First impressions on the first day included the absence of some major players (Samsung, Panasonic, and apart from a small off-site event to launch its 4K, 84-inch HDTV, LG) leaving Sony the only heavy hitter in the flat panel business present. Many booths were smaller. Bowers&Wilkins/Classe/Rotel were hardly the only ones to downscale their square footage on the show floor-though in their case they have also set up shop at an off-site hotel.
We always regret having to resort to torture, but with bamboo under the fingernails and a threat of the iron maiden we finally convinced Revel to start shipping its long-awaited Performa3 speakers starting in two weeks (and if it doesn't happen, we've got thumbscrews). The line features two of everything: towers, monitors, centers, sub, and a single bipole surround. Gloss walnut and black finishes are supervised by Italian craftsmen and the speakers are produced at an Indonesian facility that has air conditioning—it's nice to run across a star designer (Kevin Voecks) who refuses to accept the torturing of workers. All drivers are proprietary aluminum cones or domes. Priced per speaker, the towers go for $2500 and $1750, the monitors for $1000 and $750, the centers for $2000 and $1000, the subs for $3000 and $2000, and the bipole is $900. The top-of-the-line F208 tower and C208 center have both tweeter and boundary level controls for extra flexibility in acoustically difficult spaces. Revel also introduced the 2-Series of four in-ceiling and three in-wall speakers including the home theater worthy W253L LCR with 1-inch tweeter and dual 5-1/4-inch woofers.
After yesterday's Media Preview appearance, the GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D Array soundbar offered smooth performance with dynamically challenging movie material and the broad on- and off-axis imaging afforded by its folded ribbon tweeter. We'd say it's worth the $999 pricetag.
Focal's Sub Utopia EM earns its $13,999 pricetag with the use of an electromagnetic active voice coil, pictured to the right of the sub. This affords its 13-inch driver a degree of control and damping not possible with a conventional passive voice coil. Outboard amp required, 500 to 1000 watts recommended. Focal also showed three multimedia speakers: the Little Bird, the Bird, and the Super Bird, hence the headline. The cool thing is the flat box that goes with them. It combines the functions of a stereo integrated amp, headphone amp, DAC, and active sub, with wireless connectivity for iOS devices. Pricing is $995, $1199, or $1499 for the package depending on size of fowl. Add another $99 for an iOS or USB dongle.
Cary Audio has made a distinguished contribution to the headphone craze sweeping across the consumer electronics industry with the HH-1 headphone amp. Introduced at CEDIA Expo, the amp is designed and built in the U.S. and teams a tube preamp stage with a solid-state MOSFET output stage, chosen for its tube-like sonic characteristics. Featuring Class A operation at all output levels and a 30-second muting circuit to prevent annoying turn-on pops, the amp sports a pair of RCA inputs with loop-through outputs and is designed to drive headphones with impedances between 30 and 600 ohms. Price: $1,595.
Though outwardly similar to last year’s VPL-HW30ES, Sony’s new VPL-HW50ES (available in October) is an updated design. It incorporates the same Reality Creation processing as the company’s flagship VPL-VW1000 4K projector, scaled down here for 2K operation. There’s a new Iris 3 algorithm for the projector’s advanced dynamic iris, for a claimed dynamic contrast ratio of 100,000:1. The light output is also said to be increased by 30% to 1700 lumens. The 3D transmitter is internal, and the 240Hz panel is claimed to reduce 3D crosstalk. There’s also a 2D-to-3D conversion mode and a 244-zone panel alignment feature to insure convergence.
While at $4000 the VPL-HW50ES is more expensive than the HW30ES (which remains available at a reduced price of $3000), the new projector’s price includes 2 pair of active 3D glasses and a spare projection lamp.
Sony’s launched its new XBR-84X900 84-inch diagonal LED edge-lit LCD set at its CEDIA EXPO 2012 press conference. With a native 4K resolution (3840 x 2160), it can display native 4K material at 24Hz or 30Hz, or upscale 2K sources to 4K. With its passive 3D glasses, it can also produce a full 2K 3D resolution to each eye (passive glasses in a 2K 3D set reduce the resolution of a 1920 x 1080 source to 1920 x 540). The set looked spectacular and will be available at selected Sony stores in November for $25,000.
Sony also announced two new flagship XBR-HX950 LCD flat panels: 55-inches ($4500) and 65-inches ($5500). The sets offer full LED backlighting with local dimming and are available now.
At the CEDIA Media Preview, for 90 feverish minutes, several dozen exhibitors showed their wares to media personnel walking through a single large room. Here are some audio highlights relating to speakers:
Surprisingly big sound from a tiny box is what you can expect from the Bluetooth-enabled ClarityHD Micro Speaker Monster introduced at CEDIA Expo. The concept: Instead of suffering through the tinny sound you get from your smartphone, tablet or PC, stream the audio to a portable speaker that easily fits in a briefcase or backpack.
CSR’s aptX audio coding is employed to deliver CD-quality sound and functions such as playing music, answering calls and Bluetooth pairing are handled by simple voice commands. Operating range is 30 feet and the speaker’s lithium-ion battery is said to last 5 hours on a single charge. Available in black and white, the ClarityHD sells for $220 and has a minijack input for use with non-Bluetooth devices.
Sony introduced three new AV receivers. The claim to fame of both the STR-5800ES (130 Watts per channel) and STR-2800ES (100 WPC) is that they may be directly integrated with the popular Control4 home automation system. They may also be used with a variety of other automation systems. The third model, the STR-DA1800, does not have Control4 built-in. All three offer 4K upconversion, full WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplay, and Internet access features.
In a sign of the times, Sony and Control4 announced today that a pair of Sony's top-of-the-line ES receivers (the $2,099 9.2 channel STR-DA5800ES and the $999 7.1 channel STR-DA2800ES in particular), would include Control4 automation right out of the box (single-room, entertainment-center-specific flavor only), with upgradability to a full Control4 Activation License available for $300 through your friendly neighborhood system integrator.
When we looked at Ultralink's UCubes miniature desktop speaker system last year, we were, overall, impressed with how they sounded, but felt that those who wanted serious bass from the tiny desktop system might be somewhat disappointed. There's only so much a tiny 2.0 system can do. Physics, you know.
Well, it looks like Ultralink's been listening, because today they introduced the $220 USub - what they claim is the world's smallest powered subwoofer.