CES was notably more upbeat and crowded this year. If CES can be viewed as an indicator of the year ahead, this year will be a rebuilding year, we will not get back to the pre-recession heights quite yet but we are on the right path.
In the video world, 3D television and slim cabinets were all the rage. I think 3D television will be great for limited events but it will likely be a long time before it becomes the standard for home cinema. In the world of audio, music servers and high resolution audio were a hot topic as were the problems with the lack of uniformity of naming audio files which can cause recognition problems on playback systems.
Anthem showed its new BLX 200 Blu-ray player and LTX 300v and 500v projectors. The BLX 200 is particularly significant as it is Anthem's first source piece. This $799 player is a Profile 2.0 player that offers full 24 fps compatibility and AVCHD support, DVD upscaling and decoding of the new lossless audio codecs.
Atlantic Technology was showing a more refined prototype of their AT-1 speaker that uses its new passive loudspeaker technology called H-PAS (Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System). The small towers were said to reach down to 29Hz and generated significant bass in the large listening room with some 32Hz pipe organ music supplied by Ray Kimber. These speakers are getting a bit more refinement before being released to the market but are very impressive, especially in light of their estimated sub-$2,000 price tag.
Audioquest was showing their new line of "Indulgence" HDMI cables. They also had some unique HDMI installation solutions for the installer and HDTV enthusiasts. Until you've tried to install premium HDMI cable to an ultra-thin LED television - you might not know how important this is - but it is a much needed solution.
Ayre's QB-9 USB DAC was on display in their suite. This $2,500 24/96 capable DAC has quite a following and had a crowd around it when I was in the room. Reportedly, the use of Asynchronous transfer mode and a combination of both licensed and proprietary technology greatly reduces jitter and enables high performance, high resolution audio to be fully realized up to 24/96 resolution.
Burmester was playing their new B30 speakers. The smaller B20's were also on display as were the new 088 Preamplifier and 089 Belt-Drive CD Player. The biggest Burmester news was their new North American distribution and partnership with Porsche which is using a Burmester system in their new Panamera.
Even the sleek B&W equipped Jaguar could not take attention away from the new 800 Series Diamond speakers. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it over to the B&W suite to listen to them and am anxious to hear them soon. Even though the display was static it captured a lot of attention. B&W's new P5 headphones feature an attractive, modern industrial design and sell for a reasonable $250. Also on display were B&W's first multimedia speakers, the MM1.
Cary Audio Design
Cary showed a few interesting new pieces in its suite. Their new music server was paired with a Cary DAC. The server comes with 1TB of on-board storage and can be controlled via iTouch/iPhone with an app written by Cary. I was able to play with the app and found it easy to use. I was even more interested in their new CD303T Professional Version. This $6,500 CD/SACD, can be used as a DAC, transport or player. The USB input can handle 24/192 signals and the output stage can be switched between tube or solid state.
Control4 had a dizzying array of exciting new products in their display that seemed to be able to handle nearly any home automation and control system scenario. Control4 also had a large group of partner manufacturers in their booth, including AV companies, door locks and thermostats. Lastly, Control4 was showing off their new operating system and app store which it is opening up to outside developers.
Denon showed its new S-5BD, a combination Blu-ray player and receiver. This receiver is full featured and will retail for under $2,000.
Kimber did not have any new products on display but revealed that they have a new line of high end cables set for release in the near future. While I can't reveal the details, the design sounds very promising. Ray Kimber was a very gracious, music-loving host in the Isomike suite and put on another great sounding demonstration.
McIntosh showed three new products. The MVP881 is McIntosh's first foray into the Blu-ray player arena and is positioned as a reference grade universal disc player for Blu-ray, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD and CD format discs, among others. The MEN220 is a two-channel room correction unit utilizing Lyngdorf Audio's room correction system. The MX150 AV preamplifier replaces the MX-136 we previously reviewed and will be shipping this month. Lastly, the MXA60 is being billed as an executive or desk top system but this $7,500 system which includes a disc player, amplification and speakers is quite capable of being a primary system in small to moderate sized rooms.
Naim introduced their Uniticute, a compact, all in one audio player. This device does not have its own disc drive but can stream high resolution audio files with its 24/192 capable DAC. The Uniticute can receive music through its onboard FM and Internet radio tuners, integrated iPod dock, USB connection, Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
Onkyo had a room full of static display products. What caught my attention was Onkyo's first AV preamplifier. The preamplifier seemed to have nearly every feature one could imagine, including XLR outputs. Retail is $2,600. Onkyo also displayed a matching 9 channel, 140 watt per channel amplifier and Blu-ray player.
Optoma showed a new line of 3D ready gaming projectors that will ship end of Q1. The two projectors shown, the GT360 and GT720 will retail at $499 and $699 respectively. Additionally, Optoma's HD66 projector is also 3D ready and is aimed at the home theater and will retail at $699. Lastly, Optoma showed two new Pico projectors, the PK201 and PK301 at $299 and $399, respectively. With up to 50 lumens these projectors are much more versatile than the prior generation.
The big draw at the Panasonic booth was their 3D television displays although their 152 inch plasma provided stiff competition. Some material lent itself better than others to this technology but I found some of the clips to be truly immersive. Also on display was a demonstration of Panasonic's new "Infinite Black" technology, which was noticeably improved over Panasonic's already solid performing plasma sets.
Paradigm had a thunderous demonstration anchored by two of their huge new Sub 2 subwoofers. The smaller Sub 1 was on static display next door. Each subwoofer uses six drivers, 8-inch on the Sub 2 and 10-inch on the Sub 1 the drivers are stacked in pairs firing horizontally and separated by 120 degrees around the cabinet perimeter. This configuration is said to reduce distortion and cabinet vibration. These subwoofers feature powerful amplifiers that need a 240v ac line to achieve full power. Despite their large size they possessed the requisite finesse for music reproduction as well as full scale cinema pandemonium. Paradigm also displayed their new Special Edition collection of speakers feature trickle down technology from their reference line of products at affordable prices. Lastly, Paradigm released their new Signature Series v.3 which feature numerous revisions to the prior series said to increase bass/midrange output by 50 percent.
Read from Parasound to Wisdom Audio - CES Show Reports from Brian Kahn on Page 2