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CES 2013

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 1 comments
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.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
When is a soundbar not a bar? When it's shaped like a console, a new form factor that provides more cabinet volume and potentially better sound. The Energy Power Base, pictured, is a 2.1-channel product with pairs of 0.75-inch tweeters, three-inch midranges, and three- by five-inch oval woofers. It comes with Dolby Digital surround decoding, Bluetooth wireless, and optical and stereo analog inputs. Ships in August for $399. Energy also showed two Power Bar Elite soundbars: a 40-incher for $599 and a 31-incher for $399. Oh, and there were a couple of new indoor/outdoor speakers as well.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 08, 2013 1 comments
Panasonic is introducing 32 new HDTVs at the 2013 CES—16 plasmas and 16 LCDs. The Plasmas range in size from 42- to 64-inches, and the LCD sets cover the ground between 32- and 65-inches.

When Panasonic first started shipping LCD displays a couple of years back, it restricted the LCD lineup to sizes impractical for its HD plasmas, that is, under 42-inches. No longer; bigger sets are now “in,” so the company clearly sees a future in both technologies. But rumors to the contrary, plasmas remain an integral part of Panasonic’s HDTV lineup.

Only brief comments at the press event related to any improvements in basic video performance. As we’ve witnessed from some manufacturers so far on this CES press day, the presentation centered on enhancements to the set’s “Smart” features. This year, Panasonic’s interactive menus allow each member of the family to customize the menu to favor their favorite sites. It can save separate favorites for each member of the family, and even recognize each viewer with its built-in camera (scary!) and switch to the appropriate menu for that individual.

So when I turn on one of these new Panasonics, will it default to the calibration controls?

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
Lacking the high-end street cred of a boutique brand, Sony probably won't get much credit for producing the best sound of CES 2013 (at least so far) with its new ES speakers. The NA-2 tower ($10,000/pair), NA-5 monitor ($6000/pair), N-8 center ($3000), and matching sub ($4000) have the same Scandinavian-made multi-chambered birch cabinetry of the existing AR-1 and AR-2. Note the triple tweeter configuration, shown here on the center but present on all the new models. No, you're not seeing two super-tweeters flanking a tweeter, just three tweeters, though they're not the same size and are not all getting exactly the same frequencies (we'll have to get into the intricacies some other time). Fed by Pass amps and high-res sources including vinyl and DSD, the tower established an instant comfort zone with its super silky sweet top end, fatigue-free and convincing midrange, and controlled bass. In addition to today's press announcement at the Venetian, Sony is also showing the ES speakers in a 9.2-channel configuration at its gigantic booth in Central Hall.
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Barb Gonzalez Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
Although the idea of a digital antenna to receive over-the-air broadcasts with a built in media streamer makes odd bedfellows, it could be the answer to cutting the cable cord. Voxx Accessories announced that it is developing a digital TV antenna with Roku streaming capabilities. The product will be released under the RCA and Terk brands.

Part of Voxx's Roku-Ready partnership, the photo showed a Roku stick attached to a flat omnidirectional powered antenna. It is slated to be released in the fourth quarter of 2013. Few other details are available and I have a lot of questions about how it will work.

For now, it looks like a great solution for TV viewers who like network broadcast TV and a variety of streaming movie options like those available from Roku. We'll keep you posted as we get more details.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
Morel's high-performing SoundSpot satellites have a new iteration in the SP3. It has a larger orb with a new 4.5-inch woofer that enables it to perform better at the low end, lowering the formerly 120-150Hz sub crossover to 90dB, so the sub won't have to do so much work (and call so much attention to itself). The Lotus grille pattern makes it acoustically transparent.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
I guess it's a toss-up as to who thought of a curved OLED first, but LG's 3D-capable EA9800 (no word on price or availability) looks appropriately cinematic as well. OLEDs are uniquely suited to curved designs, as they're so thin they can be twisted or rolled into forms impossible up to now with other display technologies.

LG's OLED employ 4-color pixels--sort of. The fourth color is white, along with the usual red, green,and blue.

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Barb Gonzalez Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
Bang and Olufsen announced its new flagship TV, the Beovision 11 with SmartTV features. Users can customize their SmartTV hub from a number of available apps.The first Smart TV for the upscale company, the TV includes access to not only the typical U.S. streaming services but services from all around the globe
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
Though the Mirage brand name is on ice, its Omnipolar speaker technology lives on in two new 360 Series satellites from Jamo. The larger of the two, the S35, is the size of a grapefruit, has a 3.5-inch woofer, and will be sold in groups of four with a conventionally shaped center and sub. The smaller S25 has a 2.5-inch woofer and will be sold in a five-pack. Available colors will be determined based on dealer feedback at the show with shipping later in the year.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 08, 2013 1 comments
Vizio’s new top-of-the-line range of 2K (1920 x 1080) LCD HDTVs is the M-Series shown here. The 3D models are expected to be available later this year in 50-inch ($859) 55-inch ($1200), 60-inch ($1600), 70-inch ($2500) and 80-inch ($4500) sizes. All will have a 240Hz refresh rate, passive 3D, Vizio’s Internet Apps, an ultra slim, thin bezel design, and local dimming. It was not clear from Vizio’s press materials, but we assume from the ultra slim design and the prices that the local dimming is edge-lit rather than the more complex and expensive to implement full backlit zone dimming. The picture here shows all but the 55-incher; only one of the four employs an IPS panel (which typically offers better off-axis performance). Ignore the room reflections and guess which one.

The M-series also includes 32-, 40-, and 47-inch models, which are 2D only.

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Bob Ankosko Posted: Jan 08, 2013 1 comments
You might mistake it for a high-end Blu-ray player at first glance but, no, the Parasound Halo CD 1 introduced at CES 2013 is definitely a Compact Disc player (remember those?) and it costs $4,500. Designed in collaboration with Holm Acoustics of Copenhagen, Denmark, the player uses a Linux-based computer running proprietary software and a CD ROM drive running four times the speed of a conventional CD drive to read and process data in a new way. Vast amounts of data are analyzed and read multiple times to reduce errors and, in turn, the negative effects of error concealment. The result is said to be a nearly bit-perfect data stream.

In keeping with the high-end legacy of the company's Halo line, the C1 has a heavily shielded aluminum chassis, separate power supplies for its analog and digital sections and several output options, including balanced XLR, gold-plated RCAs for analog, and digital audio via BNC, coaxial and optical connectors. A novel “Discrete OpAmp” selector offers a choice between listening to the analog outputs directly from the player’s low-noise op-amps or via discrete transistor output stages.

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Barb Gonzalez Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
Toshiba is taking their Smart TV streaming capabilities a step further, announcing that their new TVs will have the Toshiba "Cloud TV." A list of features includes a Toshiba server based system for ongoing upgradability.

The Smart TV ePortal hub has a redesigned multi-page ePortal for "ease of use." The ePortal not only displays streaming media apps, it now includes a constantly updating news feed, weather, personal messaging and a family calendar. There is also a new MediaGuide with recommendations of TV shows and movies that you might like to watch.

All Toshiba Cloud TVs work with their wireless keyboard with touchpad accessory that is included with the L7300 TV models and above.

To make it easier to stream media from other devices, the Cloud TVs feature "Miracast" to mirror Android tablets and phones to the TV and are WiDi enabled to use the TV as a second display for your laptop.

The Cloud TV was announced at a mixer Sunday night where Toshiba demonstrated the features of its new TV line. While I'm not a fan of playing games on a TV, a poker game they demonstrated looked fun. Each player connects using the KontrolTV app on their device or on the Toshiba TV and can see their poker hand. Rather than challenging one other player, a group of friends or family can play.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
ADA is best known for its world-class surround separates so it's a pleasant surprise to see it getting into receivers, or as the company calls them, integrated controller/amps. The Cinema Rapture ($5000, shipping this week) musters 150 watts into eight ohms and 300 into four ohms while the Cinema Rapture Jr. (price and shipping to be determined) offers 80 watts into eight ohms and 150 into four ohms. Both use Class D amp modules of ADA's own design. They are not licensed from someone else. We can't wait to hear how they sound in our own listening room.
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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
Samsung claims to be showing the world's first curved OLED, but there seems to be some dispute about that (see below). Nevertheless, you'll see flat OLEDs in Vin's Video Barn before you see curved ones. Exactly when we'll see the flat versions remains a question mark. LG has starting to sell them in Korea either now or claims it will do so shortly, but the US availability date will be later. Samsung claims in June of this year or later. Expect prices between $10,000 and $12,000 for the only size anticipated for now: 55-inches (the 56-inch Sony shown below does not have a delivery date). How that will stand up in the market against the increasingly cheaper big-screen designs remains to be seen.

One thing is certain: OLED can trump any current display technology in a wide range of important performance parameters. The off-axis performance and black level quality comes through in this photo, even on a your computer screen, which itself will certainly have a far poorer black level.

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Tom Norton Posted: Jan 08, 2013 0 comments
In a stunning display of one-upsmanship, Sony not only showed a 4K OLED display, but one that's a full 56-inches diagonal. The other OLEDs on show were all a paltry 55-inches.

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