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.
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.
dotz Cuts Cord Confusion
According to dotz, the average U.S. household has 40 cords, which adds up to 4.5 billion cords cluttering and choasifying homes across the country. dotz’s Cord Identifier Kit comes with 24 clear, round identifiers that snap along both ends of up to 12 HDMI, component, audio, video, power, and etc cords and cables. Different colors make the cords immediately identifiable when digging around behind AV racks, HDTVs, desks, or nightstands. In addition to different colors, each identifier can be further identified by using pre-printed or “write-your-own” punch-out inserts. Kits sell for $16.99.
What is it that the Canton Digital Movie soundbar has that no others do? To find out you will have to look closely at the back panel (not pictured, ha). It has a phono input. You read that right, a phono input. That's a set of values we applaud. It also has two optical, two coaxial, and two analog inputs (including phono) as well as two analog outs. On the front are two coaxial tweeter/mid-woofer arrays flanking four more mid-woofers, all aluminum. Look for it in mid-November for $1500.
Soundcast Systems’ awesome wireless, portable, weather-proof speakers are amazing in terms of both sound quality and wireless range. But the Outcast and Outcast Jr suffer from the same problem. They’re both basically white cylindrical towers with no visual personality other than “blah”. Now Soundcast is partnering with Skinit, Inc to provide skin adhesive wraps for the two speaker towers. Soundcast says the skins are easy to put on and feature a “residual-free removal”, so you can remove old and apply new skins whenever your heart desires a new look. Skinit offers a large online library of colors, patterns, photography, art, professional sports leagues, colleges, and universities from which to choose – or you can even customize your own design. Pricing is $49.99 per wrap for either the Outcast or the Outcast Jr, and they’re available from Soundcast Systems’ or Skinit’s websites.