Ken Taraszka M.D. is an anesthesiologist by trade based in Tampa Bay, Florida. Ken is also a professional audiophile and home theater writer specializing in AV preamps and all facets of the audiophile market. In the past, Ken has been a staff writer and editor at AVRev.com. He has also at times been a frequent contributor at AudiophileReview.com.
While still held in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center this year the CEDIA Expo was in building B, saving the nearly 20 minute walk across the convention center. Stacked into a single, massive room some three or four levels below ground the floor was full of new gear, and the excitement of CEDIA seemed to have returned. Manufacturers seemed optimistic and sales seemed to be exceeding expectations from all I asked. New convergence related devices were ever prevalent and for the first time in years, prices were down, and significantly.
This year famed digital manufacturer Meridian held an opening party Wednesday night at the Georgia Aquarium and guests were led on private tours of the workings and space of the largest tank on earth. Educated and entertaining tour guides led small groups of press and dealers through a whirlwind tour of the facilities then we all toured the largest tank as the usual guests would, noshing on delicious finger foods and wine or cocktails before coming onto the large viewing room at the end. The large room was filled with the equally delicious sounds of new Meridian gear. They were showing a new small active DSP speaker and a digital music player, designed to handle multiple two channel digital sources and feeding active Meridian DSP speakers. The beauty of the new units was only slightly outdone by the largest fish tank in the world.
Never one to be behind the market, this Canadian company had new receivers offering up to 9 channels of amplification and seven to one HDMI switching - that alone would peak our interest. Each of the new receivers comes with full Anthem ARC room correction, further raising the bar. All receivers are HDMI 1.4a compliant and offer network and USB inputs. The units looked beautiful and were well made. Paradigm was showing off the sexy new Millenia One/Sub sub/satellite system. The One's are tiny solidly built speakers designed to work in any combination for 2.0 to 9.4 or how ever large you dream. The Millenia Sub is sort of suitcase shaped and can stand on the ground with included feet or thanks to its vibration canceling design can be wall mounted. The two drivers cover the end caps and make for a very sleek look. The One satellites offered two way reference drivers and can be used either vertically or horizontally with the included stands or wall or ceiling mounted. This system looks like a lot of fun and performance for the Ones $249 price, the Sub was ~$1,400.
Speaker Craft had a device I really liked, titled the 'Boom Tomb'. An outdoor subwoofer designed to be interred, leaving only a small 'stack' exposed. I am at a loss for how they can make this last but love the idea. No price yet, but the ability to add outdoor bass is very cool.
Classé has shown they won't be held back by advancements in technology. The new version of the SSP800 will now do HDMI 1.4a and up them to five inputs. Owners of the current SSP8009 could add the new board for $1,500 if they desire, for new purchasers the price is similar to the current model. Loyal to their two-channel history, they were also showing a new two-channel preamp with DAC and DSP allowing digital bass management, and five outputs, for any array of speakers from 2.3 to 2.1 and a 2.0 system. Maintaining solid two-channel performance while expanding to meet the new trends in the market is what keeps a giant like Classé relevant. Classé has also taken the guts of the new CT line of amplifiers and put them into the super sexy Delta cases, while they all now have the newest amp technology and active cooling those wishing for the Delta look will have to pay $500 more per chassis.
BDP-1 Digital Music Player is designed to integrate high-resolution audio at up to 24-bit/192 kHz into your system. You can control it from the front panel and two line display but why when the free iPad app allows you an iTunes-like interface from anywhere in your network. Priced at $2,100 it offers a great interface, with the additional iPad, and ability to send high res music to your system from any device attached to its three USB ports. The BDP-1 offers a host of digital outputs, including AES/EBU. Bryston was also showing a soon to be released AV preamp with a fully balanced design, extensive HDMI switching and all the new goodies expected to come out soon for about $10,000.
While no longer associated with the Krell brand, a press release obtained during the show previewed high-end exotic amplifiers and foretold of a new two channel preamp with digital inputs and DAC as well. The 300 Watt per channel amps had a unique look and a large retro VU meter signed by Dan himself. Copper fins cool the high-powered amp allowing it to be smaller and lighter than many of Dan's previous designs. The amps were listed for $37,000/pair and no price as of yet for the preamp/DAC.
Well, once again we heard about the soon to be released HDMI version of the Casablanca III processor, but Theta did have a working model passing 3D signals and playing the new codecs. This one has taken a long time to come to market, and I am still a bit skeptical. Reports are it will be upgradable from the CB II though you may need new DAC cards as well for $4,500. New units will run from ~$11,000-26,000 and hope to ship once the unit passes Beta testing.
The new Mark Levinson specific amplifier for the LFA model is the smallest amplifier I have ever seen. The entire amplifier weighs but a couple (like 3) pounds yet houses ten channels rated at over 100 WPC. Co-developed with Texas Instruments the new amp module is a class D model that takes the usual associated boards and puts them all on a single chip of silicon the size of a dime. The small size lessens weight on Lexus' $375,000 super car, and gives Mark Levinson sound quality. The same amplifier technology was shown off in Lexicons new eight channel distributed audio amplifier the DD-8. Weighing less then 8 pounds and offering eight channels of 120 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms with ultra-efficient power usage and low heat production these are amp modules to watch.
Revel showed off an entirely new in wall speaker line with reasonable prices and super performance and looks. The bezel-less grilles were ultra modern and sleek. Models came in all sizes and applications, including in-wall and in-ceiling subwoofers and LCR's.
Flat TV's got thinner and now so have the mounts. OmniMount was even offering an in-wall mount that allows near flush mounting for many of the thinnest panels while allowing the user to position the panel to suit different seating positions. With the new ultra slim TV's, they have mounts that go on the walls and keep your TV only about a half inch off the wall for the true window-like look we all love. Each time flat panels have gotten thinner the mounting market has had to respond and they have.
Showing the new AV7005 AV preamp that uses the same core as the Marantz SR7005 receiver (review pending) with the addition of balanced analog outputs and HDMI 1.4a 6:2 switching. Marantz even dropped the price from the AV8003's $2,599.99 retail to $1,499.99, an over 40% decrease in price. Now that's the way to sell gear to real world consumers.
Wadia was showing a new version of the iTransport that can work with any dock-connected product thanks to its attached cord. Finally, someone made a player with an actual cable to connect our iPhones/iPads/iPod Touch's to so we don't have to take them out of the case to listen anymore!
Wharfedale is a speaker company with a history dating back to 1932. They are a fully integrated company and make every part of these speakers themselves. This allows them to custom tailer each part to maximize performance. The cabinet work on the Opus line was simply stunning and they sported smooth lines and a classic look. The much less expensive Diamond line still had exceptional cabinets and looks. You can find a previous review of the diamond line here.
CEDIA was the release party of the complete revamp of the bipolar model line. The largest model seen 'partially sockless' showed the driver compliment and new dipole technology. Definitive also expanded the XTR line including models from a larger XTR-60 down to a smaller XTR-20. The 60's were playing with a small sub and gave a great sound for the fairly large sound room. The entire line is ultra slim to mate well with the new ultra flat TV's. For more information on this line, read our review of the Mythos XTR-50 speakers.
Aragon and Acurus
One of the highlights of the show for the entire HTR crew was seeing the return of a brand close to all our hearts. Indy Audio had show models of Aragon and Acurus products, including an Aragon 8008 MkIII, and the Iridium mono-blocks. The casework on the Aragon models was insane. The faceted faceplate was awesome and all the models had the famed 'V' cut into the top of the heat sinks. Giving them the classic company look, with some modern tweaks to enhance energy savings and improve performance and longevity. The Acurus line showed an Act 4 AV Preamp and several amplifiers from two to seven channels all reasonably priced.
Cary Audio showed a number of new products but most specifically their new music server. While tubes glowed with lust worthy light, Cary Audio quietly has some of the most relevant audiophile and home theater products on the market at respectable prices. Yes, they can go toe to toe with Audio Research, Mark Levinson, and Krell when they want to, but they also offer more reasonable products that compete more favorably with the likes of Anthem, Marantz, Denon, and WADIA.
3D is here, really?
Well, you couldn't go anywhere in the convention hall without seeing something on 3D. Systems from different manufacturers used different technologies. Some ran passive, polarized glasses while others used active shutter technology. Overall the more 3D I see the more problems I see in the format. Forget the glasses only work with certain displays, one thing I found particularly annoying was some software seemed made for small panels, while other software was made for projector-based systems. It was easy to see how some demos looked awful on projectors based systems and great on smaller panels and vice-versa. I guess now our 3D movies will need to come '3D'd for large screens or small screens'. Maybe we can have new 3D dual discs with one side for smaller sets and one for projectors? Problems like this only lessened my interest in 3D.