Emerging from beneath a gigantic video screen stretching about 100 feet across, Sony chairman/president/CEO Sir Howard Stringer appeared in the car from the upcoming movie The Green Hornet with the movie's stars Seth Rogen and Jay Chow. It was just the start of what will almost surely be the splashiest event at this year's CES-maybe the splashiest CES event ever.
You might think that by now engineers would be out of ideas for speakers. After all, how many ways can you combine a woofer and a tweeter? But this year's Consumer Electronics Show proved there's still lots of life left in this category. In fact, I can't recall a past CES that showcased so many new speaker models, and this was the 22nd time I've attended the January show.
For audio geeks, most of the real fun at CES is over at the Venetian Hotel, where high-end (and not-so-high-end) audio companies demonstrate their products in dozens of guest suites. While the rooms in the Venetian are known for $200,000 speakers, $100,000 amps, and $20,000 speaker cables, you can also hear great speakers and amps for as little as a few hundred dollars.
CES kicks off with Unveiled, an event that crams a thousand or so members of the press, most of them desperate for a snack and a free drink, into a loud, stuffy ballroom full of manufacturers exhibiting a few key products in tiny booths. It’s so loud inside that any serious demos are impossible. Why do I go?
I had no idea when I wrote my CES Audio Preview how right I’d be. I predicted that Bluetooth and AirPlay wireless technologies would be making their way into tons of new audio gear, and sure enough, at CES both were as common as bad food. Bluetooth and AirPlay make extra-good sense in compact audio systems, which you’re likely to use with smartphones and computers.
Surely there’s never been such a vast display of headphones in the history of the universe as at CES 2012. From super-high-end models to bottom-feeder stuff, there was something for every budget and every taste.
CES 2012 was the coming-out party for Sony’s in-ear headphones. Nearly buried in the talk of cell phones, media managers, and 3DTV was the announcement Monday night of Sony’s first line of balanced-armature in-ear monitors (IEMs). This step up to a higher class of product shocked me for two reasons.
Where was home theater at the 2012 CES? Mostly swamped in a sea of disinterest. Maybe consumers got tired of adding more channels. Maybe they got tired of complexity. Or maybe they’re just broke! For whatever reason, the focus at CES 2012 was on simpler systems that minimize complexity without (we hope) minimizing sound quality.
From a technical standpoint, speakers have hardly changed since I went to my first CES back in January 1990. Yet each CES is still jam-packed with new speaker designs. Some are merely modifications on the classic black box. Others are aesthetic flights of fancy intended to captivate those who really don’t much like audio gear.
A party Monday night at the Palms Towers in Las Vegas launched a colorful new audio brand targeted at ... well, whatever marketing term applies to people in their teens and 20s. (Gen-Z? Milennials? The beard/trucker hat/thick glasses set?) BOOM is a division of DEI holdings, whose other brands include Polk and Definitive Technology.