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.
Sharp showed its 8K HDTV at last year's CES, and it was here again for 2013. It remains a technological tour de force, but is unlikely to be a real product any time soon. One doubling of resolution at a time, please!
As mentioned in our early CES entries, Sharp is working on a new variation on LCD display technology, called IGZO for Indium, Gallium, Zinc, and Oxygen. It is said to offer ultra low power consumption, improved touch screen capabilities, and twice the potential resolution of conventional LCD. The limited range of products produced to date include a 4K, 32-inch monitor said to be useful for medical imaging, financial analysis, and other possible applications.
Screen shots are notoriously bad at showing the quality of a display, but even on your computer screen you can see the potential. This shot is only a portion of the entire screen image.
Linksys showed its new ultra-fast AC1300 Wireless Universal Media Connector at CES. Although a number of routers were launched last year with the new 802.11ac capability, few devices are available to take advantage of the faster speeds. Smart TVs, Blu-ray players, AV receivers, and media streamers can be connected to the AC1300 via Ethernet cables. The device receives the wireless signal from the router using 802.11ac and transfers the stream to the devices for higher quality HD video without lagging, long buffer times or other interruptions.
The previous 802.11n standard can connect at speeds up to 300 Mbps (megabits per second) on a home network. The new standard is capable of gigabit speeds with single wireless connections at up to 500 Mbps. While a Vudu 3D HDX movie only requires a speed of 9 Mbps to a streaming player, wireless speeds decrease drastically over distance. It's important that a wireless router is sending the signal as fast as possible as it can dip below the speed needed over relatively short distances within a home.
The AC1300 can receive the fast stream from the router making sure that your device doesn't downgrade your Netflix 1080p stream to a standard definition movie. This 802.11ac connector is available now for $159.
Sonus Faber seems incapable of producing a speaker that sounds anything less than fabulous and the new Venere line is no exception. The line includes the 2.0 monitor (shown, $1700/pair), the 1.5 monitor ($1200/pair), 3.0 tower ($3500/pair), the 2.5 tower ($2500/pair), an on-wall model called The Wall, ($700/each), and a center called The Center ($800). Features include a new silk dome tweeter, combination polypropylene and fiberglass woofers, an enclosure that mimics the shape of $120,000 Aida floorstander, and a new Italian walnut finish in addition to gloss white and black. Add a sub from REL, another Fine Sounds brand, and you're good to go.
Tannoy's new Precision line includes continues to use a coaxial array—the company calls it a dual concentric array—with the tweeter mounted at the center of the midrange driver. But this new version is revoiced for greater efficiency and dynamic range. The line includes the Precision 6.4 tower, $3200/pair; the Precison 6.2 tower, $2400/pair; the Precision 6.1 monitor, $1200/pair; and the Precision LCR, $1000. All have six-inch woofers, hence all the sixes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.