AT A GLANCE Plus
High-resolution audio chops
Reference-quality 2D and 3D Blu-ray playback
No support for SACD, DVD-Audio, or DSD formats
Spectacular video performance at a budget price point, but not the best choice for true audiophiles.
How things have changed since Blu-ray arrived on the scene. Debut players from the larger electronics companies were pretty full-featured, with substantial build quality. Now it seems that most mass-consumer players are in a race to the bottom when it comes to price and build. While I understand that’s probably the market most of the country buys in, I’m always surprised that most of the big names in consumer electronics don’t keep at least one model for enthusiasts who don’t want to buy a featherweight piece of plastic for a principal player in their home entertainment system. Panasonic evidently feels the same way this year.
This year’s CEDIA convention had a lot of high profile products that generated a lot of buzz. One of the companies that caught my eye was Vicoustic, whose booth featured an assortment of acoustic panels that looked nothing like the boring rectangles and squares we typically associate with room treatments; instead, they looked like something you’d find in the lobby of an upscale office or hotel.
Harmon delivered one of the best demonstrations on the floor with their latest JBL Synthesis setup. Their room delivered the most natural voices of all the rooms and lacked the brightness I noticed at most of the demos. Their turnkey solution uses pro audio like speakers and subs that are tailored and EQ’ed to the room.
Magico’s new QSub subwoofer features dual 18” custom drivers and a 4,000 watt digital amp. At the remarkably low price of $36,000 I was considering buying a pair on the spot, but the wife shot me down. While these will displace a large portion of your bank account they’ll also displace a massive amount of air in your room with their deep extension.
James Loudspeakers got the memo on bringing the big subs. Their pro audio speakers are complimented by these massive 18" drivers. Their demo room seemed to lack real low end power though. This seemed to be an issue in a lot of rooms at CEDIA this year. Big subs with lackluster bass performance in their demos. I bet with the right setup and room, these would play nice though.
Cambridge Audio showed their Azur 752BD Blu-ray player that garnished our Top Pick earlier this year. Recently Cambridge Audio released a firmware update that enables full DSD file playback from an attached hard drive, memory stick or NAS. The firmware update is available from their website for the amazing price of free.
Wisdom Audio delivered my favorite presentation of the show with their massive screen and even bigger sound. By all accounts a no compromise, price no object system but it delivered in every way. They also picked some of the best clips of the show to really demonstrate their finesse and might. Their planar speakers stood a good 10’ tall and their subwoofers were the size of couches but they did a great job of delivering a sound that was both massive and refined.
Triad decided to give their renowned Platinum line of speakers a new big brother. Though they weren’t being demonstrated at the show, their new flagship will be available later this year. Pictured here is the top of the line offering with massive drivers and a folded horn tweeter. I plan on taking a trip to their factory down the road in Portland early next year to get a listen when they’ve revamped their demo room with them. At $15,000 each they aren’t for everyone but they should be able to deliver massive sound to even the largest custom home theater room.
If there is one reoccurring theme at the show it’s that your subs are nowhere near big enough. California Audio Technology seems to have gotten the message with their in-wall 18” drivers. These were actually some of the smaller subs I saw around the floor.
Blu-ray players seem to have vanished from the face of the CEDIA floor this year but that didn’t stop Oppo Digital from debuting their latest revision to our Top Pick BDP-103 with the BDP-103D. Everything remains the same but Oppo has integrated the Darbee processing we reviewing in the Darblet processor last year. The player will be shipping in October at $599. This is a hardware revision so no upgrade options for existing owners. This fuses two of our top pick models into one exciting product so it should be another home run for Oppo.