CES 2013

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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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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Theta's Casablanca surround preamp-processors sell for $17,000-30,000. By that standard, the new Supernova is more accessible at less than ten grand. If you squint you'll see the USB jack which serves two purposes: room correction and a 24/192 DAC for your computer audio fix. Shipping third quarter of this year.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Yes, that's a Sonos streaming unit. But this bloggette is about the blank white base it's sitting on. That's the Arcam SonLink ($350) which gives your Sonos fix a little of that old DAC magic. It was one of several DACs shown; another was the AirPlay-compatible airDAC, coming in four months at a price to be announced. But the most exciting news is that Arcam is working on the successor to the AVR600, one of the best a/v receivers we've ever heard. We eagerly await it.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Also on display was the full range of Samsung's new LED-LCD sets. Shown is the F8000, available in a range of sizes up to 75-inches, it's said to offer much improved black levels with Samsung's Precision Black and Micro Dimming Ultimate (zone edge dimming). In a press demo in the same private, darkened room in which we saw the F8500 plasma, it did seem to have admirably rich blacks.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Sharp may be working on new technologies like its IGZO low power consumption LCDs for portable devices or upping the pixel count beyond the current industry goals in its gee-whiz 8K demos (see below), but it doesn't plan to be left behind in the race to 4K. It showed prototypes of its own that looked as impressive as the best versions seen elsewhere. They're expected to ship in the spring (of this year!), in both 60- and 70-inch sizes. The "Moth Eye" feature is a Sharp proprietary glare reduction technology.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Times change. The once illustrious speaker brands Klipsch, Jamo, and Energy now belong to conglomerate VOXX (along with RCA, AR, and others). This lonely kiosk on the main convention center floor didn't look too encouraging, given the vitality of those brands at past shows. At the Venetian, where most of the audio exhibits are held, things looked slightly better. I'd expect the Klipsch name to be kept relatively sacrosanct, and there were some nice looking Jamo floor-standers on static display. But the Energy Demo was relegated to a modest-looking sound bar.
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Bob Ankosko Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Just what the world needs: another wireless music system. Klipsch agrees, which is why it put audio quality first in the high-performance Stadium Music Center debuting at CES. The all-in-one system gets high marks for supporting connectivity via AirPlay, Wi-Fi, DLNA and the CD-quality aptX version of Bluetooth in a package that looks bold and sounds even bolder.

An on-the-fly demo with Red Hot Chili Peppers, featuring Flea’s muscular bass lines front and center, was impressive and had me looking around for a separate subwoofer. Not needed. The ring between the Stadium’s speaker modules joins a pair of 5.25-inch woofers that produce surprisingly deep bass to complement the rich sound delivered by pairs of horn-loaded 1-inch tweeters and 3-inch midrange drivers. The point of the system: You don’t have to sacrifice sound quality for convenience, according to Mark Casavant, senior vice president of product development. He’s not kidding.

Available this summer for $2,000, the system is housed in a brushed-aluminum cabinet with grille covers that come in several lifestyle colors.

Purposely resembling a mini band shell in a nod to the full-size Klipsch Music Center in the company’s home state of Indiana, the smaller Music Center KMC 3 will be available this spring for $400 in several bright colors. The system produces robust sound through a pair of 2-inch drivers and a 5.25-inch woofer, supports aptX Bluetooth and has a USB charging port and auxiliary input on its back panel.

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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
This 21:9, 29-inch may not be just the ticket for that big screen home theater, although it can display 2.35:1 films without black bars. But its primary application will be for a computer monitor, where it can display multiple images at once, including a 4-screen split for multitasking.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Meridian's first on-wall speakers include the DSP 520 ($5000/each) and DSP 648 ($7000/each). Unlike most in-walls, but like other Meridian speakers, they are self-powered and loaded with DSP magic. They're also built with separate enclosures for the drivers, the electronics, and the back box. Our exclusive closeup shows buttons your installer can use to dedicate the speaker to left, center, or right channel use. Mount Meridian's Media Controller 200 to the back and you can control the system from your iPad.
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Bob Ankosko Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Polk Live: Showgoers listened over UltraFocus 8000 noise-cancelling headphones ($349) while Baltimore’s “cosmic soul cowboy” Bosley Brown and band performed live in a soundproof booth, the first stop in Polk’s Listen Up Tour. Next stop: Macworld.

LP to iPhone: Ion’s iLP digital conversion turntable ($129) records directly to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod using the free EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter app. The table has a USB port for connection to a PC and RCA outputs if you want to go old-school and skip the digital conversion.

Discreet Sound: Want a little music in the bathroom or maybe out in the garage while you finish your Mr. Fix-It project? No problem, just plug SoundFly Air ($200) into any AC outlet and stream tunes from your iPhone or iPad; up to four Flys can be controlled simultaneously. A Bluetooth version that works with only one speaker is available for $180. Sound is decent—much better than the awful sounding Outlet Speaker ($100) BēmWireless introduced at CES.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Gallo is overhauling its acclaimed lines of orb-shaped metal-clad satellite speakers with the new A'Diva and Micro lines, which are five and four inches in diameter, and sell for $329 and $239 each. Both use a new full-range driver that is said to offer wider dispersion, though at the cost of a slight reduction in efficiency. Don't worry, an average receiver should be able to run them fine.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Tivoli's wildly successful Model One and PAL radios now come in Bluetooth versions. Adding the wireless capability pushes the price of a Model One from $149 to $259. Also touted was the free Tivoli Radio app, which offers iOS and Android access to 100 of the internet radio stations that Tivoli's servers supply to the NetWorks internet radio.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Samsung's new F8500 plasma sets have been redesigned to provide not only darker blacks but brighter whites as well. In a darkened room demo (not the room in the photo!), a comparison with last year's Samsung plasma was convincing, and we hope to get our hands on one to confirm it when the sets become available about mid year.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
Don't get us wrong: Moving the high-end audio exhibits from the lowbrow Alexis Park to deluxe digs at the Venetian has been the best thing the CES authorities have done for showgoing audiophiles. Now we can browse in comfort and style. But we still feel sad when we realize that we've spent more time at the glitzy Venetian than in its ostensible inspiration: sweet, crumbling, quiet, car-free Venice. Sigh.

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