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.
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.
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.
At first look, RCA’s Mobile TV Tablet is just another one of the many Android tablets on the market. But beneath the tablet’s eight-inch (1024 x 768) screen is what RCA claims is the “world’s first” dual-tuner mobile TV. In addition to a standard over-the-air DTV tuner, the new tablet includes a Dyle mobile TV-compatible DTV tuner that provides access to around 130 mobile TV stations in 35 markets around the country. (The built-in mobile DTV tuner also receives mobile digital TV channels from broadcasters not affiliated with Dyle. You can see if there’s a Mobile DTV station in your area here.) The multifunction tablet includes a built-in telescoping antenna, Wi-Fi connectivity, dual cameras, and GPS functionality. The tablet (Model DDA850R) has a battery life up to four hours in mobile TV mode, or up to 10 hours when web browsing. It will be available this Spring with a suggested retail price of $299.
We've all been wondering when Panasonic would make use of some of the Pioneer Kuro knowledge that Pioneer engineers brought with them when they went to work at Panasonic some three years ago whewn Pioneer left the TV business (Panasonic also reportedly licensed some Kuro technology). We won't know for certain until we get our hands on one of the new Panasonic ZT series sets when they come out in the spring (in 60- and 65-inch sizes. But in a dark room demonstration, the blacks looked considerably deeper than the blacks from last year's well-received VT series sets. There will be new sets in all of Panasonic's plasma lines, of course (and LCD sets as well), but its the ZT that has us champing at the bit. Prices are as yet unknown, but hopefully they won't be outrageously higher that the VT series (perhaps $1000 or so more?).
HiFiMan is introducing two in-ear headphones aimed at “audiophiles on the go” and a high-performance portable music player at CES. The RE-600 “Songbird” ($399) and RE-400 “Waterline” ($99) earphones use custom-designed Titanium-coated drivers, neodymium magnets and premium cabling. Both are due out in the coming weeks.
The flagship HM-901 music player ($999) is slimmer than previous models, has a simplified user interface, and accepts most lossless audio formats, including Apple lossless. It uses 32-bit DAC chips and accommodates 24-bit/192 kHz upsampling. The player will be available in March with an optional $399 docking station to follow in April.
LG's BH9430PW all in one home theater system may be a bit (OK, more than a bit) less ambitious than some of the components we discuss in this report and review in the pages of Home Theater, but for many folks it's all they think they can afford (which is not always the case). It's said to be a 9.1-channel system, but I saw only 5.1 channels in the demo. The small speaker cones use Kevlar, a material long used in some very high-end speakers. B&W, for example, began using Kevlar for some of its drivers in the mid 1970s. I didn't get to hear the LG system; the demo began with a far too loud (for me and the system) crash, boom, bang action scene and I was out of there like a shot.
You just never know who or what you’re going to run into while walking the show floor…
Dancing Robots: Tosy’s mRobo Ultra Bass is actually an MP3 player with a built-in speaker. When the music starts to play, the little guy turns into a dancin’ fool with some serious moves. Best part: Watching his head pop out from his chest when the music starts (mRobo is a mere torso before he springs into action).
"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.
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.