2004 CES: Day Two

"This," said Lew Johnson, "is home theater done the way we think it ought to be." The "we" in question was Conrad-Johnson and its sister company McCormack Audio, and the system under discussion included McCormack's spanking new UDP-1 Universal Disc Player ($2995).

The UDP-1 automatically recognizes and plays CDs, CDRs (including those containing MP3 files), SACDS, DVD-As, and DVDs. Its 24-bit/192kHz Burr-Brown DACs handle all digital processing on-board. The player's analog circuits have discrete power supplies. The video DAC is a 10-bit, 54Mhz design and outputs S-Video, composite, and component signals (interlaced or progressive scan).

The UDP-1 was designed to connect to McCormack's MAP-1 multichannel analog preamplifier, and that was how Johnson demonstrated the unit, along with McCormack amplifiers (a DNA-500, a DNA-22, and a DNA-125), four Wilson Sophias. One Wilson Watch center channel speaker, and a Wilson Watchdog subwoofer. The video display was a 42" Loewe Spheros flat panel. Sound and video were superb—"About as good as AC-3 gets," was Johnson's assessment.

Actually, we thought it was even better than that.

Another extremely impressive front-end was Ayre's new DX-7 DVD player. The DX-7 boasts a modular design that allows the user to choose among several optional video boards. At the moment, Ayre offers two, an SDI board that connects to an outboard scaler ($4950) or a progressive analog + digital board that offers interlaced and progressive analog output, as well as 480p DVI. The DX-7 is Pal-capable and region-free.

Ayre had its new baby connected to a Loewe Aconda 38" display and the colors were strikingly deep and rich. The picture had phenomenal depth and detail and it was all we could do not to plant ourselves in front of it for an entire film or two.

But don't think we're immune to cheap thrills. Anthony Gallo Acoustics was showing T3 using its $999 5.1 Micro system (five of its Micro spherical speakers and its new 100W front-firing 10" subwoofer) and we sat down and watch an unending chase scene quite happily (except for the nagging suspicion we'd seen this movie before—l when it was called T2).

Oh, who are we trying to kid? We ate it up. We like to pretend we're sophisticated, but the fact is, we like movies, especially when the system puts us in the middle of the action. The 5.1 Micro system did it for a lot less than we would have thought likely. That's our kind of over-achievement.