Introduction to the CES 2010 – Cynthia Johnson, Managing Editor Reports – Day 1
Well the swine flu has not kept the crowd away at CES. I chatted with a CES groupie who just flew in from Paris…are you kidding me? A group behind me on the shuttle bus heard that the hotels were almost full vs being down 40% last year. Recession or not, the audiophile industry is climbing back up as people are staying in more and enjoying their home theater systems more and more.
The following are some photos taken at 9:30 am right before the show floor opened…
Earthquake was the first booth on the floor in the South Hall. I knew it was Earthquake, from the rumble, even before I saw the guys. Busy as usual, I was able to grab a few photos of their gear along with the typical Earthquake sub-bumping car….pretty spectacular!
Marvel was my next stop to present them with the Secrets of Home Theater Best of 2009 Award for High Definition Video Processing Technology.
Now it is off to SVS to see what those guys are up to…..lots of great stuff I hear!! Then off to see the all of the folks from Thiel. Last stop tonight….Paradigm!!
Not wasting anytime here so I jammed over to The Embassy Suites to meet up with SVS. CEO, Ron Stimpson, and Ed Mullen, VP/COO (previously a Senior Editor for Secrets), were more than happy to show me some of their new goodies. The BOS-TA1 is a 7.1 channel amplifier priced around $1000 that actually exceeds the power of most AV receivers- 250W, 4 0hm (stereo- 150 watt, 8 ohm) This is definitely an item to go on your wish list for Christmas 2010!
Last year I saw the Artisan In-Wall Speaker systems as a prototype….now they are in full production swing and its ‘spouse approved”! They are removable speaker art with magnetic retainers that can be mounted In-wall or On-wall with easy installation. We are talking speakers and subwoofers that are ‘hidden’ by your choice of artwork. Shipping Spring 2010.
Stephen Hornbrook, Writing Staff Reports – Day 1
Well, here I am. This is my first time attending a CES show. Quite an experience so far. After a ridiculously long wait for my credentials (thanks Cynthia!) I took my first steps into the main hall.. I was greated by a massive Microsoft and Intel display.
Nothing too exciting, unless you have never seen Windows 7 or an Xbox 360. However, it was only a few more steps until I saw the first sign of the 3D “revolution”. PC gaming using passive polarized glasses, pretty neat!
Next up was the JVC booth. They were showing off the latest 1080p projectors. the HD950 and HD550.
They had a line of professional 3D 1080p LCD’s that used passive polarized glasses. These are available now, but only for professional use (in other words, expensive 😉 and only used my movie studios when creating the latest 3D movies.
(the guy on the right looks completely miserable. Thanks for photobombing dude!)
JVC also had a special 4K projection demo room where they first showed off their latest 1080p projector. It of course looked great, smooth and detailed with excellent contrast. What really impressed the crowd though, was the 4K demo. JVC had captured some native 4K material and was displaying it on the latest 4K projector. STUNNING! It was very impressive. To end the demo, they showed some IMAX 3D material using 2 4K projectors, one for the left eye and one for the right. This also used the passive polarized glasses. I had a hard time focusing on the different depth of fields and just couldn’t get drawn in to the image. I much prefferred the 2D 4K material. Sorry, no pictures to show off the sweet 4K material!
Next up- the LG booth. They had walls of flat panels everywhere! First thing I noticed were the OLED tv’s though. They are very cool, great image quality and nearly paper thin.
Here is a very good looking LED backlit LCD. Pretty much no bevel and extremely thin.
LG had a few 3D LCD’s using active shutter glasses. They are expected to be available this year. All the high end LED LCDs sport Skype videocalls, 3D-ready support and streaming media from Netflix, VUDU, YouTube, Napster and Yahoo! Widgets.
CES 2010 Day 1 – Part 2
The Panasonic booth was massive and ALL about 3D.
All of Panasonic’s 3D entries were high refresh 1080p plasma displays using active shutter glasses. The glasses are synced through the tv via a wireless signal. I think some were interfering because occasionally the 3D effect was lost.
These are the shutter glasses.. honestly not something I really want to wear for 2 hours, or longer if its a sporting event. I was not blown away by the 3D form panasonic. Some content looked good, while other visuals were just headache-inducing. I think it will be a cool feature to have in addition to an HDTV flat panel with top of the line picture quality, but not a must have feature.
152″ 4K resolution plasma!!!
Panasonic hasn’t completely abandoned LCD yet, they had some excellent LCD’s using IPS panels.
the latest gen plasma TV’s also use quite a bit less power, if that was something keeping you from getting a plasma in the past.
Even better black levels from this year’s models.
The Sharp booth was showing off their new Quadpixel displays. They now feature a yellow pixel in addition to the red green and blue. I can’t say this really made a big difference, but their TV’s certainly looked good. 3D sets from Sharp used active shutter glasses as well.
Stephen Hornbrook, Writing Staff Reports – Day 2
The Samsung booth was by far the most impressive of the show. Massive in scale, and walls covered in displays.
All of Samsung’s 2010 LCD models are now edge-lit and incredibly thin. I was skeptical that they did away with local dimming backlit displays, but the PQ on these edge-lit displays was fantastic.
Samsung had quite a few 3D displays demoing movies and video games. No specific release date, just sometime this year. Expect to pay top dollar for 3D capable sets as they will be the top of the Samsung lineup. All of Samsung’s 3D displays used active shutter tech.
they had a custom version of Gears of War on xbox 360 running. I didn’t think there was much depth to the image though.
Theses small AMOLED displays had great pic quality, they really didn’t need to be in 3D!
Toshiba had some 3D lcd’s as well. Using active shutter, of course. They were also touting their powerful CELL processor (same chip technology as in the Playstation 3). Their latest line of displays had much better black levels than I’ve seen on previous Toshiba’s. The 4K concept display was showing split footage on each side of the screen, but they both looked exactly the same! I’m guessing something wasnt running right.
Toshiba’s 3D blu-ray player
A company called TCL was showing a 3D tv that did not require glasses. Kind of neat, but not practical for home theater. I can see these used for commercial displays.
Sony had a large display with a concert stage featuring American Idol- Kris Allen. Weeeee!! They were showing 3D LCDs with active shutter glasses. Something didn’t seem right to me though, the black levels were garbage and the 3D effect was hard to focus on. It’s possible the glasses were not syncing correctly with the TV. Overall I was the least impressed with the Sony technology.
New Moon compact shelf system!!!! Who wouldn’t want this???
Several lines, like usual, of Sony TVs. All of them looked very good.
Mitsibishi has had 3D-ready models available for a couple years now. They use what they call a checkerboard process, so a small converter box is required to turn bluray sourced 3D into Mits 3D. I actually really liked the 3D from these TV’s. It felt more natural and I could easily focus on whatever plane I chose. Unfortunately I am affected by DLP “rainbows.” They even had a computer game demo of Left4 Dead 2 that was pretty cool. Playing off a cheap PC with DVI to HDMI converter.
Piero Gabucci, Senior Editor Reports – Day 2 and 3
From the Venetian for high-end audio…
There is no better place to start coverage of CES 2010 than in the Paradigm/Anthem room on the 30th floor of the Venetian Towers. Why? Their demo is unrivalled.
Anthem showed the new $799 MSRP Blu-Ray player, the BLX 200. Built-in processing of the new codex and multi channel PCM via HDMI and 1 GB of built in memory.
Subs are everything it seems, the Sub 12-12″ driver has 3,400 watts of dynamic power and 1,700 continuous.
Mark Aling holding the 10″ driver of the monocoque exterior Seismic 110, with 2,550 watts dynamically and 1,500 continuous.
Expect some really great surprises from Anthem in the coming months leading up to CEDIA.
Wisdom Audio does in-wall as good as anyone. The Sage Series, although shown they are meant to be hidden behind a screen. The L100i L/R and C150i are planar magnetic line array 50″ high. Add 8-woofer array drivers powered by a 500-watt amplifier. The cost may be prohibitive for most of us, but the demonstration was spectacular.
Polk has responded to the market with a convenient surround rear speaker for left and right in one unit. Capable of wireless called the F/X, it can be placed behind a sofa, the $500 unit compliments a surround bar and/or in-wall/in-ceiling situations.
Wadia is finally ready to ship the $1,195, 151PowerDac mini. Upsampling to 24-bit/384kHz it accepts 24-bit/192kHz data. 25 watts into 8 ohm, or 50 watts into 4 ohm with 4 digital inputs, this is a stunning piece and would make any audiophile drool.
Day 3 CES 2010 – Piero Gabucci
…and more from the Venetian..
Introduced a short time ago, the Master Series M2 Direct Digital amplifier from NAD. I’d heard the M2 when it was first brought out and it sounded outstanding. At $5,999 it may be the last amp you buy for awhile.
These are still some of the most stylish table-top radios I’ve ever seen. Fidelity of course to match.
Anthony Gallo has a dedicated following and he’s very excited about Reference Strada. A pair of cylindrical diaphragm transducers with a 180 degree dispersion and two 4″ drivers make up the stand or wall mounted design.
Michael Creek is doing some amazing things with digital from programmable phono stages like the Wyndsor phono preamp, that stores multiple configurations for cartridge type and a variety of parameters. At $1,750 it’s very much in line with comparable phono stages.
His new full-sized Epos Encore 50 speakers are both passive and active and can be modified on the fly. The crossovers cabinet in the base allows access to make adjustments. Custom DACs are available for this stunning $9,995 speaker.
Creek introduced the new Evolution 5350 amplifier at $1,795. Although a 2-channel amp, it can integrate into a theater setup for direct input from a receiver or pre/pro.
A very pleasant chat with Israel Blume of this All-Canadian company that manufacturers everything at home, amazingly at far-east prices.
The built quality is stunning of both his speakers, the $9,499 Super Victory speakers (93 db sensitivity).
The polished new Statement phono stage with separate power supply. It sells for $5,499.
Driving the system was the Dragon 211P push-pull mono 80 watt amps at $8,999 for the pair.
This system called Perfect 8 from Swedish manufacturer Perfect Technologies looks right at home in stylish Las Vegas. Stunning glass and stainless steel and gold adorn this package from The Force tower speaker with continuous ribbon tweeters, to the cube stand-mounted units and hidden glass subs. I didn’t ask the price.
Start-up company from Chicago, I was blown away by what was done with a small 3″ driver. It doesn’t take much to drive the 8 ohm speaker that runs $2,650 per pair. More are on the way, but wow, this was a great start.
Cary Audio Design
Probably boasted as the most expensive setup I listened to. At $167,700 this is serious hardware. My impression was a bit conservative, yet full and clean.
ADA, Audio Design Associates and RBH speakers
One of the best demos was from a friend in Richard Stoerger VP and COO of ADA. They were showing a new standalone room eq system from Trinnov Audio.
It includes a 4-point microphone, software and a component that did amazing things in the room.
The software stores all kinds of information and makes corrections. Rbh speakers yielded impressive sound from ADA’s Suite 7.1 processor while the projector from Avielo rounded out this impressive suite.
I was glad to run into Mark O’Brien of Rogue Audio. I still regret returning the Perseus preamp I reviewed. We’re looking to arrange something else but shown is the new Hera II Reference Preamp at $7,995.
The room sounded great pushing Wilson Sophia speakers driven by Rogue Audio’s Apollo tube monoblocks at $10,000 per pair.
I was jealous when he said he was taking the system home.
Merrill Williams Audio
I was happy to run into a very nice George Merrill who had me drooling over his new turntable that sounded great feeding Quad speakers. He uses lots of elastomer and rubber to isolate sound transmission. At $3,595 it’s very affordable for a turntable of this caliber.
Ross Jones, Senior Editor Reports – Day 3
I looked, mostly in vain, for front projectors. The display side of CES revolved around 3D, with wall after wall of flat screens showing various 3D technologies.
However, I did get an extensive look at Emotiva’s much anticipated UMC-1 pre-pro. The UMC-1 is now shipping, priced at an amazing introductory price of $699. Also shown is the UPA-7 power amp, seven channels x 125 watts, also for $699.
The UMC-1 has five HMDI inputs, and uses Faroudja’s top-of-the-line video processing suite, which upconverts to 1080p/60 Hz, and passes through a 24 fps signal. The UMC-1 has all the latest codecs, including Dolby Volume.
The back panel includes a balanced subwoofer out, and USB connection for flash updates. Yes, those are Emotiva cables.
A really nice feature is an OSD that identifies the input audio format, sample rate, and active speaker channels. A similar status button displays post-processing applied to the signal. No more squinting to look at the pre-pro display to figure out what it’s doing (the front panel display is dimmable all the way to full off, and the OSD has variable opacity all the way to off).
The UMC-1 uses Emotiva’s EmoQ for speaker calibration and equalization. Unlike other auto-EQ solutions, the UMC-1 allows you to see what EQ has been applied to each channel, and then allows the user manually tweak the auto-EQ to their preference with an 11 band equalizer for each channel. You can’t tell from the picture below (bad photographer!), but that’s the EQ for the subwoofer channel, with EQ bands running from 22 to 224 Hz.
With that combination of price and features, I expect the UMC-1 will sell like hotcakes.
Dolby showed off its various technologies, including the new ProLogic IIz, or height channel, codec. ProLogic IIz is available in certain in Sony and Marantz receivers, and most of the Onkyo and Denon lines (except for their entry-level priced receivers). Shown are the Onkyo TX-NR807, Sony STR-DN 1010, Denon AVR-4310-CI, and Marantz SR-6004.
Unlike CEDIA, where virtually everything is under one roof, CES is spread around many locations in Las Vegas, all requiring a shuttle bus or taxi ride. Sounds easy, but leaving the main convention hall on Thursday night, we estimated the line at the taxi stand at about 300 people!
Piero Gabucci, Senior Editor Reports – Warp-Up
Sunday is travel day for me and I leave exhausted from the show having missed more than I hoped. This is both positive and frustrating as it seems CES 2010 has regained some energy it lacked the last several outings. Frustrating because the crowds bring longer lines and more traffic.
As my concentration on 2-channel audio took me almost exclusively through the floors at the Venetian, I’m impressed by the overall built quality of equipment and especially speakers – a whole lot of value out there producing excellent sound: Definitive Technologies with their wonderful sounding flat speaker Mythos XTR-50 is very promising.
Atlantic Technology’s deep bass output H-PAS floorstanding speaker will soon be available for about $2,000 per pair, wow!
KEF was impressive with the Concept Blade one-off speaker with their 10th generation Uni-Q driver array. I’m very interested in the trickle down on that one.
Audio equipment too continues to provide incredible features at better values. Onkyo’s “THX stack” with the first ever pre/pro and Blu-ray player would make any home theater amazing.
Digital is here and Wadia’s mini power DAC is the future along with newly introduced music servers from the likes of McIntosh and Meridian’s Sooloos.
And finally on a sad note of interest was the memorial for Jim Thiel that was very well attended. Ironically right next door the legend of Thiel Audio lives on in their booth with their superb CS3.7’s. Thiel was known for his meticulous record keeping and by surrounding himself with some great people like Thiel Co-owner and President Kathy Gornik who was there from the beginning.
So we leave Las Vegas with some trepidation and cautious optimism. I do take a healthy outlook on the coming year, although I don’t believe we’ll return anytime soon to pre-recession buying. I give credit to the manufacturers who bravely drudge on in the audio world. It only proves how passionate this industry is and has been and I’m thrilled to be part of it.