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.
There weren't many surround receivers on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, but Sherwood was a hardy exception, showing a half-dozen new ones shipping between April and May. The top-line model is the R-977 with a rated 145 watts times seven into six ohms. It features Anchor Bay video processing, internet radio with vTuner, DLNA, direct USB connection of iOS devices, and a phono input. Perhaps more interesting is what's missing: Sherwood is no longer the lone receiver brand supporting innovative Trinnov room correction, a prominent feature of the old (and more costly) R-972. Instead it is relying on the proprietary SNAP room correction that it has also used previously. Price is $1000. At the opposite end of the line is the 5.1-channel RD-5405, selling for a mere $170.
Bucking the trend of “smaller is better”, HP brought what’s probably the largest Ultrabook to CES. I know personal health is a big deal at CES this year, with companies such as Omnimount promoting easy ways of making changes to our largely sedentary lifestyles through the use of the company’s full-motion TV mounts and fitness-promoting, adjustable workstations. But maybe the JustStand.org “Wellness Uprising” has gone a little too far. Typing up a 200-word blog post with your feet will definitely give you a good workout, but getting the ultra-Ultrabook to fit under your seat on the airplane is going to be much harder. And I, for one, certainly don’t want to have to lug around the Smart Car-sized power supply…
I hate – no, I loathe – headphone cords. Maybe it’s because I was traumatized as a child by a menacing coiled cord on an old landline phone that was mounted on the wall in our home. I can’t tell you how many times the handset was yanked out of my hand when I reached the outer limits of the coiled cord’s length. Nor can I tell you how many times I’ve had one or both earbuds forcibly ejected from my ears after I’ve gotten the headphone cord caught on something. In fact, I’ve broken more than one pair of earbuds that way… So you can understand my appreciation of CordCruncher’s new Earbud Headphones that come with a unique, tangle-free, "crunchable" headphone cord. There are two main aspects to the CordCruncher Cord Management System. The first is the special kinked-cord design that allows the cord to resist tangling as well as compress when not in use, in some ways similar to the way a coiled cord functions. The second component of the system is an elastic sleeve that covers the all or as much of the crunched headphone cord as you wish. The sleeve covers the cord and keeps it from tangling when you’re finished listening to music and have thrown the earbuds in your briefcase, purse, or on your desk. The 3.5 mm headphone jack can be inserted into the other end of the elastic sleeve to create a necklace or, when doubled up, a wrist band. Currently the CordCruncher Earbuds are available in Glo Orange, Matte Black, and Pearl Blue color options for $24.99 each. Unfortunately, the CordCruncher cord/sleeve combo isn’t available in a universal version to use with other brands of earbuds and headphones. (The sleeve, by the way, is made from 95% protein-free, medical-grade latex rubber, so people who are allergic to latex may want to look for some other type of cord management system.)
Harman Kardon, the company that brought us the world’s first audio receiver nearly 60 years ago, unveiled two affordable, forward-looking A/V receivers at CES. Both models have wireless connectivity via AirPlay, Wi-Fi and DLNA and include a vTuner for access to thousands of Internet Radio stations. Other common highlights include 4K upscaling for all inputs, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, multizone capability for simultaneously playing two audio sources in two rooms, an eco-friendly digital-power supply, Harman’s EzSet/EQ system and multiple HDMI inputs, including those for 3D playback, CEC and Deep Color.
The 7.1-channel AVR 2700 ($799) is rated to deliver 100 watts per channel, while the 7.2-channel AVR 3700 ($999) is rated at 125 watts per channel and provides two subwoofer outputs and a remote control for the second zone.
Both models are slated to hit stores over the next couple months and are compatible with Harman's free remote control app for Apple and Android mobile devices.
Amid enough high-end audio components at the Venetian Hotel (the CES venue for specialty audio) to wear down the sternest poker face when confronted with the price tag, the CWT 1000 from T+A Electroakustik (based in Germany, doncha know) produced a sound that almost might justify a per pair price sufficient to buy a nicely equipped Mercedes or BMW. It has six 120mm midranges and a 920mm long electrostatic tweeter, both in side-by-side line arrays, and four 8-inch woofers. There's also a larger CWT 2000 weighing 263 lbs.
The Habitat1 powered subwoofer from REL is not only wireless (meaning that no wired connection is needed to your AVR, though of course you must plug it into the wall!) but is designed to fit inconspicuously against the wall. There are two active 6.5-inch drivers, a 10-inch passive radiator, and 200W of amplification. More than one may be daisy chained together if desired. The passive radiator sits in the back and given space to breathe by spacers that separate the enclosure from the wall by an inch or so. A stand will also be available to those who don't wish to drill holes in their walls. $2000, available in April.
Every CES is loaded with exhibits from hopefuls looking to make their mark. Many of these tales of aspiration and struggle are never told. Let us say up front that Taiwan-based oBravo does not yet sell its products in the United States. However, its AI-25P powered sat/sub set got our attention with its folded ribbon tweeter, which produced remarkable detail with violin, acoustic guitar, and other stringed instruments. The 2.1-channel system including speakers, sub, compact amp, and dock would sell for $2500. Note that the dock has the 30-pin Apple connector but a snap-in module adapts it to the new Lighting connector.
THX had a lot to talk about. Tascam is a new brand among THX-certified receivers with the PA-R200, shipping in January for $1299. It is THX Select2 certified. The German manufacturer Teufell has earned THX Multimedia certification for the G850 satellite/subwoofer set, including a dual six-inch sub said to reach down to 35Hz. It ships in February or March at a price to be determined. The first THX-certified (for video) 4K display is the Sharp LC60HQ10, a Japan-only model. Finally, a pair of A/B demos showed the fruit of THX's collaboration with Sontia on a means of correcting acoustic defects in loudspeakers, as opposed to room correction or other forms of DSP magic. With satellite speakers the SPT Optimized version had noticeably greater bass extension. With monitors, there was better focused soundstaging and more detail, though also more brightness, that last part not necessarily an improvement. Initial applications would include soundbars and other products where speakers are matched with amps.