CES 2013

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Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jan 10, 2013  |  0 comments
I hate – no, I loathe – headphone cords. Maybe it’s because I was traumatized as a child by a menacing coiled cord on an old landline phone that was mounted on the wall in our home. I can’t tell you how many times the handset was yanked out of my hand when I reached the outer limits of the coiled cord’s length. Nor can I tell you how many times I’ve had one or both earbuds forcibly ejected from my ears after I’ve gotten the headphone cord caught on something. In fact, I’ve broken more than one pair of earbuds that way… So you can understand my appreciation of CordCruncher’s new Earbud Headphones that come with a unique, tangle-free, "crunchable" headphone cord. There are two main aspects to the CordCruncher Cord Management System. The first is the special kinked-cord design that allows the cord to resist tangling as well as compress when not in use, in some ways similar to the way a coiled cord functions. The second component of the system is an elastic sleeve that covers the all or as much of the crunched headphone cord as you wish. The sleeve covers the cord and keeps it from tangling when you’re finished listening to music and have thrown the earbuds in your briefcase, purse, or on your desk. The 3.5 mm headphone jack can be inserted into the other end of the elastic sleeve to create a necklace or, when doubled up, a wrist band. Currently the CordCruncher Earbuds are available in Glo Orange, Matte Black, and Pearl Blue color options for $24.99 each. Unfortunately, the CordCruncher cord/sleeve combo isn’t available in a universal version to use with other brands of earbuds and headphones. (The sleeve, by the way, is made from 95% protein-free, medical-grade latex rubber, so people who are allergic to latex may want to look for some other type of cord management system.)
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 10, 2013  |  0 comments
If you want your floorstanding speakers to have Bluetooth, the Crystal Matrix Tower does it with a small module that plugs into the back and a separate transmitter with 30-pin, USB, and mini jacks. Also interesting is the way the half-dozen tweeters are divided into two groups of three, each group aimed outward at a slightly different angle, to ensure wide dispersion. Pricing is $3000/pair.
Barb Gonzalez  |  Jan 09, 2013  |  First Published: Jan 08, 2013  |  1 comments
D-Link announced a new router with StreamBoost technology for better high definition video streaming, and with a new dashboard to monitor and control your home network. The DGL5500 router is called a "gaming router" because it has low latency (no lag time) for online game play. This capability also makes it an excellent router choice for streaming movies.
Bob Ankosko  |  Jan 07, 2013  |  0 comments
Dish, the satellite TV provider that pleased TV viewers and upset broadcasters last year with the introduction of the Hopper DVR that automatically skips commercials on recorded prime-time shows, today introduced a second-generation Hopper with built-in Sling capability. The upgraded box lets users watch and control live TV and DVR recordings from smartphones, tablets and PCs, essentially replicating the living room TV experience wherever they go, and has built-in Wi-Fi for accessing a home network. Dish also upgraded processor speed to 1.3 GHz, which is said to deliver the fastest guide scrolling in the pay-TV industry.

Dish officials said the new Hopper, which has a 2-terabyte hard drive that holds more than 500 hours of high-def programming, will be offered to new customers at the same price as its predecessor with no monthly fee for the Sling functionality.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 09, 2013  |  0 comments
The Scandinavian speaker maker DLS started as a car audio company in 1979, moved into home audio in 2003, and released its first on-walls in 2008—and they are now a big part of its business. The Flat Box II is the large speaker on either side of the picture. Under the grille are an active woofer and passive radiator, made of Kevlar and aluminum, flanking a silk dome tweeter whose wave guide extends from the baffle to the grille, as a means of tightening up time alignment. It goes for $3500/pair. In the middle of the pic is a forthcoming full-range speaker which will be more design-oriented and will sell for $2000/pair. DLS also offers numerous other on-wall models combining 1.5-inch soft domes and three- to four-inch paper woofers, chosen for their efficiency with minimal amplification, selling for $500-1000/pair.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 10, 2013  |  3 comments

DTS offered one of the show's more interesting audio demos with DTS Headphone:X. The audience were given Sennheiser headphones selling for roughly $100. With headphones off, we heard an 11.1 channel check with front, front height, center, side surround, back surround, and back surround height channels (not including sub). Then the channel check was repeated with headphones on. It sounded precisely the same and the sound still seemed to be coming with the speakers. Finally we were invited to hear the channel check while removing and replacing the headphones. At this point it became clear that the sound was coming only from the headphones. The steering was impressive, with the side, back, and height channels occupying their places in the soundfield with the same confidence as the front channels. DTS also did an A/B demo of the Vizio VHT215 2.1-channel soundbar with various technologies acquired along with SRS Labs. Even amid the noise of the show floor, it was clear that what is now called DTS TruSurround (formerly SRS TruSurround) was lifting the soundstage clear of the bar's physical limits. Just a little, but enough to be noticeable.

Kris Deering  |  Sep 26, 2013  |  0 comments
Looking for a Blu-ray media solution to playback your whole library from hard drives? Don’t want to pay Kaleidescape prices?? Dune may just have what you’re looking for. Their media machines can playback MKV and ISO rips of your Blu-ray library from an attached hard drive or NAS drive. They also have full support for 3D now with their TV-30 3D mini box or their full rack size HD Base 3D. At a starting price of $199 for the TV-30 3D, Dune makes server based Blu-ray playback affordable for anyone. Now if only I had the time to rip my 700+ title Blu-ray library!
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 08, 2013  |  0 comments
When is a soundbar not a bar? When it's shaped like a console, a new form factor that provides more cabinet volume and potentially better sound. The Energy Power Base, pictured, is a 2.1-channel product with pairs of 0.75-inch tweeters, three-inch midranges, and three- by five-inch oval woofers. It comes with Dolby Digital surround decoding, Bluetooth wireless, and optical and stereo analog inputs. Ships in August for $399. Energy also showed two Power Bar Elite soundbars: a 40-incher for $599 and a 31-incher for $399. Oh, and there were a couple of new indoor/outdoor speakers as well.
Mark Fleischmann  |  Jan 09, 2013  |  0 comments
Gallo is overhauling its acclaimed lines of orb-shaped metal-clad satellite speakers with the new A'Diva and Micro lines, which are five and four inches in diameter, and sell for $329 and $239 each. Both use a new full-range driver that is said to offer wider dispersion, though at the cost of a slight reduction in efficiency. Don't worry, an average receiver should be able to run them fine.
Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jan 07, 2013  |  0 comments
Thanks to a bit of serendipitous timing, GoldenEar Technology's Sandy Gross gave a lucky trio of us a sneak peak at (and a quick listen to) the company’s newest tower speaker, the Triton Seven. Although the speaker is short on inches compared to the other Triton Towers (it’s only 40 1/4 inches tall) and is the first GoldenEar tower to come without a built-in powered subwoofer, the new Triton Seven is extremely long on performance. The Seven features a D’Appolito array of two 5.25-inch bass-midrange drivers above/below the same High Velocity Folded Ribbon Driver (HVFR) tweeter that’s in the taller Triton Two and Three siblings. Bass output is enhanced by a pair of side-mounted sub-bass radiators placed near the floor on the sides of the angled cabinet.

The clarity of sound and super-silky imaging definitely make the new Seven speaker a worthy addition to the stunning Triton family, but the depth and authenticity of the bass response makes it hard to believe there’s not a built-in powered subwoofer hidden behind the grille cloth. Even though we were limited on time for the demo and it’s always hard to truly evaluate speakers in a show environment, the combination of modest dimensions, phenomenal sound, and high affordability ($699.99 each), make it a good bet that the Triton Seven Tower is going to be on nearly everyone’s short list for Speaker of the Year in 2013.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Jan 12, 2013  |  1 comments
Manufacturers showed Google TVs and Google TV players with cool new updates and apps slated to roll out by the end of January.
Bob Ankosko  |  Jan 10, 2013  |  0 comments
Harman Kardon, the company that brought us the world’s first audio receiver nearly 60 years ago, unveiled two affordable, forward-looking A/V receivers at CES. Both models have wireless connectivity via AirPlay, Wi-Fi and DLNA and include a vTuner for access to thousands of Internet Radio stations. Other common highlights include 4K upscaling for all inputs, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, multizone capability for simultaneously playing two audio sources in two rooms, an eco-friendly digital-power supply, Harman’s EzSet/EQ system and multiple HDMI inputs, including those for 3D playback, CEC and Deep Color.

The 7.1-channel AVR 2700 ($799) is rated to deliver 100 watts per channel, while the 7.2-channel AVR 3700 ($999) is rated at 125 watts per channel and provides two subwoofer outputs and a remote control for the second zone.

Both models are slated to hit stores over the next couple months and are compatible with Harman's free remote control app for Apple and Android mobile devices.

Bob Ankosko  |  Jan 10, 2013  |  0 comments
HiFiMan is introducing two in-ear headphones aimed at “audiophiles on the go” and a high-performance portable music player at CES. The RE-600 “Songbird” ($399) and RE-400 “Waterline” ($99) earphones use custom-designed Titanium-coated drivers, neodymium magnets and premium cabling. Both are due out in the coming weeks.

The flagship HM-901 music player ($999) is slimmer than previous models, has a simplified user interface, and accepts most lossless audio formats, including Apple lossless. It uses 32-bit DAC chips and accommodates 24-bit/192 kHz upsampling. The player will be available in March with an optional $399 docking station to follow in April.

Bob Ankosko  |  Jan 08, 2013  |  2 comments
Samsung helped usher in a new era of television on the eve of CES 2013 with the announcement of two next-generation TVs: the super-sleek 85-inch S9 Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV, boasting four times the resolution of today’s 1080p sets, and the 55-inch F9500 OLED TV with a Multi-View feature that enables two people to watch different programs simultaneously from the same screen. Pricing and availability was not announced for either model.

The S9 (shown) boasts a striking design with a screen that appears to float within a frame. Highlights include “extremely high contrast ratio,” a proprietary upscaling engine that converts high-def images to UHD quality, and a 1.35 GHz quad-core processor that’s more than three times faster than last year’s processor for improved content/app multitasking. The set has enhanced voice and gesture control and uses a new version of Samsung’s Smart Hub interface with five content discovery panels that appear onscreen as thumbnail images.

At the heart of the F9500 OLED TV are self-emitting red, green and blue sub-pixels that eliminate the need for backlighting, which is said to ensure absolute blacks and pure whites with no motion blur. The Multi-View feature is enabled by special 3D glasses with built-in speakers that deliver a personalized audio experience. The set also uses a quad-core processor and the updated Smart Hub interface.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jan 12, 2013  |  0 comments
In what can only be described as the single most tedious press conference in the history of CES (just beating out the i’m Watch press conference that, interestingly enough, also took place this year), 40-year-old Chinese company (and self-proclaimed “world’s fifth-largest TV manufacturer), Hisense, announced plans to grow from a regionally known to a globally dominant CE manufacturer making everything from smartphones to smart-home appliances.

Despite the lackluster presentation, Hisense had some exciting things to announce, including two models (84- and 110 inches) in the company’s flagship XT900 series of 2160p Ultra HD U-LED flat-panel Smart TVs (with Google TV). Also unveiled was the XT880 series of 4K Ultra High Definition 3D and Wi-Fi-enabled Smart TVs in 50-, 58-, and 65-inch screen sizes. As with the XT900 TVs, the XT880-series sets incorporate a detachable USB-camera mounted on the top bezel of the TV while the TV’s remote control features a built-in microphone. Hisense also presented a concept prototype of the GF60XT980 glasses-free 3D TV that uses a facial tracking system that “discretely tweaks each sweet spot to give viewers the best experience possible.” No pricing, expected availability, or distribution details were announced.