THX has been applying its grey cells to the power amplifier, as THX grey eminence Laurie Fincham explained. The prototype shown uses what he calls a Class ABC topology with newly tweaked rail-switching power supply and compact ceramic (as opposed to bulky electrolytic) capacitors, all run off a lithium iron phosphate battery (yes, iron, not ion). In the picture you see a super-skinny two-channel output stage; adding capacitors would make it only 25 percent larger. Anyway, the result is a powerful low-profile amp that runs cool and efficient, avoiding both the power piggery of Class A and the problematic performance of Class D. And yes, it sounded great with Sonus Faber speakers and Steely Dan's "Gaslighting Abbie," achieving both well controlled bass and a high degree of overall transparency. Why this, why now? Fincham points out that his team is liberated from the tyranny of the product development cycle, enabling them to take a longer view and to incorporate ideas from the entire history of audio going back to the 1920s but also including the latest tricks. For example, the type of battery used is relatively new to audio but has been deployed in things like power tools and electric bikes. The THX amp design has yet to be built into licensed product but current licensees are getting their first look at this show. Potential uses include everything from inexpensive compact products to BD-receivers to high-end multichannel amps.
THX had a lot to talk about. Tascam is a new brand among THX-certified receivers with the PA-R200, shipping in January for $1299. It is THX Select2 certified. The German manufacturer Teufell has earned THX Multimedia certification for the G850 satellite/subwoofer set, including a dual six-inch sub said to reach down to 35Hz. It ships in February or March at a price to be determined. The first THX-certified (for video) 4K display is the Sharp LC60HQ10, a Japan-only model. Finally, a pair of A/B demos showed the fruit of THX's collaboration with Sontia on a means of correcting acoustic defects in loudspeakers, as opposed to room correction or other forms of DSP magic. With satellite speakers the SPT Optimized version had noticeably greater bass extension. With monitors, there was better focused soundstaging and more detail, though also more brightness, that last part not necessarily an improvement. Initial applications would include soundbars and other products where speakers are matched with amps.
THX is about to take its home theater involvement to a new level with a new program whose working name is Blackbird. If the THX folks pull it off, Blackbird could resolve several issues that plague home theater buffs.
Yes, THX now certifies soundbars, and isn't it about time someone brought order to that sonically chaotic universe? The first bar to win certification is the Teufel Cinebar 51THX, from a German manufacturer. This 2.1-channel bar (with outboard sub, not pictured) is guaranteed to produce SPL up to 105dB at a specified distance of six feet with the right kind of horizontal and vertical dispersion. Also glimpsed at the THX booth: the Acurus A2002 stereo power amp.
Time Warner Cable is trying out some new moves, adding to its selection of packages and offering a new service that lets customers watch programs as much as three days old without need for a conventional DVR.
As recently noted in the News Dept., Verizon is pushing its FiOS TV, net, and phone service into all five boroughs of New York City over the next six years. Of course this is a major challenge to the local cable companies, Time Warner and Cablevision. Taking a pro-active stance, Time Warner has already been running TV ads for months deriding Verizon's fiber-optic technology. Here's the scenario: A guy about to tuck into his morning cereal answers the doorbell to find a callow youth offering Verizon fiber, complete with animated effects. Waving his bowl of bran--full of fiber, get it?--the happy cable customer snarkily responds that Time Warner has been using fiber optics for years. What the ad doesn't mention is that Verizon takes fiber all the way up to the house or building served, only then reverting to coax, twinlead, etc. for various services. For my own part, I'm both a reasonably happy Time Warner customer and an embittered former Verizon customer. My dialtone went away, never came back, and the company's fully automated customer service wouldn't put a human on the phone to talk with me about it, though I do regularly get mailings begging me to come back. But what technophile wouldn't be seduced by Verizon's vision of a fiber-optic future? The company is make a huge investment in FiOS. In a country decidedly behind in broadband technology compared to other nations, the Verizon program is just what we need.
The TiVo HD XL ($599) records up to 150 hours in HD. It can even record two shows at once. Loaded with "DTV transition ready" ATSC tuner and a CableCARD slot, it has been voted The Product Mark Fleischmann Is Most Likely to Have Slipped into His Briefcase If the THX People Hadn't Been Hanging Around Him Trying to Tell Him Stuff.