HK's CP 55 home theater package consists of the AVR 146 receiver ($349 when bought separately) with the DVD 38 player and a lovely 5.1-channel sat/sub set in gloss black. The price is $1199 and it's shipping soon. Definitely a contender.
Replacing the value-oriented Beta Series, Infinity's new Classia Series starts with the C336 tower ($899/pair) with three six-inch woofers, a 3.5-inch midrange, and one-inch tweeter, all in the company's composite aluminum/ceramic CMD material. There's also a C225 center ($499), C205 bookshelf ($329/pair), C255BS dipole ($499/pair), and 12-inch PS-12 sub ($799). The classily shaped MDF cabinet looks like the extruded aluminum in the higher-end Cascade Series. Fed a brassy big band, the system showed off its extended treble and overall naturalness. In development: a wireless sub!
Pre-CES press events are notorious for emphasizing message over substance. Sony's message was "Transformation." Nevertheless everyone's favorite electronics giant and whipping boy had a few surprises in store at yesterday's big do, and the first was violinist (and Sony Classical recording artist) Joshua Bell in a huge display of virtuosity. It got CES off to a great start! Sorry about the picture. It hardly does justice to Sony's 1080p Bravia LCD display. What do you expect from a Panasonic camera being operated by a monkey?
The HD-capable Bravia Internet Video Link (pricing and availability TBA "within the next few months") will bring free a/v content to the majority of Sony's 2007 TV line, starting with Bravia LCDs. It is intertwined with content partnerships involving AOL, Yahoo, and of course Sony's own music and motion picture divisions.
The Sony Vaio WA1 Wireless Music Streamer ($350, availability TBA) looks like a boombox. A real smart boombox. It streams music from a PC via wireless home network or wireless P2P connection. Compatible file formats include MP3, AAC, unprotected WMA, and Sony's own massively popular ATRAC codec.
Most noise-cancelling products are either headphones or earbuds. But wouldn't it be nice to put the noise-cancellation circuit in the player? That's what Sony has done with some new Walkman MP3 players. Now you can enjoy the considerable benefit of noise cancellation while using any headphones or earbuds you fancy. Not your father's old cassette player.
What was the number one item on holiday wish lists in the just-concluded 2006 holiday shopping rush? LCD TVs were the big winner, according to the NPD Group, with $925 million in sales. The flat wonders beat digital cameras ($825 million) and notebook PCs ($810 million). Surprisingly, iPods and other digital media players were relatively distant fourth-place finishers at just $720 million. So it's official: Americans prefer big screens to small ones. NPD declined to comment on how plasmas and other displays figure into their calculations.
The Consumer Electronics Show doesn't start till next week but news is already leaking out. The first dual-format DVD player, handling both Blu-ray and HD DVD, will be announced by LG. Solving the same problem from another angle, Warner will announce a hybrid disc covering both formats, so you early adopters with single-format players needn't fall on your swords (if other studios fall in line). Perhaps the best news of all is that non-portable audio sales may be recovering after a long period of sitting in their room and moping. November figures from the Consumer Electronics Association show home component sales rising a whopping 54.9 percent, beating the 27.2 percent increase of iPods and other portables.
Lost amid the year-end fuss was a long-expected development that will have profound effects for viewers on the west coast, in the midwest, and in the southeastern United States. The Federal Communications Commission quietly approved a merger between AT&T (as the combined company will be known) and Bell South. How will this affect nascent telco TV service? Just look at the Wiki map: Three companies now control the bulk of the traditional telecom business (not counting cable or VOIP, of course). See those two gigantic swatches in blue? That is AT&T's newly expanded territory. While Verizon's geographic territory is far smaller than that of Qwest, it includes many more subscribers. That leaves AT&T and Verizon as the most influential players. And they don't plan to compete in video services outside their defined territories. They will compete only with cable and satellite outfits within their territories. Despite rumors that the two Democratic commissioners would vote nay, the FCC vote was unanimous, 4-0, with one absention due to conflict of interest. That the surprise compromise will guarantee net neutrality is being cited as a victory for media watchdogs. Unfortunately, the promise comes with a two-year time limit, and does not apply to video-over-IP services.