With a rack of their familiar gear driving top-of-the-line Atlantic Technologies speakers plus <I>four</I> Outlaw subwoofers, those scoundrels were stealing another show with the best home theater demo at HE 2006. And even if there had been more than three serious home theater demos at the show, they probably still be laughing all the way away from the bank.
Vandersteen does build center channel speakers, subwoofers, and hang-on-the-wall speakers suitable for surrounds, and began as a company that specialized in high performance but surprisingly affordable speakers. They still do build less expensive models that compete strongly in that market segment,, but their flagship Model 5As, at around $15,000 and driven by Audio Research's $40,000/pair Reference 610T, 610W (!!) tube amp (sporting 36 viswible tubes in its two channels and warming up the room quite nicely) weren't designed for the beer-budget crowd. And surrounds, subs, and center channels weren't on the wine-list at the show, either.
Aperion Audio showed this new, larger center channel speaker. Added to its current line of value-priced, Internet-marketed speakers, and designed for a better match to the company's other 600-series speakers, the $495 634-VAC uses larger drivers for both bass and midrange than the Aperion's smaller, 500-series center speaker. It's a 3-way design for off-axis performance that should be superior to most comparably-priced, 2-way center channel designs, and its adjustablle crossover can compensates for use on a stand, in a cabinet, or on top of a big-screen TV.
Hyperion (not to be confused with Aperion) may be a small speaker manufacturer, but expect to hear more from them and about them in the future if their new HPS-968 speakers are any indication of what they're up to. Yes, like most exhibitors at the show, they were demonstrating 2-channel only, and with 35W monoblock tube amps to boot. (I didn't catch the amp brand, but wasn't looking closely at amplifiers at the show). Judging speakers with tube amps if you plan on using them with solid state can be dicey. Apart from any inherent sonic signature the amp may have, the output impedance of many tube designs often interacts with the impedance of a speaker to produce very real frequency response deviations that can be both measured and heard. That's fine if you plan on using tube amps with the speakers (even more appropriate if you plan to use the <I>same</I> tube amp you listened to in the audition), but solid state amps are generally far more neutral in the way they interact with speakers. That's why if I'm auditioning speakers at a show, I prefer that they be driven by a good solid-state amp. Nevertheless, the Hyperion HPS-968s sounded wonderful—in my opinion one of the best sounds at the show. And yes, Hyperion does make both a center channel and smaller models, the latter suitable for use as surrounds.
HP becomes the second manufacturer (Samsung being the other) to announce a rear peojection DLP high definition television using the new Photonic Lattice (PhlatLight) technology that makes use of LED elements instead of the usual projection lamp. The 52-inch (diagonal) HP ID5286 is expected to ship in August at $2800 expected retail. Advantages are claimed to be longer life than a projection lamp, instant on/off, richer color saturation, and no color breakup (rainbows) because the sequential red, green, and blue illumination operates much faster than the mechanical color wheel it replaces. The set uses a wobulated chip offering 1080p resolution, with direct input capability for 1080p sources.
Every show we're fated to be teased with a product that isn't sold here in the U.S. These Onkyo D-312E two way stand-mounted speakers, auditioned with the new Onkyo amp and CD player discussed below, impressed me with their lively but not technicolored presentation, at least as heard from a location in the back of a crowed press conference. I hope to get another listen. But they are, as of now, available only in Japan and Europe. Rated at 200W power handling courtesy of a 65mm voice coil on its woofer. The ring tweeter appears to be the same unit used inb the D-TK10, below.
Yes, it's two-channel only, but we wouldn't be surprised if the high efficiency VL Digital amplifier technology in the new A-9555 integrated amplifier (100Wpc into 8 ohms, 200Wpc into 4) won't find its way into future Onkyo and Integra home theater components. In fact, the press releases says it will. And at $699.99 (August availability) it's cheaper than most digital amp designs that have any high quality ambitions. Onkyo also intriduced a new audiophile CD player, the DX-7555 ($599/March). A new CD player from any Japanese manufacturer is a hot story these days.
The product of a joint effort between Onkyo and an unnamed but (said to be) renouned guitar maker, the Onkyo A-OMF combines a 10cm deiameter woofer and ring-drive tweeter in a cabinet just over 10" high and weighing about 7 lbs. The cabinet's side panels, not much thicker than the shell of a guitar, were vibrating quite lustily during the demo. But a knuckle rap test suggested that they are also well damped. Leo Kottke fans rejoice.
Fred Manteghian beat me to the punch in his description of the fabulous-sounding Wilson Watt Puppy 8s ($28,000/pr minus change). Unclothed, they look pretty much liked the previous WP 7, but sound both more refined and dynamic than my recollection from the last time I heard that earlier model (admittedly, a few years ago). Another 2-channel demo, but Wilson also makes suitable center channel speakers, surrounds, and subwoofers.
These space-age model K1 speakers from Vivid Audio of South Africa will stop traffic in your listening room. At $20,000/pair in a variety of finishes like the Copper shown here, they may alswo put a stop on your bank account. But for a mere $13,500 you can have the smaller B1, which won't go as low but should leave room in the budget for your choice of subwoofers (Vivid does not yet make one). The setup, like most of those I saw on the first day, was strictly 2-channel. But Vivid also makes the matching, 4-way, C1 center channel for $6500. A smaller center is also available, and smaller stand-mounters are said to be in development for surrounds.