In what is becoming an annual tradition, we asked Steven Stone about his footwear for the show. The contributor to many fine publications replied that he brought three pair of suede shoes to CEDIA this year. Of course the blue, blue, blue suede shoes are the ones we wanted to snap.
A lot of horizontal multiple-channel speakers designed to go with flat-panel sets look a mite starved. Not so the Atlantic Technology FS-5000 ($1499). Each of the three front channels gets two 4.5-inch woofers and a tweeter.
Transparent enclosures are a staple of product exhibits but in the case of the Velodyne DD-10 ($1999), this is the actual product! Good art is destiny in this cynical blogging game, so you don't get to see the arguably newsworthier MicroVee six-inch sub, with front-firing driver and passive radiators on the side, and 1000 watts of Class D power. Velodyne, ever versatile, also has in-wall and in-ceiling models. And it showed, yet again, the 1812 Digital Drive monster sub, one of the few subs with a crossover--from a 12-inch driver to an 8-inch one. We never tire of seeing and hearing its mighty cones vibrate.
Every year Apple stage a major product introduction just as CEDIA is getting underway. In case you hadn't heard, this year's news includes the iPod Touch, like the iPhone but without the phone; the iPod Classic, now with up to 160GB capacity; and a third-generation revamp of the iPod nano, now shorter and wider and therefore today's poster boy. You can get the complete details...elsewhere.
The biggest news at today's Sony event was the HES-V1000 home entertainment server. This boxy marvel has a 200-disc Blu-ray, DVD, and CD drive as well as a 500GB hard drive to serve up all your audio/video fantasies to as many as 10 zones. It can even do so wirelessly. Coming in October for just $3499. Amazing. See press release. Sony's new BD player line includes the BDP-S500 ($699), already announced at IFA in Berlin, and the BDP-S2000ES ($1299, November) which is the first BD player to proudly wear the ES label with all the deluxe build quality that moniker implies. Finally, Barry Sonnenfeld extolled various Sony SXRD projectors that have graced his numerous home theaters. He also eloquently discussed his abuse at the hands of the Sony Corporation in general and a shadowy figure known as "Finer" in particular. Imagine, a man of his stature--director of The Addams Family and producer of the forthcoming Space Chimps--repeatedly forced to pay retail.
The CEDIA Spring EXPO of 2008 won't be making its debut in Las Vegas after all. Instead, it will take place at the Dallas Convention Center. The dates have also been changed, from April 8-11 to April 29-May 2.
In the three previous Rack Attacks I discussed getting, connecting, and updating Pioneer Blu-ray and Toshiba HD DVD players. Now what surround goodness can I get now that I've updated them? Let's start with the Pioneer. Just when I was girding myself to write a longwinded piece, half the information dropped into my lap in handy chart form. (For larger text size, see PDF or JPG.) One surprise, as the Pioneer product specialist explained: "The player
internally decodes DolbyTrueHD into PCM for transmission over HDMI. The
BDP-HD1 does not have HDMI 1.3 so it cannot send the bitstream over HDMI to
be decoded in the receiver." The same is true of Dolby Digital Plus. However, footnote 17 has some good news: Depending on the number of channels, the PCM sampling rate can be 48kHz, 96kHz, or 192kHz, presumably without compression. So even converted to PCM, the new codecs may produce audible improvements over the old ones. Alas, the situation is not so sunny for surround buffs eager to experience DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio. Go down the left column five rows to DTS-HD. Footnote 15 has this bad news: "DTS sound is output." I discussed this with the DTS people and they agree with my suspicion that this means the thing being converted to PCM is not DTS-HD MA or DTS-HD HRA but the lower-resolution DTS core signal. Sigh. Now, what's the story with the Toshiba? Find out next week.
There are several fears surrounding the U.S. transition to digital television broadcasting in 2009 and one of them relates to the set-top boxes that would keep old analog sets running. The federal government will attempt to allay that fear by awarding as many as two $40 coupons per household to help viewers buy the digital-to-analog devices. Judging from what's happening in the U.K., that looks pretty generous.
No sooner had the Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD and Pioneer BDP-HD1 Blu-ray players hit my rack than I decided to update them. No point in struggling with buggy firmware when shiny new firmware is available, right? The Toshiba website says Firmware Update Version 2.2 "improves network connectivity for supporting the download of web-enabled network content associated with certain HD DVD discs, and also addresses certain disc playback and HDMI/DVI related issues identified by Toshiba." As a matter of fact, it said the same thing about version 2.1 (I ended up running both). It applies not only to my HD-A2 but also to the HD-XA2, HD-A20, HD-A2W, and HD-D2. Stringing my trusty super-long network cable from the router on my desk to the rack, I plugged it into the Toshiba and navigated to the maintenance menu (top picture). At the manual's request, I turned on DHCP and DNS, and told the machine I was using a cable modem, all of which was quite easy. I clicked through a few screens of end-user license agreement. Then I started the update and went away to make dinner. When I came back, the Toshiba was good to go. Then there was the Pioneer Blu-ray player. Firmware Version 3.40.1 brings Dolby TrueHD compatibility and of course that is a must-have. Though the player has an Ethernet jack, there's no way to simply plug in and run the update. Instead I downloaded a zip file from the Pioneer website to my IBM desktop PC, unzipped it, copied an ISO image file to DVD-R, and fed the disc to the player. The update showed up in one of the video menus (bottom picture). So what audio goodness would I get out of my two freshly updated players? Tune in next week.