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Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
Every CES is loaded with exhibits from hopefuls looking to make their mark. Many of these tales of aspiration and struggle are never told. Let us say up front that Taiwan-based oBravo does not yet sell its products in the United States. However, its AI-25P powered sat/sub set got our attention with its folded ribbon tweeter, which produced remarkable detail with violin, acoustic guitar, and other stringed instruments. The 2.1-channel system including speakers, sub, compact amp, and dock would sell for $2500. Note that the dock has the 30-pin Apple connector but a snap-in module adapts it to the new Lighting connector.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
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.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
"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.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 3 comments

DTS offered one of the show's more interesting audio demos with DTS Headphone:X. The audience were given Sennheiser headphones selling for roughly $100. With headphones off, we heard an 11.1 channel check with front, front height, center, side surround, back surround, and back surround height channels (not including sub). Then the channel check was repeated with headphones on. It sounded precisely the same and the sound still seemed to be coming with the speakers. Finally we were invited to hear the channel check while removing and replacing the headphones. At this point it became clear that the sound was coming only from the headphones. The steering was impressive, with the side, back, and height channels occupying their places in the soundfield with the same confidence as the front channels. DTS also did an A/B demo of the Vizio VHT215 2.1-channel soundbar with various technologies acquired along with SRS Labs. Even amid the noise of the show floor, it was clear that what is now called DTS TruSurround (formerly SRS TruSurround) was lifting the soundstage clear of the bar's physical limits. Just a little, but enough to be noticeable.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 1 comments

MK celebrates its 40th anniversary with three new THX-certified subs, all with dual drivers in a push-pull configuration that has the front-firing driver operating in phase and the bottom driver operating out of phase, as shown in the brochure we photographed on our hotel room bed. Each driver is in a separate chamber with electronics in a third one. Driver sizes are reflected in the models numbers: X12 ($3200), X10 ($2600), and X8 ($1900). Rated power is 400 watts RMS and 700 watts peak for the X12, 350-650 for the X10, and 300-600 for the X8. Shipping between February and April depending on model. Fans of the venerable MK 150 might want to given a listen to its new tweeter.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
If you want your floorstanding speakers to have Bluetooth, the Crystal Matrix Tower does it with a small module that plugs into the back and a separate transmitter with 30-pin, USB, and mini jacks. Also interesting is the way the half-dozen tweeters are divided into two groups of three, each group aimed outward at a slightly different angle, to ensure wide dispersion. Pricing is $3000/pair.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 10, 2013 0 comments
There weren't many surround receivers on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, but Sherwood was a hardy exception, showing a half-dozen new ones shipping between April and May. The top-line model is the R-977 with a rated 145 watts times seven into six ohms. It features Anchor Bay video processing, internet radio with vTuner, DLNA, direct USB connection of iOS devices, and a phono input. Perhaps more interesting is what's missing: Sherwood is no longer the lone receiver brand supporting innovative Trinnov room correction, a prominent feature of the old (and more costly) R-972. Instead it is relying on the proprietary SNAP room correction that it has also used previously. Price is $1000. At the opposite end of the line is the 5.1-channel RD-5405, selling for a mere $170.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
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.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
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.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 09, 2013 0 comments
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.

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