CES 2015 is a WRAP! More than 40 images and comments have been added in the last couple of days as our hard-working SECRETS coverage team empties out their image files for you, our readers! A Huge Thank You to our SECRETS Coverage Team: Robert Kozel, Piero Gabucci and Carlo Lo Raso for an outstanding CES 2015 Show Report!
Be sure to check out the Wrap-up from the SECRETS Coverage Team.
CES 2015 is underway in Las Vegas! Equipment is moving in….booths are under construction……bringing back memories of the several years that SECRETS had a booth on the main floor of the convention center complex…..in a word…HECTIC! Covering the show again this year is our veteran Senior Editor Team:Robert Kozel and Piero Gabucci. Piero is in Las Vegas now and Robert arrives on Monday…planning to attend some of the big press conferences before the show floor opensear your comfortable shoe.
Cynthia, SECRETS Managing Editor will join the team on Tuesday and will be tweeting from the main venues. This year Carlo LoRaso, a member of the SECRETS Team, will be joining the CES coverage team. Have fun Carlo…..ws!
As in past years, there are multiple venues to cover, including the expanding off-site locations. Our primary coverage will be the highlights of new A/V products from the Venetian and the Las Vegas Convention Center complex. We will be attending some off-sites as well. In past years we have provided some coverage of THE Show, but the organizers of THE Show announced some time ago that THE Show Las Vegas is on hiatus in 2015 and THE Newport Beach Show will be expanded….scheduled for the4 end of May, 2015.
Coverage will begin Monday and will be reported here and on Google+ all week.
John Johnson, Editor-in-Chief, began attending CES twenty-five years ago, and first reporting on CES twenty-one years ago. 21 years ago when the SECRETS website launched……Some of our content has been lost through the many upgrades of the website, but just for kicks, you can check out the coverage of the 1997 Winter Consumer Electronics Show by John Johnson, Stacey Spears and Colin Miller Winter Consumer Electronics Show by John Johnson, Stacey Spears and Colin Miller.
Robert Kozel Show Report
DAY 4….It’s a Wrap
Show Reports on Google+ goo.gl/JoZtTq
Post – 8:20pm
Here is the 65″ 4K Ultra HD XBR-65X900C LCD television from Sony. It is the thinnest display in Sony’s product lineup and most likely the thinnest on the show floor.
Post – 8:16pm
Samsung was showing an example of content that was produced with High Dynamic Range. The images are from the movie “Exodus Gods and Kings.” The images on the left are from a conventional television, while the images on the right show what is possible with High Dynamic Range technology like Dolby Vision. The difference was stunning. The new UHD Alliance companies like Sony, Panasonic and Samsung, together with content, distribution and technology partners like Dolby, Technicolor, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox, Netflix, Disney and DIRECTV, will be working together to help this technology move into the consumer market.
Post – 8:02pm
Here are the gorgeous Samsung S’UHD LCD televisions. These new models all use quantum dot technology to display a wider color gamut with higher dynamic range. Samsung is marketing these new sets as S’UHD to designate them as premium sets in their product lineup. The name is certainly confusing, but the televisions were beautiful despite looking far too bright on some of the content.
Post – 7:51pm
As is typical at CES, technology firsts don’t last very long. Sony has a 4K camcorder and so does Panasonic.
Post – 7:47pm
I didn’t know Panasonic made technology for in-flight entertainment. Take a look at these displays that might be entertaining you on a future flight.
Post – 6:29pm
Looking for a really small projector that can fit in the palm of your hand? This is the PH300 from LG. It has a built-in battery for about 2.5 hours of life and it produces up to a 100 inch image at 720P resolution (1280 x 720). It uses an LED illumination system.
Post – 6:21pm
Here’s another look at the 21:9 curved UltraWide multi-display from LG. The panels use IPS technology and will be sought after by stockbrokers and IT help desk staff everywhere.
Post – 6:15pm
LG was highlighting that DIRECTV would have 4K content in 2015.
Post – 6:08pm
After listening to the Auro-3D demonstrations at CES, I was once again reminded of how much I enjoyed their demonstrations at CEDIA 2014. The Auro-3D demo material is real-world, like listening to a Bach concerto in a gorgeous cathedral or standing in the city center of Amsterdam. It also has appealing Hollywood demos like “Turbo” or “Rise of the Guardians.” The sound is incredibly immersive and has wonderful ambiance. It is almost impossible to walk away from the demo not wanting this in your home. The challenge of course is how would this work in the home? At CES 2015, there were two demos of Auro-3D. The first demo was at the ATI, Theta Digital and California Audio Technology suite which presented a full Auro-3D implementation in a small hotel suite including both height layer and top layer speakers. The second demonstration was at the Auro Technologies suite, which used a more modest speaker configuration. Carlo and Piero have already posted some pictures of the demo rooms and I include some additional pictures here to remind you of the differences in the demo rooms.
In discussing the implementation with Auro Technologies, the major take away was that Auro-3D can be effective in a smaller listening room just by implementing the top layer speakers. In the case of the Auro Technologies demo room, this meant just adding four speakers mounted near the ceiling of the listening room angled at 30 degrees toward the listening area. The Auro-3D processing algorithms automatically adjust for the number of speakers in the room and deliver an immersive presentation. If the room is larger, or if the ultimate configuration is desired, as in the ATI and California Audio Technology suite, then Auro-3D can make use of the speakers in the height layer as well. For an Auro-3D configuration, it is assumed that any existing surround and rear channel speakers are placed near ear level. If those speakers are not at ear level, they would need to be moved in order to achieve the proper presentation.
So what about Dolby Atmos? Dolby Atmos is geared at Hollywood movie soundtracks and offers a competing object-based audio technology. The Atmos implementation only requires sounds from above the listening area which can come from in-ceiling speakers or from speaker elevation modules which reflect the sound off the ceiling toward the listening area. The Dolby Atmos demos sound great but the height content is definitely dependent on the soundtrack. The Dolby Surround processing required for Dolby Atmos is also becoming widely available through widespread adoption by the AVR manufacturers.
So can we have both technologies in the same room? Yes. Auro Technologies made it very clear that installing speakers for Auro-3D will work well for Dolby Atmos. The reverse is not workable though, and a Dolby Atmos implementation, with elevation modules which bounce the sound off the ceiling, will not deliver an immersive Auro-3D presentation. Dolby Atmos ceiling-mounted speakers that point straight down into the listening room are also not as effective, since Auro-3D works best with the speakers angled at 30 degrees toward the listener. The Auro-3D sound will not be as immersive if the sound is directed straight down into the room.
So how will this work for the consumer? It is once again another case of competing technologies. Dolby Atmos soundtracks are already appearing on Blu-ray discs and Auro Technologies is working through discussions for delivering Auro-3D content. In the meantime, we will see support for both formats on consumer-accessible products in the very near future. Marantz has already announced that they will be supporting both formats on their new flagship processor, the AV-8802. This is a great sign for coexistence but the challenge for installation remains. If you are building or remodeling a home theater, then by all means install for Auro-3D and for Dolby Atmos. If you are living with an existing room, then speaker placement will be a more major concern, and Dolby Atmos with its elevation module option becomes a much easier path to immersive 3D listening.
In either case, it all comes down to content and how compelling that content is for the consumer. We’ll see how things develop in 2015.
Post – 5:19pm
This is the LG EF9800 art wall 4K OLED television. This gorgeous, incredibly thin, flat panel display is perfect for wall mounting. The speakers are housed in the sound bar. It also won a CES editor’s choice award.
Post – 5:09pm
Here’s another look at the LG 4K OLED displays. Hands down my favorites at the show. The contrast and black levels were amazing. No word on pricing…from anyone.
Post – 4:43pm
LG had an interesting display that showed how the internal structure of an LCD panel compared to an OLED panel. In the LCD display, the layers are back cover+reflector, diffuser plate, prism sheet, quantum dot sheet, guide panel and the front glass panel. In the OLED panel, the layers are simply the OLED panel and the back cover.
Post – 4:24pm
Astell & Kern was also showcasing their partnership with Jerry Harvey Audio. This is the Angie in-ear monitor which is part of The Siren Series. It has eight drivers: dual low, dual mid and quad high. The price is around $1,000.
Post – 4:16pm
Astell & Kern was showcasing their co-branding partnership with premium Dutch cable maker Crystal Cable. The cables come with a laser engraved serial number. Price and availability are TBD.
Post – 4:00pm
So how much would you pay for an audio player? How about $12,000 for the Astell & Kern AK500N network audio player! This ultimate media player supports one-click CD ripping and realtime PCM to DSD64 conversion. It runs off of an internal battery during playback to eliminate any noise from the AC power supply. It also has a four bay solid state drive array and supports 1 TB, 2 TB and 4 TB SSD drives in RAID 0 and RAID 5 configurations for maximum redundancy and data protection. Simply amazing.
Post – 3:40pm
Cary Audio Design was showing their new premium DMC-600SE high-resolution media streamer. In addition to being a CD player, the DMC-600SE supports AptX Bluetooth, USB hard drives and memory sticks, internet radio, and DLNA. It has a full complement of analog XLR and RCA outputs as well as DAC inputs so you can connect legacy digital products. The DMC-600SE supports 32-bit/384 kHz streaming and it supports DSD64, 128 and 256. It retails for $7,995 and is available now. Cary Audio Design also offers the DMC-600 at $5,995 which has the same functionality without the super premium components.
Post – 3:06pm
Simaudio Ltd. was introducing the new MOON Neo 280D digital to analog converter. It supports native DSD up to DSD256, as well as PCM up to 32-bit/384 kHz, including DXD. It has a fully balanced analog stage and proprietary 3rd order filtering which, according to Simaudio, provides lifelike transparency. The 280D supports Bluetooth connectivity so you can use your favorite music apps from your smart device. It supports an optional MiND module (MOON intelligent Network Device) which provides a graphical user interface for managing a networked digital music library. The Neo 280D retails for $2,200and will be available in Q1 2015 and the optional MiND module retails for $800. The demo system included a beautiful pair of KEF Blade speakers.
Day 4 – 2:38 pm
CES is also a place to showcase high-end audio gear. This is the Naim NAC S1 Statement Ultimate preamplifier and a pair of NAP S1 Statement Ultimate mono power amplifiers. The NAC S1 preamp has a proprietary dual volume control which uses a 100 resistor step attenuator and chip control. It retails for $90,000.
The mono block amps retail for $150,000 a pair, weigh 222 lbs. each, and deliver 746 watts per channel into 8 ohms, 1450 watts into 4 ohms, and a staggering 9,000 watts per channel burst power at 1 ohm.
Post – 2:43pm
This is the Sharp WiSA-compliant Wireless Bridge model VR-WR100U. It supports uncompressed wireless audio at 24-bit/96 kHz and allows you to use your own amplifier and speaker. It retails for $599.99 and is available now.
Post – 2:19pm
For a high-end wireless solution, here is the Sharp SD-WH1000U high resolution audio player. It is WiSA compliant and wirelessly delivers 24-bit/96 kHz uncompressed audio from 2.0 to 7.1 channels. It can also deliver full HD video wirelessly using WiHD. It is available now and is priced at $4,999.99.
Post – 2:12pm
It has taken a few years, but the support for the Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association has grown tremendously. At this rate, they are going to need a much wider banner. Looking at the names on the banner, we can certainly expect many more WiSA enabled products in our future.
Post – 2:06pm
This is the Enclave wireless audio system. It is the first WiSA certified mass-market 5.1 wireless home theater system. It is designed for simple consumer setup – simply unbox, place the speakers, connect the audio source to the Smart Center channel, power on, and enjoy. It offers a complete 5.1 system without the need for any audio/video receiver. It retails from $199 to $1,199 depending on the number of channels. It will be available this May at major retailers
Post – 1:58pm
The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association was demonstrating lots of solutions at the show. Here’s another example of a control system using WiSA technology. The control system is built by Summit Semiconductor and allows for wireless operation of a 5.1 speaker system in one room and a separate two-channel system in another zone. Zone 2 controlled the wireless Fostex speakers in the demo room.
Post – 1:46pm
The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association was demonstrating that their technology could also be used in the broadcast industry. This Fostex 6301 broadcast monitor can be operated with wall or battery power. On battery, they have between 6 and 8 hours of use from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. They are built for a rugged professional audio environment, and thanks to the WiSA technology, they support up to 24-bit/96 kHz uncompressed audio. A wireless distribution hub will also be available. Price and availability are TBD.
Post – 1:35pm
The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association was demonstrating the new Klipsch Reference Premiere speaker system. The system has a WiSA enabled control module which is built-in to the center channel speaker. Simply connect an HDMI source to the center channel module, and the system will deliver high resolution uncompressed audio, up to 24-bit/96 kHz, to each speaker in the system. The Klipsch Reference Premiere system is expandable up to 7.2 channels and will be available in the fall of 2015.
Post – 1:24pm
The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association has announced that a major new partner, LG Innotek, has joined the association. LG Innotek, a $5 billion division of LG Group, makes electronic modules for the consumer electronics and automotive industries. They are now making WiSA compliant wireless-audio transmitter and receiver products which are designed to be integrated into television, AVRs, soundbars, speakers and multi-channel consumer audio products.
Post – 12:43pm
There were plenty of soundbars on display. This is the new audiophile Solo Bar from Arcam. It supports HD audio decoding as well as Bluetooth aptX streaming. It has a matching wired / wireless subwoofer called the Solo Sub. The soundbar retails for $1,499 and the sub for $799.
Post – 12:37pm
This is the new BDA3 D/A converter from Bryston. It has ten digital inputs and supports up to 32-bit/384 kHz PCM and up to DSDx4 natively. It has two asynchronous USB inputs as well as four HDMI inputs. It also support S/PDIF over BNC, RCA and Toslink. SACD can be fed natively over HDMI into the BDA3 from most universal disc players. The BDA3 will be available in first quarter 2015.
Post – 12:20pm
REL was showcasing the next generation of the Serie T subwoofers called the Serie Ti. The updated subs use an alloy center damper to improve cone stiffness while reducing weight. The passive drivers are now placed on the bottom of the cabinets. The lighters drivers increased cabinet volume which allows the Ti series to produce deeper bass. The Serie T subwoofers also support the optional Aero wireless technology.
Post – 12:08pm
Antelope Audio was showcasing the updated Rubicon. This gorgeous AD/DA converter has been updated with technology from the Zodiac Platinum DAC. It now supports DSD 128 and 24-bit/384 kHz streaming. It uses a 10 MHz Rubidium Atomic Clock and retails for $40,000. It is hand assembled and made to order.
Post – 10:59am
Besides the wonderful new Triton 5 loudspeakers, GoldenEar was also demonstrating the new SuperSub XXL subwoofer. The sub has a 1600 watt Class D digital subwoofer amp that was developed from the Triton One. It has dual 12″ ultra-long-throw high-output bass drivers and two 12-3/4″ x 14-1/2″ quadratic planar infrasonic radiators. The best part of this design is that the SuperSub XXL is inertially balanced. So what does that mean for you? Stability and performance!
The subwoofer doesn’t waste energy shaking the cabinet which would otherwise degrade performance. In fact, the SuperSub XXL cabinet is so stable that we were able to balance a nickel on its edge while the subwoofer was playing tons of deep, loud, detailed bass. At $2,000, this is a bargain for a subwoofer of this performance. The SuperSub XXL will be available later this year.
Day 3 – 10:22am
Paradigm was showing their updated CI Pro Series speakers. Here are the CI Pro P80-A and P80-SM speakers. There are four in-ceiling models and two in-wall models. Like the Prestige Series speakers, they are hand-built in Canada and have the Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA) tweeter lens. They also share the patented Active Ridge Technology (ART) surrounds. The top side of each speaker is completely covered to protect the components from any debris. They should be available in Spring of 2015.
Post – 12:07pm
This display shows Samsung’s new S’ UHD compared to LED, plasma, OLED and wide color LED. The OLED is in the upper right. The S’UHD is in the center. Initial reaction is that the S’UHD is extremely bright compared to the OLED. Samsung tells us that the nano-crystal technology improves black levels, color reproduction and dynamic range. The sets are still LCD with traditional edge-lit or full-array multi-zone backlighting depending on model. Up close, they offer significant improvement in detail and contrast.
Post – 11:48am
Technics is relaunching their brand targeting the audiophile. This system retails for $60K and is tailored for high resolution audio playback.
Post – 11:38am
Here it is folks. Panasonic was showing the prototype of the UHD Blu-ray player. The images are stunning.
Post – 10:41am
LG is offering three models of OLED televisions without the curve!!! Sizes include 55″, 65″ and 77″. Price is TBD.
Post – 10:32am
The stunning LG OLED displays.
Post – 10:27am
The crowds at the convention center are enormous as always entering Central Hall.
Day 2 – 8:53am
Manley wasn’t introducing any new products at CES this year, but they did bring some serious creativity to the show. This was the most creative display of high end gear that I’ve seen at the Venetian so far.
Post – 11:10pm
Here is a closeup of the Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA) tweeter on Paradigm’s Prestige Series speakers. The metal work on these speakers is beautiful and thankfully the grills are optional so you can show off the details to your friends.
Post – 10:59pm
This is the Prestige Series 25S on-wall/corner mount omni-directional surround speaker from Paradigm. It can be used as a side/rear mount 2-channel speaker or as a corner mount stereo speaker. It will be available in black in Q1 2015 and retails for $899/each.
Post – 10:51pm
Here is another look at the Prestige Series speakers from Paradigm.
Post – 10:48pm
Paradigm was showing their new Prestige Series subwoofers. The controls are front mounted for user convenience. A built-in tone generator is included which allows you to easily locate rattles and unwanted noises in the listening room. The Perfect Base Kit (PBK), which is Anthem Room Correction for the subwoofer, can be turned on/off with a separate user control. The subwoofer on display was shown in the Midnight Cherry finish. The finish work on the Prestige Series speakers is gorgeous.
The Prestige subs come in two models. The Prestige 2000SW has a 15″ X-PAL pure-aluminum cone woofer with Active Ridge Technology (ART) surround. The 2000SW is rated at 3,400 W dynamic peak and 2,000 W RMS. The Prestige 1000SW has a 12″ X-PAL woofer, 1,700 W peak, and 1,000 W RMS. The RMS ratings for both subs are with a 240V power source.
Both subs will be available in Spring 2015.
Post – 9:47pm
Sony also showed off their new 4K Action Cam. They gave the camera to professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, who shot some impressive footage on his travels using the camera. Sony brought Tony on stage to talk about his experience with the camera. Now if the camera could just make us all ski like Tony Hawk. Looks like Sony wants to give GoPro some competition.
Post – 9:38pm
Since 4K content also needs to be personal, Sony announced the first 4K Handycam. It has some amazing image stabilization technology that, according to Sony, allows the camera to be used without a tripod. It also retails for $1,000. The marketing line is: 4K for $1K.
Post – 9:33pm
In keeping with the theme of improving content for 4K televisions, Sony was emphasizing their partnership with Netflix and Amazon to deliver the best possible 4K content.
Post – 9:29pm
Sony was also announcing the PlayStation Vue broadcast media service which will be coming early this year. It is already in Beta on an invitation-only basis for PlayStation users.
For 2015, Sony was highlighting their new 4K XBR 910 and 900C series televisions. In addition to being unbelievably thin, they utilize the new X1 4K X-Reality Pro processor which Sony says improves color, contrast and clarity. The X1 processor adjusts its processing based on the incoming resolution. I am looking forward to seeing that demo on the show floor.
Post – 2:31pm
All of Samsung’s new Smart TV’s will now be powered by the TIZEN operating system.
Post – 2:27pm
Samsung’s answer to OLED is SUHD TV. It uses nano-crystal semiconductors to produce vibrant colors. Can’t wait to see this technology up close. Like it or not, Samsung is also stressing their curved television designs.
Day 1 – 1:27pm
The fun begins for me at CES 2015. The line for the Samsung press conference has always been crazy. This year’s crowd at the Mandalay Bay conference center packs an entire ballroom just in the hope of gaining entry. Another half an hour to wait.
Pre-show January 3rd Update
Another year has flown by and it’s time to head to Las Vegas for the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show. I finished putting away all the holiday decorations in the nick of time, as a cold rain is moving in followed by much colder temps and snow. Last year at this time, the Polar Vortex was causing travel nightmares and I’m thankful to not be dealing with those frigid temps again as I get ready to head to the show.
This year’s show promises to be as big as ever. I am looking forward to seeing how Dolby Atmos is evolving after the introduction at CEDIA this past September. I am very curious to see if more manufacturers are incorporating Dolby Atmos into their speaker designs. I will also be looking for more info on the competing Auro-3D format. I expect to see lots of DACs and computer audio products supporting the DSD formats. On the video front, I expect to see a huge emphasis on Ultra HD displays. LG made an impressive splash with their OLED introductions at CEDIA 2014, and I am hoping for lots of OLED options at much more reasonable price points for 2015. It will be very interesting to see what Samsung and Sony offer this year to compete with LG.
I am looking forward to seeing a demonstration of Quantum Dots which promise to improve display technology with performance similar to OLED with an easier manufacturing process. I am also looking forward to seeing the latest Dolby Vision demonstration. I will also be very surprised if we don’t see a 4K Blu-ray demo at the show. Despite the crazy crowds and the insane show logistics, I am excited to be returning to the warm weather of Las Vegas for another CES. I hope to bring you some press conference coverage on Monday. I’ll start my show floor coverage on Tuesday from the Venetian.
Carlo LoRaso Show Report
DAY 4….It’s a Wrap
Show Reports on Google+ goo.gl/JoZtTq
Post – 4:03pm
Sennheiser had a number of their Momentum headphones on display and, sitting in a corner, was the legendary Orpheus electrostatic headphones and amp. Why did they discontinue something that still sounds so sweet?!
Post – 4:00pm
Now for something a little different. The Muraudio PX1 are a really uniquely designed set of speakers. The top portion consists of an omnidirectional electrostatic array for the mids and highs while the cast aluminum base houses a trio of 25cm low frequency drivers in a force neutral configuration. It had a really interesting sound. Definitely open and spacious. Although I couldn’t help feeling that the room wasn’t doing the speakers any favors. I really wish I could have heard them in a larger room where they’d have a chance to really breathe.
Post – 3:48pm
Audio-Technical was showing off some of their high end head gear and the new AT-HA5050H DAC/Headphone amp.
Post – 3:25pm
Cabasse has eyes….. everywhere!
Post – 3:19pm
“Uh, Piero…..I think you missed your ride back to the hotel…”
Post – 2:47pm
Auro-3D had their own room at CES where they were demonstrating the new format. I came away a little more impressed with this demo than a couple of the others. Firstly, the sound quality was excellent due in large part to the use of a full suite of speakers from PMC’s Twenty series. Secondly the layout of the speakers seemed like something more approachable for a typical home theater owner. The area was modestly sized with two small tower speakers for front left and right, a typically sized MTM center channel and two more small towers for back left and right. Then four bookshelf speakers were mounted, one per ceiling corner and angled down at 30 degrees towards the listening area. Rounded out with a subwoofer, this made a total of 9.1 channels which the Auro rep said was the minimum amount of channels required and completely sufficient for the room we were in. If the room had been larger then the addition of a second, high mounted, center channel speaker (angled 30 degrees) and a down firing ceiling speaker over the listening area would have been needed bringing the channel count to 11.1. One thing to keep in mind though if you’re planning to upgrade an existing surround speaker setup for Auro is that your surround speaker placement would need to be lowered to about ear level in order to meet the spec. They played the, by this point, familiar Auro movie demo clips from Turbo and Rise of The Guardians. It all sounded quite good with height changes being rendered convincingly and an airplane flyover seeming quite real even without a ceiling speaker. The music clips are where I felt Auro-3D shone though. An orchestral piece with choir and vocal soloist performing in a old church sounded quite special. The reverb and ambience of the church was particularly noticeable in the playback. Another clip featuring a pipe organ was similarly live and full of ambience information. I asked if Auro was having any luck courting music labels to try the new format? He could only say that there were several ongoing negotiations and that sound recording for Auro only would require the addition of four more mics to capture the height information, so additional cost and complexity was minimal at the recording end. The processor/amplifier used was an Auro branded unit called the Auriga and retails for about $15,000.00 but the rep stated that Auro-3D would be rolling out pre-installed on more affordable receivers and processors soon and that Marantz had just released a firmware update for their top of line processor adding Auro to it’s feature set.
Post – 2:21pm
Popped in to the MiniDSP room to see what was cooking there and found a couple of interesting new products worth sharing. I’m amazed to see how much this company has grown and diversified after just starting out a few years ago with only circuit board kits for DIY audio enthusiasts. After a brief demo of how how their Dirac Live interface works on some of their existing room correction products I got to see the new P-DAC125. This modest black box hooks up to your computer via asynchronous USB (up to 192kHz input) and has analog and digital inputs as well. It also has built in ICEpower amps for 125 watts x 2 into 4 ohms and DSP room correction with 4 presets for a stereo rig. All configurable with a computer and a calibrated mic. The other cool product was a configurable 7.1 channel amplifier also with iCEpower amps. Expected availability will be mid year. Prices are TBD.
Post – 12:38pm
Another room that had some great sound was the one shared by Cabasse and Esoteric.The speakers in play were the Cabasse Pacific 3 and they were hard to ignore both visually and sonically. Handsomely designed and beautifully finished, they feature the trademark Cabasse “cycloptic eye” concentric midrange and tweeter drivers placed between two 21 cm dome woofers. The playback signal originated from the P1 SACD transport which fed through the G-01 Master Clock. That went to two individual D1 monoblock DACs which then connected to the C1 Preamp. The preamp controlled two M1 power amps and a Cabasse Santorin 30 powered subwoofer. All electronics were from Esoteric’s Grandioso line. The sound was lush, detailed and coherent and with a really big soundstage to boot. But then again, you should expect nothing less from $200,000 worth of top notch equipment! The speakers are actually the bargain of the lot at $16,000 for the pair!
Post – 12:02pm
While visiting the Technics room I was talking with chief engineer Tetsuya Itani about the new products they had at CES. In our discussions I found out that Mr. Itani was quite familiar with Secrets. Apparently he had been instrumental in the development of the first progressive scan DVD player and it’s technology and holds several patents for video related imaging. He told me that the Secrets DVD Player Benchmark was extremely helpful to him and his staff in helping them refine subsequent generations of players. He said the completeness and detail of the benchmarks helped them identify and improve any weaknesses in the technology. I was quite taken with how genuinely appreciative he seemed, so for everyone who had anything to do with the DVD Benchmarks: Insert feather in cap!
BTW, Mr. Itani is the distinguished looking gentleman on the left, not the big goof-ball in a black shirt on the right!
Post – 11:38am
At my second day at CES I experienced, what my 13 year old son would call, a “Nostalgia Bomb.” I came across a beautiful looking large silver power amp with ginormous VU meters branded with a name I hadn’t heard in a long time; Technics. Parent company Panasonic has been quietly reviving the Technics name and positioning it as an elite stereo only brand. The brand itself will have two tiers. The reference class consisting of the SE-R1 Power Amplifier, SU-R1 Network Audio Player and the SB-R1 Tower Speaker system. The Premium class will be made up of the SU-C700 Integrated Amplifier, ST-C700 Network Audio player, SB-C700 Bookshelf Speaker System and the SL-C700 Compact Disk Player. While this first encounter was of a static display at the convention center I found the Technics room at The Venetian the next day where I got to sample this very pretty amp and it’s matching speakers and network audio player. The reps and engineers were noticeably proud of their new systems and well they should be. The sound I heard from the Reference class system they had playing was warm and engaging with really nice imaging and good low end extension. A couple of interesting feature notes. The big Reference amp is actually a Class D design paired with conventional linear power supplies, big power transformers and robust power supply components. The speakers feature a flat coaxial driver that handle the mid and high frequencies. The carbon-graphite tweeter is said to have extension up towards 90 kHz. Availability in the US is said to be late spring. Expect a whole Reference system to set you back around $50 grand while a compete Premium system will cost you somewhere in the mid teens.
Post – 11:33am
At the Panasonic display, the future of 4K Blu-ray looked very….. well blue, and there was a stunning 4K OLED display that was just proof of concept only. Point of interest; we know how some current Blu-ray disks are dual layer, well 4K Blu-ray will have three layers to fit all that data onto!
Post – 11:25am
Robert checks out Panasonic’s upcoming line of 4K camcorders.
Post – 11:13am
AKG introduced their new N90Q headphones. The “Q” means that they have the endorsement of famed record producer Quincy Jones.
A couple of interesting features. They’re equipped with a self contained ear calibration system where after you put them on, you push a button on the right ear cup and both drivers emit a series of tone bursts that are measured inside the ear cups and a correction curve is created. They also have a dial on the back of the right ear cup that adjusts the tone curve from flat to more of a V shaped curve for extra bass and treble. Available in spring for $1299.00 a pair.
Post – 10:55am
GamuT from Denmark also had a fantastic sounding room featuring their swept back RS7 speakers powered by a pair of GamuT M250i monoblock amplifiers. These speakers exhibited excellent control over their entire frequency range and the gobs of tight powerful bass they put out was pretty astonishing! Yours to play with for $40,000 a pair!
Post – 10:40am
I’ve had a chance to review a few GoldenEar products this past year but this was my first chance to hear the flagship Triton Ones at CES. Although my time with them was brief, I definitely got a sense of what all the fuss is about.The kind of sound these things put out for for five grand a pair is really quite remarkable!
Post – 10:40am
Additional shots of the HiFi Man HE1000 headphones and the EF1000 amp and power supply that Piero mentioned earlier. Beautiful looking and sounding!
Post – 10:16am
While both Robert and Piero have shared images from Paradigm’s booths, I found this variety of subs that they had on display very intriguing. It looks like they really do have something for every application. And that little Seismic 110 looks like it packs enough power to punch someone into next week!
Post – 10:09am
The Simaudio room had a number of tasty treats on display. Of particular interest is the Neo 430HA headphone amplifier with optional DSD capable DAC. The thing is built like a tank, rated to drive difficult headphones with ease and able to decode more formats than a cipher clerk!
Post – 8:37am
Aurender had a very stylish and configurable array of audio file storage and playback solutions, complete with custom control and playback software. I sampled a few of them played through their V-1000 FLOW portable DAC and headphone amplifier. The FLOW uses the ES9018K2M DAC and offers up to 32 bit/384kHz input via USB, 24 bit/192kHz via optical and DSD64 and 128 playback. It can also be configured with up to 1TB of storage via an mSATA expansion slot. It can handle 600 ohm headphones and the velocity sensitive volume and playback control is very trick!
Post – 8:47am
The PMC room had the lovely model twenty-26 three way floorstanders playing some wonderful jazz and blues. WIth sound like this it’s easy to understand how PMC makes their reputation in recording studios all over the globe. Powered by all Rega electronics and playback via an Apheta 2 moving coil equipped turntable. I’m not a vinyl guy per se but after about twenty minutes in this room, I could be!
Post – 8:31am
Another one of the handful of best sound that I experienced at the show was at the TAD room where speaker guru Andrew Jones was showing off their new TAD-CE1 loudspeakers. Powered by matching TAD electronics, these speakers threw a huge engrossing image with a plentiful amount of bass. Vocals sounded spot on and horns were bright and clean without sounding brash. Featuring a coaxial driver with a vapor deposited beryllium tweeter, a slot port on either side of the enclosure and cabinets made of both Baltic birch plywood and MDF, the things absolutely reeked of quality.
Post – 7:52am
A real eye opening demonstration was conducted by Jacob Agren, Senior Project Manager for Dirac, who was introducing their new room correction system, Dirac Unison. The room had absolutely nothing fancy in it. Just an inexpensive 5.1 channel setup of speakers and sub that would have cost about $600 all told. Jacob was playing music tracks from a laptop with the Dirac Unison software, output to a surround processor and amp. It’s designed to correct frequencies from 250Hz and down. Switching from uncorrected to corrected playback, the difference was immediately obvious and nothing short of impressive. The little speakers and sub were sounding better than they had any right to, particularly in the bass region. Bass response was even and consistent in multiple listening positions ands the transition from sats to subs was utterly seamless no matter where I sat. What Dirac Unison does differently than other systems, and other flavors of Dirac, is that in addition to each speaker getting a set of filters to correct its own response, the system will look at what inconsistencies still remain per speaker, at any given seating position, and will poll the other speakers to see which ones can assist to correct the inconsistencies. For example, after correction, the front left speaker may still have a noticeable dip at 100Hz at the right seating position, Unison may find that the back right speaker can help fill that particular dip at that position far more easily than than the source speaker and will be tasked with a filter to do that. All the speakers work as a team to help each other out at all the listening positions. Jacob said that a typical home theater would require about 16 different measurement points with the appropriate calibrated microphone to feed the system with enough data. Unison has already found it’s first use in car audio systems for Volvo and is expected to roll out for home use sometime mid year.
Day 4 – 6:56am
There were about a handful of speakers I saw at CES that completely knocked my socks off sound wise and this was one of them. The Martin Logan Neolith. A 75 inch tall electrostatic exclamation point with both a 12 and 15 inch set of bass drivers in the bottom section. The thing just sounded alive. $80 grand a pair and available in any color you like, so choose wisely!
Post – 10:24am
Popped in to see the great folks at HiFi Man to check out what was new. They were featuring their new Hm-901 portable Hi-Rez music player, of which they had several, docked into tube powered headphone amps and connected to their HE-400i and HE-560 planar headphones respectively. The HM-901 plays all manner of music file formats including DSD and features the ES9018 Sabre DAC. Price was TBD. The headphones have been physically and technically redesigned to be more comfortable for prolonged wear and are sonically improved and I have to say they have succeeded on all counts. I had sampled the previous generation HE-400 last year and found it wasn’t my cup of tea. These new models have completely changed my mind. Featuring a lovely open soundstage with plenty of vocal detail but with a great satisfying low end. The HE-400i retails for $399.00 while the He-560 goes for $899.00.
Post – 9:55am
The Samsung 4K displays are called S-UHD and they were quite impressive as well. Robert is far more up on the whole Quantum Dot thing than I am but just from a visual perspective it was clear to me that the displays were focused on having a higher degree of brightness potential than OLED. That seemed to be the big marketing differentiator. Colors looked nicely saturated and the 4k demo detail looked great of course. I couldn’t help feeling though that the displays were purposely bright to get people’s attention. The whites were just too hot. I really wanted to see what a properly calibrated one would look like. I didn’t get that feeling from the LG OLEDS.
Post – 9:41am
LG also had some unique wireless self powered networked speakers. They all had rechargeable batteries in them similar to a laptop or tablet. In the demo, if you were streaming music to one speaker, say in you kitchen, from your phone and you walked to the living room the music would follow you from the kitchen speaker to the living room speaker and turn off the kitchen unit as you left. The idea being to have your music follow you all through the house if you have one of these in each room. They can also be combined with the matching sound bar to create a completely wireless surround system.
Day 3 – 9:29am
For that special day trader in your life!
Post – 11:51am
Welcome to the wall of Samsung!
Post – 10:54am
And here are your LG LED sets with quantum dots. All in 4k. Not the same black levels as OLED but colors are comparable.
Post – 10:49am
LG 77″, 65″ and 55″ OLED displays. Available end of year in both curved and flat options. Black levels and color say ratio are “off the chain!”
Post – 9:25am
Checked in on the Audioquest room to take a peek at some cables and was surprised to discover that they were debuting a new set of headphones of their own creation. Dubbed: “Nighthawk” these phones featured a number of interesting construction techniques, in particular the use of reclaimed materials and 3-D printing technology on the ear cups and grill. They are a semi-open design and use 50mm drivers with bio-cellulose diaphragms and a split gap motor assembly. Of course they feature Audioquest’s wiring know how throughout. They were extremely comfortable to wear on my rather large noggin. The sound was pleasingly warm and detailed. Maybe a touch on the dark side to what I am used to. Retail price was $599.00.
Post – 7:52am
Adding on to the teaser that Piero already showed, ATI, Theta and California Audio Technology partnered to put together an impressive and somewhat intimidating surround demonstration. 29 speakers arrayed in 3 different tiers to show off what Dolby ATMOS and AURA 3D could do! The fist clip I saw was from the Howard Hughes movie with Leo Di Caprio. It had a traditional 7.1 soundtrack. expanded to fill all the speakers. It sounded suitably engaging and massive. The next set of clips were Dolby ATMOS environmental demos. They definitely were a notch above in terms of perceived expansiveness and additional height perception. The last set of demos were clips from Turbo and Rise of The Guardians that had been remixed for AURA 3D. These, to me, has the most effective presentation of surround and height cues. Sounds seemed to move convincingly on an X, Y and a Z axis. At the end of the day though, impressive as this was, small demo samples only go so far. I need to hear some more extended demos with more familiar material to make a better informed judgment for myself. Of the little I’ve sampled so far, AURA 3D sounded more appealing. But 29 speakers?! Good Lord my wife would kill me!!!
Post – 7:26am
I can’t begin to say how impressed I was with LG’s OLED display. The floor was just packed with people checking out this technology and by my eyes it looked like it delivered! Truly inky black levels and rich colors and contrast. Practically all the demo content was 4K and it all looked predictably stunning. Of all the display vendors Robert and I checked out, LG had it in the bag for me. Nice touch that they are planning to offer OLED 4K sets in either curved or flat construction in all the sizes.
Day 2 – 7:13am
A couple of close up shots of Paradigm’s Prestige series sub. If you want something other than basic black for your speakers, these folks have you covered. Loved the color and finish on this one and it’s color would subtly would change in the light depending on the angle you were looking at it.
Post – 3:10am
The KEF Reference 3 loudspeakers were tall, elegant contemporary styled towers with a lovely satin wood finish. They feature KEF’s proprietary Uni-Q tweeter/midrange combination driver in the middle, flanked by two 6.5″ woofers. Big dynamic sound with bass you felt in your gut. You’re ticket to ride these babies is $13,000.00.
Post – 1:36am
Spent some quality time at the Totem Loudspeaker room. Founder and designer Vince Bruzzese was demoing a pair of his Element Metal tower speakers. They utilize Totem’s “Torrent” driver design which feature beautifully machined driver assemblies, powerful magnet structures and apparently no passive or active crossover components to speak of! I have to say that the sound of this pair of speakers was wonderfully rich in texture with huge imaging well beyond their modest size. Asking price is $13,000.00
Post – 11:44pm
Besides their new Triton 5 loudspeakers, GoldenEar was also showing off a new top of the line subwoofer dubbed: the SuperSub XXL. The sub features dual 12″ long throw drivers firing out on either side along with twin oblong passive radiators firing both up and down. This driver arraignment is said to help cancel out any unwanted cabinet vibrations. The glossy finish on the sub was also a nice touch too. A short listening session showed me that the sub was imminently capable of plumbing the depths when called upon. Retail price is $2000.00 and availability is said to be later on in the year.
Post – 11:19pm
The fine folks at Emotiva had a 5.1 channel system featuring five of their Stealth 6 active monitors all around and anchored by their recently released XMC-1 surround processor. Company owner Dan Laufman was explaining to me how the XMC-1’s modular internal design allows Emotiva a large degree of update flexibility as new surround standards and technology updates happen. The unit features the Dirac Live room calibration system via provided microphone. The entire system sounded very cohesive with the active Stealth 6 monitors showing off some great dynamics and a clean open sound.
Day 1 – 9:24am
A tasty array of exhibitors to start the day! I will be a busy boy!
Pre-show January 3rd Update
Looking forward to CES.
This will be my first time attending, what everyone tells me, is a massive and insane event. Personally it’s been about fifteen years since I’ve been to Las Vegas and I am preparing myself for a lot of surprises and changes! Country mouse visits the big city indeed! I’m excited to see what is up and coming in the world of two channel audio, particularly DACS, speakers and computer audio. I’m also curious to listen to an actual Dolby ATMOS demonstration or two. I don’t have an ATMOS equipped theater near where I live so I have no clue as to what to expect from the sound of this new standard and what it could bring to the home. I also want to get a closer look at some of the new OLED displays that will be coming out soon. We were in our local Best Buy over the holidays and I saw a lovely 55 inch 1080p OLED television by LG and I was duly impressed by the color reproduction and the black levels. I’m very interested in what the 4K OLED sets will bring to the table as this technology matures a little.
I also have an ongoing love/hate relationship with headphones. I’ve gone through trying a few pairs of headphones over the years and have never quite found “THE” pair that covers all my needs. I’ve come close this past year but if I can check out some of the different sets (and types) of cans at CES next week, it’ll be time well spent.
Now, if I can just shake off the vestiges of this holiday head cold by Monday….
Piero Gabucci Show Report
DAY 4….It’s a Wrap
Show Reports on Google+ goo.gl/JoZtTq
Day 4 – 3:03pm
Rega – CES 2015
The RP10 turntable was shown with the new Apheta 2 MC $1,895 Cartridge. The $5,495 turntable is beautiful and unique in itself with the RB2000 tonearm, adding the $1,895 Apheta 2 is just too delicious!
I loved the red, white and blue display of the very affordable RP3 at under $1,000 including the cartridge and the intriguing RP6 at $1,495 and $1,990 with the Exact2 MM cartridge.
PMC had their twenty.26 floorstanding speakers playing with the RP10. I had heard these amazing speakers in Manhattan when they were first introduced and enjoyed it so much that I asked and received a pair of monitor sized twenty.22. Look for a review shortly. Spoiler alert, I loved them.
Post – 2:36pm
Mass Fidelity-CES 2015
Heard a great little tabletop speaker device that is portable up to 12 hours called Core. It uses Bluetooth connectivity from any music device. In a multi-zone configuration, you can connect up to 9 Cores, so each is playing the same music. What they showed me was a larger subwoofer that seriously added strength and weigh to the sound. I was very impressed. The smartly designed 6″ x 6″ cube is powered by 120 watts and the bluetooth range is 60 ft.
Post – 2:27pm
Boulder – CES 2015
Just for the fun of it, Boulder Audio makes such great gear that I decided to pop in to be confronted by the new 2120 D/A Converter. Wow! Three separate chassis hold the front panel screen control and left and right channels. The bottom is the power supply. Yup, I’m sure you guessed that it’s $60,000. It can handle sampling rates up to 32 bits and 386kHz.
Post – 2:18pm
Visiting the Antelope Audio room which Robert covered, I couldn’t help but be very impressed with the Finnish company, Amphion Loudspeakers and Anssi Hyvonen the managing director. He demonstrated for me two speakers in the smaller One12 which were fantastically dynamic but also the larger Two18. Although he had a pair of JL Audio subs to accompany his stand mounted speakers, turning them on and off proved how worthy the Two18’s were without. It’s a two-way design with rear passive radiators. At all volumes, the clarity and clean dynamics were spectacular. Priced at $6,000 for the pair.
Post – 2:03pm
Lenbrook, PSB and Bluesound-CES 2015 Always love spending a few minutes with Paul Barton of PSB speakers, just a sweet guy who loves tweaking, shown standing next to the newer Imagine T3 floor standing. They are referred to as “Transitional 5-way Triple Port Bass Reflex”. Someone, hopefully me, will get a pair for review soon.
Bluesound will be expanding it’s countertop wireless speaker with the Pulse mini, slightly smaller than the current Pulse, controlled with it’s iPhone/pad, android app.
Day 3 – 1:43pm
Stunning industrial design is only half the story with the new HE1000 fully over the ear headphones. The sound to me, from the few minutes I heard could make these the best headphone I’ve heard, ever..
It features a conductive coated, nanometer diaphragm which is feather-light. Played on the new “reference” level headphone amp, the EF1000 which outputs 8w of pure class A for the headphone. Look for both sometime later second quarter.
Post – 4:13pm
Andrew Jones always gives a great demo and the new $24,000 CE-1’s sounded fantastic. Detailed, open, airy and powerful. The side aluminum panels hide the vent referred to as Bi-Directional ADS (Aero Dynamic Slot) port system.
Post – 4:06pm
Bryston – CES 2015
Sat with one of my favorite people in the business James Tanner to hear his Mini T, (sorry for the poor image). I admitted to him I’d never heard his speaker sound so good, enough to want a pair. He mentioned that the entire setup we were listening to including his digital music player, amps and speakers is under $18,000. Trust me, that’s a bargain.
Post – 3:52pm
Thiel – CES 2015
Since being acquired Thiel has moved it’s main operation to Nashville and has been rebranded to meet more of the speaker market other than just 2-channel audiophiles. At CES, they actually had two demo rooms, one for two channel and the other for surround, or home theater. Gone is the familiar Thiel design in favor of a cleaner, sexier streamlined tapering design. To be honest, it sort of reminds me of Snell speakers from he past. Beautiful nonetheless.
3rd Avenue is the new line and includes the TT1 floorstanding, the TM3 monitor, and the TC1 center channel. More models are expected in this line soon. Shown but not heard was the new sub, still in development.
Day 2 – 12:28pm
Aura 3D, amazing! More later on the gear.
Post – 4:40am
Martin Logan-CES 2015
The Neolith is one of the most impressive speakers I’ve ever seen or heard. Certainly they aren’t affordable to most at $80,000 but I’m told they have factory orders unfilled. The phenolic resin polymer coating in rosso is stunningly beautiful, the sound is so open and dynamic, everything an electrostatic is supposed to be, and much more.
Expect a response from 23-22,000 Hz from a pair of 12″ and 15″ woofers along with the largest XStat electrostatic surface to date.
Post – 4:14am
Rogue Audio-CES 2015
Rogue demonstrated their new preamplifier in the RP-5. Noticeably missing is the Greek God’s name Mark O’Brien usually assigns his pieces. Tounge-in-cheek he said, “I ran out of Gods.” The RP-5 is a departure in other ways for Rogue, which for the first time includes a display and a multi function remote. Mark goes on, ” I used a computer to optimize the circuitry.”
As with all components from Rogue, hand-built in Pennsylvania, the RP-5 includes a tube headphone amp, adjustable gain MC/MM phono stage and 5 analog inputs.
The system also included low mass Darwin Cables made of silver wire and are as thin as I’ve seen.
Along with his Stereo-100 amplifier and a JosephAudio Pulse stand-mounted speakers, I was amazed with the clean dynamics and rich textures.
Post – 9:57pm
GoldenEar Triton 5, more on my thoughts later, but hear a bit for yourself.
Post – 4:31pm
Sony’s display is the size of a football field.
Post – 3:21pm
And sometimes CES just makes me go, hmm..
Day 1 – 3:08pm
Sometimes CES just makes me so angry!!
CES 2015: It’s a Wrap!
Carlo Lo Raso: It’s a Wrap!
Well my first CES has come and gone and what a heck of a ride it was! There was just so much to absorb and take in, in such a short amount of time. Overall, I came away really impressed with the breadth of what I saw in Las Vegas and the choices that we as consumers are being presented with. There seemed to be a little something for everyone at the show.
Things that immediately stuck out to me were just how much everyone at every music demo was playing high res files from a computer or streamer versus physical media. When there was physical media being played, it was typically vinyl! Having access to your media wherever you are and in the highest quality possible was a big deal. And with the days of plentiful cheap storage both off and online now upon us and ever increasing amounts of internet and cellular bandwidth, it’s easy to see that this trend is going to just keep growing and more synergies are bound to happen.
DACs. DACs were everywhere in all shapes and sizes. Most of them were touting DSD playback capability, some at 2x and 4x. I still don’t know if there is any legitimate value to that over a really good recording and playback of Redbook CD, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Some of my highlights of the convention were:
Two Channel Audio
I’ve always been an admirer of Totem and the quality of sound they’ve always gotten out of their loudspeakers, particularly the smaller ones. The Element Metal tower speakers and the Kin mini speakers and subs Totem had at the show essentially bookended the price spectrum, but both easily had the same family design DNA and rich tuneful sound with excellent bass extension that Totem is known for.
Andrew Jones’ TAD-CE1 loudspeaker was a beautifully designed and stunningly executed speaker. I went to that room twice and both times the sounds had me smiling and just enjoying the music. Watching the body language of some of the other attendees, it was easy to see that I was far from the only one who thought these were something special. Parent company Pioneer has, in the past, tapped Mr. Jones to work his considerable talent to help improve some of their more entry level speakers as well. It’s good to see a company recognize the value in trying to get the best sound possible from both ends of their product spectrum.
The re-launching of Technics and their wonderfully built and great sounding hi fidelity components with just a hint of retro in their design. These just made me smile to look and listen to. I confess to being a sucker for nostalgia and seeing that big amp with the VU meters brought back memories of the great old equipment that got me interested in this hobby in the first place. I hope Panasonic doesn’t get bored with this experiment after a couple of years and gives Technics a chance to make a serious go of it.
HiFiMan’s entire line of updated headphones just bowled me over. They are so much lighter and more comfortable than the previous generation and the improved sonics are immediately noticeable. The flagship HE-1000 is particularly drool worthy.
GoldenEar makes wonderful sounding and affordable speakers for serious stereo music listening. But take those speakers, add the new SuperSub XXL, one of their great center channels and some surrounds and you will have a home theater system that will be a force to be reckoned with. There is a certain synergy that happens when you put a bunch of Sandy Gross’ speakers together in a system. They really become more than the sum of they’re parts. And all this goodness comes without having to cash in whatever retirement savings you have.
Dirac Unison, to my ears, sounded like a real move forward in what is possible in the area of room correction. Getting all the speakers to work together as a whole to make up for any individual deficiencies just seems like a natural, brilliant idea. And, it works!
Of all the display advancements being bandied about at CES, “S-UHD this” and “Quantum Dot that”, HDR and yadda, yadda, yadda. At the end of the day which TV made me want to stand up, and go plunk down a bunch of money to buy it for myself? That would have to be an LG OLED display. Preferably the flat version in the 65 inch size please. The rich colors and extra deep black levels just sealed the deal for me. Mind you, other sets by other manufacturers were still quite good. The LG, to me, had just that little bit extra!
The next gen surround sound format war is going to be an interesting thing to watch over the next year. While in the demos I heard at CES, I came away with a clear preference for Auro3D over Dolby Atmos, it’s not so clear to me who will eventually gain the upper hand if either of them at all. Then there’s also the new surround format that DTS is working on which neither Robert or I were impressed with when we heard it at the DTS convention center booth. To me, this seems just like the whole 3D thing we went through with TVs in recent years, but on the audio side this time. I do hope Aura3D does succeed, if the technology is going to progress then I vote for the better sounding option. I’d be lying though if I said that having to add four new speakers, repositioning my current surrounds and fishing new wire in the walls was something that I just couldn’t wait to do!
On a closing note, I really want to thank Robert Kozel and Piero Gabucci for helping to get me acclimated at CES this year. They’re old pros at this and their guidance and insight was immeasurably helpful. Without it, I’d probably still be lying in the fetal position on the 30th floor of The Venetian, mumbling incoherently!
Thanks for following along and All the Best!
Robert Kozel: It’s a Wrap!
Coming to the International CES this year, I expected to see 4K UHD televisions everywhere and I wasn’t disappointed. Amidst the insane crowds at the LVCC, there was an endless array of bright, beautiful, and incredibly thin 4K UHD televisions on display from every brand you could possibly think of. I loved the gorgeous OLED displays from LG with their incredible contrast and inky blacks, and it was exciting to see that more sizes will be available in both flat and curved panels. The other display technology that was inescapable was quantum dots. While there were lots of marketing names on the show floor for this technology and competing implementations, incorporating these light-emitting crystals into an LCD television allows for more colors and higher dynamic range. Demonstrations of high dynamic range content could be seen throughout the show floor, with each demo looking better than the next. The backlighting methods for LCD televisions remain edge lighting or rear-array LED with local dimming, but these new televisions were incredibly bright.
While it is clear that 4K UHD televisions are here to stay, the issue of content delivery is still a challenge. While Panasonic demonstrated a stunning 4K Blu-ray prototype, the specification for this next generation Blu-ray will not be complete until mid-summer 2015, so we won’t be seeing new players until the end of the year at the earliest. The 4K content, including that with high dynamic range using technology like Dolby Vision, will come from sources like Netflix or Amazon via streaming which assumes that a household purchasing that new 4K television has the bandwidth to receive this new 4K content. The cable companies and internet service providers have to be looking forward to upgrading lots of customers to take advantage of 4K content. DIRECTV will also be offering 4K content via satellite to their customers.
While all the new displays were beautiful, there was no discussion of price from anyone. Most likely, the OLED televisions and the new quantum dot LCD televisions will be very expensive and out of reach for the average consumer. As always, the costs will continue to come down. It will be interesting to see if LG makes a huge market impact with their new OLED lineup this year. It will all come down to price.
On the audio side of things, Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D demonstrations could be found at the show but were not hanging out like the televisions. I like them both, but Auro-3D is definitely my favorite since the demos are real-world and the format is easily used with music. We will see support for both formats on consumer-accessible products in the near future. Marantz has already announced that they will be supporting both formats on their new flagship processor. The challenge with both formats comes down to implementation in the average listing room. At a minimum, Auro-3D requires ceiling mounted speakers pointed at a 30 degree angle into the listening area, which can also be used for Dolby Atmos. The reverse is not workable though. A Dolby Atmos implementation, with either downward-firing in-ceiling speakers or elevation modules that bounce the sound off the ceiling, will not deliver an immersive Auro-3D presentation. The other challenge for Auro-3D is content delivery which is still in discussions. Dolby Atmos is here to stay and at a minimum, the new Dolby Surround processing will be in your next AVR or processor.
There was also no lack of high-end audio equipment supporting the DSD format with many of the manufacturers using higher bit-rate and sampling specs to differentiate from the competition. There were lots of companies showing innovations in speaker technology and with new offerings from companies like Paradigm, GoldenEar Technology, Thiel, TAD, and Klipsch just to name a few, it is a great time to be listening to and buying speakers. There was no discussion of elevation modules for Dolby Atmos coming from the premium speaker brands. When asked, the answer was that in-ceiling speakers would do the job quite nicely.
It was great to see the Technics brand once again launching products for the audiophile. The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA) Association also made great progress this year and was showcasing a large list of partner companies and had many product demonstrations on display. The technology promises to wirelessly deliver high resolution uncompressed audio to a speaker near you. We will definitely be hearing much more about WiSA-enabled products in 2015.
Overall, I really enjoyed the show and I look forward to seeing how 4K UHD evolves in the consumer market this year.
Thanks for reading our coverage of the 2015 International CES.
Piero Gabucci: It’s a Wrap!
Although the lines were long, the shuttle busses slow, the record crowds trudged along like zombies, I come away from CES 2015 optimistic for the audio world. I won’t speak to the rest of CES; curved display panels, automobiles, 3D printing, the health industry, phones, hubs, smart watches and yes, even clothes washers and dryers (ok those were cool too) and Sling TV. But for us who love music, movies and the gear we use and collect, I found an enthusiasm amongst the exhibitors I haven’t felt in a while, not certainly the last several CES shows.
I’m blown away by the likes GoldenEar; year after year since their inception they’ve garnished such universal praise for such outstanding sound despite their modest pricing. The Triton lineup is amazing and the Triton 5 is a winner! This speaker was smooth from top to bottom. I found bass was weighty and full. Mid-range from voices to piano and brass articulate and clear. The folded ribbon tweeter simply sparkles.
The audio world totally now embracing digital or should I say, hi-res file playback. But like any other new(er) format, hi-res has its’ detractors and skeptics as well as its’ advocates. The first problem is definition, what constitutes a hi-res file; someone simply said, anything higher than CD quality 16 bit and sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. I was discouraged when both the SACD and DVD-A formats failed, but to see the growth of asynchronous USB DACs flourishing bringing us 192 kHz sampling rates.
Antelope Audio and the Rubicon Atomic AD/DA preamp with 386 kHz converter convinced me that the quality of digital audio can be detectible and effective. So where is the controversy, some studies say we can’t detect the difference between CD quality and hi-res, bummer. So don’t throw out your CD collection.
The most interesting news came a short period of time prior to and demonstrated at CES from Meridian with their new format, the MQA or Master Quality Authenticated said to be truer to the original recording. The benefits of course are a superior digital file no larger than a typical CD quality file, but at higher bit and sampling rates. Even more important is that we can stream high-quality files and not have to download them. Yes you will need the MQA decoder somewhere along the line. Meridian provides an affordable device in the revised Explorer 2.
Turntables continue to thrive, 2014 was a boom year for vinyl and I don’t see it ending. The Rega RP10 is contemporary and modern and so very cool. The combination with Rega gear and PMC speakers sounded stellar and would satisfy any true music lover.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Technics reintroduce in a big way, high end amps and speakers in their Reference Series. Panasonic feels strongly about the future of audio, the Reference series includes a CD player, network player, amp and speaker.
Speaking of Reference, I may become a huge headphone guy after hearing HiFiMAN‘s HE-1000 and dedicated amp in the EF-1000, one word, WOW!
Every manufacturer that you’d expect to be making headphones is and then others just need to get in on it. Gibson guitars had some beautiful headphones displayed.
Tabletop equipment is being developed by companies trying to give Sonos a run for their money. Paradigm has some elegant gear in the Shift Collection using DTS Play-Fi.
Mass Fidelity impressed me with their Relay and Core DAC products using wireless Bluetooth, that is sounding better and better. Just listen to BLUESOUND!
I found very few audio demonstration rooms that sounded badly. Yes some sounded much better than others, but I can’t say anything I heard sounded just awful, that says a lot for the industry. And speakers are coming out in all shapes and sizes.
So that about covers my observations for CES and the world of audio: Speakers sound better overall, digital audio in the hands of smart companies like Bryston and Meridian will literally change how we use and own music, (streaming or downloading) and how we will enjoy music, which is what it’s all about.