CES 2004: Day Three

Want to get excellent 5.1 sound in your room with minimal visual impact? Magnepan plans to offer an option that will motorize its MGMC1 planar speakers so they can fold back against a wall. Because the speakers sound best at around a 30 degree angle from the wall, some folks may want to push them flat when not in use. The motorized option is currently in prototype and should be ready later this year. Expect a true ribbon version of the MGCM1 sometime in 2005.

Magnepan's Wendell Diller also explained the rather unique arrangement Maggie's demo used to conquer one of audio-for-video's vexing problems: where to put the center channel speaker. If you put it above a large screen, the sound is too high, below the screen it appears to be coming from the ground, etc. Magnepan mounted an MGMC1 to the sides of the plasma screen, and because of the 30 degree angle from the wall, was getting a good center image from almost anywhere in the room—and the central sonic image was at the same height as the video image.

You expect magnetic panel drivers from Magnepan, but getting one in a MartinLogan loudspeaker is news. However, that's the technology at the heart of ML's new Fresco ($995/each). The company calls it ATF (Advanced Thin Film), but a push/pull magnetic driver it is, and it allows the Fresco to be small and discrete—it only sits 6" proud of the wall, assuming you wall-mount them.

Actually, mounting flexibility is the Fresco's stock-in-trade, the speaker has a variety of faceplate, grille, and mounting options, enabling home theater buffs to add a whole passel of 'em to any room. We thought they sounded awfully good, too.

Texas Instruments' new HD2+ DLP chip is popping up in new projectors all over the place. TI says there are over 30 companies now using the device in consumer electronics products, and we were able to take informal looks at many of them.

Sharp was displaying its newest DLP projector, the XV-Z12000, which will be available sometime in February for $12,000. In addition to the HD2+ DLP chip, the projector is said to have a 5500:1 contrast ratio in "high contrast" mode. "High brightness" mode reduces the contrast ratio to 1700:1. Inputs include YPbPr/RGBHVX2, DVI-1 with HDCP, S-video, and composite.

Next, we took a look at the picture of the new Yamaha HD2+ machine, the DPX11000. It should be available in April for around $12,000 and will include the 7-segment color wheel standard on the HD2+ chipped machines. The stated contrast ratio for the Yamaha is 4000:1 and the picture in the demo room was most impressive. Yamaha was also showing the LPX510 DLP projector due in April for $5,000.

But the real bargain of the batch of HD2+ DLP projectors we saw was the diminutive Toshiba MT800. The preliminary specs list a Faroudja DCDi+ de-interlacer/scaler/enhancer, a 2200:1 contrast ratio, and 1100 ANSI lumens all for less than $10,000. The demo image, an HDTV broadcast of NBC's Tonight Show, looked stunning.