You might suspect the top-firing driver in Sonus Faber's Lilium tower ($70,000/pair) makes it a Dolby Atmos enabled speaker. But you'd be wrong. That's a bass driver, not a height driver, and it's complemented by a bottom-firing passive radiator. The 3.5-way system is triwired and, as you'd expect from the luxury-minded Italian manufacturer, dressed to kill. Price: $70,000/pair.
Yamaha's excellent Aventage surround receiver line now features two Dolby Atmos compatible models, both with nine amp channels: the RX-A3040 ($2199, 150 watts with two channels driven) and RX-A2040 ($1699, 140 watts with two channels driven). The semi-enclosed demo, with Yamaha speakers, was crisp enough to rise above the noise of the show floor, and the height effects (from ceiling speakers) were clearly discernible. Yamaha also showed its first sound base, the SRT-1000 ($500), which features eight front "beam drivers" along with two oval mid-woofers and two bottom-firing bass drivers. Made of sturdy MDF, it is designed to hold sets up to 88 pounds and 55 inches. In addition Yamaha showed two soundbars, one with HDMI input and lossless surround decoding for $1000 and one with legacy inputs for $399. The former is the YSP-2500, which simulates "true 7.1" surround from 16 beam drivers. It is the first soundbar we've encountered with a headphone jack.
Focal ingeniously integrates a soundbar with a subwoofing TV stand. They're two separate products, but notice how they fit together. The Dimension 5.1 soundbar ($1399) is a "true 5.1" bar with a brushed aluminum chassis holding five inverted dome full-range drivers and lateral bass drivers, driven by six times 75 watts, along with HDMI, lossless surround decoding, and touch controls at the right side. Four dip-switch DSP controls compensate for room size, seating distance, and whether you're using a wall mount or placing the bar on a cadenza. Both standing and wall brackets are provided. If you want more bass, place the Dimension SUB ($399) behind the bar. Wouldn't that block the sub's drivers? No, the elliptical drivers are on the sides. The demo sounded excellent, with a warm, un-screechy midrange and full bass.
The rethought CM Series from Bowers & Wilkins includes three towers, three monitors, two centers, and one sub. They use a double dome aluminum tweeter array which combines a dome with a ring radiator, stiffening the driver and shifting its breakup mode from 30 to 38 kHz. Nautilus-style tweeter tube loading is employed in all of these new speakers though it's most visible in the tweeter-on-top models (the CM10 S2 tower and, pictured here, the CM6 S2 monitor). Woofers continue to be Kevlar. The models, all priced per speaker, are the CM10 S2 tower ($2000), CM9 S2 tower ($1600), CM8 S2 tower ($1200), CM6 S2 monitor ($1000), CM5 S2 monitor ($800), CM1 S2 monitor ($550), CM Centre2 S2 ($1250), CM Centre S2 ($700), and ASW 10CM S2 subwoofer ($1500).
Two years in the making in close association with Dolby Labs, Triad's approach to a Dolby Atmos enabled speaker is to build four two-inch ScanSpeak drivers into the top for the height channels. The Inroom Bronze LR-H is based on the InRoom Bronze LCR, with the front driver array consisting of a one-inch fabric dome tweeter and dual 5.5-inch woofers. We've heard the prototype in Dolby's New York offices and it produces impressive height effects. Atmos capability raises the basic model price from $600 to $1000/pair.
You're looking at a cutaway of the coaxial driver array that makes Pioneer Elite's Dolby Atmos enabled speakers special, in the hand of designer Andrew Jones. It has a one-inch textile tweeter nestling amid a four-inch aluminum woofer. With two of Jones' very substantial looking crossovers, this coaxial array lives on both the top and front of the Elite monitor and tower speakers, shooting Atmos height channels out of the top, and everything else out of the front in the usual manner. Models include the SP-EBS73 monitor ($749/pair), SP-EFS73 tower ($699/each), SP-EC73 center ($399), and SW-E10 sub ($599). Pioneer's Atmos demo, using the company's Class D powered SC-89 receiver ($3000), was the best Atmos demo we heard on the first day of the show, with not just strong height effects but an overall tonal balance that made even the most aggressive movie soundtracks a treat. Can't wait to review these. Pioneer also showed its $349 SP-SB02 Speaker Base, with pairs of front-firing tweeters and midbass drivers and bottom-firing bass drivers.
Dynaudio's Xeo 6 provided some of the best sound we've heard at CEDIA 2014. The smallish powered three-way tower, triamplified with 50 watts per driver, has a wireless hub built into it that transmits lossless audio up to 53 meters. It handled well recorded vocals in a highly naturalistic manner. But it really showed its true colors with "Uranus" from Holst's The Planets, delivering vivid orchestral textures in a way only a truly great speaker can. It sells for $4300/pair. Dynaudio's Platinum tower ($17,500/pair) was operating in the nearby Wolf Cinema booth and also sounded great.
Dolby Atmos, a new object-oriented surround standard, was perhaps the biggest audio story at CEDIA, with speaker and receiver makers both unveiling Atmos enabled products. At GoldenEar Technology that was the HTR 7000 ceiling speaker ($500/each), which angles sound at the downward angle recommended by Dolby. There were four of them running along with GoldenEar's world-beating Triton One tower in front, SuperCenter XL, and smaller Triton Two in the rear, powered by a combination of Pass and NAD amps fed by an Integra pre-pro. One of the cool things about Atmos is that the ceiling speakers are fed with genuine spatial information specified by the mixer, as opposed to fake height channels derived from other channels. Combined with GoldenEar's signature folded ribbon tweeter, this made for strong height effects, which were especially striking in the Dolby demo material. A scene from Transformers: Age of Extinction showed off the system's dynamic prowess, including the folded ribbon tweeters' ability to remain coherent at high volumes.
Of the many cool things on display at the MSE booth, Phase Technology's little P3-35 amp ($330) was among the coolest. Feed its Toslink input with a two-channel Dolby Digital signal and it will convert it to three amp channels, just the thing for Phase Tech's Teatro passive three-channel soundbar, cropped out of the picture. Use the analog input and it converts to two channels of Dolby Pro Logic. Power output is 35 watts times three or 50 times two. It's also got Bluetooth and learns TV remote volume commands. Phase Tech also showed its refreshed CI in-wall and in-ceiling lines, which include the CI7.3 X, a three-way eight-inch in-ceiling speaker for $375/each. The PC60 is a 30th-anniversary celebration of a classic monitor with new crossover and drivers including the flat-diaphragm woofer. Then there's the Rockustics X1-PowerRock ($700), the first horn-loaded rock speaker.
Paradigm introduced two new speaker lines, one for the home theatrically inclined, one for two-channel. The Millennia LP XL on-wall speaker ($699/each) handled the front channels with the LP 2 ($499/each) handling the surrounds. The whole system, but especially the dual Monitor SUB 10s, benefitted from Paradigm's homegrown ARC room correction in the MRX 710 receiver. The climactic scene of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit sounded as if it were playing through a much larger speaker system. Then we got an earful of the new Prestige line, which includes three towers and a monitor. The tower playing was the Prestige 85 F tower ($3999/pair and up depending on finish). This 2.5-way model's PPA tweeter uses a phase aligned lens that improves not only phase but output. While the k.d. lang and Boz Scaggs tracks sounded pretty upfront in the upper midrange, they also had a delicious lower midrange richness, underpinned by tight but extended bass. Both series are worth a demo if you have the chance. Incidentally, Paradigm continues to manufacture in North America, in Mississauga, Ontario.