XStreamHD is a high definition media via satellite delivery service provider that's been gearing up for the last year. We've followed their progress, and now it looks like XStreamHD will be launching at the end of April. The XStreamHD hardware will let you rent HD movies (with Blu-ray bit-for-bit HD quality) with many other media-centric service to come, including game downloads. There's a $10/month subscription fee - after that, you simply pay for the movies/games/etc. that you want to rent or buy. Everything gets stored on the XStreamHD HD Media Server that comes standard with a 1TB drive (but is upgradeable to 2TB and 4TB). Movies can be streamed to HDTVs throughout your house using the basic HD Media Receiver or the more advanced PRO Media Receiver, which includes high-end DACs and 8-channel analog audio out for use with pre/pros that lack HDMI inputs. The basic package (1 Media Server + 1 HD Media Receiver) is scheduled to sell for $399. A Server and PRO Receiver package will be $499.
According to the CEA, over 110,000 bodies came to swarm the Las Vegas Convention Center and environs for the 2010 CES. Even though there were still two days to go when I took this picture, CES had already taken its toll on these two gentlemen.
Yeah, it's one of those kinds of things. We're sworn to secrecy (hopefully not too much longer), but we were one of the few who were given a glimpse at a new speaker line from a brand new company called GoldenEar Technology. New companies come into existence all the time, of course, but what makes this one so special is the fact that it's being started by Sandy Gross and Don Givogue, two of the founders of one of our (and many, many other' people's - if all of the stellar reviews and impressive sales numbers are anything to go by) favorite speaker brands, Definitive Technology. Gross was also one of the founders of another speaker brand you might have heard of: Polk. So when we heard Sandy Gross was working on a new speaker, our ears started to tingle (and not just from being at CES for several days). We can't tell you many of the details, but what we saw was elegant, affordable, and has all the makings of another blockbuster line of gear. To use a Vegas analogy, it's the kind of thing you might get if Frank Sinatra and Elvis had a love child. (Yeah, I know it's not biologically possible, but this is Vegas, after all...)
You can't call it a sound bar, but the goal of Niro Nakamichi's latest system is to eliminate the need for rear speakers in a home theater. The new system uses two speaker cabinets - one below the TV that produces the LCR signals, and one above the TV that creates the pseudo surround information. The system also comes with a subwoofer and processor/amplifier. The system uses psychoacoustics to create its effects and doesn't rely on sound reflections off the side walls as many other no-rear-speakers systems do. Although it still can't compete against a full-blown discrete speaker system, I must say that in the brief amount of time I had to listen, it blew away any other soundbar I've ever heard. Of course, at $1,899 for the system, it's more expensive than any other sound bar that I can remember listening to. The cosmetics are a little industrial for my tastes, but it's definitely a high-performance system to consider if you can't have rear speakers.
Hannspree brought several of their unusual TVs to one of the giant press soirees that are filled with cheery PR people, good food, open bars, and every now and then an interesting product. I feel safe predicting that this set won't become the official TV of the Colbert Nation. I didn't see the remote control, but someone please tell me that it's not shaped like a baby seal...
I always like going to the NXT suite during CES to see what new things they've cooked up. The three-room suite is filled with a variety of current, brand new, and concept products utilizing NXT's slim and flat transducer technologies. One of the most interesting items was a 2.1 flat-panel TV add-on speaker system from Q Acoustics. The Q-TV2 attaches to the rear of the TV chassis and can be used whether the set is on a stand or wall-mounted. The subwoofer is around an inch thick, and the slender side speakers are mounted on arms that can be adjusted to match the width of the TV. The system accepts analog or digital audio from the TV and has boundary compensation circuitry for use when the system is up against a wall.
Tiny projectors - like this one from Microvision - are big this year, although picture size and quality isn't necessarily so. I overheard one presenter say you could project an image up to 200 inches with one of these types of projectors. Technically, I suppose you could send a photon from one of these projectors to Mars, but that doesn't mean it's watchable at that size or distance.
Gefen's new ToolBox line includes wall-mounted "system integration devices" used for HDMI connectivity and distribution. The new models are designed to be installed on the wall near the gear rather than in a rack. Each unit comes with locking HDMI cables and are available in glossy cream or black. In addition to HDMI splitters and switchers (including matrix switchers), the line will include a wireless HDMI transmitter/receiver package that will extend HDMI signals at 1080p/60 full HD resolution up to 30 feet.
Tunebug's Vibe is a small triangular puck that sits on any flat surface and turns it into a speaker. No, it's not audiophile stuff, but it can sure beat the pants off that teeny speakier in your portable media player or laptop. The Shake does the same thing for bike and skate/snowboard helmets - or any other three-dimensional surface from which you might want to produce sound. Using the Shake on a helmet lets you hear music and the ambient noises around you (potentially keeping you from getting flattened by an oncoming truck).
It's an age old problem. You have a pair of ears. You have a pair of earbuds. Unfortunately, they aren't the same size - and even when the size is about right, the flippin' earbuds are darn uncomfortable to wear for anything longer than a few minutes. You could pay big bucks to have special custom-fit earbud covers made for you personally. Or you could spend $20 (plus shipping) for a set of yurbuds from yurtopia. The company makes 12 sizes of earbud adapters out of surgical silicone. The yurbuds slip over your existing earbuds and channel the sound directly to your ear canal. They're soft and flexible, so they're quite comfortable.