CES 2012

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Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  4 comments
The new McIntosh MX121 pre-pro is, at $6000, half the price of its predecessor. And it's got AirPlay!—along with the updated HDMI connectivity and video versatility you'd expect. McIntosh also did a very impressive two-channel demo featuring its XR100 floorstanding speaker, a four-way design featuring a super-tweeter, two mid-tweeters, eight midranges, and four woofers for a mere $10,000/pair. Build quality is over the top: the tweeters have the kind of voice coils you'd expect to see mated with a 10-inch woofer. Surging strings were detailed in an almost three-dimensional sense. If you think McIntosh is just another pretty fascia, you should hear these speakers. Also shown was the Anniversary 275 stereo tube amp, so called because only 275 will be made.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
The new Revel Performa 3 speaker line nestles snugly in the middle niche between the higher-end Ultima and more affordable Concerto. Ten models (shown here in prototype form) will include two monitors, three towers, two centers, surround, and two subs. Most will ship this summer except for one tower and one sub, due in fall. Enclosures now have curved sides. The floorstanders have rounded backs while the monitors have straight backs. New driver arrays and waveguides make things even more interesting. By the way, one of the most satisfying demos we've heard at CES so far was the Revel W780 in-wall speaker. For $600/each you get strong bass extension and a midrange that's kind to vocalists.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  1 comments
You'd think a Lexicon multichannel amplifier would get hooked up almost exclusively to a Lexicon pre-pro. But we're told the DD-8 amp is actually being used by a lot of consumers as an upgrade for an a/v receiver which is then relegated to the role of pre-pro. A winner of awards at both CES and CEDIA, the amp musters 125 watts into eight channels and sells for $2500.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
It is hard to walk from the Sands Convention Center to the audio exhibits at the Venetian Towers without noticing this tempting array of candy apples. They sure looked better than the modest fruit distributed with the press room's box lunches.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Crowds were around the block for all of the 4K (and OLED) prototype displays at the show, including a 4K demonstration in the Sharp booth.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Also eye-opening were Sharp's 80" Quattron sets. Humans on broadcasts now can be here almost life-sized.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Don't expect to get a quick lunch at CES. The food services t the Las Vegas Convention Center were overwhelmed by the crowds, with early estimates at 140,000 show attendees.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
An ambitious Chinese manufacturer of LCD sets, that's who. The small booth had demos 3D sets and an innovative 21:9 flat panel set optimized for 2.35: 1 movies—with black windowbox" bars at the sides for 16:9 material. Reportedly, TCL makes sets for VIZIO, which makes sense seeing that VIZIO is nearly set to release 21:9 sets. The only puzzle here remains why my camera rendered the TCL logo on top a red-fringed yellow, when the sign was clearly solid red.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
The Smart Crystal Pro polarization modulator from a new (to us) company called Volfoni (which also makes both active and passive 3D glasses) can take your single chip active glasses DLP 3D projector and turn it into a passive glasses 3D projector. The brochure says it can do this for any 3D single lens projector, but the device has only been verified effective on DLPs.

What it does, in effect, is to substitute rapidly alternating polarization of the filter, which is positioned in front of the lens, for the switching of active glasses. You'll need a connection from the sync transmitter output in the projector to the Crystal Pro to make this work, or alternately DLP Link in the projector (DLP Link is a process that uses rapid interframe bursts of light from the DLP projector that normally triggers active glasses). (If your projector has neither, that is, no DLP Link and an on-board sync transmitter, it will not work, as I understand it. You'll also need a screen that preserves polarization. Estimated cost will be $1500 for the Crystal Pro itself, or $2000 for a package including both the Crystal Pro and a slide that can automatically move the polarizer out of the way for 2D material.

Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Toshiba demonstrated how a 4K panel can improve the resolution. The photo above can't do it justice, of course (the 4K panel is on the left), but you could clearly see the difference on some material. Of course, the images were stationary of moving very slowly; motion would likely degrade any resolution improvement.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Toshiba was showing its latest prototypes of glasses free 3D. In comparison to last year's demos, the results were much improved. The secret appears to be the use of a 4K LCD panel, which ups the convergence available to each eye—much like the new, jumbo 4K set shown by LG appears to improve the (passive glasses) 3D performance of that set. If you’re watching 3D alone, the set tracks your head position and adjusts the picture to provide optimum performance. In a group showing, the 3D works properly only in 9 individual regions across the front viewing area. A small circular bug at the top center of the screen (visible in the photo) tells you if your head is in a hot spot for 3D. Toshiba expects to have sets in stores in late 2012. But the use of a 4K panel suggests that the first such sets will be expensive, so I wouldn't hold off purchasing a 3D set hoping to have a cheap, glasses-free alternative real soon now.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
At its press event Monday before the main show floor opened, Panasonic was almost silent on the performance details of its new sets (none of the big manufacturers were making a big deal about improved picture quality, though if pressed they will admit to evolutionary improvements in their new 1920 x 1080 models). But Panasonic was big on improved convergence. We certainly aim to find out in our reviews when the new sets become available.

90% of the Panasonic’s 2012 models offer Web connectivity, which is clearly the main theme song of this year’s CES. At the press event Panasonic also announced a working agreement between Panasonic and MySpace (!?) for enhanced social network connectivity, such as texting with your friends while you all watch the same movie. I can see this for sports, but for films? And can this joint effort resurrect a moribund social networking service that has clearly lost its trench war with Facebook? Panasonic and MySpace certainly hope so; they even trotted out celebrity Justin Timberlake at the press event to help promote this new launch. Timberlake co-starred in a recent movie about the origin of Facebook; now he’s helping to (possibly) reinvigorate MySpace.

Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
With Internet connectivity, you can now play competitive video games over the Web. How long before such games become championship spectator sports we can watch passively on HDTV, bringing us full circle? With 300 channels, maybe they have already and I’ve just missed it.
Tom Norton  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments
Later at the show we obtained more details about Panasonic’s 2012 sets. New models in the VT50, GT50, and ST50 series of plasma sets will make up the meat and potatoes of Panasonic’s updated designs, expect to be available in 2-3 months if past delivery schedules are maintained. There will be an expanded range of new Panasonic LCD IPS designs as well. In fact, there are 15 new LCD models, 13 with LED backlighting. Seven of the LCD sets are 3D, including three in the ET5 series using passive glasses—Panasonic’s first departure from full HD 3D (passive glasses sets cut the vertical resolution seen by each eye in half in a 1080p set). In addition, the LCD line now includes 47- and 55-inch sizes. Previous Panasonic sets at 42-inches and larger have all been plasma designs. With LCD now dominant in the market, could Panasonic be hedging its bets?
Brent Butterworth  |  Jan 11, 2012  |  0 comments

I had no idea when I wrote my CES Audio Preview how right I’d be. I predicted that Bluetooth and AirPlay wireless technologies would be making their way into tons of new audio gear, and sure enough, at CES both were as common as bad food. Bluetooth and AirPlay make extra-good sense in compact audio systems, which you’re likely to use with smartphones and computers.

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