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.
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.
I always take time out at CEDIA to sample some of the home theater seating exhibits that sprinkle the show floor. OK, so it’s a tough show and the dogs do bark! This jumbo love seat from Cinema Tech is more than just comfy. It not only reclines, but a powered headrest can be raised or lowered, depending on your needs of the moment. It’s available in different configurations (such a single seat). The catch is the price (for the loveseat shown) of about $7500 depending on the leather selected. A number of other manufacturers were also showing theater seats with adjustable headrests.
Normally known for making high-end indoor seating, CINEAK’s new outdoor collection features hand-crafted seating made with marine-grade materials so they can take a beating and keep on seating. While you’re enjoying your outdoor view, you can soon listen to one of CINEAK’s customizable outdoor entertainment systems that look like attractive outdoor storage consoles – but inside they hide marine-grade speakers and subwoofers and integrated LED lighting. The entertainment systems are available in a multitude of finishes including a variety of woods, painted aluminum, carbon fiber, and acrylic, as well as custom finishes by request. Interlocking panels can be removed, replaced, or mixed and matched for a truly unique look.
Home-automation stalwart Crestron is demonstrating at CEDIA Expo a Near Field Communication (NFC)-based technology called airConnect that enables homeowners to trigger personal control settings for a home theater system and other devices connected to a central control system by simply holding an NFC-enabled smartphone close to an NFC tag in the room. The tag can be programmed to initiate any number of activities or automated routines, such as turning on system components, closing motorized shades, lowering a projector screen and launching a control app on the phone. The NFC tags, which are 1-inch, paper-thin squares, can be embedded in convenient locations, such as behind a wall keypad. A number of Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices are NFC-enabled and Crestron says it will support iPhone and iPad as soon as they incorporate NFC technology.
Crestron is also demonstrating enhanced AirPlay functionality for its Sonnex multiroom audio system, which allows you to stream audio from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac PC to any room in the house without having to switch audio sources. Hit play and the system detects audio signals and automatically switches to the AirPlay source. The Sonnex system incorporates high-performance digital audio processing, full matrix switching and high-powered amplification.
The Monster Audio Subwoofer Satellite (MASS) speaker system Monitor Audio is showcasing at CEDIA Expo stands out among satellite-based systems for the gently curved polymer cabinet that defines the MASS 10 satellites. Each aluminum-capped cabinet, which houses a newly developed 1-inch tweeter and 4-inch bass/midrange driver, can be mounted on the wall or placed on optional stands (as shown in the photo). Bass chores are handled by the equally stylish MASS W200 powered subwoofer, which teams a 10-inch driver and passive radiator with a 220-watt DSP-controlled Class D amplifier offering selectable Movie, Music and Impact modes. Due out in the October/November time frame, MASS is expected to sell for about $1,200.
See that USB port on the back of the Marantz SA-11S3 disc player? The advent of computer-worthy USB ports on audio products is a development whose importance can't be overstated. True, there are a lot of great outboard DACs on the market, with more to come—but what if you don't want that extra box and power cable in your rack? One option is to build the DAC into another product such as the Pioneer SC-68 surround receiver, or this Marantz SACD/CD player. Incidentally, it does not do Blu-ray or DVD. The Burr-Brown DAC has resolution of 192/24. Build quality is typically superb, with copper substituting for aluminum in the back panel and some internal parts. Price is $4000.