CES 2011

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Sony must have spent all year prepping for their press event. It was as elaborate as any Disney theme park show, much of it in 3D on a huge and super-wide screen consisting of millions of LEDs. It included a major promotion for The Green Hornet, a Sony Pictures flick that opens next week, and concluded with a performance by one of the 256 Cirque du Soleil troups now appearing on the Vegas strip.

Twenty-seven new Sony BRAVIA HDTVs were introduced. The leading character, and the new Sony flagship, will be the XBR HX929-Series, with full 3D capability and full-array local dimming LED backlighting. It's loaded with Internet features, and comes in three sizes: 65-, 55-, and 46-inches. Prices TBD. Available in March. Some of the new models also use Corning's new Gorilla Glass. It's said to be more resistant to damage than conventional glass, though I suspect you'll still want to hold off on tossing that brick at the screen during the 2012 Presidential debates.

Sony's new top-of-the-line stand-alone 3D Blu-ray player is the BDP-S780 (March, about $250). It's Wi-Fi (of course) with SACD playback as well as CD and the usual video suspects.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 07, 2011  |  0 comments
An intriguing part of Sony's enormous booth in the Central Hall discussed the "Monolithic Design" philosophy, which gives Sony Bravia TVs a commanding "on/off presence" -- in other words, they look cool whether the screen is active or dark. One aspect of the philosophy in action is a six-degree tilt that suits "low, contemporary furniture."
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Sony is also showing a number of prototypes of products that are not available now, but may be in the future. Three different flat panel demos using autostereoscopic technology (no 3D glasses needed) were shown: a 24.5" 2K OLED, a 46" 2K LCD, and a 56" 4K LCD. The results were better than I expected, though there were some distracting artifacts. As expected, you must watch in specific viewing spots. In a cosy twosome one partner will get good 3D, the other not so much. In places outside the designated viewing zones the 3D effect diminishes and those artifacts increase, though the image does not completely fall apart. Promising, but still a work in progress.

Sony also showed a set of goggles designed for private 3D viewing (as seen in the not-so-clear photo), and a autostereoscopic portable 3D Blu-ray player.

Available now for pre-sales ordering is a VAIO F Series 3D laptop (about $1700). Oddly, this does require active shutter glasses. It also does 2D-to-3D conversion—for fun with spreadsheets. Seriously, however, there are genuine business and engineering applications for real 3D, including CAD and medical imaging.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 11, 2011  |  0 comments
As with the Thiels, we mentioned these Sony speakers earlier in this report. But also like the Thiels, they deserve another mention. No other speakert impressed me as much as this one did at the show. I'm enough of a show veteran to realize just how much the room, associated components, and program material can effect the sound of a system, but under the conditions in the Sony room, in a 2-channel setup (four of the speakers were also being used in a surround system in a different room) they impressed me about as much as any speaker ever has at a trade show. The sound was punchy, dynamic, and full-bodied without being overblown. And they made both modern and classical music sound real—few speakers can do as well on both.

The SS-AR1's (I sense an homage in that name) have been on the market in Japan since 2006, but have recently been upgraded in the voicing and crossover department.

But will we ever see them for sale here in the states? Possibly, but this show appeared to be a trial run to judge dealer interest. That's been a problem with Sony speakers in the past, and there have been some very good ones. High-end dealers are reluctant to take on Sony speakers, and Sony dealers are reluctant to take on speakers this expensive—currently about $27,000/pair in Japan.

Associated equipment included Pass Laboratories monoblock solid state amps and an EMM Labs (Meitner) Reference SACD/CED player.

Scott Wilkinson  |  Jan 07, 2010  |  0 comments

Like Panasonic, Sony is involved in every aspect of 3D, from cameras to displays. At its press conference, the company announced its partnership with the Discovery Channel and Imax to launch a 3D network in 2011. Sony is also sponsoring ESPN's new 3D channel, which is planning to broadcast 85 events in its first year.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 08, 2011  |  First Published: Jan 09, 2011  |  0 comments
The new Speaker Box 5 from Project (the turntable people) sounded ridiculously dynamic for such a tiny feller. Distributed by Sumiko, they will sell for $400/pair in a variety of colors, such as this fire engine red. The electronics shown here are not included!
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 07, 2011  |  0 comments
This isn't even the main show floor. It's just the midday activity in the Las Vegas Convention Center's grand entryway.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 07, 2011  |  0 comments
First, it's T+A, not T&A. Stop giggling. It makes you look sleazy. In addition to some cool-looking loudspeakers (which we didn't get to hear) the German company showed the K8 Blu-ray receiver with 150 watts time seven. It streams from iPods and other devices in lossless WAV, FLAC, and OGG as well as MP3 and WMA with resolution up to 96/24. Sure is purty, as it ought to be for $9500.
Scott Wilkinson  |  Jan 09, 2010  |  First Published: Jan 10, 2010  |  0 comments

As I was wandering around the 3D Tech Zone, I stumbled upon a small booth with an autostereoscopic 3D LCD TV—in other words, no glasses. Technicolor was demonstrating its algorithm that takes in right and left images, derives depth information for each pixel, and interpolates six additional views between the right and left images, a process that cannot yet be performed in real time.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 08, 2011  |  First Published: Jan 09, 2011  |  0 comments
I heard the Fat Lady Sing, and she was in fine voice. The Fat Lady is a floor-stander from Morel of Israel, where the name apparently is politically incorrect. I have to admit that it's descriptive of the cabinet, which is designed to sing along with the speaker and stop short of coloring the sound.
Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jan 08, 2011  |  0 comments
In case you thought being an esteemed member of the consumer press corps was a ticket to luxury, here’s an image of the phenomenal lunch spread that awaits you in the press room. At least it was free…
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 06, 2011  |  0 comments
What to our wondering eyes should appear on the floor of South Hall but the Grey Lady herself, The New York Times, touting her apps for computers, smartphones, e-readers, and of course this year's particular CES obsession, tablets. The paper's show coverage also refers to (other) media companies chasing partners at this year's CE extravaganza.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 08, 2011  |  0 comments
The Intrepid II, in lower right corner, is Theta Digital's first Class D amp, at 7 times 150 watts. It is expected to go into production in four months. Class D amplification, in general, is more energy efficient though some audiophiles question whether it is ready for primetime. Theta's implementation will boast load-agnostic frequency response regardless of speaker impedance. At upper left is the Theta III HD pre-pro, at $19,995 for version with Xtreme DACs and a mere $14,999 for version with Premium DACs. Upgrade your old Casablanca III for $4995 and your old Casablanca I or II for $5000. Apologies for awful pic.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 11, 2011  |  1 comments
The new Thiel floorstanding SCS4T (about $3700/pair), mentioned again further down in this report, is a modest speaker by Thiel standards. The single coaxial driver has the advantage of coincidence. That is, the tweeter is mounted coaxially with the woofer, so the two drive units do not produce comb filtering dips in the speaker's response at off axis angles. Coaxial drivers are also used in more upmarket models from Thiel, and also by KEF and Tannoy, but otherwise are relatively rare.

Yes, I heard more dramatically impressive sound at the show, but the Thiel room, one of the first I visited, sounded so honest and right that for me it represented the sort of value that most of the higher-end products could not manage. Of course, a pair of Thiel subwoofers were helping it along in the deep bass!

And unlike nearly all of the speakers heard at the Venetian, the SCS4T is ready for home theater. The older, stand-mount SCS4 (about $2400/pair, available in singles) should be a good match. It uses the same coaxial driver and can be used as a matching center channel, even mounted on its side (a trick that other non-coaxial 2-way speakers cannot do without sonic consequences.