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.
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.
The color shift you may see here and above, plus moire, are the likely result of my camera's pixels strobing with the pixels on your screen. But other than cropping and identical downscaling, no other processing was performed on the photos here and above. The improved clarity of 4K version here is impossible to miss even after the photos were reduced so they could be used in our blog format. The differences were even more obvious in person.
Denmark’s Bang & Olufsen continues its long tradition of melding style and technology at CES with the BeoVision 11 LED-based LCD HDTV, featuring an unusually robust six-speaker sound system, and the ultra-slim BeoLab 12 line of powered speakers.
Available in 40-, 46- and 55-inch screen sizes with prices starting at $5,995, the 3D-capable TV is DLNA-compliant for streaming content from a smartphone or home network via Wi-Fi and has an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness and contrast. It also includes a motorized wall mount for adjusting the position of the screen via remote control. B&O offers a choice of six colors for the fabric panel below the screen, which can be framed in silver or black.
The BeoLab 12 speaker line now has three models: The 12-3 (shown) and 12-2, featuring an acoustic lens that disperses high frequencies in an 180-degree arc, and the new 12-1, which excludes the acoustic lens. Sound is reproduced by a flat 6.5-inch woofer and a 2-inch midrange/tweeter in the BeoLab 12-1, which packs 160 watts of power, while the 320-watt 12-2 and 480-watt 12-3 add a 0.75-inch tweeter (with acoustic lens) plus a second woofer in the 12-3. All are offered in silver or white and pricing is $4,613/pair for the 12-3, $3,120/pair for the 12-2, and $2,950/pair for the 12-1. The speakers can be mounted on the wall or placed on optional floor stands.
B&O also showed the nonconformist BeoPlay A9 wireless music system, featuring AirPlay and DLNA connectivity plus five powered speakers—pairs of 0.75-inch tweeters and 3-inch midranges with an 8-inch woofer—that deliver remarkably full sound; total power is 480 watts. A touch sensor lets you adjust the volume by running your hand along the top of the speaker. Fabric covers are available in six colors and the solid wood legs come in oak, beech or teak.
Samsung's upcoming Ultra HD 4K sets will feature full array backlighting with zone local dimming, The 85-inch set shown here can be set up with its floor stand or the stands legs removed and the set mounted to the wall. It can then be moved down within the outer frame, as needed, to adjust to the desired height. The speakers are located in the outer frame. In addition, a switch box is included that can accept multiple sources and connect then to the set via a single thin (non HDMI) cable.
A lot of compact wireless audio systems have crossed our desk over the last few years but the forthcoming Polk Woodbourne, named for a neighborhood in the company's native Baltimore, is different. It has a fiberboard (not plastic enclosure) and the enclosure is sealed (not ported). Wireless options include both AirPlay and Bluetooth apt-X. Power is 70 watts RMS for each woofer and 20 for each tweeter. The demo was impressive for its spaciousness, thanks to the outward-aiming mounting of tweeters on the far sides of the curved baffle. We could close our eyes and imagine we were hearing a larger system. Pricing will be $599 when it arrives between April and June. Polk also showed the new TSx series which replaces the TSi. There are three towers, two monitors, and two centers in cherry or black. Woofers are polypropylene impregnated with other materials so that the intrinisic resonances of any one material are canceled out. Their size has increased in the towers and the larger center from 5.25 to six inches for bigger bass. Pricing ranges from $199 for the smallest center to $999/pair for the biggest tower.
The Revel Rhythm2 has an 18-inch aluminum driver with four-inch voice coil backed up with 2000 watts. Of course like any state-of-the-art sub it can be room corrected via USB, in this case with a third-party measuring tool. But this one is slightly unusual because it takes into account the bass output of the speakers as well as that of the sub. The demo was impressively powerful though marred by an unavoidable rattle in the room ventilation—if you want to own a sub this powerful, you may need to invest a little extra to make the room fit for it!
There are loads of compact audio systems with AirPlay and Bluetooth wireless compatibility at CES, but how many of them include Monitor Audio's one-inch gold dome tweeter and four-inch aluminum woofer in a biamped configuration for a mere $500? The Airstream 5300 has wider dispersion than an earlier model, with tweeters pushed to the far sides of the baffle, and it has a threaded insert for wall mounting, a nicety you won't find in many competitors.
The Scandinavian speaker maker DLS started as a car audio company in 1979, moved into home audio in 2003, and released its first on-walls in 2008—and they are now a big part of its business. The Flat Box II is the large speaker on either side of the picture. Under the grille are an active woofer and passive radiator, made of Kevlar and aluminum, flanking a silk dome tweeter whose wave guide extends from the baffle to the grille, as a means of tightening up time alignment. It goes for $3500/pair. In the middle of the pic is a forthcoming full-range speaker which will be more design-oriented and will sell for $2000/pair. DLS also offers numerous other on-wall models combining 1.5-inch soft domes and three- to four-inch paper woofers, chosen for their efficiency with minimal amplification, selling for $500-1000/pair.
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.