While JVC introduced no new projectors at CEDIA EXPO for the first time in years, it still produced some of the best-looking images at the show. Using a native 4K source, its top of the line DLA-X900 looked particularly striking in low lamp mode on an approximately 130-inch wide screen. For those unfamiliar with JVC's current models, its higher-end designs can accept a 4K input and process it so that can be reproduced by the projector's 2K (1920 x 1080) LCOS imaging chips. Through further processing it then simulates 4K. Though it isn't true 4K, it can look very good.
I'm guessing that in the depths of JVC's R&D facilities they're working on a way to produce an affordable true 4K home theater projector. So far no one has done this--unless you consider Sony's $16,000 VPL-VW600ES affordable (but see the story above).
By now you've likely heard of Dolby Atmos-Enabled speakers, which include an additional driver or drivers firing out of the top at an angle to bounce Atmos' height information off your ceiling if installation of ceiling speakers is impractical--as it will be for most of us. In addition to dedicated Atmos-Enabled speakers, several add-on modules were seen at CEDIA, which are designed to sit on top of your main left and right front speakers and surrounds if you want to add Atmos but don't want to replace your entire speaker system.
The 44-DA from Atlantic technology is designed for this purpose. At $500/pair, it employs a concentric driver (a coaxial woofer-tweeter). While designed to be a perfect fit atop the company's THX-4400 L/R speakers, it can be used on any speaker with a flat top surface large enough to accommodate its approximately 8.4-inch width and 9.5-inch depth.
Parasound's new ZoneMaster 1250 12-channel amplifier couldn't have arrived at a better time. Of course the name suggests a custom installation with multiple zones, but it could be used to satisfy the demands of Atmos as well, supporting a multitude of ceiling and surround speakers in a variety of configurations. Any pair of channels can also be bridged. Without bridging, the power is rated at 50W per channel into 8 ohms, all channels driven. A bridged pair of channels is rated at 120W into 8 ohms and 200W into 4 ohms. I can conceive of a user bridging three pairs for the front channels and using the other six unbridged for a 5.2.4 Atmos setup.
While the JBL Atmos demo remains the champ at the show (at least through the first two days) for shear impact, undistorted output level (in a good way), and immersion from 39 speakers, it's not likely to find its way into too many homes. The Atmos demo from GoldenEar, however, was a more conventional 5.4.4 setup with five conventional channels, 4 true ceiling speakers (no reflective Atmos here), and four subs. It was both impactful and at the same time subtle in a way that will please many audiophiles with at least some interest in home theater. Not that a lot of audiophiles wouldn't covet the JBL (I'll take the JBL for my big room when I win the lottery, and something like the GoldenEar for the smaller!), but the GoldenEar is more practical.
The GoldenEar system used an Oppo Blu-ray player, an Integra Atmos-ready pre-pro, three Pass Labs monoblock amps for the front channels, six other amp channels for the two surrounds and two ceiling speakers (I didn't catch the make for the latter, but it was far more modest and less pricey than the Pass amps). The speakers were the GoldenEar Ones left and right, a SuperCenter XL, GoldenEar Twos for the surrounds, and four Invisa HTR 7000s for the ceiling channels. The four subs were the powered subs built into the GoldenEar Ones and Twos. The levels chosen were loud enough, but sensible, and the experienced convinced me, at least in these fledgling days of Atmos (I remain open minded on this), that true ceiling speakers just might produce the best Atmos results.
Pioneer announced the BDP-88FD Blu-ray player, at $2000. Not only is it a universal player, but offers advanced audio and video circuitry--the most advanced Blu-ray player yet from the company. It can also play back DSD, though multichannel DSD is limited to its HDMI outputs, as the analog outs are 2-channel only. It will be available by the end of this year.
Here are further details on Pioneer's flagship Blu-ray player. There will also be a BDP-85FD at $1000. It looks almost identical, and offers the same video performance, but has more conventional audio circuitry.
Elite Screens introduced its DarkStar ambient light rejecting screen. It claims a good balance between gain, contrast, and viewing angle. Available only in fixed frame form, its price was not specified, only that it would be a fraction of the cost of the current market leaders in such screens.
For VERY high end home theaters, Digital Projection offers the Insight 4K projector. It has the professional 4K resolution of 4096 x 2160, and is available with either LED or laser illumination. In the latter form, it's specified for an output of 12,000 Lumens, a laser lifetime of 20,000 hours, and a color gamut beyond Rec. 709. Yours for $120,000.
With LED illumination the output drops to a still considerable 3000 Lumens, the claimed LED lifetime increases to 60,000 hours, and the price rises to $150,000. In LED form it's also claimed to be the first projector capable of the Rec.2020 color gamut. In a darkened room demonstration, however, the LED version had heavily oversaturated colors, suggesting not that there was anything wrong with the projector, but rather that the playback gamut didn't match the gamut of the source material--a guarantee of inaccurate color. The laser version was being demonstrated in the open area of the booth, and its color looked excellent.
The NC 900C 2K, 3-chip DLP shown here is offered by Digital Projection in cooperation with NEC, at around $50,000. It offers the D-Cinema color space, and is said to be one of the smallest pro-cinema certified projectors. The NC 900C is also the projector used for the JBL Atmos demo, which shows that it can hold its own in a high-end home theater setting. Finally, it doesn't use a Xenon lamp, making lamp replacement less expensive.
B&O is widely known for making excellent, stylish, but very expensive products. While its BeoVision Avant 85-inch 4K/Ultra HD LCD set isn't exactly cheap at $25,000, it's not that far off from the prices its competitors charge for similarly-sized 4K sets (and cheaper than some). The set comes with a unique powered, rotating stand and remote. A B&O sibling 55-inch 4K set is also available, but its $8,000 price (the stand for this model is optional at $2,000) it's not as competitive.