What Means Innovation?

Each year at the Consumer Electronics Show, the Consumer Electronics Association highlights top new products in select categories and honors them with Innovations awards. The tech press got a peak at winners last week at a pre-CES event in New York. Just how innovative are they? Here's what we think.

The Kensington LiquidFM Deluxe for iPod ($99)

Award: Audio Accessory

Rationale:  The Quick Seek feature finds the clearest station in seconds, and ClearFM technology provides superior sound.

Truly Innovative? What we really want is a product that automatically finds the clearest frequency and keeps it clear all the way up I-95, but getting RDS artist and track info on the head unit display is a nice touch.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin ($599)

Award: Audio Components

Rationale: The Zeppelin is a one-piece amplified speaker system and docking station that transforms an iPod into a capable yet highly compact stereo music system.

Truly Innovative? Everybody and his brother is coming out with a music system for the iPod, but you gotta believe that B&W does it better than most. At more than 2 feet wide, though, it overwhelms the little iPod. If only the wingspan were narrower….

Motorola MOTOROKR S9 Headphones ($129)

Award: Headphones

Rationale: MOTOROKR S9 integrates wireless mobile music and calls with unmatched lightweight design. Behind-the-head wearing style, preferred for top comfort and stability, combines with music and call selection from the headphones.

Truly Innovative? Motorola isn't the first to cut the cord between the phone and the headphones, and it looks like any other behind-the-ear headphone-with the addition of a switch to go between chats and tunes.

KEF MUON Loudspeakers (if you have to ask the price….)

Award: High-Performance Audio

Rationale: The KEF Muon concept loudspeaker is the ultimate in sound technology and design innovation. These ultra-exclusive speakers are limited in production to just 100 pair throughout the world.

Truly Innovative? You bet. They're true to KEF's roots on the inside with a Uni-Q drive unit but the look is anything but traditional. The curved aluminum shell has an almost human shape and is a gorgeous example of contemporary industrial design.

Sunfire SRS-210R SubRosa Subwoofer ($3,500)

Award: Home Theater Speakers

Rationale: Sunfire's SubRosa subwoofers with StillBass anti-shake technology exemplify the company's no-compromise design approach in producing thunderous bass while eliminating unwanted vibrations in or outside of the wall.

Truly Innovative? Veteran speaker designer Bob Carver gets it. The boxy subwoofer won't fly in the flat-panel age, and Carver has found a way to get powerful bass from an enclosure that mounts in or on the wall-without generating the shakes.

SE2 Labs ($24,995)

Award: ITC One (Integrated Theater Console)
Rationale: World's first personalized, compact, all-in-one, plug-and-play home entertainment system that allows a variety of components that would normally take up several shelves to be contained in one small unit.

Truly Innovative? Absolutely. This compact, all-in-one approach to high-end home theater cuts down on the learning curve and programming time for custom installers and reduces the A/V gear footprint. At twenty-five grand, just don't call it home-theater-in-a-box.

SlingMedia SlingCatcher ($200)

Award: Multi-room Audio/Video

Rationale: SlingCatcher seamlessly delivers broadcast, broadband and personal content to your TV.

Truly Innovative? It's a sign of the times. Who'd have thought a couple of years ago that there would be any video content from the Web that we'd want to watch on TV?

Samsung YA-BS900 Bluetooth Hyper-Directional 3-Channel Surround Sound Speaker System ($ tba)

Award: Portable Media Players

Rationale: The YA-BS900 Bluetooth Hyper-Directional 3-Channel Surround Sound Speaker System automatically detects Bluetooth-enabled MP3 Players and phones, and lowers the volume when a Bluetooth phone is picked up.

Truly Innovative? Cutting the cord between the player and speakers is the best part. The phone auto-mute feature adds a little techno-bling.

Niveus Media Center Denali Limited Edition ($7,999)

Award: Video Components

Rationale: With video scaling up to 1080p, 1TB of storage, and 7.1 audio, the


brings digital media to life.

Truly Innovative? GeForce Series 8 graphics with PureVideo HD technology combined with a pro audio chipset, Burr-Brown DACs and CableCard promote Windows Vista to the big leagues.--by Rebecca Day