Billed as the "ultimate home-theater experience at CES," a ballroom in the Sands Convention Center was equipped with a Digital Projection Titan projector, Kaleidescape Blu-ray server, Stewart CineCurve screen with masking (Studiotek 130, 14 feet wide), Totem Acoustic speakers, ADA power amps, and D-Box motion actuators in luxurious recliners. Because I'm sensitive to motion sickness, I can't tolerate motion-actuator systems, but the rest of the audience seemed to really enjoy it with clips from Avatar, Monster House, Top Gun, and Fast Five. The picture quality was outstanding, as was the sound.
TAD was again showing its high-end speakers and electronics. But there's been a new delivery to the family, the E1 floorstander (the smaller of the two shown in the picture). For TAD, it's now the company's "entry level" consumer mode. Like all TAD speakers, it exhibited a tremendous dynamic range—which you should expect for those bucks but don't always get.
In an adjoining room, Thiel was demonstrating the new CS1.7 (estimate $5500/pair, available early in 2012), a replacement for the well-received CS1.6. They use the same woofers as the MCS1.2, below, and sounded superb driven by Bryston electronics. But I might add that Thiel has used this same room for the last three CESs, and it hasn't produced anything short of audio magic there yet.
PSB's Imagine T2 tower can be mentioned in the same breath as the brand's world-beating Synchrony line. The titanium tweeter and polypropylene midrange are backed up with three polypropylene woofers crossed over at 500Hz, 250Hz, and 80Hz, making this a five-way speaker. All drivers live in separate chambers to prevent them from interfering with one another. The result of all that scrupulous construction and ingenuity is a genuinely fantastic sounding speaker with powerful bass, a musically adept midrange, and just the right amount of top end. The number of audio demos at the show that came close can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Price is $3500/pair in veneer or $3850/pair in gloss white or black.
According to the CEA (the Consumer Electronics Association, the CES show-runners) the CES exhibit space covers the equivalent of 34 football fields likely enough to hold all of the NFL playoff games with room left over for the Super Bowl, both this year and next. Sony's booth must be occupying at least two of those fields, with the same dizzying array of new products as in all the big booths, from the sublime to the gadgety. More than a few of those products are mentioned in these pages; for more on several of them, including Sony's Crystal LED technology demonstration, see our video blogs.
Cambridge Audio has always made fine-sounding a/v receivers but in past years the British brand has had trouble keeping up with the latest features, as often happens with smaller manufacturers competing in the feature-frenetic a/v receiver space. But Cambridge is catching up with 3D and other must-haves with three new models. The Azur 751R has 200 watts times seven, Anchor Bay video processing, an extra sub-out for zone two, and Audyssey 2EQ auto setup and room correction (note that it does not equalize the sub channel). The Azur 651R is similarly equipped with 175 watts times seven ($2200). The Azur 551R ($1200) has 110 watts times seven, Faroudja video processing, and proprietary CAMCAS auto setup but no room correction. Note that these power ratings are into six ohms, so the more customary eight-ohm ratings would be a bit lower (for instance, 120 times seven in the top model). Still, the six-ohm ratings suggest how the receivers will perform with slightly more demanding speakers. And these receivers are far from underbuilt. All have heavy damped metal chassis with large toroidal power transformers and an X-tract heat control system involving a large central heat sink and cooling fans, allowing high performance in a not-too-tall form factor.
The gorgeous green Focal Diablo Utopia was fed in style by the Devialet D-Premier, winner of a CES 2012 Innovations award. The D-Premier combines the functions of streamer, DAC, preamp, and hybrid amp in a svelte flat form factor. At $16,000 it doesn't come cheap.
Funny, it looks a lot younger with the introduction of a new integrated amp, a CD/SACD player, DAC, and preamp. All of them are 2-channel only, of course. The first three are expected to come in at $10,000 or under when they appear in mid-2012. The preamp, however, will set you back $25,000. All four offer a full complement of digital inputs (including asynchronous USB). The preamp and integrated amp also have analog inputs. The player has external digital inputs, and both it and the DAC have volume controls and may be used as digital preamps for direct connection to your power amps.