Conducting an audio demonstration on the open show floor is usually only done for the wow factor. As in "Wow, that's loud. Would you mind turning it down or putting air shocks on it so you could drive it out of here?" The Lipinskis (Lukas' dad Andrew was in town too) had five of their 707 speakers setup in as workmanlike a fashion as you might expect given their surroundings. Without missing a beat, Lukas asked me to sit down. Even given the ambient noise, the five channel Manhattan Transfer recording he played for me was impressive. The true timbre of the speakers could still easily be heard through the surrounding ruckus. Lukas said that, noise aside, the open show floor is otherwise preferable to most of the hotel rooms he gets at other shows.
HDMI cables are subject to misbehaving. The longer the run, the bigger the chance that the desired "I" signal pattern is turned into something that looks more like the oscilloscope sine wave that opens classic episodes of "Outer Limits." But you can control the vertical and horizontal, so to speak, with some HDMI extenders. There are several kinds available, from inexpensive inline devices like the UltraLink that worked for Tom (but not for me) and there are more heavily engineered solutions like the Etheral Restorer.
Onkyo's HT-S990THX is a whole Home Theater in a Box. Actually, it's a Home Theater in a Really Big Box. For $1,099 you get a 7.1 110 watt per channel receiver, three LCR two-way speakers (with two woofers and a single tweeter) for the front channel, and four smaller two-way speakers for the surrounds and a 10" powered sub as well. There's no HDMI inputs, but there <i>is</i> a THX logo on the front panel that speaks volumes about the quality you should expect. Absolutely amazing at this price. I heard a rumor that Home Theater magazine has one in for review (hint: check your newsstands or better yet, subscribe!)
English speaker manufacturer Tannoy made their name with concentric driver arrays, but technology and nostalgia were combined in their Prestige line that pays homage to their past. The Kensingtons ($11,000/pr) are two way speakers in gorgeous wood cabinets. The drivers and cabinets are handmade in England. I rapped on them and they are solid and tight. The side by side vertical slots that run top to bottom along the corners of the speaker (not visible in this shot, unfortunately) are the vents for the bass. Powered with a Manley Amp Stingray integrated tube amp and driven by a Denon CD player, the sound was really quite good, even amongst the aural clutter that is the show floor.
Dual ATSC tuners, dual cable card inputs, a 250 GB SATA drive that will give you 32 hours of high definition programming, HDMI output and that THX logo, a first for any DVR. What did THX do? They gave Tivo notes, and Tivo redesigned their circuit boards to reduce interference and noise as the good folks at THX found it. The thing next to the remote that looks like the world's smallest cell phone is really a wireless transmitter that hooks via a USB cable to the back of the Tivo unit and "joins" your wireless network allowing you to get program guides wirelessly. Really cool. $799. Can't wait!
I just watched a short high definition demo on SIM HT 3000. That's their new 1920 x 1080 7 segment color whell DLP projector. With dual HDMI inputs and a 1.5-2.0 lens (a 2.0-3.0 lens is coming soon as well). The picture on a large screen was excellent and the unit's bluer than gunmetal finish was attractive as well. Price will be around $16,000.
Anyone familiar with whole house music servers knows that they're not inexpensive. But Escient's FireBall FP-1 Music Manager can give you a taste of the good life for a pittance (well, at least compared to their full blown servers.) The FP-1 does this by using your iPod as the storage device, instead of a rack of servers. Best of all, all your favorite music is already on it. I think they're tapping a huge, uh, untapped market for their products.
Custom installation speaker manufacturer Speakercraft decided that their dealers should get a little culture while they're in town. Well respected artists have provided works of art for display. Nice touch Speakercraft!
Hosting a <i>Buffy the Vampire Slayer</i> pajama party? Integra introduces a six DVD changer that will let go through a whole season of your favorite TV show without having to get up. The DPC-7.7 isn't some lowbrow unit either, featuring HDMI outputs and video upscaling to 1080i or 720p, though it won't do anything to fix Josh Wheadon's decision to shoot everything in a 4x3 aspect ratio (What were you thinking Josh???). Price is a super reasonable $400.
Sonus Faber speakers are really pretty special and every time I've heard them, fantastic sounding. They developed some special speaker cable that they used internally in their Stradavari flagship speaker and their method, quite unique I'd have to say, lead them to introduce the Yter series of speaker cables. These forged cables are terminated in special banana shapes only because they're made in the same pouring and forging process. The silver alloy used in these cables is literally melted and poured into the final shape. By audiophile standards, the price of $1,500 for an 8' pair is actually quite reasonable.