Authors: Robert Kozel and Carlo LoRaso
When it comes to video, 4K UHD has become the norm and the focus is now on HDR. Whether the format is HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), or Advanced HDR (Technicolor’s HDR solution), the industry is working through solutions to bring HDR content, for both prerecorded and live broadcast, to your television in the near future.
Of course the major manufacturers like LG, Samsung and Sony continue to innovate with display technology to improve the viewing experience. While the LG OLED displays were my favorites at the show, the improved color and viewing angles offered by the LG nano cell display technology and the Samsung QLED quantum dot technology were impressive. For the consumer, the hassle of multiple HDR formats that may or may not be supported on existing or new UHD televisions promises another round of market confusion. The HDMI 2.1 spec was also just released with support for 8K video. We all know the industry will start chasing that resolution in the hopes of selling new televisions along with all the media players and A/V receivers that come along with a change in HDMI specification.
We also saw 4K UHD Blu-ray players from multiple companies at the show. This is a good thing for the consumer as it provides a high quality source to feed all those 4K UHD HDR televisions. Time will tell if consumers will be interested in buying and rebuying content in the 4K UHD Blu-ray format, but for the studios and lovers of physical media, this new disc format is a very good thing.
On the audio side of things, there was a noticeable reduction in the number of companies showing products in the Venetian Towers and the hallways seemed a lot less crowded than at past shows. While the audio demos still focused primarily on two-channel, products offering support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X could be easily found at the show. There was definitely a continued focus on streaming media services like Roon and TIDAL at the show. Alexa integration was also a common theme throughout CES.
There were plenty of new audio products to get excited about like the Emotiva RMC-1 reference media controller, the GoldenEar Technology Triton Reference Tower speakers, the Paradigm Persona 9H speaker, and the KEF LS50 Wireless speakers. It was great to see that there are still audio companies innovating and offering exceptional products to their customers.
That’s it for our coverage of CES 2017. Read on for some final thoughts from my colleague, Carlo Lo Raso. It was a fun show and we look forward to bringing you reviews of many of the products we saw at the show in the coming months.
Well CES 2017 has come and gone and it seemed like another monstrously well attended event. I pretty much concur with Robert Kozel’s takeaway assessment from CES but I also wanted to add a couple of other observations in terms of what caught my attention.
LG again seemed to have one of the busiest booths at the show and it was easy to see why. They’re next generation OLED displays were, quite simply, stunning both visually and aesthetically. But the entrance of SONY into the OLED display game, I think, is going to change the dynamics of this market a little, and most likely for the better. While it’s probably the most poorly kept secret that SONY is sourcing it’s OLED panels from LG’s display division, LG no longer has a consumer monopoly on these TVs. The deciding factor in performance is now going to focus on the electronics and video processing found in these displays and SONY is a juggernaut in that regard. I think this will help keep LG on their game and ultimately benefit the consumer in years to come.
This company moves fast. Last year was a buzz with the introduction of the Uni-Fi speakers and the Element integrated amp, showing people what good sound could be had at such a modest price point. I was completely unprepared for the breadth of product that they had at CES this year. A complete line of in-wall speakers, a second music server, a networked speaker and a brand new, mid-level speaker line. Andrew Jones, Chris Walker and Peter Madnick are creating products that are well thought out, appealing and great sounding thus, helping put an old, esteemed German audio brand that had long since disappeared from the American consciousness, back on the map.
Probably the most revealing demonstration that I’d been to at CES this year. A completely active speaker array that used beam-forming and DSP to essentially remove the limiting factors of a room and allow you to tune the sound exactly where and how you want. Bang & Olufsen tread this ground last year with the BEOLAB 90 speaker but this goes to a whole other level. Lexicon’s speaker was unique in its design and its ability to allow you to move and expand the sweet spot at will, all while maintaining ultimate fidelity. It was utterly convincing. I really want to see where Lexicon takes this. In the meantime, send me those speakers!
Beamforming for the masses. If Lexicon’s application was aimed at the upper end of the spectrum, Comhear’s demonstration hinted at what similar technology could do in a more common and accessible situation. The “MyBeam” sound bar (with a small sub) essentially created a binaural listening experience for a listener, in free space, without headphones. When listening to binaural recordings, stereo recordings and surround encoded material, the nearfield listening demo was as completely convincing as the Lexicon demo of what this tech is capable of. I wish Dr. Mark Waldrep complete success in his crowdfunding campaign to bring the technology in the industrial application “MyBeam” to home application with his proposed “Yarra” sound bar.
In closing, I wonder too about the viability of CES as a showcase for just pure audio and hi-fi. The show seems to be driving more towards networked home, drones, robots and other things making, two channel and surround sound audio seems slightly out of place, almost an anachronism, in light of everything else that goes on here. I think audio companies are starting to feel that too and may start marshalling their resource to more dedicated shows in the future. I suppose we’ll see. In the meantime, thanks for following along and I hope you enjoyed Secret’s coverage of CES 2017.