We were pleased to see that hi-res audio is beginning to have a more prominent role in demos and discussions. As I mentioned in my "Three Trends We Hope to See at CES," this year's show saw the addition of a Hi-Res Audio Experience TechZone, highlighting content from sources like HDTracks.com, Acoustic Sounds, iTrax, Native DSD Music, and Blue Coast Music. Several panels were held to discuss issues surrounding hi-res audio, and the CEA's Home Audio Division, in conjunction with The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing, relaunched its website called QualitySoundMatters.com as a great educational tool.
Sony continues to bang the drum loudly in support of high-resolution audio, displaying its full lineup of Hi-Res servers, DACs, speakers, and headphones in its well-traveled booth. A demo of the new NWZ-ZX1 portable hi-res Walkman allowed you to switch between the hi-res and MP3 versions of the same track to listen to the difference - exactly the kind of demo we'd love to see in stores to help people understand that you don't necessarily need a five-figure audiophile system to hear the difference. Calyx introduced the $995 Calyx M hi-res player that can also serve as a USB DAC, and Astell&Kern showed off the new AK240, which lets you connect directly to HD music sites to download tunes, providing a directness and simplicity that we think is crucial to mass-market acceptance.
In other audio news, we've waited for years to see wireless speaker systems gain traction. I'm not talking about tabletop speakers to which you can wirelessly stream music over Bluetooth or AirPlay - there's already an endless number of those, and even more were on display this year. No, I'm talking about wireless multichannel speaker systems for your home theater. The ability to cut out the speaker wire and other cable clutter sounds great but has never been able to pick up momentum due to quality and reliability issues. The Wireless Speaker & Audio Association (WiSA) is working to change that by promoting a wireless transmission standard that ensures interoperability between devices and supports up to 7.1 channels at a 24/96 resolution. We'll be covering this topic in more detail in an upcoming article; for now, we'll just mention that WiSA-certified products are starting to appear. Sharp introduced the WiSA-compliant SD-WH1000U universal disc player, while Bang & Olufsen showed off its WiSA-compliant BeoLab 18 speaker system first announced back at CEDIA. Another encouraging sign is that WiSA has added a lot of high-profile members, including Onkyo, Pioneer, Polk, Definitive Technology, Paradigm/Anthem, Gibson, and Klipsch.
Of course, the trend of great-sounding audio demos continued at The Venetian this year. We heard lots of impressive systems at a wide variety of price points, and we look forward to getting our hands on many of them in the months to come. In the meantime, check out the slideshow for a sneak peek at all the goods.
Check out the gallery below for first hand photos from our own Adrienne Maxwell . . .