As a general rule, home automation is pricey. When you add motorization into the mix, it can get even pricier. SABAJ, a vertically integrated, extremely automated manufacturer located in Poland, showed off a motorized TV lift mechanism designed to raise flat-panel TVs up out of hidden cabinets that is surprisingly affordable. The company’s various lift mechanisms include an RJ45 socket for use with home automation systems, power guard circuitry to prevent the mechanism to lower the TV if it is still on, an active safety system that stops the downward movement and raises the screen slightly if something gets in the way, a three-button programming sequence for programming a preset viewing-position, and comes flat-packed so shipping costs are low. The TV-LIFT K-LINE ECO and K-LINE PREMIUM models are designed for flat-panel TVs up to 60 inches and up to 155 pounds (depending upon the K-LINE model). Product will be available in the US market very soon, and pricing will likely start at well under $1,000 for the lift mechanism.
BodyWave uses specially designed sensors that monitor the brain’s physiologic signal through the body to interpret your thoughts and allow you to control apps on computers and smartphones. It can also be used with computer simulations to “teach stress control, increase attention, and facilitate peak mental performance.” While I didn’t get a chance to try it myself, the guy who got to the booth just before I did learned how to drive a virtual forklift on the computer monitor in front of him within about a minute using only his thoughts and a stationary non-turning steering wheel with the company’s physiological sensors embedded on the wheel. The device “read” his thoughts – as long as he concentrated on it. When the presenter distracted the tester by tapping him on the arm, the forklift stopped moving. There was a slight ¼ second lag in time between the brain’s thoughts and the movement of the forklift on the screen, so you’re not going to be using this device for playing computer games at the moment.
JBL has continued to refine the design and performance of the flagship Project Everest DD66000 speaker it introduced six years, culminating in the $75,000-a-pair DD67000 unveiled at CES. Upgrades include a refined crossover network and extended frequency response thanks to new cast-aluminum-frame woofers, featuring three-layer laminated cone construction and 4-inch voice coils, a mid/high-frequency compression driver with a 4-inch beryllium diaphragm, and an ultrahigh-frequency compression driver with a 1-inch beryllium diaphragm and 2-inch neodymium magnet. Both compression drivers are mounted in JBL’s computer-optimized Bi-Radial horns, made from acoustically inert SonoGlass to eliminate unwanted colorations and shaped to optimize dispersion.
Available in rosewood or maple, the furniture-grade cabinet retains the curved and angled surfaces of its predecessor, including the signature flared horn, and introduces a carbon-fiber baffle trim panel. The speakers will be available in February.
IN2UIT’s very stylish, very portable Filo sound system is light (about 1.7 pounds), less than 2.5-inches thick, includes Bluetooth connectivity and has a li-polymer battery that’s good for up to ten hours of operation. But it’s not just another pretty desktop speaker. The Filo incorporates IN2UIT’s unique electrostatic loudspeaker (ESL) technology the company calls “Electrostatz”. Like larger, more expensive ESL’s on the market, IN2UIT’s Electrostatz speakers are super-slim – in fact, the company claims its speakers are “the world’s slimmest, paper-thin speaker technology in the market”. Electrostatz speakers, however, include a proprietary self-biased (SBESL) nano-diaphragm design, so they don’t require high-voltage bias or transformers, which helps to keep the cost and power consumption low.
The Filo is available in three colors, Vogue red, Mod blue and Urbane grey. Each Filo also comes with a power adapter/charger and a wall mount bracket. Even on the noisy, open show floor, I was highly impressed with the sound quality of the many $299 Filo speaker systems IN2UIT had mounted on the walls of the company’s booth. In my opinion, it outclassed any other Bluetooth-enabled, portable speaker costing under $300 that I’ve ever heard. IN2UIT’s Filo is expected to be available in the US in the next several months.
Tablets and smartphones are becoming constant companions - even more so now that there are so many apps and automation systems available that allow you to control your TV or multiroom audio system using an iOS or Android device. But not every place where you might use a smart device is as “environmentally friendly” as your living room. LifeProof's nüüd case is designed to protect an iPad in just about any situation you can think of. It's waterproof. (You can fully submerge it underwater down to two meters or 6.6 feet, whichever comes first.) It's dirt-proof (and totally sealed from minute dust particles to IP-68 standards). It's snow-proof (also to IP-68 standards). And it's shockingly shock-proof. (LifeProof says it's designed to military drop survivability specs of 4 feet - or 1.2 meters.) Although they didn't truck in a mountain of snow or build a dirt bike track at CES, they did bring a large tank full of water in which they regularly submerged a nüüd-clad iPad. When out of the water, the fully enclosed casing allows easy access to the charging and headphone ports. When under water, the access ports seal up tight and keep iPad warm and dry. (Well, not necessarily warm, but most certainly dry.) The nüüd case also includes a special “Sound Enhancement System” that channels the iPad's audio through the case cavity in order to improve the sound quality. Pricing for the nüüd case starts at $99.99 for the iPad 2/3/4. In addition to LifeProof cases for a variety of iPhone and the iPod touch Gen4, the company also offers a bright orange LifeJacket ($59.99) that prevents the iPad/nüüd combo from sinking when dropped in the pool, lake, or stream.
On the video side, CES is a flat screen HDTV-fest, not a projector show. Nor is home theater a common site at the audio-centric Venetian Hotel exhibits, dominated by expensive 2-channel audio. But I was delighted to come across at least one superb audio/video setup. The new Gray Wolf is the latest 3D LCOS projector from Wolf Cinema, and at $8000 the company's lowest price projector to date. It looked amazing--and amazingly bright on a 132-inch wide, 2.35:1 Screen Innovations Black Diamond 0.8 gain projection screen.
The program material I viewed included the latest Mission Impossible flick (from Wolf's collection) and scenes from Prometheus. The latter was one of the three discs I had brought to the show (which also included Thor and How to Train Your Dragon. I was surprised to see a bigger crowd in the room when the selections were finished than before--given the 2-channel-centric leanings of most of those who visit the exhibits at the Venetian. (All of my choices, by the way, were based primarily on their music and visuals, not their action.)
MK celebrates its 40th anniversary with three new THX-certified subs, all with dual drivers in a push-pull configuration that has the front-firing driver operating in phase and the bottom driver operating out of phase, as shown in the brochure we photographed on our hotel room bed. Each driver is in a separate chamber with electronics in a third one. Driver sizes are reflected in the models numbers: X12 ($3200), X10 ($2600), and X8 ($1900). Rated power is 400 watts RMS and 700 watts peak for the X12, 350-650 for the X10, and 300-600 for the X8. Shipping between February and April depending on model. Fans of the venerable MK 150 might want to given a listen to its new tweeter.
When I asked if the Polk Woodbourne one-piece audio system, discussed earlier here, can be used as a soundbar, the answer was yes,since it includes at least one digital input and can decode Dolby Digital. At it's $599 price, that's a bonus likely to be useful to the right customers. The white grille cloth, however, might be better in black in that application.
If you want your floorstanding speakers to have Bluetooth, the Crystal Matrix Tower does it with a small module that plugs into the back and a separate transmitter with 30-pin, USB, and mini jacks. Also interesting is the way the half-dozen tweeters are divided into two groups of three, each group aimed outward at a slightly different angle, to ensure wide dispersion. Pricing is $3000/pair.