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.
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).
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.
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.
Speaker designer Paul Barton of PSB, who has applied his considerable skills and ears in the past year to wirless bluetooth speakers (the NAD Viso 1) and headphones (the M4U), has now bowed his answer to the powered desktop speaker system. The PSB Alpha PS1 features built-in amplification delivering 20 watts per side. The left side speaker has the volume control on the back panel, along with analog RCA and 1/8-inch inputs and an RCA subwoofer output. A clever touch is the USB power-only port, which can be used to power any third-party wireless dongle you might use to facilitate wireless streaming from a computer or source component. Price on the system will be $300 when it becomes available in October.
Screen Innovations has incorporated adjustable (and defeatable) backlighting at the boarders of its zero-edge, fixed-frame projection screens. Just don’t call it Ambilight! Apart from this, however, I saw a stunning, bright, and colorful image (granted, the source was Speed Racer) on the 138-inch diagonal, 2.35:1, 1.4-gain Black Diamond screen, driven by a Sony VPL-VW1000 4K projector and a standard 2K Blu-ray disc.
Sonance, which introduced the first in-wall-speaker a couple decades ago, is demonstrating the third generation of its Invisible Series speaker panels at CEDIA Expo. The panels mount flush in the wall and can be covered with up to an eight of an inch of any flexible material---including spackling compound, wallpaper or plaster---and painted over without compromising the performance. Hailed as the company’s best sounding invisible speaker to date, the panels are designed to fit between the studs in standard 2 x 4 wall construction. Judging from the demo on the noisy show floor, the sound is surprisingly decent.
The four new models boast 90-dB sensitivity, enabling the panels to play much louder than previous generation panels. All models have an injection-molded polypropylene diaphragm, extruded aluminum frame and require only 2 inches of depth for mounting. Optional enclosures are said to reduce sound transmission to adjacent rooms by up to 20 dB. The IS4 three-way panel shown in the photo has a suggested retail price of $1,600 per pair. Other pricing: The two-way IS2 is $1,100 per pair, the single stereo IS4SST is $900 and the ISW Woofer is $600.
At its Friday press event, SIM2 Multimedia featured its M.150 single chip DLP projector with LED illumination. Normally, LED-based projectors aren’t very bright, but this one lit up the screen. It might have helped that the 125-inch diagonal screen was a DNP Supernova with a gain of 2.4. Surprisingly, this screen had no perceptible hot spot and little fall off in brightness at off-axis angles, making it a viable alternative for LED-lit projectors like the M150.
SIM2 also launched, but did not demonstrate, its SIRIO high Brightness 3D projector (shown in the photo above). Its single-chip DLP dual lamp design (2 x 300W) is claimed to offer higher brightness than other dual lamp projectors. The projector body by itself is $25,000, and a variety of lenses are available at extra cost. The projector will go on sale in late October.
The company also announced a $1000 drop in price for its base line, single-chip DLP models. The Crystal 35 is now $5000, the Crystal 45, $7000.
A price was also announced for the Cinemaquattro 4K projector mentioned in an earlier blog: $158,000, not including lens, of which there will be a variety available. Just in case you were hovering on the edge of your seat before writing that check. The projector is based in a professional Christie design; the light output also mentioned earlier will depend on the chosen lamp configuration and lens.
Of the four soundbars in Polk Audio's line, two are new, and one is quite remarkable. We're talking about the SurroundBar 9000 IHT ($799). This 5.1-channel bar has three tweeters for the front channels and dedicated woofers for each of the five channels, with each driver powered by 45 watts, plus external eight-inch sub. What fascinates us is that bass frequencies from 80-200Hz are routed to all woofers in the bar. In other words, if there's significant bass content in any one of the five channels, it's routed to the other channels as well. This allows better bass handling than you'd expect in a bar. It also allows a lower crossover to the sub, an audiophile-approved 80Hz, which keeps voices from booming out of the sub. Connectivity is optical and analog, both times two, with Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. Guess what? The 9000 worked wonders with a James Taylor concert track, with realistic acoustic guitar harmonics and a vocal presentation that was crisp but not fatiguing. The other new guy is SurroundBar 5000 IHT ($399), a 2.1-channel Bluetooth bar with a pair of full-range drivers backed up by a 6.5-inch sub. Both shipping this month.
The gorgeous zebrawood finish and Retro meets Danish styling of Triad’s towering Cinema Reference speaker was hard to miss on the CEDIA Expo show floor. The 47.5-inch-tall CR LCR 1 main speaker combines a horn-loaded Air Motion Transformer (AMT) driver with two 8-inch midrange drivers and a 15-inch woofer. The companion CR Surround is 27 inches tall and features a pair of 1-inch compression tweeters and two 5-inch mids in a horn-loaded configuration and a 10-inch woofer. In-wall, on-wall and stand mounting options are available. Estimated pricing is $12,500 each for the CR LCR and $5,000 each for the CR Surround, both of which are expected to be available for sale in January. A companion subwoofer is being developed.
What you see is Meridian's Media Source 200. This little fella makes adding additional zones easy. Plug an ethernet cable into it and it'll output to Meridian DSP speakers via wireless Cat5 SpeakerLink. There's also a mini-jack that serves as a combo optical or analog connection for your signal source of choice. Product ships end of this month for $1000. Meridian also announced two new in-walls, the DSP520, a 5.25-inch two-way design, and the DSP 630, similar but with extra woofer. They've got RS-232 and IR ports, both bidirectional, and are shipping in November at prices to be announced.
Extruded aluminum enclosures and Imagine Series lineage are only part of what make the Imagine W1 and W3 on-wall speakers special. In addition to being voiced like the great-sounding Imagine Mini, they're also coordinated the way designer Paul Barton says surround speaker systems should be: with the center having twice the output of the left and right combined. So the W3 center ($1200/each) has a sensitivity rating of 89dB, versus the 86dB of the W1 ($600/each), and the 3dB difference enables the center to play twice as loud with the same power. Of course, in practice, you'll level them to have the same output, but your amp will have more headroom for the center at dynamically challenging moments. Elsewhere in the Imagine line, the Imagine Mini Center ($700/each) is now available to match the Imagine Mini satellite. All of the above are shipping October. PSB also announced CustomSound in-wall and in-ceiling speakers of which the most interesting is the C-SUR, whose angled baffle contains enough drivers to run both side- and back-surround channels. Shipping end of December. Also shown was the second-gen VISO 1 AP compact audio system, which eliminates the original VISO 1's dock in favor of AirPlay for $600. It ships first quarter of 2013. The original VISO 1 remains available.
The Bowers & Wilkins CI800 Series replaces the Signature in-walls with pricing at $5000-8000/pair. These speakers feature parts from B&W's high-end 800 Series including Rohacell woofers, new Kevlar midranges, carbon-reinforced metal tweeters, and premium capacitors among other things. Three models include two in-walls and one in-ceiling speaker. The larger of the in-walls is the CWM8.3 with dual eight-inch woofers, a five-inch midrange, and one-inch tweeter.
Artison, the company founded by respected audio designer Cary Christie nearly a decade ago, is replacing its SB-1 SoundBar with three low-profile models designed for seamless integration with the new generation of ultra-thin TVs. The numerical designations of the new Studio Series models---Studio39, Studio46 and Studio55---reflect the approximate width of the soundbar, although each grille is custom fitted and color matched to the TV it’s being used with as in the photo above.
Highlights of the soundbars include a 2.25-inch-deep extruded aluminum, bass-reflex cabinet, 3.5-inch carbon-fiber mid/woofers---Studio39 has four drivers, the other models have six---three 1-inch Vifa tweeters and two 1-inch “stage” tweeters that fire out the sides of the enclosure to expand the sound stage. Pricing is $999 for Studio39, $1,499 for Studio46 and $1,999 for Studio55. The Studio46 ships this month with the other models expected to be available in October/November.