URC was showing off the company’s long-awaited DMS-AV Network Home Theater Amplifier that takes a 125-watt x 7 AVR with boatloads of inputs and features and marries it to a URC Total Control-based whole-home music distribution system. The DMS-AV connects to the homeowner’s LAN and can handle up to 32 streaming audio sources. You can even digitally stream the analog output from a turntable to any of the connected zone amplifiers in the home. URC says the DMS-AV is finally shipping with an MSRP of $1,499.
Along side its impressive lineup of A/V receivers, Onkyo is demonstrating the EnvisionCinema LS3100 at CEDIA Expo, a 2.1-channel powered TV speaker package featuring two oval speakers with removable stands to accommodate wall or cabinet mounting, a wireless powered subwoofer and a low-profile 20-watt digital amplifier/control center offering SRS audio processing and Bluetooth 2.1 for wireless streaming from compatible devices. The system, which comes pre-programmed for control with most TV remotes, switches on and off with the TV and responds to volume commands. Better yet, it incorporates SRS’s TruVolume equalizer that smoothes out fluctuations in volume as you switch channels, WOW HD audio processing for a more expansive soundstage and a Dialog Mode that enhances voice intelligibility. EnvisionCinema will be available in November with a suggested retail price of $499.
I could have really used this when I installed and reviewed SunBriteTV’s 4660HD 46-inch weather-resistant outdoor flat-panel HDTV several months ago. In fact, I looked everywhere for (at least I thought I had) and asked anyone who would listen about a surge protector for the HDMI connection going from the system inside my house out to the HDTV on the back patio. Having gone through the pain of a relatively extensive surge from a frighteningly close lightning strike, I’m slightly more aware of the potential downside of too much electricity. As far as I can tell, Ethereal is the first company to offer an in-line surge protector specifically for HDMI connections. The Ethereal HDM-SP is available now for $159.99 – a price that could wind up saving you a lot more if you live in lightning-prone locales like I do.
The Darbee video processor is said to cleanly enhance a video image. Based on what I saw at CEDIA (and based on Kris Deering's review that's available on this site) it does the job surprisingly well. I did notice, however, that if there are artifacts in the source material it will enhance those as well! But the degree of enhancement is adjustable.
When it comes to high-end speakers, Sony has had tough sledding in the U.S. market, despite some quality products. Its current SS-AR1 and SS-AR2 are excellent designs, but at $27,000 and $20,000 per pair respectively, they'll be a hard sell to any but the passionate and well-healed audiophile.
So when I saw a new pair of concept speakers side-by-side with Sony's new 84-inch, 4K flat panel on the company’s show floor booth I was intrigued. They weren't getting much attention from the CEDIA crowd, of course. All eyes were on the HDTV, and the sound was at a very low level and drowned out by the general din of the convention center din.
But the speakers were being demonstrated rather secretively at a nearby hotel. The official introduction is still weeks or months away (possibly at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver in October but more likely at CES in January), so it’s all very hush-hush for now. If I tell you more about them here I’d have to kill you. But you can get a closer look in the following entry, including the speaker’s unique tweeter arrangement. For now I'll just say that they will get a lot of positive attention when they arrive officially. The pricing is still TBD, but will be lower, and perhaps considerably lower, than the SS-AR1 and SS-AR2. And unlike be those determinedly 2-channel designs, matching centers, bookshelves, and subs will be available.
Scheduled to be available later this year, NextGen’s latest remote control extending device is a hockey puck-like device that receives signals from a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth and blasts out the corresponding IR code so you can control your AVR gear using NextGen’s smartphone app. Pricing is expected to be $79.95.
Panamax’s new MR4000 has eight protected power outlets with Level 2 Power Cleaning and Filtration. Panamax says that this helps to eliminate the “common symptoms of contaminated power (loss of detail, pops, hisses, hums and others). The MR4000 also monitors incoming line voltage and disconnect the connected equipment from power if there’s a brown-out or surge. It also has an AC outlet on the front of the unit for quick, temporary power connections. The MR4000 is available now for $199.95.
We can thank Michael Phelps for making it cool to wear over-ear headphones while on the go. In a nod to that trend, Yamaha will roll out the stylish Pro Series line of headphones at the end of the month. Good/better/ best models were previewed at CEDIA Expo: the Pro 500 ($399 in black or blue), the Pro 400 ($299 in blue or white) and the more compact Pro 300 ($199 in black, white or blue).
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the end of the man-cave era. I’m not sure I could find a better example of anything that would be more proof of the existence of a trend away from the dedicated, tech-dominated home theater room in favor of a new emphasis on stylish integration of the home theater into people’s homes and lifestyles than this very interesting credenza from Adrian Lifestyles Furnishings. In most ways the Lila Pearl Credenza is a very traditional home entertainment cabinet with media drawers, adjustable shelves, and back panels that provide easy access to components and cables. But it’s also one of those pieces of furniture that you will either immediately hate or absolutely love. The company says the finish is “lacquer finish on Lila veneer”. I’m not quite sure what a “Lila veneer” is, but the color was an extremely interesting combination of purple and rose and mother of pearl. It’s not the sort of thing I’d have in my house, but I know several people who would gladly use it for their TV and associated gear. Adrian Lifestyles Furnishings offers a lot of other cabinet designs, including traditional wall unit style furniture, in a variety of domestic and exotic woods, finishes, sizes, and door types. Pricing was not available.
The Klein K-10 Cinema Pro tri-stimulus colorimeter may not do absolutely everything that twice as expensive color spectroradiometers will do, but it comes close, is much faster, and will read much lower light levels. At $5900, it must be used with color calibration software such as the SpectraCal we use for our reviews. (Not coincidentally, it was being demonstrated in the SpectraCal booth.)
Seymour-Screen Excellence showed its new, acoustically transparent screen that does the job without an obvious weave or visible perforationsthough its surface does have some texture to it. It's available in a variety of formats including fixed frame, retractible (masked or not) and curved widescreen. A 100-inch wide, retractible, 2.35:1, flat model will cost you about $4000. For masking, add $2000.
Of all the cool stuff at CEDIA 2012, by far – for me, at least – the most impressive and most cool thing I saw/heard/experienced was the voice-controlled home automation add-in for a Control4 system from Houselogix, called voicepod, that will be available later this year. Any number of voicepod “pods” can be used to allow you to control a virtually unlimited number of functions that may be available in your particular Control4 system. A voicepod is a small, flat device that looks somewhat like an electric hot plate for a coffee cup. Built into each voicepod is a microphone and speaker that allows the system to talk back to you in order to confirm commands or ask for additional commands. In order to keep the voicepod from responding to random conversation in the room, communication with the system has to be woken up by saying, “Hello, voicepod,” after which a female voice asks you what you would like to do.
During the demonstration, Theodore Rosenberger, the President and Founder of Houselogix, turned lights on/off, raised/lowered Lutron wireless shades, selected preset angles and panned a security camera, and even programmed the system on-the-fly to respond with specific phrases. I’ve seen quite a number of voice-controlled devices and systems over the years, and this one from Houselogix is by far the most exciting I’ve come across. Even though it’s only in beta testing now, I’ve already begun begging Houselogix to let me get my hands on a voicepod or two to integrate into my Control4 system.
Truth be told, the only reason most AV journalists come to shows and conventions is for the free swag. Tough times in the economy and shrinking promotional budgets have done some serious damage to the quality and amount of swag a savvy journalist can accrue over the course of three or four days of press conferences and meetings. While not the best swag ever, Universal Remote Control’s Mitch Klein scored big points with surprise offerings like these which he presented to a select group of bacon-enthusiast journalists. No word on whether URC will ever begin manufacturing a remote control that looks like a large slice of crispy, delicious bacon – even though many of us have begged them to do it.
MartinLogan’s updated Motif X is a triple-hybrid center channel speaker that combines cones, electrostatic, and folded motion drivers in one cabinet. The original Motif included a traditional one-inch neodymium soft-dome tweeter which is replaced in the Motif X by the company’s hot Folded Motion tweeter. Availability and pricing was not available.