CES 2013

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
"Blue" and "Air" has become our notebook slang for products including both Bluetooth and AirPlay wireless capability. There are quite a few of them at this CES. HRT, a new company, features them in the Stage speakers, with analog amplification, preamp, and USB DAC built into a separate module. One-inch tweeters are treated fabric, 3.5-inch woofers are aluminum, and the system sounded fabulous with CD-resolution files of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (and we think it could have sounded even better with a 24-bit file). The price is $999 with Blue and Air or a hundred bucks less without—but why would you do that? Shipping in June.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
Here's a front shot of the Theta Supernova preamp-processor covered in an earlier blog. It should sell for around $10K, just a bit more than half the cost of a fully configured Theta Casablanca. The only open question appears to be if the Supernova will offer the same advanced room correction that will grace the Casablanca. My vote is yes, it should.
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Rob Sabin Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 3 comments

DTS offered one of the show's more interesting audio demos with DTS Headphone:X. The audience were given Sennheiser headphones selling for roughly $100. With headphones off, we heard an 11.1 channel check with front, front height, center, side surround, back surround, and back surround height channels (not including sub). Then the channel check was repeated with headphones on. It sounded precisely the same and the sound still seemed to be coming with the speakers. Finally we were invited to hear the channel check while removing and replacing the headphones. At this point it became clear that the sound was coming only from the headphones. The steering was impressive, with the side, back, and height channels occupying their places in the soundfield with the same confidence as the front channels. DTS also did an A/B demo of the Vizio VHT215 2.1-channel soundbar with various technologies acquired along with SRS Labs. Even amid the noise of the show floor, it was clear that what is now called DTS TruSurround (formerly SRS TruSurround) was lifting the soundstage clear of the bar's physical limits. Just a little, but enough to be noticeable.

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Barb Gonzalez Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
This adapter can make your wired headphones wireless.
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Rob Sabin Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
Lantos Technologies demonstrated how simple and relatively discomfort-free it is to take an impression of the average person’s ear canal with their new 3D digital ear scanning technology. Taking an accurate and complete impression of the ear canal is incredibly important when it comes to making custom earpieces for hearing aids, noise protection, and custom audio (i.e., high-performance earbud-style headphones). The traditional process of taking an ear canal impression involves examining the ear canal, inserting an otocblock into the ear canal to protect the tympanic membrane from harm, and then filling the ear canal with an pliable impression material that takes about five to ten minutes to solidify before it can be removed. (Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?) The Lantos technology uses
emission re-absorption laser induced fluorescence (ERLIF) [and] was developed by Dr. Douglas Hart at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Using the intensity measurement of two different wavelength bands of fluorescent light as they travel through an absorbing medium, ERLIF generates a highly accurate 3D map. The medium selectively absorbs one wavelength band over the other, thus the intensity ratio of the two wavelengths as they travel through the medium can be measured using a standard camera…
During a sparsely attended press conference at CES, Lantos representatives demonstrated the process using the Lantos Scanner, which is a small, handheld device that includes a fiberscope enclosed in a conforming membrane. Once gently inserted in the ear canal, the membrane is expanded and conforms to the shape of the ear canal. As the fiberscope is retracted, it creates a 3D image of the ear canal in real time – with the entire process taking less than two minutes per ear. The resulting scan is typically much more accurate than the standard impression technique provides and has the advantage of immediately being available as a digital data file that can be sent electronically to a manufacturer.

Currently it’s somewhat expensive (>$100), time-consuming, and often uncomfortable to go to an audiologist who can make a custom ear canal impression which can be sent to an earphone manufacturer (such as Etymotic) in order to create an individually customized earbud insert. Once FDA-approved in the US, the Lantos 3D Digital Ear Scanner promises to make customized earpieces much more widely available.

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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 10, 2013 1 comments
Panasonic and Sony have teamed up to produce OLED panels using a (presumably more productive and thus likely more economical) printing technique. If successful, the company's will share panels though go their own way on electronics. Should be interesting to watch. This 4K, 56-inch Panasonic OLED did look fabulous. Of the OLEDs on display at the show, only Sony's and Panasonic's were 4K.
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Rob Sabin Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
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Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
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.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
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.)

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Rob Sabin Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 1 comments

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.

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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
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.

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