Every six months some clueless publication hypes a stupid plastic turntable with USB output. This is a terrible way to transfer vinyl to MP3 because a bad turntable is a bad turntable regardless of how it outputs the signal. Pro-Ject eases my irritation over this sorry situation with the Phono Box II ($179), a decent little phono preamp with USB output. Connect a good turntable to it--Pro-Ject offers several, and also makes them for Music Hall--and your vinyl-sourced digital music library will sound a lot better.
The Polk I-Sonic ES2 is the second-generation version of the famed do-it-all radio. It handles HD Radio, XM, Sirius, your neighbor's brainwaves, AM, FM, net radio, Rhapsody, our brainwaves, and iPod. Use full capabilities at your own risk. And it now has a tag button (center, bottom) that applies tagging data to up to 50 songs at a time for storage in its own flash memory and the iPod. You could tag songs heard on HD Radio for later purchase on iTunes. Coming in October for $499.
The B&K 30.2 digital brick amp comes in 30, 60, or 100 watts times two. You can fit three of 'em on a plate (bottom) or six on a larger plate (hanging, top). Controls are on the back, but if you prefer them on the front, you want the ST30.2. B&K also showed the AVR707 receiver, with 200 watts times seven, due in 2008; and the AV1230, which covers 16 zones with two-channel goodness.
The people at Boston Acoustics couldn't resist assembling a bunch of their colorful Horizon speakers into a chandelier (and we couldn't resist taking a picture of it). Injection-molded plastic enclosures, shaped to maximize the front and minimize the back, are braced both by the molding and by MDF. Complete 5.1 systems range from $499-700 with black or white grilles plus optional grilles in eight other colors for $19-100 depending on size. Boston also showed the SoundWave cubes, which stand on one of their corners, in seven colors for $99 each. They're indoor/outdoor.
One of the few non-excruciating audio auditions at CEDIA '07 was Wisdom Audio's L75i demo. The planar speaker, powered by Classe amps, shone with material featuring Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, and Miles Davis. Music worth hearing: a novelty. Wisdom prides itself on the non-disintegrating metal in-wall frame. True, the bass was boomy in the rear of the room, and the ostensibly in-wall product was shown on-wall, but this was the rare public exhibit that didn't make us hate the product.
The Pinnacle OC HT 1 in-ceiling speaker ($349 for one, $999 for a three-pack) uses a slot locking mounting system that attaches to a ring you screw into the ceiling. Also shown was the QP 2, a speaker designed for use with projection screens, an unusual design with neodymium magnets mounted on the outside ($999/each, black or white). Why we didn't photograph that will always be a mystery to us.
The Lexicon MV-5 is a new surround preamp-processor from the company that more or less defines the genre for multichannel audiophiles. At $2999, it's the most affordable Lex yet, and thus might entice a few receiver users to go for higher-performing separates instead. Put it together with the GX-7 amp and you've got a $6000 package.
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.
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.
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.