often add home automation and similar services to their repoitoire. The most interesting features here were those that offer a wide range of medical monitoring facilities, providing health and well-being warnings that can be transmitted to the appropriate agencies and individuals if needed. In other words, just the ticket for a granny-friendly house.
We didn't hear much of what Noah Kaplan said during the Leon Speakers press event -- too many people, not enough decibels. But his Living Space Theater soundbar, two-thirds of which is pictured, could be heard over the noise of the show floor, summoning vocal clarity and pretty good bass considering its depth of less than two inches. The amazing Trithon REYN made a welcome reappearance. Kaplan will make CEDIA history at an event tomorrow evening in which he will paint a mural accompanied by musician Adam Roberts.
The relaunched MK Sound has introduced something it never had before: a true tower loudspeaker. Previous ones were actually just stand-mounts on tower-shaped pedestals. The THX-certified F-950 ($2200/pair) has two 5.25-inch woofers with dual magnets for extra oomph plus a soft dome tweeter in a box to protect it from its own back wave. Also shown were three new THX-certified subs (8, 10, 12 inches) using MK's famous push/pull technology.
Joining the recently announced VPL-VW30ESwhich we received for review just before we left for CEDIAis the new VPL-VW95ES. Among its features is a 2D anamorphic mode and Picture Position, which lets you store various focus and zoom settings for different aspect ratios. The SXRD panels provide multi-zone alignment, and an advanced iris offers up to 150,000:1 of dynamic contrast. In the realm of 3D, the VW95ES provides an integrated IR transmitter, 2D-to-3D conversion, dynamic lamp control for greater brightness in 3D mode, and the ability to adjust 2D and 3D separately.
First seen as a concept piece at CES last January, the HMZ-T1 is now ready for prime time. This headmount 3D display includes two small, 720p OLED panelsone for each eyein a futuristic-looking contraption that sits on your head with padded earphones on the sides. The interocular distance and earphones are both adjustable, as is the support structure that holds the device on your head. Because the two displays are completely isolated from each other, there is no crosstalk whatsoever. When fitted properly, most of the unit's weight is on the forehead, which is reasonably comfortable, but I don't know if that comfort will last through an entire movie.
The image is truly amazing, with exceptional 3D and super-deep blacks. However, moving your head around and seeing the "screen" move with you is very strange, especially when you can see the floor below the unit. Fortunately, light blockers can be installed to more completely isolate you from the real world.