Stephen Hornbrook Show Coverage
Panasonic PT-AE8000 which has been available for a couple months, and a new “lamp-free” model that uses hybrid LED/Laser for its light source and a DLP chip. It is not geared towards the home theater crowd though. Neither were being demo’d.
another photo showing the incredible black levels on the new ZT series plasma. This was a long exposure!
Curved OLED displays were also being showed off. Very cool! too bad just prototypes This one is from Sharp.
Sharp had a small 4K OLED screen as well that was mind blowing. give me a laptop with one of these please.
A few more pics from the Sony booth. They really were all about 4K this show.
another of the OLED display, photos just don’t do it justice.
Hisense, a Chinese company, is looking to be a power player with the likes of Samsung and LG with a full range of products from Ultra HD panels to home appliances. Look for their TV’s to be more affordable than the competition and available at Walmart, Costco and Sams Club. They were showing off a 4K 110″ that looked good.
Also they had a full LED array backlit LCD that looked to have some impressive black levels and contrast. The most LED’s used in a backlight array so far (576 I believe)
Here is there DLP based Laser table top projector. very short throw.
Hisense Wall mount projector
Business/presentation geared Projector.
And now a few more pics from the schwanky Samsung booth
Chris and I attended a couple meetings in the morning, one to see the new Parasound CD1 that is essentially a linux based PC that loads and buffers CD data in order to prevent errors as well as jitter. It sounded great paired with some JC1’s and Kef reference speakers. This could easily be the last CD player you ever buy. I also finally got to see the new black finish for the Halo gear and boy is it sexy.
Up next was a demo of the new Thiel 1.7 speakers which just so happened to be my favorite sound of the day. diana krall’s voice was so three dimensional and lifted away from the speakers my ears were in heaven.
we also had a wonderful D-Box presentation featuring the Kaleidescape media server, massive curved Stewart screen, Triad gold and silver speakers, and D-Box motion chairs. That was my first experience with D-Box and i was quite surprised. The effect on The Dark Knight Rises was quite interesting and I can definitely see it adding more to the experience. I will have to look more into home theater seating with D-Box.
Revel’s beautiful new performa 3 series
A lovely JBL and Mark Levinson system
bryston model T speakers, dual woofer, dual midrange and something you don’t often see, dual tweeter.
To demonstrate how far headphone banding has gone, Ferrari has a line of headphones made by logic3. The design is inspired by the sports car and is indeed beautiful, but the audio performance does not quite live up to the automobile’s legacy.
I was able to test out RBH’s new in-ear speakers as well and they had some powerful taught bass and great sound isolation. In a noisy room with people talking right next to me, I could hear nothing but the music. I should have a review of these new RBH EP2 puppies soon.
Also on the headphone front: new colors for PSB’s excellent M4U 1 and 2, an NAD design similar to the M4U1, Paradigm noise isolating and a pair of active noise cancelling, and a pair of velodyne over the ears.
sweet Red PSB
Big sound on this NAD all in one player with one model even featuring Airplay, great for ease of use.
Day 2 started out with a press breakfast with HiFiMAN. Fang Bian introduced their new HM-901 portable player, shipping soon. It has been four years in the making and has an impressive spec sheet. The HM-901 features two ES9018 DAC chips capable of unparalleled sound quality in a portable device. Especially interesting to me was its ability to load and stream music via WiFi. This allows you to easily take advantage of the advanced DAC chips inside. Also on display was a new set of in-ear monitors, the RE-400 Waterline. These were incredibly light and featured an 8.5mm Titanium Diaphragm, Neodymium Magnet, and OFC Copper cabling. We will have a review of these soon. Fang continues to supply the headphone/portable market with innovative, high performance gear.
Next up was Sharp. Along with the other big companies, Sharp was showing off 4K TV sets that are coming to market later this year. No prices announced yet.
They have a new feature that allows you to split the screen into half TV and half internet browser. Why they had to focus on RGIII’s knee is beyond me.
Their Aquos line is up to 90″ now and certainly looks better than ever.
Toshiba also had 4K sets available soon for an unknown price. THey were at least showing native 4K content shot on RED gear.
They were also very excited about their new cloud service which allows for new apps and content on the fly and the ability to share data like a calendar across (toshiba) devices.
regular old non-4K Toshiba TV lineup
Finally, legendary running back Barry Sanders was at the Monster booth to promote their products. Pretty neat to see him in person.
Also around the show was Will.i.am
The theme for CES 2013 is officially… 4k! Super high resolution displays have displaced 3D as the hot new thing. Easily hands down the most impressive thing at the show so far has got to be Sony’s 4K OLED display.
It had the best picture quality I have ever seen, unfortunately it is still in the prototype stage. Interestingly enough, Panasonic also had an OLED with strikingly similar specs. They may share some components with the Sony but they assured me they were different panels. It also looked beautiful.
Also at Panasonic was a new line of plasma displays including a new ZT60 with reference level blacks. It looked amazing. The ST60 looks like a nice replacement for the ST50 but gone from the line up is the GT.
here you can see the incredible black levels compared to last years model
Back at the Sony booth they added 55 and 65 inch 4k LED lit LCD sets to last years 84″ model. The detail was staggering and the effect was quite impressive.. provided you sit just a few feet from the screen. Still, overall picture quality regardless of the increased resolution was very impressive. They were also showing off what they call Trilumos which adds a wider color gamut for a theoretical larger palette. The demo of course made the colors more vivid and lifelike but we are a bit skeptical about the tech. It could have been a case of a tweaked demo to exaggerate a point. Overall I was impressed with Sony’s products this year and personally enjoy the 4K push a lot more than the 3D push.
detailed text on sony 4K
Speaking of 3D, it is all but dead here at this years CES.
Over at Samsung, they were showing off their Living Gallery design using massive 4K panels. Its an interesting approach, certainly the picture quality was stunning. The rest of the LCD lineup hasn’t changed a whole lot, just incremental improvements. The new Series 8 plasma had wonderful blacks and an interesting design. We look forward to testing it out. Samsung is still committed to plasma which is good to hear.
series 8 plasma
Coverage starts in less than a week! We get to find out the mysterious new display from Samsung that looks more like a picture frame than a TV..
Chris Heinonen Show Coverage
CES 2013 Wrap-Up
Coming into CES 2013 I wasn’t overly excited by what I was going to see. OLED panels really excited me last year, but then they didn’t ship, which probably dampened my enthusiasm, and many of the rumored items before the show were things that were either way past the price range of most readers, or technologies like 4K that I think aren’t quite there yet. Despite that, I came away from CES with a few things that I really did like.
My favorite products were the high-end plasma displays from Panasonic and Samsung. While OLED might be better, these are displays that most of us can probably afford, and you can get them in sizes larger than 55″ as well. The Samsung was demonstrated under much worse conditions than the Panasonic, but the black levels and light output were much improved from last year it looked like, and a source told me that the light output was really far better than before. The screen also did a very good job of attenuating reflections, which combined with the higher light output should make the plasma a wonderful choice for a living room as well as a theater room.
In a dark room the Panasonic ZT60 was really phenomenal. The improved black levels and better red phosphor were evident when seen next to the VT50 from last year, which was already the best TV out there many people think. The larger colorspace also ensures that you can have enough saturation from every color when using the internal CMS or an external processor like a Lumagen to get the best possible image. The new bonded panel looks to be a real winner, though the price has gone up by $500-1,000 they suggested, and we will have to try to get one in for testing to see how well it really does perform.
4K displays were literally everywhere, but with the lack of content and the limitations of HDMI right now (only 30 frames per second for native 4K content and no native 3D 4K), as well as none of the 4K displays seemingly taking advantage of the larger gamut offered by the draft UHD specification, it seems to be something that will be better to buy in another year or two. Of course the 4K content looks great, but when I’d back up to a more reasonable distance I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between 1080p and 4K content.
The one exception to this was the 32″ Sharp 4K LCD that is meant for computer use. Using IGZO technology, which allows for smaller pixels as well as faster response times, 4K makes a lot of sense for a desktop display as you can see more data or have clearer fonts and images. The IGZO technology can also find its way to OLED and regular 1080p displays, providing them with benefits beyond just resolution. Priced at $7,000 it targets industries like CAD/CAM and Architects, but this kind of pixel density might be the future with technology like IGZO. The question for home theaters is if we will be close enough to our displays for it to matter.
On the audio side, I really liked the new Thiel 1.7 speakers. I was always a huge fan of the 2.4s from Thiel and the 1.7 slots right into that price point. I didn’t get a chance to listen to the content that I’m more familiar with on them at the show, as they were using the new Bryston DAC and media server, but hopefully I will have a pair in house soon for a review so I can see how they perform. With matching center channel and surround speakers available, they could make for a very nice home theater setup as well.
There was also a lot of vinyl at the show, but also the CD1 CD player from Halo that was very interesting. Aiming to be your last CD player ever, if it provides the improvements in data retrieval and timing that it claims to, it just may be your final disc player. My favorite audio product was probably the Olive One music player. After Logitech killed off the Squeezebox Touch, and Sonos still won’t support anything beyond 16/44.1 audio, there is a big gap in there for a high resolution, affordable music player. The Olive One offers 24/192-file support, 32 WPC for two speakers, a really nice interface and design, and the option for a hard drive to store your whole library. If it lives up to the demo, I see myself buying a few for around the house, paired up with something like the Golden Ear Aon 2 bookshelf.
With all the things to cover there was a ton that I didn’t get to, and so there are more details below on those items. As exhausting as 3 days of CES is, you really could cover it for a week and not see everything there is, and there is THE Show at the nearby Flamingo Hotel that has products from many other audio companies that aren’t at CES. In the end, while much of the focus from CES will be on 4K/UHD displays, far more impressive to me were the updated plasma displays offering amazing picture quality we can afford, and I can’t wait to test them out.
In the Venetian, Rega was showing their brand new RP8 turntable, with its new skeletal body design and structure. $3,000 without a cartridge, and $4,000 with the MC Apheta cartridge installed. The tonearm is their new RB808 model, the plinth is constructed of magnesium and phenolic, and the platter is a three-piece laminated glass construction. Listening a bit in the room I heard a lot of good things and nothing bad (the pops and crackles that many associate with vinyl were absent here) as Rega targets a higher end market than they typically do. The are supposed to have an even higher-end RP10 coming this year, which I’m certainly interested to see how it looks.
Pro-Ject had their new Phono Box RS, their reference piece in phono stages. With single ended and balanced outputs, but more importantly a wide range of adjustments for loading and gain are available to the user, and able to be adjusted without resorting to dip switches. For those looking to find the optimal setup for their cartridge and turntable combination, or want to make it easier to experiment with different settings, the Phono Box RS makes it nice and easy. Selling for just under $1,000, the Phono Box RS is available now.
Martin Logan was showing off prototypes of their new subwoofers, the Balanced Force 210 and 212. With a pair of opposed 10″ or 12″ woofers, hence the model numbers, these replace the long standing Depth and Descent subwoofers. Compared to those models they feature larger drivers, though only two as opposed to three, but also feature the Perfect Bass Kit that has migrated over to Martin Logan from Paradigm and Anthem. The high level of adjustability that was in the Depth and Decent models has been carried over as well. Shipping for these should be later this year, with prices not set at this time but likely in the range of the models they will replace.
Onkyo also entered the headphone market at CES, with their over-ear ES-HF300 and ES-FC300 models. Both models utilize 40mm titanium drivers as well as ported bass chambers for a wide frequency response. The main difference in the two models seems to be the quality of the cable, as the HF300 models run for $179 while the FC300s come in at $149. A quick listen in the noisy Gibson tent showed they were nice performers, with a much better sound than many other headphones I heard at the show. They should be out in Q1 of this year.
Peachtree Audio was showing off their new novaPre and matching Peachtree220 amplifier. The novaPre is a new preamp that is strictly two channel, but breaks away from the analog-only mold as many other companies did this CES as well. It maintains the tube stage that Peachtree is well known for, but adds a SABRE DAC with 4 digital inputs (USB, Optical, 2x Coaxial) to take advantage of it. The only thing missing that I like to see is a Home Theater Bypass for those that want to integrated their stereo and home theater systems. The Peachtree220 is a stereo, 220 watts per channel amplifier of a Class D design. If you step up to 4 ohms the power moves up to 400 watts per channel, giving you enough reserve for even highly demanding loads. Paired with the novaPre you get plenty of power in reserve, and the bit of tube sound in the preamp that so many people love.
CES 2013 Day 3
After missing the Venetian last year and all of the high-end audio, I made sure to block off a lot of time today to see what was there. First up was the DBox-Kalidescape-Triad-Stewart-ADA-etc… demo room. With a giant screen, a Digital Projection projector, incredibly comfortable seats, and great sound, this was a demo to get to. Watching clips from a few films, including one with motion in the seats, was a great way to start the day out, and a really amazing show of what you can do. It’s beyond my means to install in my home, but it’s a target to aim for, or at least I need some better chairs.
Next I visited Parasound to hear their new CD1 CD Player. I know the idea of a new CD player now seems very quaint, but talking to Parasound’s president Richard Schram gave me an idea of what they were after. Using a Sony transport and a custom, Linux-based platform, every bit is read from the CD at least two times before it is played back. Using a 40 second buffer, if those two reads aren’t identical, then it can be re-read until it determines the correct value for that spot, instead of just using the standard error correction method that other CD players use.
This bitstream is then kept in the RAM of the PC, allowing for more precise clocking than a conventional player can offer. It only uses a single DAC for the stereo channels, as using separate DACs introduces another area for timing errors to occur. They were one of the few people to let me pick from a wide variety of music, letting me sample some Radiohead that I was very familiar with. The player and electronics sounded superb, and for those with a large CD collection like myself, it offers a way to get more value out of your existing music instead of having to re-buy the whole collection again.
Bryston and Thiel had a room together where Bryston was showing off their updated DAC and digital music transport. The largest improvement in their digital transport, in my opinion, was the ability to use a NAS system over Ethernet instead of requiring all the music to be directly connected via USB. They were also showing their Model T loudspeakers that are becoming available. They come in multiple configurations: A regular version with an internal crossover, a version with an external crossover to allow for tri-wiring, and an ultimate version that uses their new external DSP to tri-amp all three channels. They suggested their 6B SST2 amplifier, which offers 3×200 WPC, for that version. The Model T performs just as well at 90 dB as it does at 110 dB, letting you listen loud or quiet with the best possible performance.
Thiel was showing the new 1.7 loudspeaker, which sells for $5,490 a pair and begins shipping this month. It has a metal midrange/bass driver, similar to those utilized on their 3.7 and 2.7 speakers, with a front bass port as well. Listening to them, vocals were clear and guitars sounded great, with a very natural, clear sound to everything despite the challenging room they were placed in. A review of these should be coming up from us in the future.
On the advice of another writer in the Thiel room, I then headed straight for the Magico room to hear the new S1 speaker. A two way speaker utilizing their own custom drivers that retails for $12,600, the Magico looks very ordinary on the initial viewing, but listening proved it wasn’t any other speaker. I wish they had cranked the Constellation amplifiers a bit more, but piano coming out of them sounded incredibly realistic and natural. Notes were full and detailed, and didn’t have the thinness or edginess that piano so often has from recordings. It’s not a speaker most of us can ever hope to afford, but it’s one that I would love to spend more time listening to.
Wisdom Audio is usually at CEDIA so I’ve had a good chance to listen to their speakers, but never their reference line source LS4s, on wall models driven by D’Agostino amplifiers. A pair of these with the required active crossovers sells for $107,500 so they are possibly the most expensive on-wall speakers out there, but did they ever leave an impression. Using their planar array the music was incredibly fast, with seemingly instant response time from those panels. When they switched to an electronica track, they provided that concert experience of a wall of sound coming at you, but they were incredibly clear and detailed the whole time. This was my favorite audio of the show, even though it’s far past what I can ever hope to afford.
I made a trip to the WiSA room, where they offered up another demonstration of their wireless audio technology that should be out in stores this year. This demonstration was using a set of Klipsch speakers, as well as a Sharp Blu-ray player, but in this case everything was wireless. The Sharp used the WiHD standard (60 GHz, like the DVDO Air) to stream to the display, and it had the internal transmitter for the WiSA speakers as well, so it was sending the audio to those. The Blu-ray player just sat on the table the entire time. Despite all of the wireless signals going around the Venetian, there wasn’t a single hiccup or dropout in the audio or the video for this demo, which is really impressive. For people that want to add better sound to their system, but don’t want to run a bunch of wiring, the WiSA solution looks to be a nice one once products start to come out this year.
GoldenEar was in the Venetian showing off their new Triton Seven loudspeaker. A floorstander, but with passive radiators instead of active subwoofers, it features a pair of 5.25″ bass/midrange drivers and their folded ribbon tweeter. Selling for $700 each, the Triton Seven did a very nice job with a Pink Floyd cut, bringing across the feel of the recording space, a large soundstage and some very decent bass response. It couldn’t plumb the depths like the larger Triton One and Two can, but it did a remarkable job for a speaker in its price range.
There were some more things from the LVCC that I wanted to cover as well. BenQ was showing off a couple new projectors: The W1070 and W1080. They are both DLP based, table top projectors that offer 3D, ISFccc calibration controls, and more. The 1080 is a short-throw model that can be placed very close to the screen while the 1070 is a more traditional model for table top or ceiling mounted. They are available now and we should have one coming in for review very soon.
Panasonic had their AE8000U projector on display, though not showing any image. An update of their popular AE7000U model that launched last year, it is an LCD projector that offers 3D, lens memory, and greatly improved lumen output from the previous model. Panasonic is also showing their own LED+Laser projector, which seems to be one of the hot new things that everyone is trying to do now. All of these use Red and Blue LEDs, along with a Blue laser that excites a Green pigment to create the full RGB spectrum.
CES 2013 Day 2
Heading over to SIM2 they were showing off their new Fuoriserie projector. Based on the SIM2 Lumis Solo projector, it is more of a bespoke version with higher-powered lamps and even better lenses than standard. They are only producing 30 of them, but it certainly looked nice in person. I won’t be getting one of these in for review unfortunately, but the Lumis platform that it is based off of should be arriving sometime soon to see how it fares in my room.
This was also in the SIM2 booth, though not from them. I really have no idea who makes it as I had to run off for another meeting, but with an integrated turntable and CD player, it certainly looked interesting.
Sharp was showing off their 4K displays, though without pricing available for them. They are already shipping in Japan so they will be here soon, but probably around mid-year. One 4K display that is also already shipping in Japan is their 32″ 4K display using IGZO technology. Here you can see a shot of how much detail there is on a 4K display, and how detailed it looks up close. IGZO promises tighter pixels, faster refresh rates, and a better overall image than current LCD technology.
Sharp was showing off their regular displays as well, which have a new split-screen mode that allow you to watch something while having a web browser up at the same time. What was nice about this is that the browser supports Flash and HTML 5, so streaming sites like ESPN3 will play on the Sharp displays. All Sharp LCDs are now LED lit, which the 7 series and 8 series all feature their Quattron technology..
Toshiba also has a line of 4K TVs in a variety of sizes. They had native 4K content playing on some of them courtesy of RED and their upcoming RedRay player. There was a side-by-side demo of 4K upconversion vs. 1080p, but it seemed the 1080p was overly soft, and there was a lot of visible edge enhancement on the 4K one that really distracted. They did have a really nice looking TV guide on their new sets that is much better than the standard guide.
Panasonic had changed around their line of plasmas this year, removing the U and GT series and creating a new high-end series, the ZT60. The main improvements were in the VT and ZT lines, where there is a new red phosphor that allows for a truer shade of red, as well as 98% of the DCI colorspace, which is a far larger colorspace than sRGB. Panasonic has also teamed up with SpectraCal, the makers of CalMAN, so you can pull these color points back into the sRGB space to have accurate color for current content. The black levels also looked fantastic on the new ZT60. In a demo of last years VT50 and the new ZT60, set just to cinema mode out of the box, the ZT60 has a much more pure red and a much lower black level, with better detail and almost none of the sub-pixel flicker that you can see on plasma when you are close. I imagine the ZT60 will compete for the reference display we can actually afford.
Very interesting to me was a new app from Panasonic for their TVs that let you adjust the calibration from an iOS or Android device. You can choose a color space, adjust the 10-point grayscale, gamma, CMS, and everything else from your tablet. The huge advantage here is calibrating without any menus on the screen that can lead to incorrect readings from the screen, as happens with many displays. I really want to see how well that works as it can make the life of a calibrator like myself much easier.
LG was showing their OLED TV that begins to ship in the first quarter of this year for $12,000. Unfortunately the content was a bit of CG-looking stuff that makes it hard to judge picture quality, but the colors were vivid and the blacks looked very good. Once we can actually see our regular content on it and measure it we can really judge how it looks. You can also see from the side profile just how thin it is.
LG was also showing a LED-Laser hybrid projector, but unlike the other models this was a very short throw model that goes right up against the wall and can do a 100″ image from that close. Estimated price was around $10,000, but when the competing short-throw Runco projector is almost $20,000 we will have to see how the LG performs as it might be a nice option for some people.
Finally LG has their 4K TVs that are coming out this year as well. The 84″ model is available now and sells for under $20,000, while the 55″ and 65″ models have prices and ship dates that are TBA (everything at CES was TBA it seems). These have the same benefits and flaws of other UHD TVs, but with LGs commitment to passive 3D it means you should be able to watch 3D in full 1080p resolution on them without the eyestrain that often accompanies active 3D for many people.
Finally I got to see the Olive One player, which Olive has been promoting with crowd-funding at IndieGoGo the past month. This was the item I might be most excited about, as the $400 box has a stereo 32 WPC amplifier, a gorgeous aluminum and glass case, and a wonderful interface for listening to all of your music. You can also install your own hard drive (or order one with it installed) and also keep all of your music on it. Their software fill find your iTunes library and other music and migrate it over for you, making the job very simple while keeping all of your metadata correct. This comes out in July, though models can be ordered now though their IndieGoGo site.
Tomorrow, more from the Las Vegas Convention Center and some from the Venetian.
CES started on Monday afternoon for me as I landed in Las Vegas and headed straight over to see what was new from Vizio. The main new TV attraction was their UHD display, an 84″ 3820×2160 model that currently has no price but is due out later this year. It is LED edge lit with a few zones and watching custom 4K content provided by Dreamworks it looked very good in person. When asked about my concerns with 4K, including the lack of an HDMI standard that supports more than 30 frames per second at 4K or 3D, they indicated that they would have either a dual HDMI solution or try to utilize the new HDMI standard if it is completed in time.
Vizio also had a large selection of new sound bars available to listen to. I was a big skeptic of the sound bar before I had one in for review, but my wife made it clear that I need to find one to use for our living room. The lower end model from Vizio is simply a 2.0 version, but the higher end models are full 5.1 systems with wireless subwoofers than run the surrounds from the subwoofer itself to make installation easier. The highest end model also has an HDMI input and output and can handle TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio codecs. Vizio is nice enough to include all the cables you need in the box, so you don’t have to run out and find a Toslink or RCA to 3.5mm cable before you can hook up your sound bar.
Sony has a new selection of 4K displays including 55″ and 65″ models, but prices on those are not known yet. One of the displays was showing a newspaper to demonstrate how much detail there could be in true 4K content. If you pressed your face up close to the display then you could read the words of the newspaper, but as soon as you went to a more reasonable viewing position those words were no longer readable, much like they would be on a 1080p display of the same size. 4K certainly looks fantastic in person, but I think a lot of that is how close you usually have to stand to a display at a trade show. Sony also has their Tri-Luminous lighting system for their higher end displays this year. This has a much larger gamut than Rec 709 traditionally does, and allows for shades of blue and green that you can’t get on a display typically.
Of course, no content uses this gamut and often when you have too large of a gamut, it leads to everything being very oversaturated and having eye-popping colors where they should really be muted. Sony gave an explanation as to how they deal with this, but it didn’t make much sense to me and we will have to wait until we can test one out to see how it works in real life.
One thing that was really cool to see from Sony was a prototype 4K content delivery system. Current owners of their 84″ 4K display have been given a server for their systems with 10 movies pre-loaded on it for them, but their 4K projector and their new 55″ and 65″ models don’t have this. This new system will replace that server, and will also have a way to send new movies to customers, though that method isn’t decided upon yet. Compatibility with other vendors wasn’t detailed either, though if it uses HDMI 1.4 I see no reason it wouldn’t work fine.
One thing I thought did look cool was the speakers on the side of the new 4K sets. Instead of being hidden on the back or behind a grill, they were molded into the sides of the set, making it appear to almost not be there, but up close they had a very distinctive look that was quite striking.
Sony was showing true 4K content from the World Cup on these sets, but I think this actually was a bad idea and shows the problem with 4K sets right now. Since HDMI 1.4 doesn’t have a full 4K spec in it, the fastest you can do motion with 4K resolution is 30 frames per second and not the usual 60. Because of this, the motion of the soccer ball was very choppy and clearly worse than you would see at 60p. A new HDMI revision should fix this, but that hasn’t been announced yet, and we have no idea if sets can be upgraded to that either. I think this is why most 4K demos stick to 24p films or custom scenes of nature without much fast movement typically.
The prototype 4K OLED from Sony was just amazing. Incredibly detailed, perfect motion and viewing angles, amazing black levels, just everything you want OLED to be. You couldn’t get that close to it, and it’s just a demo unit so don’t plan on seeing it anytime soon, but OLED can’t get here soon enough.
Samsung has their new living gallery framed TVs on display, which look really striking in person. They look like the kind of set I would put in my house, if my house was totally redecorated by someone and I lived in a wonderful loft overlooking the city that I always see on TV. It really looked quite stunning, but it also looks like it is at a perfect height for my kids to run up to it and attack it. No pricing was available on these yet.
Samsung also showed their new F8500 plasma series, which is their new reference line and coming out early this year in 51″, 60″ and 64″ models. With a new integrated stand, greatly reduced reflections, and black levels that looked better than the E8000 I reviewed this year, I really can’t wait to see what these do in person. It’s not new or fancy tech, but it’s still the best tech we have for displays at home for a reasonable price.
Samsung also has a curved OLED display as a demo, and their own 55″ OLED display that will be out this year they say. The price and date are not known, just like last year, but hopefully they go quick to keep up with LG.
Samsung was showing off how their PC monitors are calibrated at the factory to correct grayscale, gamut, gamma, and uniformity. I haven’t tested one of these yet, but I wish all display vendors could do these for their TVs.
HiSense is a name we don’t really know yet, but they’re trying to make a big mark in the USA as well. Their 110″ UHD display looked very good as you would expect, but I was more interested in their 65″ backlit array LED display. With over 570 controlled zones (the Elite LCD has under 400 I believe) you should get very black backgrounds without haloing, and it has a full CMS as well, for what they said was close to half the price of the comparable Elite. I’d really like to see this in person and find out how it performs, as the demo material they were using was less than great.
Most of the main convention center is video related, but Sony was showing off matching center and bookshelf models of the high end SS-AR1 loudspeaker. I didn’t see anything about pricing or availability, but with the raves that the SS-AR1 received, I really want to see if they can extend this to a full home theater setup.
Finally, Sennheiser was showing off their classic Orpheus amplifier and headphone set, but with a really nice turntable driving them. It was nice to see such a nice source at the LVCC and not just in the Venetian, and it sounded wonderful on the headphones. They were almost too revealing of groove noise on the table it seemed.
Starting next week, Las Vegas will be overrun by everything that is new in Home Theater and Home Audio, in addition to all that is new in computers, headphones, personal electronics, flying gadgets you see on kiosks at the mall, massage chairs, and really anything that uses electricity. We will keep the focus on home theater and audio for you and cover what will be there.
Last year we saw OLED debut and then never go on sale. LG finally put their $10,000, 55″ OLED display, seen above, on sale in South Korea last week so we expect to get US sale dates and prices at the show, as well as a look at the final design. Samsung also has their OLED display but still no information on when we can buy it so hopefully that comes out as well. One nice surprise last year was the CrystalLED tech demo from Sony, but with no idea if it can be a marketable product or not. They have announced a partnership with Panasonic but the details of that are still somewhat unknown and if they will have an OLED to show as well. Hopefully we start to see these shipping in the first quarter of this year.
With OLED proving to be hard to produce, everyone is rushing to produce their own UltraHD (aka 4K) sets. With 84″ models now available from LG and Sony for $18,000 and up, they are priced well past OLED and what we are likely to buy. Now we’re seeing some of the non-major companies, like Westinghouse and Hisense, announcing 4K models for CES and LG announcing models as small as 55″ for the show. With the benefits of 4K at 55″ not being much past 4-5′ away from the screen, I’m not really sure of the benefits here except for passive 3D with full 1080p resolution. 4K projectors are what I’d really like to see where the image size and distance could provide benefits, but those are more likely to come out at CEDIA.
The real issue with 4K is the total lack of content unless you buy from Sony. Red has announced Red Ray, that will do 4K on a disc, but I’ve not seen any content from them yet. I also don’t expect to see a new disc format yet beyond that with wide 4K support as we also need a new HDMI specification for 4K 3D, 60p 4K and more before we can have a disc. Hopefully some more details will be talked about with all the 4K displays there, but I’m not expecting it.
On the audio side, one area that’s very exciting to me is the proliferation of turntables in the $1,000-1,500 price range. I reviewed the Clearaudio Concept in 2011 and really loved it, and since then we have seen the RP3 and RP6 from Rega, the Traveler from VPI, and now the Ingenium from AVID in this price area. All of these turntables feature technology that comes down from their higher-end models to hit a really nice price for consumers. Hopefully I can get a couple more of these in for review to see how they perform. Of course the best part of CES is the surprises (the worst is the walking and the crowds), so hopefully we will have a lot to write about and to look forward to seeing in our homes this year.
Scott Wilkinson Press Conferences
Sony 4K/UHD LED-LCD and OLED
Last year, Sony was first out of the 4K/UHD gate with the XBR-84X900, which comes with an Xperia tablet for control and a computer-based server that provides native UHD content. New at CES are two new members of the X900 line, seen here, with screens measuring 55 and 65 inches and scheduled to be available in the spring.
Even more important, Sony announced the world’s first 4K distribution service that, starting this summer, will make native UHD content available via downloading. Also announced was a prototype UHD consumer camcorder that joins Sony’s lineup of professional 4K video cameras, reflecting the company’s commitment to facilitating the creation of 4K content.
The biggest surprise of the day was Sony’s unveiling of a 56-inch UHD OLED TV prototype, seen here. Unfortunately, it arrived on stage and immediately stopped working! Engineers scrambled to fix it, which they were able to do after the press conference ended.
One interesting announcement was a new LCD illumination technology called Triluminos, which will be implemented on Sony’s 2013 1080p and UHD TVs. The light from white LEDs mounted along the screen’s edges is split into red, green, and blue components by tiny prisms, resulting is a much wider color gamut. This is a bad idea in my book—a display should reproduce the color gamut used to create the content.
After the press conference, I took a look at a demo of Sony’s 4K upscaling next to a 1080p display of the same size. I saw very little difference between them—the upscaled image was slightly sharper, and I was no scaling artifacts, but the difference was not dramatic overall.
Samsung 4K/UHD, LED-LCD
Naturally, Samsung announced a 4K/UHD LED-LCD flat panel—this one measuring 85 inches, one inch more than the LG, Sony, Toshiba, and other 84-inchers. And unlike virtually all the others, it employs full-array LED backlighting, not edge-lighting, though no one at the press conference could verify if it implements local dimming. As you can see in this photo with Joe Stinziano, Executive VP of Samsung Electronics America, the panel is mounted in an easel-like frame, and it can tilt and slide up and down. Also incorporated into this frame is an enhanced sound system.
Other announcements included the F8000 flagship 1080p LED-LCD seen here, with screen sizes up to 75 inches. It’s the first Samsung TV with a quad-core video processor that enables advanced Smart Hub functionality, including a feature called S-Recommendation, which recommends content based on viewing habits, and natural-language voice control. The recently announced Evolution Kit adds all the new features to 2012 Samsung TVs.
Of course, Samsung’s big announcement last year was a 55-inch OLED TV, which was nowhere to be seen at today’s press conference. It was mentioned in conjunction with a new feature called MultiView that lets two people wearing special glasses see different images at full HD resolution thanks to OLED’s super-fast switching speed. However, nothing was said about ship dates or pricing.
Panasonic Plasma, LED-LCD, No 4K/UHD
Interestingly, Panasonic did not announce a 4K/UHD flat panel, though it was hinted that such an announcement might be made at President Kazuhiro Tsuga’s keynote address Tuesday morning. During the press conference, the company announced its 2013 lineup of 16 plasmas and 16 LED-LCDs, both with screen sizes up to 65 inches.
The flagship plasma is now the ZT60 (on the right in the photo above), lowering the VT60 to the number two spot, followed by the ST60. Among the LED-LCDs, the WT60 (on the left above) is the flagship, followed by the DT60, both of which use IPS+ LCD panels and 2x backlight scanning to improve motion blur.
Like most companies, Panasonic touted its advanced smart TV functionality, including My Home Screen, which integrates content sources and makes recommendations based on viewing habits for each member of a household. A built-in camera recognizes each user and automatically calls up their home screen.
Also announced was Panasonic’s latest Blu-ray player, the DMP-BDT230, which provides access to online content and Miracast wireless transmission from smartphones to the TV. Another interesting source device is the DMP-MST60 streaming video player with a web browser and Miracast capabilities.
Sharp LED-LCD, 4K/UHD
Sharp specializes in very large-screen LED-LCD TVs, including several measuring 90 inches, making them the largest mainstream flat panels sold today. At the company’s press conference, 21 new models of 1080p LED-LCD TVs were announced with screen sizes of 60, 70, 80, and 90 inches, as seen here, and ranging in price from $1000 to $10,000.
New features this year include the next generation of Quattron technology, which adds a yellow subpixel to red, green, and blue. The new version is available in the top 10 models and implements some sort of subpixel processing that is said to increase the apparent resolution, though I didn’t quite understand how this works; more research is clearly indicated. Also announced was a feature called Super Bright that combines hardware and software to detect bright parts of the image and boost the contrast—a difficult trick with LED edge-lighting, which is used by all but the 90-inchers. (Interestingly, the 90-inch models have full-array LED backlighting, but they do not implement local dimming.)
As with most TV manufacturers, Sharp announced an upgrade to its “smart TV” functionality—dubbed Smart Central in this case—with a new dual-core processor and a web browser with Flash and HTML5, which lets the TV split the screen to display both TV and web images simultaneously. Also available is a control app for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets as well as a “beam” app that lets the mobile device become a wireless source. A new Wallpaper mode displays pre-installed artwork using very little power, and the built-in sound system now includes an integrated subwoofer and Yamaha DSP.
Not to be left out of the 4K/UHD frenzy, Sharp introduced two different types of such displays with screen sizes of 60, 70, and 85 inches. Seen here is the ICC Purious model, so named after its Integrated Cognitive Creation image processor, developed by I-cubed Research, that is said to reproduce the cognitive process by which the brain interprets visual images. (Where “Purious” came from, I have no idea.) It’s also the first UHD flat panel to be THX certified. The ICC Purious will be available this summer.
The other UHD panel, seen here, bears the Aquos moniker. This one incorporates a new screen technology called Moth Eye, a nanoscale cone structure on the screen’s surface that mimics a moth’s eye and is said to virtually eliminate glare while preserving color brightness. The Aquos UHD will be available in the second half of 2013.
As if that weren’t enough, Sharp also announced—but didn’t show at the press conference—an 85-inch 8K (7680×4320) prototype panel. That’s 33 megapixels, folks! It’s in the Sharp booth displaying native 8K content, so I’ll definitely be taking a close look.
LG OLED, 4K/UHD
Monday was press day at CES, and as always, it started bright and early with LG’s press conference. A big deal was made of the fact that LG has started selling its 55-inch OLED TV, seen here, this month in the “global market” (though not in the US until March). The price has risen from the previously announced $10,000 to $12,000.
Would you pay that much for a 55-inch OLED when you could get an 84-inch UHD LED-LCD for $20,000? That’s the price tag for LG’s 84-inch 84LM9600, seen here, which was joined at the press conference by smaller versions at 55 and 65 inches. The company made a point of mentioning that it’s working with content providers and broadcasters such as Disney, Activision, and Google to make sure that UHD content becomes available sooner than later.
Speaking of Google, LG announced the third generation of its Google TVs, which includes seven models in five screen sizes. And plasma was not forsaken, with three series in three sizes for 2013. A new “magic remote” offers voice and gestural control, a distinct trend this year.
All of LG’s new Blu-ray players are 3D capable and come with the new magic remote. They also offer full web browsers and a private-sound mode that sends the audio to a smartphone via Bluetooth.
Finally, a new laser-illuminated, ultra-short-throw projector was announced but not shown. It can be placed only 22 inches from a screen measuring up to 100 inches diagonally. I hope to see it in LG’s booth later in the week.
Toshiba 4K/UHD LED-LCD TV
Toshiba got a head start on press day at CES by hosting a cocktail party Sunday evening at Mix restaurant on the 64th floor of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay. In addition to yummy hors d’oeuvres and free-flowing booze, the Toshiba’s latest products were on hand, and guests were given an update on the company’s marketing strategy for 2013, including a shift from the term “smart TV” to “cloud TV,” wireless capabilities, a new user interface, a recommendation engine based on what you watch, and lots of mobile apps.
This year, Toshiba is offering five 1080p LED-LCD TV models, each available in a variety of screen sizes up to 65 inches, as well as three sizes (58, 65, and 84 inches) of its 4K/UltraHD L9300, seen above. As you may already know, UltraHD is the moniker given to the consumer-oriented “4K” resolution of 3840×2160 to distinguish it from commercial-cinema 4K (4096×2160).
Toshiba claims its 4K upscaling processor is one generation ahead of most other manufacturers with a quad-core chip, though many companies touted similar power in Monday’s press conferences. Also announced were four new Blu-ray players, including the flagship BDX6400 that upscales 1080p to UHD using the same processor.
It’s CES Time!
Now that the holiday lights are put away and the new-year celebration is just a dim, hung-over memory, it’s time to head to Las Vegas for the annual geekfest known as CES (aka the Consumer Electronics Show). I’ll be there with 150,000 of my closest friends, drooling over all the new home-theater products that manufacturers hope consumers will buy in 2013.
This year, I’m very happy to be covering press day for Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity. Starting at 8:00 AM (ouch!), hundreds of journalists and bloggers will squeeze into one huge ballroom after another to listen to boring speeches about each company’s exalted position in the market, often delivered by execs for whom English is definitely not their native tongue. Then, we finally get what we came for—flashy product unveilings accompanied by cute girls doing their best Vanna White impression.
Unlike years past, the press conferences are being held at the Mandalay Bay hotel. I have no idea why the show organizers moved them from the Venetian, which has become very familiar to all of us in the press corps over the last several years. Perhaps the ballrooms are even bigger, which would be a good thing, since the recent blitz of bloggers has made it almost impossible for long-time journalists to even get into these events.
I’ll be attending the press conferences presented by LG, Sharp, Panasonic, HDMI Licensing, Samsung, and Sony, the last of which is held in Sony’s humongous booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I’m sure there’ll be shuttles from the Mandalay Bay, but I’ll have my car, making it easier to get over there and back to my hotel afterward. That evening, I’ll write up what I learned and post it here in the Secrets Cave, so stay tuned for all the geeky goodness to come!
Piero Gabucci Show Coverage
Swedish company PERFECT8 Technologies has shown glass loudspeakers before, this year the new $100,000+ MKll Evolution with a dipole design. DSP controlled 10″ drivers flank each side. Combined with a ribbon tweeter, the glass-baffled speaker sounds clean, detailed and the bass is tight and controlled.
And now for something completely different, a speaker design caught my eye as I walked past an open door. Walking in I met Don Keele, designer of the CBT36K, which can be purchased as a kit and assembled at home. What impressed me was the design, a linear array that arced back towards the ceiling. The 18- 3 ½” “full range” drivers combined with the 72 ¾” tweeters use the space, and specifically the ceiling for an even room coverage. The system is only bi-amped and requires two stereo amplifiers. In this case a pair of Emotiva. Although I noticed subwoofers on each side, Don mentioned they only crossover at anything below 50 Hz. The kit is available from parts-express and can be had for $1,980. I can assure that it sounds impressive. It sure looks like a lot of fun to try.
A cut-away shows the construction, and be ready to paint, Don had his auto body shop neighbor paint this candy apple red.
John DeVore was playing his full-range floorstanding speaker called gibbon X. I marveled at the elegant, spatial and resolved sound. At an estimated $11,000 per pair, this has to be a serious contender.
Speakers truly do come in all shapes and sizes and the musical instrument analogy abounds. This 3.5 way design can truly be called the Cello. It boasts a pair of air motion ribbon tweeters and carbon fiber mid-range woofers. Mozart sounded fantastic. Expect to pay around $18,000 for these instruments.
New are these DSP in-wall speakers in two sizes, the DSP520 and DSP640. They are slim and fit within a 3 ½” stud wall construction. Not shown is the DSW600 in-wall subwoofer. Available this month, the 520 is $5,000 each and the 640 is $7,500 each.
A flagship is a flagship; the Model 7 at $48,000 is everything you’d expect from Richard Vandersteen, carbon fiber body referred to as Vandersteen Stealth rendering the enclosure inert. A 400 watt ultra-high-current amplifier with a seven band EQ. The contingent of speakers includes; a 1″ tweeter on the front and ¾” on the rear, a 4.5″ midrange, a 7″ mid-woofer and a 12″ subwoofer. How does it sound? Fantastic! Detailed, full, balanced, and natural. Had to peel myself off the couch..
Andrew Jones was on hand to demo the Evolution One. Using drivers developed from the Reference One, the mid-range and tweeter are coaxial or in-line. Just beautifully designed and without getting myself in trouble, one of the best sounding rooms.
Always creating a buzz at the show, Magico was playing their reasonably priced S1, at $12,600.
Magico added a center channel in their lineup with the $17,000 SCC meant to complement their large S5. A few amplifier rooms used the Magico’s as their reference speaker.
Turntables were everywhere in demo rooms. AVID was showing their new entry level INGENIUM that will range from about $2,200 with a tonearm.
Turntables are just beautiful!
The new flagship from YG is the Sonja available in four configurations, shown here is the full 1.3 with all the modules. Both drives and the cabinetry made of aircraft grade aluminum, it weighs 230 pounds and stands shy of 6 feet. Powered by D’agostino Momentum monoblocks, I’d sure consider this an elite sound.
LAMM INDUSTRIES, INC.
Speaking of elite, the Lamm room featuring Verity Audio Lohengrin ll S speakers ($120,000 per pair) and the system from Lamm included; At just under $74,500 for the pair used in bi-amping mode the ML2.2 single-ended amplifiers, the L2 reference preamplifier at $15,700/set and a phono preamp at $7,790. Tonally precise and exquisitely refined, I could have listened all day.
Harman Luxury Audio
This is a highly anticipated from Revel, the Performa3 with a complete line of 9 models from floorstandings, bookshelves, centers, surrounds and subwoofers.
At $10,500 JBL Synthesis SDP-45 surround processor/controller. Features 24bit/192kHz A/D and D/A converters. Eight HDMI inputs, the processor features 7.1 channels and both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs.
This show proved that the majority of manufacturers are suing files from their computers in all formats for demonstrations. Most are using flac files burned directly from CD’s while others are using higher resolution. Peachtree is perfectly positioned to play from computer sources. In their demonstration, one source was Spotify, which I use as well. Peachtree’s integrated amplifiers range from about $1,000 to their Grand integrated at 4,500 which pushes 650 watts into 4 ohm speakers. To prove it, a pair of Sonus Fabers sounded amazing using Amarra software through a Macbook.
The Peachtree Nova is an excellent alternative at $1,500 playing their own Design 5 monitors, this is an impressive system at around $2,200.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mark O’Brien and the products from Pennsylvania company Rogue Audio. Driving a pair of Eagleston Works speakers was this modest Hybrid amplifier. At $1,295, the Sphinx is a Hybrid design that includes both a headphone amplifier and a phono preamp.
Two new center channel speakers featuring electrostatic and folded tweeter technology are introduced in the $3,295 Stage X and the Motif X at $2,095.
New is the PBK room correction technology for their subwoofers. The first shipped with this technology is the Dynamo 1500X.
Also shown is the new Balanced Force 210 subwoofer with top mounted controls and sports dual 10″ woofer drivers.
I can’t help but marvel at the CLX in mat walnut finish!
This gang is tireless, Sandy Gross and everyone at GoldenEar continues to rack up winners. The Triton 7 shifts away from towers with built-in powered subwoofers for a passive design.
A pair of 5 ¼’ drivers accompany the High Velocity Folded Ribbon Tweeter included in every speaker in the line and additionally, 2-8″ bass radiators. At 40″ high, the Triton 7 impressed me more and more with every track we heard. Available in the spring, at $699.99 each, expect to hear a lot about Lucky 7!
Highly anticipated (specifically by me as I will be reviewing) the new CS2.7. Trickle down engineering, it is a 3-way design employing similar drivers to the CS 3.7. at under $10,000 it sounded great, powered by Bryston amplifiers playing flac files from a laptop.
I’m always enamored by Totem, there is just a warm and natural sound to their speakers. A signature version of their Forest in a couple of exquisite wood veneers is available.
I wouldn’t say table top radios would necessarily raise an eyebrow, but this beautiful design called Woodbourne by Polk Audio is not only elegant in a beautiful wood finish with a classic cream colored fabric, but it featured 4 drivers with 180 watts, 70/20 per driver, per side. Both Bluetooth and Airplay capable, a digital input lets you make this a soundbar.
At $1,000 per pair, look for the new 3-way TSX 550T to bring back some classic speaker Polk styling.
Note the construction in the cutt-away.
Robert Kozel Show Coverage
2013 CES Show Report Part 1 – Robert Kozel
Blog Note: My CES 2013 coverage is split across two blog posts. This blog covers Press Day and Day 1 of CES.
Tuesday – 1/8/2013 – CES 2013 Day 1 – Part 2
I visited Cary Audio Design and was delighted to see that they moved up to the 35th floor at the Venetian. The 35th floor is where the larger demo suites are usually found and the price tag of most of the systems on that floor is six figures. The good news is that Cary Audio Design didn’t raise their prices. The quality of their gear more than earns them a place on the high-end floor and they were also showcasing their products with some other high-end speakers and components.
Here is the beautiful Cary Audio Design CAD-211 Founder’s Edition mono-block amplifier.
The CAD-211 amplifiers were driving a pair of Tannoy Kingdom Royal speakers and the sound was superb.
Cary Audio Design was introducing two new digital to analog converters. The first is the DAC-100t which is a 24 bit/192 kHz tube D/A converter. The digital section was designed in cooperation with Gordon Rankin and Cary Audio designed the analog section. The DAC-100t has an asynchronous USB input supporting both Mac and PC and the product uses ESS SABRE 9023 DAC chips, one each per channel.
The other product is the DAC-100 which has the same specifications as the DAC-100t but without the tubes.
Cary Audio Design was also showing some new products in their direct-to-consumer Audio Electronics product line. Here is the Lightning D/A converter. Almost every manufacturer was using an Apple MacBook Pro as a source device for content.
Here is the Audio Electronics Hercules 30 watt/channel class A/B tube amplifier.
Here is the Audio Electronics Constellation tube preamplifier.
Here is the Audio Electronics Nighthawk headphone amplifier and the Cary Audio HH-1 headphone amplifier. Both are full Class A with the Nighthawk using a discrete preamplifier stage and the HH-1 using a tube preamplifier stage.
Back on the 29th floor, I saw these unusually-shaped S8 speakers from Angel Sound Ltd. They are $160K for a pair.
This innocuous-looking device is the Signal Completion Stage from BSG Technologies. The product makes use of a patented technology called QOL (it rhymes with “coal”) which claims to restore missing phase information from the sound reproduced by audio systems. I was not familiar with their technology, but I can tell you that the demo was pretty impressive. The music played on their system seemed much more real and engaging when the QOL processing was active. The Signal Completion Stage currently operates in the analog domain. The device is sold direct to consumers, retails for $3,995 and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The BSG Technologies rep told me that they are rarely returned.
Focus Audio was showing their Liszt Sonata 34 watts/channel amplifier. The Sonata retails for $12K and can be configured as an integrated amplifier with volume control or as a direct input power amplifier.
Here’s a look at the internals of the Sonata configured as an integrated amplifier.
The circuit board on the left is the volume control. The Sonata uses premium parts throughout including a single Tantalum resistor in the signal path of the volume control which Focus Audio says maximizes the product’s natural sound.
The last bit of news for the day is technology related. I had a conversation with some folks at Tymphany regarding developments around Skifta. Tymphany is a company which specializes in acoustic technology and they are a provider of technology for the speaker industry. Skifta is a media-shifting technology which was developed by Qualcomm. Skifta allows users to access video, music and pictures from mobile devices and stream that content to DLNA or UPnP capable devices over WiFi. Tymphany is actively working on building technology that can be used to send audio directly to speakers via the Skifta protocols. This will open up some interesting possibilities for distributing audio if speaker manufacturers jump on board. Time will tell, but we may be hearing more about Skifta at the next CES.
That’s everything from my Tuesday at the Venetian.
Tuesday – 1/8/2013 – CES 2013 Day 1 – Part 1
I started my day at the Venetian and my first stop was at Paradigm. The beautiful 30th anniversary limited edition Inspiration and Tribute speakers were on display. Here is the Inspiration ($1,499 each) which can be used as a bookshelf or stand-mounted speaker. The plinth that supports the speaker is made from polished carbon steel.
The dark garnet gloss finish on the Tribute ($3,299 each) floor-standing speaker is really beautiful.
The Tributes were being demonstrated with a pair of M1 mono blocks.
The D2v 3D was on display. It retails for $9,499.
Anthem had the P5 five-channel amplifier on display with the covers removed to show off the internal build.
The P5 looked really massive compared to the M1 Class D monaural amplifier, but you do need four more M1 amplifiers to power the same number of channels as the P5.
The Soundtrack amplified soundbar and wireless subwoofer was on display. The Soundtrack system is part of the Shift Series product line and retails for $799.99.
The Millenia CT was also on display and retail for $699.99 for the system. Both the Soundtrack and Millenia CT speakers were announced at CEDIA last year and are now shipping.
I stopped over at Martin Logan. The Mikros 90 headphones are now shipping and retail for $299.95.
I stopped in to see the latest creations from Sandy Gross and his team at GoldenEar Technology. Sandy was demoing the new Triton Seven tower speakers ($699.99 each) which use passive bass radiators. The speakers sounded great and had excellent bass response without the use of a subwoofer. The Triton Seven is the third speaker from the left in the following photo. The Triton Seven speakers will be available this summer and make another excellent addition to the GoldenEar product lineup.
The new SuperSat 60 /60C was also on display. It retails for $799.99.
Here’s a look at the inside of the $9,600 28BSST2 power amplifier from Bryston.
Bryston was showing their new BDP-2 stereo digital player and the BDA-2 stereo D/A converter. The BDP-2 retails for $2,995 and the BDA-2 retails for $2,395. The BDP-2 is on the top in this photo.
Bryston was also showing the new B135 SST2 integrated amplifier. The B135 retails for $4,695 and can be configured with an optional internal DAC and/or an optional phono stage.
Bryston also had their new Model T mini bookshelf speakers ($2,550 pair) and the Model T Signature 3-way passive speakers on display. The Model T Signatures retail for $7,495 per pair with a pair of PX1 external passive crossovers. They are also available for $6,495 without the passive crossovers.
Torus Power was showing a prototype of their new in-wall power conditioner. This is a really great idea for those wanting to install a power conditioner for a wall mounted television. The unit installs in the wall and also provides two USB sockets for accessory devices.
Parasound was showing off their new black finish on the P5 stereo preamplifier and A23 stereo power amplifier. I liked the look and Parasound said the color was widely requested by consumers.
Parasound was also demonstrating their new CD 1 CD player. The new player has a retail price of $4,500 and takes a whole new approach to CD playback. The CD 1 makes use of computer technology to read and continuously buffer approximately 40 seconds of data from the CD during playback. Buffering the data allows the CD 1 to re-read individual bits to ensure playback quality. The buffering also allows the data to be re-clocked which reduces jitter. The result was a player which sounded fantastic in the demo.
There were a few home theater products in the 2013 innovation award display cases that caught my attention. Here is the GoldenEar Technology SuperCinema 3D array system.
Checkout these Afterglow HDMI cables from Performance Designed Products. The heads of the cables light-up to easily identify cables in a system.
The Harmon/Kardon AVR 3700 features 4K video, on-board WiFi, 7×125 watts per channel of amplification, and a wide range of app and connectivity options.
Here’s a look at the Velodyne LiDar vehicle. The roof mounted device allows the vehicle to detect obstructions and can be used to automatically control and navigate ground vehicles.
CES covers almost everything you can think of. Here’s a look at the Lego Mindstorms product which allows kids to build and control their own robots. The kit comes with all the parts to make the robots shown on the table and additional designs can be downloaded from the internet or created with imagination. Each of the robots can be controlled with apps for Android and iDevice.
Astell & Kern were showing their AK100 portable high-fidelity music system. The portable player is capable of playing 24 bit / 192 kHz content which Astell & Kern refer to as Studio Mastering Quality Sound (MQS). Audio files can be copied to the player from any PC and supported formats include FLAC, WAV, OGG, ALAC, AIFF, WMA and of course MP3. The player makes use of Wolfson WM8740 DACs and can be used as an external DAC thanks to its external optical input. The player sounded great and comes with 32 GB of internal memory which can be expanded to 96 GB using two dual micro SD card slots.
The AK100 was being demonstrated with a pair of custom-built speakers from Metal Sound Design in Korea.
That’s it for now. I will have more tomorrow as I continue my coverage at the Venetian.
Monday – 1/7/2013 – CES 2013 Press Day
I arrived in Las Vegas on Monday morning and thought I would have plenty of time to grab some lunch and head over to Mandalay Bay for the Samsung press conference at 2:00 PM. This is my third time covering CES so I was already prepared for the crowds. The press conferences were moved from the Venetian to Mandalay Bay and I naively thought that would make the prospect of attending a little less stressful. Boy was I wrong. Lunch was completely gone in the press room by the time I arrived and the lines for the Samsung conference were simply incredible. The line snaked down the hall multiple times and then wrapped around another corner.
I thankfully made it inside the ballroom but it was standing room only after being in line for over 1.5 hours.
The press conference opened with an introduction from the president of Samsung Electronics, Boo-Keun Yoon. His speech and the overall presentation had a common theme: discover the world of possibilities. Samsung stressed their understanding of consumer needs and how their products help connect everyone in the family to shared content through easy to use technology such as content recommendation and gesture and voice control in their Smart TVs.
The first big announcement was the F8000 LED TV. The F8000 series is the first Samsung Smart TV to come with a quad-core processor to quickly toggle between apps, online services and streaming content.
The presentation was well done with multiple F8000 TVs appearing from lifts installed in various positions in the ball room.
The F8000 series will be available in a variety of sizes ranging from 46″ to 75″. Pricing was not announced but the sets should start to become available next spring. The F8000 series will also offer Samsung’s S-Recommendation feature which will provide all members of the family content recommendations based on interest and even time of day. Samsung also stressed improvements in their voice recognition and gesture control interfaces. An increasing array of third-party applications is also available making these so much more than just televisions. Samsung also showed their Smart Evolution kit which allows a consumer to upgrade a 2012 television to the capabilities of the new 2013 models by simply attaching an upgrade module to the back of their current television.
Samsung also showed the new UN85S9 ultra high definition (UHD) LED TV. The TV boasts a 4K resolution and makes use of an array of speakers mounted in the frame which suspends the TV.
Samsung also talked about a new 55″ OLED TV. The KN55F9500 will also be the first TV to offer multi-view which allows two viewers to watch different programs in full 1080p resolution on the same screen. I can just imagine what that feature will do to family communication, but I can imagine that it might come in handy when watching sporting events.
Samsung also showcased innovations in their cameras which now allow for stills and movies to be shot in 3D via a 45 mm 2D/3D lens. They also showcased their phones and a new refrigerator which had a compartment that could be turned from refrigeration to freezer at the touch of a button.
I left Mandalay Bay and made my way to the Las Vegas Convention Center for the Sony press conference. On my way, I passed a very lively dish network character.
The Hopper at the LVCC was not quite ready for duty.
The show officially starts tomorrow and it always amazes me how much work takes place in less than 24 hours to get everything ready.
The Sony conference began with a really cool video showing a Sony engineer assembling a camera. It was really amazing to see all those small parts come together into a finished piece of technology.
Sony showcased their new Xperia Z phone which boasts a 5″ 1080p display. The Xperia Z makes use of near field communication technology which allows the phone to transfer audio and video playback to Sony compatible devices such as headphones, TVs and speakers just by touching the phone to the compatible device.
The main message from Sony was 4K. They introduced two new Sony Bravia 4K Ultra HD TVs in both 65″and 55″ models. Pricing was not announced but the TVs should be available in the spring. Sony also talked about being the first to market with a 4K video distribution service for consumers. Sony also showed a 55″ 4K OLED prototype display.
The Sony conference had no Hollywood celebrities this year and was rather low key compared to last year. The conference just ended with a 360 degree video montage paired with some overly loud music.
It was very clear from both Samsung and Sony that they believe that 4K is the next big thing. In terms of overall marketing presentations, Samsung would be the clear winner in my book. They have a wider range of products and the overall message was more consumer friendly. When it comes to 4K, content will be king and Sony has a distinct advantage thanks to their extensive film catalog and their 4K technology which is widely used in the motion picture industry. Either way, 4K is definitely in our future.
That’s it for my coverage for today. I am off to the Venetian on Tuesday.
Start of Coverage – 1/6/2013
After taking some time off for the holidays, I’m starting the New Year by heading off to Las Vegas for the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. I arrive tomorrow, which is press day, with hopefully just enough time to make it to the Samsung press conference. Last year was a long and tortuous wait for seats at the Venetian conference center, so we’ll see if moving the press conferences to Mandalay Bay will make a difference. I will then head over to the Las Vegas convention center for the Sony press conference. I also plan on attending the Digital Experience! event at the MGM on Monday evening which should offer a nice preview of some of the new gadgets and technology being announced this week.
CES 2013 officially opens on Tuesday the 8th. I will be covering the excitement at the Venetian on Tuesday and Wednesday and will then head down to the LVCC on Thursday. My blog coverage starts late Monday night.
2013 CES Show Report Part 2 – Robert Kozel
Blog Note: My CES 2013 coverage is split across two blog posts. This blog covers from Wednesday, January 9, 2013 – Friday, January 11, 2013.
CES 2013 has come to a close and it is great to be home. I have uploaded my complete coverage from Wednesday through Friday so please continue reading below. I also wanted to share some final thoughts.
The show had an enormous crowd of over 150,000 people. From an audio/video perspective, the new innovation was all around 4K displays. Every major manufacturer was showcasing 4K displays. The practical reality is that while the 4K displays were stunning, the general consumer will not be able to afford this technology for several more years at least until the prices come down to earth. The real stars of the show were the updated plasma and LED televisions that support the current HDTV standards. These new sets were gorgeous and offer the consumer some amazing technology and beautiful video quality at approachable pricing.
On the audio side of things, it was very clear that high-end audio manufacturers have embraced digital audio and the USB input. Companies like Bryston, Cary Audio Design, McIntosh Laboratories, NAD and Antelope Audio were all showing products designed to process digital audio signals via USB. While the implementations may vary, it was clear that the personal computer has been embraced as a media source in our home audio system. Furthermore, that digital content can be enjoyed in a traditional two-channel system or as a personal experience via a multitude of headphones and headphone amplifiers. The best part of all this is that there is hope that high-end audio can reach a younger audience by showing a new generation that music really matters.
That’s it for my coverage of CES 2013. I hope you enjoyed it.
Friday – 1/11/2013 – CES Day 4
Friday was my last day at CES 2013 and I decided to take my bags to the LVCC and leave from there to the airport. This allowed me to have an extra hour or two on the show floor.
While the main entrance was rather light, that changed in a hurry at the Samsung Galaxy Studio. This was the same area that was under construction in my press day coverage.
The Galaxy Studio was full of people creating customized T-shirts with the Samsung Galaxy Note II.
LG was showing the world’s first 3D video wall. The truck and that splashing water looked amazing in 3D.
Panasonic was showing the world’s largest 4K OLED TV.
Sony claimed the first and largest 4K OLED TV at their booth. It must come down to bragging rights in some circles.
LG was also showing off curved 3D OLED TVs.
Tucked away amongst the video displays, LG was showing the BH9530TW 9.1 channel speaker system. The system sounded pretty amazing in the demo.
The speakers in the BH9530TW have a driver which faces upward at the top of the speaker.
While 4K was the rage in television, Panasonic was also showing a 20 inch tablet with a 4K resolution.
Here’s the tablet being shown with an architectural application. A user can touch to zoom into a drawing and can even annotate for collaboration with other architects or customers.
Here’s the Panasonic 4K tablet being used for photographs. This will be a dream for photographers showcasing their work.
Sony was showing off their new magnetic fluid speakers in their new 4K LED televisions. The speakers require less space than conventional speakers and produce a much better sound. Fingerprints are not included.
The Sony XBR-84X900 84″ 4KTV was stunning.
While the convention center was much lighter on Friday, there was no lack of crowd at Samsung.
Tucked away in the mobile phone accessories at Samsung was the DA-E700 wireless audio dock. It features network connectivity and a docking cradle for your favorite Samsung phone. You could use the dock with an iDevice but you would have to charge using the USB port on the back panel. The best part – it is the only phone accessory with vacuum tube amplifier technology.
Samsung was also showing off transparent display technology. The words on this display case are actually a still image from a video. I will post a video of this so you can see it in action.
That’s it for my coverage of CES 2013.
Thursday – 1/10/2013 – CES Day 3
I spent today at the LVCC. It was so strange to not see Microsoft at the show. I think they missed a huge opportunity as their booth was always very popular. Nonetheless, the convention center was bustling with activity.
The DTS booth was showing off their Play-Fi technology which enables mobile devices to wirelessly stream high-definition audio to multiple audio systems at once over Wi-Fi. The dancers were entertaining.
Sharp was showing off their take on Ultra HD with a screen film called Moth Eye. The name comes from a characteristic of a moth’s eye which absorbs light rather than reflecting it. The film is intended to reduce glare and still show bright colors.
This picture will give you a better feel for Moth Eye. The left third of the display is uncoated and showed more reflections from the convention center lights. The right third has a non-glare coating. The center third is covered in Moth Eye. Sharp should consider selling this film as its own product.
The place to be at the Central Hall was the Samsung booth. It was constantly crowded with people and it was common to wait to see the products on display.
Samsung offers a wide range of products. Here is Secrets’ Piero Gabucci admiring one of the Series 9 laptops.
While the new UHD sets were all the rage, the new Samsung F8000 LED HD TVs were gorgeous. I would take one of these in a minute.
Samsung’s OLED display prototypes were mesmerizing – if they were only available now at attainable pricing.
At 110″, this Ultra HD display from Samsung will make some folks forget about projectors.
This was definitely the most “green” booth at the convention center. The plants were real.
There was an endless array of vendors showing phone and tablet accessories.
Headphones were everywhere.
As if I didn’t have my fill of headphones already, Comfy Tunes was showing this pair of earmuff headphones.
Skinit was showing portable wireless speakers with sports themes for your next tailgate party.
The ViewSonic birds were entertaining the crowd.
Sennheiser was showing their new Momentum headphones. These headphones retail for $349.95 and come in brown or black. The earpads were incredibly soft and comfortable. It was nice to see a premium brand focused on comfort and quality rather than just fashion.
The input jack on the Momentum articulates to accommodate different needs.
Sennheiser had a real treat on display. Here is the Orpheus electrostatic headphones and tube pre-amplifier. The Orpheus was introduced in 1991 in limited quantities and sold for $15,000. If you can find one today in good working condition, it can fetch upwards of $30,000.
As if seeing this amazing product wasn’t enough, Sennheiser had an Orpheus on display in their listening room. Listening to the Orpheus was a humbling experience. The sound was fantastic – effortless, detailed and natural. I just stood there in amazement at what was easily the best sounding headphone product at the show. I can only hope that Sennheiser revisits this type of product in the future.
Sherwood had a tiny booth at the show. Here is their R-807 7.1 channel receiver which offers WiFi-Direct.
Here are the DT 880 headphones from Beyer Dynamic. The headphones come in 32, 250 or 600 Ohm models.
In front of the convention center was a large tent for Gibson and Onkyo.
Lots of happy musicians were playing with the guitars.
Onkyo was showing some custom headphones branded for Gibson.
Here’s a modern take on the Wurlitzer jukebox.
Onkyo was showing their new ES-HF300 and ES-FC300 headphones. Both headphones feature titanium drivers, detachable cables, and come in white, black or violet. The headphones are priced at $179 for the ES-HF300 and $149 for the ES-FC300 and should be on the market in March. The difference between the two is the inclusion of an audiophile grade cable on the ES-HF300. In my listening at the tent, the better cable seemed to be making a big difference in the sound. Here is the ES-FC300 with the flat elastomer cable.
Here is the ES-HF300 with the premium 6N copper cable.
In addition to the headphones, Onkyo will be offering a premium app for your favorite iDevice which will support playing high resolution audio files. The application even includes an equalizer which can be adjusted using the touch interface on your device.
Onkyo was also showing their new IE-HF300 and IE-FC300 in-ear monitors. The IE-HF300 is priced at $129 and the IE-FC300 is priced at $99. The difference between the two models is the premium cable. The IE headphones will be available in the May timeframe.
I was done at the LVCC for today and wanted to head back to the Venetian to meet up with our team. This was the crazy line for the bus.
Back at the Venetian, I took one last quick look through the innovation award cases. This is the Da Vinci Dual DAC from Light Harmonic. One DAC is dedicated to PCM and the other is dedicated to DSD playback. The inputs on the Da Vinci Dual DAC support up to 32 bit 384 kHz PCM and up to DSD 128.
After a very long day, it was time to enjoy some appetizers and drinks with great friends.
That’s it for today.
Wednesday – 1/9/2013 – CES Day 2
Today I was back at the Venetian and my first stop was at Antelope Audio. Antelope Audio makes some amazing equipment for the professional recording industry and they are leaders in clocking technology. Here’s a look at their demo room. The speakers are Marten Django XL which retail for $14,995.
The equipment in the rack is where all the magic happens. Starting from the bottom of the rack, we find the Isochrone 10M which uses a Rubidium atomic reference generator to create a 10 MHz reference signal. The staff at Antelope explained that their Rubidium clock produces a signal 100,000 times more accurate than a crystal oscillator. Moving up the rack, we find the Isochrone Trinity master clock. This device uses a 64 bit DSP and supports up to 384 kHz. By itself, the Trinity uses an oven-controlled crystal oscillator or it can be fed a reference signal from the atomic clock. The next item in the rack is the Eclipse 384 which is a 384 kHz A/D and D/A converter. The first product at the top of the rack is the Orion 32 which is a 32 channel A/D and D/A convert which support both MADI and USB interfaces. The Orion 32 allows for the streaming of 32-channel 192 kHz digital I/O through a custom-built USB interface.
Antelope Audio was demonstrating their A/D and D/A expertise by playing vinyl content from a Townshend Rock 7 turntable ($5,100) using a Helius Omega Ruby Tone Arm ($5,225). Switching between analog and digital was imperceptible and the sound was fantastic. I had no doubt that the digital signal was a faithful reproduction of the live analog source. The Antelope Audio demonstration gave me a whole new appreciation for what needs to happen when mastering high resolution music in the professional studio. For digital sources, Antelope Audio was using a Music Vault Diamond server ($3,900). The Diamond includes a professional AES/EBU digital output and has 2 TB of storage along with 2 TB of storage for automatic backups. The Diamond uses dBpoweramp to ensure accurate rips of all content.
Antelope Audio was also showing a few other products that will appeal to the audiophile community. The first is the Voltikus paired with a Zodiac+. The Voltikus is a heavy-duty audiophile-grade power supply. The Zodiac+ is a 192 kHz D/A converter that also includes an oven-controlled clock.
Here are the Antelope Audio Voltikus and Zodiac Gold in a gold finish. The Zodiac Gold is a 384 kHz D/A converter with an oven-controlled clock. It is available as a Gold package which includes a remote for $4,495.
The other product that Antelope Audio is introducing is the Rubicon preamp. The Rubicon was not on display in their suite but I found a unit behind glass in the innovations award area. The Rubicon includes a rubidium atomic clock, 384 kHz A/D and D/A conversion, a phono preamp and it supports DLNA streaming. The Rubicon has a very distinctive look and will be available for around $45K.
Here is the Auralic Merak monoblock power amplifier which uses a combination of linear and switching circuits which Auralic calls Hybrid Analog Amplify technology.
This is the Auralic Vega digital audio processor which supports all hi-res music formats includes DXD and DSD.
Support for USB was everywhere. Here is the H300 integrated amplifier/DAC from Hegel Music Systems.
Here is the Puccini from dCS. It is a complete digital front end offering upsampling, clocking and a built-in CD/SACD player.
This is the Debussy DAC from dCS. It includes an asynchronous USB input, supports 24/192 kHz, and supports DSD over PCM.
This is the Bladelius Embla silent replay system from Sweden’s Bladelius Design Group AB. The unit has no moving mechanical parts and includes an analog preamp, a D/A converter, supports playback of high resolution audio files up to 32 bit, 192 kHz, and can connect to external USB storage. It comes with a touch-screen interface for $9K or without for $6K.
This is the Bladelius Thor MK III integrated amplifier. It includes a USB DAC and a phone stage. It retails for $3,500.
This is the Bladelius ASK power amplifier. It includes one two-channel Class AB amplifier and one two-channel analog Class D amplifier. The unit retails for $7,000 and includes two different Standby power modes one of which only requires 0.5 watts. The new low-power requirements are very green and were very common from European manufacturers. It will catch on here in the states eventually.
This is the Bladelius Ymer Mk.II fully balance power amplifier. It provides 2 x 300 watts and retails for $12,000.
Here’s a look at the Manly demo room.
This is the ProLogue Eight CD player from PrimaLuna.
I stopped by the NAD suites for an update on their latest products. They were showing some proto-types of their latest digital audio products with a really small and compact form-factor. From left to right, we have the D 3020 Digital DAC/amplifier ($399), the D 1050 USB DAC ($499) and the D 7050 digital network receiver ($899). The D 3020 provides 2×30 watts, includes an asynchronous USB input supporting up to 24/196 and supports direct Bluetooth connections from smartphones and tablets using aptX. The D 1050 USB DAC support up to 24 bit/192 kHz and includes AES/EBU, coax and optical inputs. The D 7050 provides 2×50 watts and includes internet radio, AirPlay and UPnP streaming. It also includes an asynchronous USB input. All three products make for easy access to digital content.
NAD was showing the new model of the VISO1 wireless digital music system called the VISO 1 AP. The new model no longer has a docking station and includes transport controls built into the aluminum frame. The VISO 1 AP support Apple AirPlay and aptX Bluetooth connectivity and retails for $599.
Here’s the NAD DAC 2 wireless USB DAC. It retails for $299 and supports 24 bit/96 kHz.
The NAD M50 digital music player ($2,499) and the M52 digital music vault ($1,999) were on display. While both products had been previously introduced, the news at the show was that both models are now shipping.
The NAD M50 also has its own iPad application.
This is the Sopranino self-biased electrostatic loudspeaker from ENIGMAcoustics. This is marketed as a super tweeter. The demo was far too loud for my tastes but it was otherwise convincing.
This is the Momentum preamplifier from Dan D’Agostino. The volume is controlled by the ring around the gorgeous dial.
This is the Momentum amplifier from Dan D’Agostino.
This is the stunning Master Innovation Wood TT-2 tonearm from Germany’s Clearaudio. It can be yours for $34,500.
This is the Innovation Wood Universal tonearm from Clearaudio. It retails for $15,000.
This is the Innovation Wood Compact Magnify tonearm from Clearaudio. It retails for $10,500.
For those of you needing a professional cleaner for your vinyl collection, here is the Double Matrix from Clearaudio. It retails for $4,000.
Cambridge Audio was showing the new azur 752BD universal disc player and the new azur 351R 5.1 channel home theater receiver.
Peachtree Audio was showing off their Grand Integrated X1 hybrid tube preamplifier and DAC. It retails for $4,499.
Simaudio had their special Pink Floyd edition of the Moon 810LP balanced MC/MM phono preamplifier on display.
The new Moon 740P balanced preamplifier from Simaudio.
The new Moon 870A reference balanced amplifier from Simaudio. The 870A features 300 watts/channel.
Germany’s Burmester had some gorgeous equipment on display. Here is the 111 music center which includes a preamplifier and integrated DAC. It retails for $49,995.
This is the Burmester 069 belt driven CD player. It retails for $52,495 with an internal power supply or $67,995 with a reference line power supply.
This is the Burmester 956 MK 2 power amplifier. It retails for $17,495.
This enormous amp is the Burmester 909 MK5 power amplifier. It retails for $73,495.
I went into the Soul Electronics suite to see their display. I was surprised to see Tim Tebow showing off a pair of his SL300TEBOW edition headphones in person. They are currently on sale for $224.95.
Here’s a look at the internal construction of the Ayre preamplifier which retails for $18,500. The unit is actually upside down and the bottom panel has been removed.
The MBL suite was packed with people enjoying the MBL Radialstrahler speakers which radiate sound in a 360 degree pattern.
Boulder Amplifiers, Inc. had their 3050 series monoblocks on display. The amps are enormous and the design is really unusual. A pair of these amps will set you back $205,000 and each one requires a 240 volt circuit. Due to the power requirements, these were not operational in the suite.
This is the power cord for the Boulder amps.
This is the new reference surround processor from JBL Synthesis. It retails for $10,500 and features 7.1 channels of processing, 8 HDMI inputs, 24 bit/192 kHz DACs and two 32-bit floating point DSP engines.
The new Mark Levinson No 52 reference dual-monaural preamplifier was on display. It retails for $30,000.
This large subwoofer is the Revel Ultima Rhythm 2.
This is the new Project Everest DD67000 three-way speaker from JBL. A pair will set you back $75,000.
Revel introduced an update to the Performa3 Series speakers. Here are the F208 3-way dual 8″ tower speakers ($5,000/pair on the left) and the F206 3-way dual 6.5″ tower speakers ($3,500/pair).
Here is the Revel C208 dual 8″ center channel. It retails for $2,000.
Here is the Revel C205 dual 5.25″ center channel. It retails for $1,000.
Headphones and headphone amps were everywhere. Here is the HP100 headphone amplifier from Stello. The price was TBD.
I stopped by the McIntosh suite to see what was new. The McIntosh McAire is an all-in-one solution capable of receiving streaming content from AirPlay over a WiFi network. The product includes two 4″ woofers, two 2″ midrange drivers, and two ¾” tweeters. The McAire supports USB docking and retails for $3,000.
This is the 60th Anniversary Edition (1949-2009) MXA60 two-channel integrated audio system. It includes a CD/SACD player, an AM/FM tuner and is rated at 75 watts/channel.
This is the new McIntosh MT5 precision turntable.
One big change at McIntosh was the inclusion of a D/A converter and digital inputs on all of their updated products. The digital inputs include optical, coaxial, and USB.
Here is the new D100 two-channel digital preamplifier paired with the 50th Anniversary Edition of the McIntosh 275 two-channel amplifier.
Starting from the top, here are the new MA7900 integrated amplifier, the MAC 6700 receiver, and the MA5200 integrated amplifier. All include the new D/A converter and digital inputs.
My last stop at the Venetian was at the Scaena suite. These amazing speakers make use of multiple small drivers to create some beautiful music. The custom speakers will run around $200K.
On my way back to the Monte Carlo, I stopped at the Vdara hotel to see the Olive One prototype in person. The prototype unit was really beautiful with a glass and aluminum exterior. The dial that you see in the picture will be replaced with a continuous piece of glass when the product is released this summer. At $400, this is one media server that will be flying off the shelves.
That’s it for today. I will head down to the Las Vegas Convention Center tomorrow.
Scott Wilkinson Summary
Another CES has come and gone; this was my 21st. Unlike most of my colleagues in the press corps, I really enjoy going to the show, in part to see all the cool new toys, but more to have some face time with people I otherwise don’t get to see in person. Plus, I enjoy the over-the-topness of Las Vegas—not that I’d want to live there, but it’s fun to visit.
Of course, the big home-theater news this year was 4K/Ultra HD. As I wrote in my report on press-conference day, the terminology used to identify the new video resolution is somewhat confusing. The commercial/professional version of 4K uses a pixel resolution of 4096×2160, while the consumer version, officially dubbed Ultra HD or UHD by the Consumer Electronics Association (which puts on CES), is 3840×2160.
Why the difference? Because 4096×2160 is exactly twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of commercial 2K (2048×1080), which is seen in most digital cinemas, while 3840×2160 is exactly twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of consumer HDTV (1920×1080).
Why not make them the same? Because commercial 2K and HDTV aren’t the same, though I don’t know why that is so. What I do know is that it makes sense to exactly double the horizontal and vertical resolution in either case to make upscaling mathematically simple and thus less prone to artifacts.
Unfortunately, many consumer-electronics companies use “4K” to mean UHD, resulting in much confusion. All you need to know is, if a company says “4K” in relation to a consumer product, it is talking about UHD at 3840×2160. For the remainder of this article, I’ll use the term UHD, since I’ll be talking exclusively about consumer 4K.
So here are the conclusions I drew after spending four days with 150,000 of my closest friends:
UHD is Not Stupid
Many of my journalistic colleagues believe that the high resolution of UHD is stupid, especially on what are now normal-sized screens—say, 50 or 60 inches—at what are now normal seating distances—say 10 feet or more. And they are right that the human visual system cannot discern the increased detail of UHD on a screen of that size at that seating distance.
And yet every time I see a relatively small UHD display showing native UHD images, even from a distance that should make it indistinguishable from 1080p, it does, in fact, look different to me—more nuanced, more dimensional, more like looking out a window. Am I deluding myself? I don’t think so; I’ve noticed this even before I knew I was looking at UHD content on a UHD display.
And UHD does offer several other advantages. First, humans can indeed see the increased detail on very large screens. And with more normal-sized screens, you have much more flexibility in your seating distance—in particular, you can sit much closer than you would want to with regular HD.
Then there’s 3D. I know, I know…many consumers don’t care about 3D, but for those who do, a UHD TV can display 3D using passive glasses or no glasses at all with 1080 lines of vertical resolution—in other words, full HD for each eye without needing active-shutter glasses. Plus the thin, horizontal black lines seen in 3D images on current passive flat panels are much less visible on a UHD set.
Sports fans can watch four games at once, splitting the screen four ways, and each pane is still 1920×1080. Yes, each pane is only a quarter the size of the entire screen, making it harder to see any greater detail beyond a certain seating distance. But if each image is full HD to begin with, the TV needn’t scale any of the images, eliminating any chance of artifacts.
If you take digital photos—and who doesn’t these days?—they are probably at least 8 megapixels in resolution. A UHD TV provides 8.3 megapixels, which means you can see your photos in their full-res glory.
Finally, if you browse the web or engage in much social media on your TV, text will be much sharper and crisper on a UHD TV than it is on a 1080p display.
Of course, the biggest challenge facing UHD displays is delivering native UHD content. At CES, several forms of UHD delivery were demonstrated, including over-the-air terrestrial broadcasting from the Korean Broadcasting System, downloading UHD movies from Sony, and streaming UHD content from Netflix. Each of these delivery systems is in its infancy, and there are many obstacles to overcome, including bandwidth issues, copy protection, etc.
Until then, these TVs will have to upscale 1080p to UHD, and those that do the best job of it will be the most sought-after. As I said earlier, upscaling 1080p to UHD is relatively easy, but even so, I’ve seen examples of UHD TVs that do a poor job of it with certain difficult material. Most companies were showing native UHD content at CES, so it was difficult to judge this particular area of performance at the show.
3D is Not Dead
I was amazed at how many times I heard people say that this year’s CES clearly demonstrated the death of 3D. From my perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, 3D was not being touted very much, except in LG’s booth with its gigantic 3D video wall and other displays showing 3D, but that doesn’t mean everyone else had forsaken it.
In fact, virtually all the new TVs on display—at least, those in a company’s mid-level and high-end lines—had 3D capabilities. And Panasonic will include two pairs of active 3D glasses with its ZT60, VT60, and ST60 TVs, not just the flagship models as it did last year.
Among the 3D news at CES this year was glasses-free 3D technology from Dolby and Stream TV Networks as well as glasses-free 3D TVs from Vizio, Hisense, and others. And virtually all the UHD TVs at the show are 3D-capable, most with passive glasses. Several 3D projectors were also on hand from BenQ, Epson, Wolf, SIM2, and others.
On the content side, Vizio announced the availability of Sensio’s 3D Go streaming service, and Netflix just announced 3D streaming of some original documentaries as well. Also, Lionsgate will convert several of its titles to 3D in a partnership with Samsung. And of course, 3D movies continue to be made for theatrical release, which means they will be available on 3D Blu-ray as well.
I agree with Chris Chinnock at Display Central, who wrote this week, “It proves that 3D is moving beyond the introductory hype phase into a sustainable product, market, and technology development phase…It is almost as if manufacturers are taking a ‘yeah, of course it is 3D capable’ attitude.” Exactly!
CES is Not Irrelevant
Another comment I heard quite often was that CES is becoming irrelevant—indeed, that it is going the way of Comdex, the big computer trade show that ended 10 years ago. If CES is dying, no one told the 150,000+ attendees and more than 3250 exhibitors who unveiled some 20,000 new products, making it the largest in the show’s 45-year history. Exhibit space occupied 1.92 million square feet, beating the previous record of 1.86 million square feet in 2012.
And that exhibit space was filled will colorful booths, such as the huge one built by Chinese manufacturer TCL seen in the photo at the top of this blog. Another Chinese company to watch is Hisense, which claims a growth rate of 10 percent per year while the Japanese stalwarts are drowning in red ink. Speaking of which, Panasonic’s booth space was, in fact, much smaller this year than it has been for many years, though Sony, Sharp, and Toshiba were about the same size. And Microsoft did not exhibit at all, which some cited as evidence that CES is dying.
I admit that I didn’t put as many miles on my pedometer as last year—23.5 versus 35—but I got sick during the show (as did many, many people), so I didn’t make it to the Venetian at all, and I left a day earlier than usual. I normally stay to the bitter end because there’s so much to cover, and this year was no exception, so I regret having to cut short my time there.
CES is becoming irrelevant? I say hogwash! From what I saw, the show is alive and well, with plenty of products and technologies to keep us all busy until next January, when we’ll gather in Las Vegas to do it again. Meanwhile, stay tuned to Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity all year long for detailed coverage of some of the goodies we saw last week. Here’s to a great 2013!