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.
The WCS-2 record cleaning machine ($750) was only one of the many worthy and provocative things happening in the Music Hall room at the Venetian. We say provocative because WCS stands for wet clean suck—don't blame us, we're just reporting—and partly because Roy Hall treated us to a monologue about how "I've always told my customers to go **** themselves and I've been successful beyond my wildest dreams." Also shown were prototypes of the forthcoming Ikura turntable which combines a plastic dual plinth with a carbon fiber tonearm and will sell in two versions, one with MDF platter for "$1000-ish," and a step-up model with acrylic platter and different cartridge. But the most provocative thing was the sheer quality of the sound that emerged from a system combining the Music Hall-branded Marimba speakers ($350/pair) and stands ($250/pair), a70.2 integrated amp ($1499 with phono stage), and USB-1 turntable (a mere $250 including Ortofon cartridge). A highly natural vocal treatment combined with a mighty synth bass to produce what was quite simply one of the best audio demos at the show from a system cost that's less than what some audiophiles would spend on cables.
Sony was the only Ultra HD 4K exhibitor that showed a still of a newspaper page in both standard HD and 4K Ultra HD. The photo shown here (standard HD) and below (4K) only show a very small area of the screen.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.