One question about Dolby Atmos that we haven't seen raised before: What effect would it have on auto setup and room correction systems in receivers and pre-pros? D+M's Atmos demo provided the answer: Audyssey has updated its technology to handle Atmos related concerns. The D+M demo used vaguely specified products including a Marantz pre-pro, Marantz multichannel amp, and Snell speakers. It used the same Dolby Labs clip disc as every other Atmos demo at CEDIA, but because it wasn't abusively loud, we enjoyed it more than most of the others.
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).
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.
KEF's famous coaxial Uni-Q driver array is what distinguishes its R60 Dolby Atmos enabled speaker ($1200/pair) from the competition. With a one-inch aluminum tweeter nestling amid a 5.25-inch aluminum woofer, it's the same version of Uni-Q used on the R100. KEF also showed three new tower speakers and a monitor: Blade Two ($24,000/pair), Reference 5 ($18,000/pair), Reference 3 ($13,000/pair), and Reference One ($7500/pair).
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.
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.
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.
Listen Audio captured our attention by stating its intention to build the kind of product that "allows the listener to shut off from the world." One such product is the Diffuse, an absorptive panel that takes the form of a modular 2 x 2 foot panel in foam, vinyl, wood, or laminate finishes, starting at $90 for the foam version. It uses differing slot widths and a 3/4-inch air gap to increase bandwidth. It can zap high-frequency flutter echoes but operates down to low frequencies. Benefits: "More stage. The walls seem to push away." Listen also showed the Voice ($3995/each), an in-wall speaker with a 3.5-inch-thick enclosure, 3/4-inch-thick cabinet walls, coaxial drivers, and a 94dB sensitivity rating. It is designed "to compete with the highest-end freestanding two-channel speakers" while also satisfying multichannel and in-wall needs. Listen's Concierge service will dispatch one of its several acoustic design firm partners to the location. Once they determine the specs, the installer comes in and does his work, and then the engineers return to see how the installation worked out and assess the need for tweaks. This is a most impressive company.
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.
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.