CinePro showed its new Mighty Powershelf two-way speaker ($3300/pair), together with the Mighty Center Channel ($2700), two jumbo 12" Dual isobaric subwoofers ($5000), and a rack full of CinePro electronics. The projector was from SIM2. The sound was punchy and dynamic, even though I did request a slightly lower playback level than those that CinePro usually favors.
Also sharing the room with CinePro was VidaBox, a media center designed as a full-function server capable of storing music, television programming, and movies on its hard drive. It is also said to be capable of both Blu-ray and HD DVD playback. Shane Buetter has more to say about the VidaBox in an earlier blog entry (below)
Joseph also demonstrated its RM7xl speaker ($2299-$2499/pair, depending on finish), but in a very unusual way. The source was a laptop computer feeding uncompressed files into a new Bel Canto integrated amp via a <I>USB</I> connection.
There isn't a lot of budget gear at HE2007, but then the show has always trumpeted itself as a high-end show. New York dealer Sound by Singer had five rooms filled with increasingly expensive gear, but the first room was at least relatively real world, with a price of approximately $6000. The speakers were the JM Focal Chorus 836V floorstanders at $3000/pair. The electronics were from Cambridge Audio (the 840A integrated amp and 840C CD player, at $1500 each). The sound was very clean and well balanced. My only reservation: from a front row, center seat the imaging was a little bloated. But it was a fine-sounding system, and the step up to the next system in Sound by Singer's progressively more expensive chain of rooms was over $30,000. But that system was anchored by the JM Focal Electra 1037Be ($10,995/pair), one of the best sounding speakers I've heard at the show.
There was a definite shortage of home theater exhibits at this year's home entertainment show. But no shortage of interesting products. When faced with limited home theater presence, I go to plan B: look for loudspeakers. Speakers do of course, handle two types of program material in most homes: music and films. If they sound good on music that's more than half the battle. And if they don't, even Angelina Jolie can't help them.
Silverline was demonstrating two different speakers, the floorstanding Prelude ($1200/pair) and the small Minuet ($600/pair). I heard the Preludes ($1200/pair). One attendee remarked that the Preludes sounded better than a lot of more expensive speakers at the show. Apart from a trace of aggressive brightness, which could well have been due to a completely untreated room, I have to agree. The speakers sounded more dynamic, and bigger, than their size might suggest. Silverline makes a wide range of speakers, including a center channel (which at $1200, may be a little pricey to mate with the Preludes).
Two makers of one-box solutions for virtual surround sound were at the show. ZVOX was covered earlier in our show report (below). Soundmatters is the other. The Soundmatters SLIMstage40 Surround Console ($899, available in July), available in either silver or black (the silver version is shown in the photo, just under the flat panel set) uses four seven active drivers and eight internal amplifiers (170W total) to simulate a full surround sound experience. At 3.4" deep, it's designed to fit under a wall-mounted, flat panel television.
Rives Audio is repeating a demonstration that was a hit at last year's show in Los Angeles. Two rooms are set up with near identical systems. One room is completely untreated, the other uses a variety of acoustical treatment devices plus electronic equalization of the bass (using two Rives Sub-PARCs and extra amps to support the equalizers). The speakers in both rooms are Talon Thunderhawks ($25,000/pair), the amplifier the VAC Alpha Integrated ($10,000, an all-tube design with 100Wpc), and the CD player the Wadia 580i ($9450).
Back on the limited home theater front, Meridian/Faroudja had a small room with both audio and video, the latter a modest flat panel display. The heart of the audio system was the new Meridian G95 ($8495), a complete processor/amp/DVD player all in one case; in other words, it's a high-end DVD AV receiver, offering five channels of 100Wpc amplification. But it does have limitations, which are rather surprising for such an expensive device. There is no DVD-Audio playback (Meridian has long been a champion of that format), and no way to get an external multichannel source into the receiver (there is no multichannel analog input and no HDMI switching to provide multichannel audio on HDMI). The only HDMI connection is the HDMI output for the internal DVD player.
Freddie G. beat me to the punch on the new Krell speakers, but they're worth a few extra words. At $35,000/pair the Modulare Duos are hardly cheap, but Krell's charter has always been cutting edge design, not designing to a price point. Based on the sound I heard from their two-channel setup in a relatively large demo room (plenty big enough for a home theater demo—helpful hint for next year!?) they are definitely cutting edge. I'm sure the Krell electronics used to drive them weren't hurting the overall result, either. Their pricey Scandinavian drivers and solid aluminum enclosures might just have been making the best sound I will hear at the show, though it's still too early to go that far. A lot of rooms are yet to be visited.