Dropped by to see what was new and exciting at the Focal-Naim booth at CEDIA. Focal was introducing an updated version of their Chora entry-level line of speakers. Completely designed and manufactured in France, the line consists of the Chora 806 bookshelf monitor, the 816 mid-tower and the 826 full tower. The speakers feature updated aesthetics and a new aluminum-magnesium tweeter with perforated lens. These handsome speakers will be available in October in three finishes. Prices are $499.00, $799.00 and $999.00 per speaker respectively. “Tres bien!”
Meanwhile Naim was showing off their recently released 2nd generation all-in-one wireless music system called the Mu-so 2. While similar in appearance to its predecessor, Naim insists that almost the entire product has been completely re-engineered for improved performance. Streaming facilities have been expanded to handle all popular streaming services, a total of 450 watts of internal power is available to all the drivers (75 watts each), improved on-board DSP, 24/48 max resolution via wireless and 24/192 via wired Ethernet. Price for the Muso 2nd generation is $1599.
Stopped by the DIRAC booth after attending the formal launch of DIRAC Live Bass Management. Enjoyed catching up with our friends Jakob Agren, Lisa Bromark and Niklas Thorin and asked a few questions about the upcoming new software. It is intended to be a new add-on that seamlessly integrates with an existing DIRAC installation. There will be two distinct tiers of DIRAC Live Bass management beyond what facilities DIRAC Live currently provides on it’s own. The first tier is for single subwoofer bass management. It will provide full measurement, filtering and integration of one subwoofer into your system. The second tier is for multi sub bass management and is designed to measure, filter and integrate any number of subwoofers into your system. Depending on the AV receiver or processor manufacturer, each tier may be an additional paid extra license to be unlocked or it may be included free with your hardware purchase. According to the DIRAC folks, DIRAC Live Bass Management is essentially available now and is simply dependent on the hardware manufacturers getting their gear qualified and updated. A feature update is already tentatively planned for end of this year. If you use DIRAC already, check with your receiver or processor manufacturer to see if DIRAC Live Bass management will be supported on your gear.
Storm Audio had a a couple of their immersive audio processors out on static display. First is their ISP 32 Elite and next is their upcoming ISP 32 mk2 which will be available in early 2020. They also had their PA 8 Ultra Elite and PA 16 Elite power amps on display too. I’ll be stopping by a couple of live demo rooms to hear some of this equipment in action.
The whole concept of using fiber optic line in an HDMI cable is intriguing to me, as seen by some product samples at the FIBBR booth. I’d think this would have to be a boon for custom installers needing to run long stretches of HDMI cable in an installation.
Bill Dudleston, Chief Engineer at Legacy Audio, walks us through some new products introduced at CEDIA 2019 in Denver.
Sandy Gross, President of GoldenEar Technology, walks us through some new products announced at CEDIA 2019 in Denver.
Jim Garrett of Harman Luxury Audio walks us through several new products from JBL, JBL Synthesis, and Revel.
ELAC was introducing several products in their Custom Install series at CEDIA. First was a series of on-wall mounted speakers called the MURO series. There is a three-channel passive sound bar and a set of on-wall speakers that can be configured for vertical or horizontal use by the flip of a switch in back. Both the on-walls and the sound bar use a 1″ silk dome tweeter in a waveguide and 4″ aluminum woofers. The sound bar comes in two sizes, 55″ and 75″ to match most sizes of flat panel displays. The MURO line also has two matching slim profile subwoofers, one with an 8″ driver and the other a 10″ inch. Both feature ELAC’s Auto-EQ system and have wireless communication capability when paired with ELAC’s AirX2 Wireless Transmitter. There were also a bevy of Custom Install and multi-zone amplifiers, a CI-centric Discovery Music Server and in-wall subwoofers.
RBH Sound was at CEDIA with some new and intriguing products to show attendees this year. After they initially got my attention with the gorgeous looking static SVTR tower display in front of their booth, they kept my attention with some great sounding demos of the more plain looking but acousticly impressive PM-8 active stand-mounts, the SI831R in-wall speakers, and the S1212P powered subwoofer. All these new speakers claim to use drivers and tech from the big SVTR out front but for decidedly different purposes. All the RBH speakers sounded fantastic during the movie and music demos but of particular interest to me were the PM-8 monitors. Each speaker has two internal amps, 150 watts to the AMT tweeter and 250 watts to the 8″ woofer, along with on-board DSP and an active crossover network. The sound from the PM-8 during the music demo was as clear as a bell with great imaging and dynamics all around. Prices are: $1950.00 each for the PM-8, $1989.95 each for the SI831R, and the S1212P is TBD although a passive version costs $999.95 each. The subs and the PM-8 will be available by end of October while the in-wall is shipping now.
NAD was introducing their new flagship AV receiver, the T778 Reference AVR. Notice the touch screen TFT front display that does away with almost all the buttons on the unit’s face. The T778 features 9 channels of amplification at 100 watts each, using NAD’s Hybrid Digital amp technology. Out of the gate it does Dolby ATMOS and DTS Master Audio along with using DIRAC Live room correction. I understand that DIRAC Live Bass Management will be supported as a paid additional upgrade for the T778. The receiver uses NAD’s MDC expandable card scenario, the T778 shipping with one free expansion bay and another populated with the current spec HDMI card. This should give some measure of comfort to an owner and allow for expand-ability to HDMI version 2.1 when that gets out in the wild. The receiver also features 4K video pass-through, two-way aptX HD Bluetooth, MQA, and BlueOS network streaming capabilities. Price of the unit is: $2999.00 with availability in November.
PSB Speakers was debuting a new line of architectural speakers and subs at CEDIA. The on-wall speakers are called the PWM2. They are a 3- way design with a slot port out the end. Measuring 36″ long and less than 4″ deep, the PWM2 can be mounted either vertically or horizontally. They use a 1″ Titanium dome tweeter and both 3″ and 4″ carbon fiber midrange and woofer drivers. These cost $1749.00 each, are available in Satin White or Satin Black, and arrive in January of 2020.
The matching CSIR subwoofer is a passive unit using a special 10″ shallow driver to fit in a 5″ deep box. This sub can be mounted, or hidden, in a variety of ways and comes in the same colors as the PWM 2. Price is $1299.00 each and availability is also in January.
DALI had this rather unique looking sound bar called the Katch One. Aesthetically simple and clean looking, the Katch One is deceptively robust using 10 drivers (6 active, 4 passive) with 200 watts of internal amplification spread among them. Connections consist of aptX and AAC Bluetooth, 2 optical inputs, one analog input, an HDMI ARC input and a subwoofer output. DALI has programmed two distinct audio listening modes into the Katch One. “Focus” mode is a tighter, more linear soundfield, suitable for news and dialog-centric programming while “Wide” is a more spread out and dynamic presentation for movies and such. Real leather straps for wall mounting complete the look and are cleverly designed to help hide cables. Very Danish! Price is $999.00 and is available in three colors.
After Day 1, this became the most popular place at CEDIA!
Starke Sound had a 7.2 channel home theater demo room at CEDIA with a more modestly sized array of speakers than what I have seen from the company in the past. Wanting to demonstrate a more real world and approachable home entertainment room scenario, the results were no less effective. The overall sound of the room was immersive and powerful. With excellent detail, clarity and ample bass punch on both music and movie samples that we saw. The speakers consisted of their IC-H2 Elite floorstanders, and IC-H2C Elite center channel, four IW-H1 Elite on-wall speakers, and two SUB35 subwoofers. Everything was controlled by an Acurus MUSE preamp/processor and powered by a Starke A7 MKII multi-channel amp. The price of just the speakers in this room was $16,600.00. A drop in the bucket compared to some other systems at the show.
Peter Hoagland, PR guru for the Lenbrook group, ponders many deep things…
Unlike RMAF which very rarely has multi-channel or home theater displays, CEDIA actually had quite a few two-channel audio displays. One of the best ones to my ears was this 2.1 channel room that was strategically set up right across from the press office. The speakers were the Wilson Benesch Resolution (from the UK) mated to their Torus Infrasonic Generator. Electronics (preamp, power amp and DAC) were courtesy of Ypsilon from Greece, while an Aurender music server acted as the source. Beautiful, lush and expansive sound was to be had here. The Resolution speakers painted a detailed and vivid sonic picture while the Torus sub dug impressively deep.
It was a nice little respite from the umpteenth listening of the “A Star is Born” demo track that everyone else at the show seemed to be playing!
KEF had several installations of their Uni-Q driver equipped LSX wireless speakers. These popular active wireless speakers had stylish design and trim accents courtesy of KEF’s collaboration with designer Michael Young. Bluetooth, Spotify and Tidal connections are a given as well as newly acquired Apple AirPlay2 certification. They can also access content from a local NAS. The LSX will accept up to a 24/192 digital audio stream via Optical connection but the Ethernet connection tops out at 24/96 and wireless is at 24/48 max. All higher bit rates are downsampled to fit the connection in use. KEF provides a remote control but the real power to command a pair of these cubes lies with KEF’s Control app which is free on iOS and Android devices. MSRP for the LSX is $1249.99.
KEF was also showing off several Custom Install speakers and subs including in-wall versions of their lauded Reference series speakers. Their booth was eye-catching and I found their signage amusing, if not slightly ironic.
Monoprice had several new Monolith products to showcase at CEDIA this year. Starting with headphones, they were showing prototypes of the upcoming M570, M1070 and M1570 open-back planar headphones. All were static displays, but I was able to try them on and initial comfort seemed good for all of them. Prices were $299.99, $399.99 and $599.99 respectively. Announced, but not on display, are the M350 In-Ear Planar Monitors for $149.99.
Moving to headphone amps and DACS, we have the Liquid Spark DAC for $99.99. It uses an AKM 4493 DAC chip and has USB, Optical and Coaxial inputs with single-ended RCA analog outputs. Then for $499.99 comes the Liquid Platinum Balanced DAC featuring AKM’s top dog 4499 DAC chip, it has all the requisite digital inputs but this amp includes both balanced and single-ended analog outputs. Finally, we have the Liquid Gold Balanced Head Amp/DAC. It has a fully balanced differential front end, solid state amplification and an AKM 4493 based DAC section, all for $999.99. All these products were designed in cooperation with circuit designer Alex Cavalli. Separately, there was another Monolith Balanced headphone amplifier based on the THX AAA 887 low noise amp architecture for $399.99.
Continuing with home theater speakers, Monoprice was unveiling two new THX Ultra Certified tower speakers. The THX-465T and THX- 460T both look identical with four 6.5” woofers, a dome midrange and a soft dome tweeter, but the 465T adds an up-firing Dolby Atmos speaker integrated into the top. The 465T are $999.99 each while the 460T are $849.99 each. There is also a a matching set of Atmos enabled THX Ultra Certified stand mount speakers called the THX-365T, using the same drivers as the towers, for $499.99 each.
Also just announced is the Monolith M-215 Dual 15” Subwoofer. Sporting THX Certification, it uses two heavy duty 15” drivers in a vertical orientation tied together in a slot vented enclosure. At $2499.99 and pounding away on bass-heavy demo material in the middle of a convention hall floor, it both looked and sounded the business.
Last, but not least, Monoprice was showing their upcoming HTP-1 16-channel home theater processor. At $3,999.99 this processor appears to undercut some of the competition by supporting Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro3D. It will also ship with full DIRAC 2.0 (not Live) out of the box and will support DIRAC Bass Management via a firmware update. It will ship with seven HDMI 2.0b inputs that can be factory upgraded to 2.1 in the future for a modest fee. It will ship with a Google Chromecast dongle so internet audio streaming will be supported along with being a Roon endpoint. It uses AKM 4493 DACs and has fully balanced XLR outputs. A working sample was hooked up to a Monolith 11-channel amp and, while I couldn’t really make any concrete sonic observations in the middle of a noisy convention floor, I can say that it’s real, it works and it’s mighty interesting. Available by end of this year.
MartinLogan put together a statement 9.4.4 channel demo system comprised of their new Masterpiece CI Series speakers. The big guy is the Statement 40XW line array ($19,999.00 each), next is the Monument 7XW ($4,999.00 each), then the Tribute 5XW ($2,999.00 each), next is the Icon 3XW ($1,999.00 each) and finally the Sistine 4XC in-ceiling speaker ($1,999.00 each). All use the ML Folded Motion XT Obsidian tweeter (16 of them in the Statement panel) and all the speaker cones used are made of multi-section carbon fiber with Nomex backers. The bass duties were handled by 4 ML Dynamo 1600 X subwoofers, while processing was controlled by an Anthem AVM60 processor. Amplifiers were also courtesy of Anthem. The interior design and calibration of the room was done by HTE of Italy. Unsurprisingly, the room sounded impressive. Powerful and great dynamics with all the demo material shown. A memorable experience.
Switching things up to video for a bit, Can you guess what message the Samsung folks were trying to get across with their booth? Yep, 8K and it was everywhere. Samsung was showing their Q900 line of 8K QLED sets in a variety of sizes.
55″ ($3499.00), 65″ ($4999.00), 75″ ($6999.00), 82″ ($9999.00), and 98″ ($69,999.00). All these models support HDR in the form of HDR10, HLG and HDR10+. And Samsung was certainly pushing the quality of the Q900’s up-scaling abilities to make 4K images and color look as good as they can in 8K. It goes without saying that the 8K looped footage that was being used looked outstanding.
Bowers & Wilkins had a private display area at the Teatro hotel, a few blocks away from the convention center. We were invited up to take a listen mainly to their Formation line of products. While I got a good sampling of the sound of the Formation Duos at RMAF, here B&W had set up a 5.1 system with the Formation bar doing the front 3 channels, 2 Formation Flex speakers handling the rear duties and a Formation sub taking care of the bass. The bar takes a 5.1 channel digital bitstream, via optical input, decodes it then transmits the signals wirelessly to the appropriate speaker for playing. B&W claims less than a 1 microsecond delay in audio through the proprietary mesh network that connects all the speakers to each other. The results were rather impressive for a minimalist small room surround solution. The $499.00 little Flex speaker seems like a versatile option for standalone second zone or wireless surround speaker use. My mind immediately started thinking about what a surround system made up of Formation Duos for L and R, a Wedge for the center, two (or more) Flex speakers for surrounds and a pair of Formation Bass modules would sound like talking wirelessly to each other. I don’t think there is a way to currently make that possible as the Formation line is now. So to the fine folks at B&W I say, “Chop, chop! Let’s get on that!”
While at the Bowers & Wilkins offsite display, we snuck a listen to a pair of Diamond 800 D3 loudspeakers. I know, such a hard job this is! Let’s just say that it was worth the walk over to the Teatro just to listen to these! And don’t ask me what the two big amplifiers running these speakers are. It’s a secret. If I tell you any more, I’ll have to kill you!
Arcam had a few new products at CEDIA. For stereo use, they were showing off the SA30 integrated amp and the Solo Uno streaming Audio Amplifier.
The SA30 has 120 watts per channel of Class G amplification, MM and MC phono inputs, an HDMI eARC input, Googlecast streaming, Apple AirPlay 2 certification and plays nicely with Roon. It also allows full IP control of other network sound zones via Arcam’s app and has DIRAC Live to boot. Price is $3000.00 and will be available by years end.
The Solo Uno would make a perfect second zone stereo amp (among other uses) with it 50 watts per channel of Class D amplification and a subwoofer output. Again, it can be fully controlled using Arcam’s App. Price is $700.00.
On the home theater front Arcam also had several new product introductions. The AVR 40 pre/pro and the AVR 30, 20 and 10 AV receivers. All feature DIRAC Live and will have DIRAC Bass Management available as a paid optional upgrade. Arcam also claims much work has been done to lower jitter levels considerably over the HDMI 2.0b inputs.
AVR 40 Pre/pro: 16 channel XLR outputs, ESS 9026PRO DACs $4500.00, AVR 30: 16 channel, 100 watts per channel Class G amps $6000.00, AVR 20: 16 channel, 90 watts per channel Class A/B amps $4000.00, AVR 10: 12 channel, 60 watts per channel Class A/B, $2500.00.
The Arcam PA720 7-channel power amp has 120 watts x 7 channels of Class G power for $3000.00. The PA240 stereo power amp has 200 watts x 2 channels of Class G power, can be bridged to provide up to 1000 watts at 4 ohms, and has a choice of two gain settings. All for $2500.00.
Here are some close up pictures of the complete Revel Performa Be line now featuring the new F226Be, F328Be and C426Be speakers. Please check out my video walk-through of the Harman booth with Harman’s Jim Garrett to get all the details on these new speakers.
Here are some additional shots of the new JBL HDI series of loudspeakers in the three available finishes. These have to be the most handsome JBL speakers I think I’ve ever seen, particularly in the piano black finish. Please check out my video walk-through of the Harman booth with Harman’s Jim Garrett to get all the details on these new speakers.
The Lexicon SL-1 active loudspeakers. I’ve seen and heard various iterations of these speakers over the last few years of their development. With a projected release date of Spring 2020, these speakers main calling card is that they use beam-forming technology to be able to mold and steer the sweet spot of their sound to almost any location in the room and adjust the size of it to taste. Each speaker has 33 drivers, including a 10″ sub in each base section, and enough DSP to run a shuttle mission. They use built-in room correction, up to 120 Hz, to address room modes with bass frequencies. Just connect a source, twiddle on the control app and you are off to the races. If they arrive on schedule, $50,000 will buy you some very unique and capable speakers next year.
A quick skim through the LG booth. That 88″ 8K OLED display looks outstanding.
From the Sound United booth, The long gestating Classe Delta components make another appearance. Latest scuttlebutt I was able to glean from the reps is that the components are in production in Japan and they are taking extra time to get all necessary electrical certifications. Latest ETA is Q2 2020. The top line details are that Delta Pre has a full suite of digital inputs, 5 bands of PEQ per channel, bass management for up to 2 subwoofers, MM and MC phono input with adjustable loading and an optional HDMI switching module will be available for AV sources. The Delta Mono amp is rated at 300 watts into 8 ohms, 600 watts into 4 ohms and 1000 watts into 2 ohms. The Delta Stereo does 2 x 250 watts into 8 ohms and 2 x 500 watts into 4 ohms.
Patiently, sort of, waiting…
Ever wonder what the inside of a JL Audio subwoofer looks like? Well, wonder no longer my friends….
AudioControl was showing two new preamp/procssors, the Maestro X7 and X9 along three new A/V receivers, The Concert XR-8, XR-6 and XR-4.
The Maestro processors offer 16 channels of XLR outputs, cover all the latest surround formats including Auro3D and Imax Enhanced, offer full streaming capabilities and are Roon endpoints, and feature ESS DACs in their architecture.
The Concert receivers offer similar processing feature sets but have no XLR pre-outputs and have 7 channels of onboard amplification. The XR-8 does 7 x 200 watts of Class H power into 4 ohms, the XR-6 does 7 x 100 watts of Class AB power into 8 ohms and the XR-4 does 7 x 60 watts of Class AB power into 8 ohms. Both the Maestro and Concert components come with DIRAC Live room correction and will support DIRAC Bass Management.
PMC Speakers had one of, what I thought, were the best home theater demos at CEDIA this year. A system anchored by their newly introduced ci140 3-way speakers and ci140 subwoofers and filled out by several of their Wafer1 on-wall speakers made a serious sonic impression on me. Controlled by a Trinnov Altitude 32 processor the system delivered the dynamic goods in spades, providing clarity and tons of detail but still remaining musical and non-fatiguing. I felt an impressive sense of envelopment and immersion overall.
Top shelf work fellows!
Sonus faber had a home theater demo room at CEDIA as well. They were using it to showcase their new custom install series of speakers. The new 6 series, known as the Palladio, is voiced, and designed, to match the Olympica line of home speakers, while the new 5 series is voiced to match the Sonetto line. The demo room had a 7.1.4 system set up with the 6 series speakers and a Gravis subwoofer. The results were very impressive, particularly with the excerpts from the movies Rocketman and Ready Player One.
Pro Audio Technology had another one of my favorite sounding demo rooms at CEDIA. These are industrial looking speakers that are typically heard but not seen in an installation. Models like the Si26 wall mounted speakers were especially interesting, not only for their use of compression drivers, but that the wall bracket allowed them to be aimed appropriately in room. PRO Audio Technology services include fully designing, equipping and calibrating their installations including power and surge protection needs. The 21 channel Atmos demo room included a 21″ sub in front and a 10″ sub in back and everything was controlled by an actual Dolby CP850 Cinema Processor. The results were outstanding and completely convincing. The specific tracking of sounds across the room was incredibly realistic. The value of the entire system in use, including video, was just shy of $200,000.00.
Trinnov was seen in a number of places around CEDIA. They had a booth with current examples of their home theater and Hi-Fi products along with a demo room (11.4.6 shared with Triad speakers and HTE). This demo room’s sound was another of my 3 or 4 best of show rooms. The sound quality was just sublime. A totally immersive experience. The capper though was that they had the most comfortable seats of any demo room I sat in at CEDIA! Comfort means a lot after you are on your third day of roaming a convention center!
The Alcons Audio demo room at CEDIA was another top sounding room on my list. Like the Pro Audio Technology room, this one had similar industrial looking speakers that are meant more to be heard than seen. And where as the other company mainly used compression drivers for tweeters Alcons uses ribbons. The beefiest looking ribbons I have ever seen! The 9.2.6 system was controlled by a Sentinel10 powered loudspeaker controller and a Storm Audio ISP 3D.32 Elite Immersive processor. The sound quality was just outrageously good. Detail and perceived resolution was outstanding without getting fatiguing and the bass response was concussive. Really fine stuff going on here!
Anthem introduced the MDX16 multi-zone distribution and speaker management solution at CEDIA. Having 16 channels of Class D amplification (16 x 60 watts into 8 ohms) assignable to 8 zones, 8 independent subwoofer outputs, a web based configuration system, and the ability to deploy ARC Genesis in each of those 8 zones, the MDX16 may be a custom installer’s dream come true. Price is $2999.00.
GoldenEar traditionally has a great sounding room at CEDIA and this year was no exception. While the surround demonstration featuring their Invisa SPS in-wall speakers all around was most excellent too, the thing that really caught my ear was the two-channel demo Sandy Gross conducted with GoldenEar’s new BRX stand mounted speakers. The speaker’s name stands for “Bookshelf Reference X” and it’s a passive design featuring both the tweeter and the mid/bass driver from the Triton Reference tower, mated to two horizontally opposed passive radiators. All this is combined into nicely curved, piano black cabinet. When fired up, these new speakers put out a sound that was diametrically opposed to their modest size. A huge, enveloping soundfield put a big smile on my face, and vocals had a precise placement in space with a lovely richness to their sound. Bass response was solid and impactful for such a diminutive box. At $699.00 each, I think the BRX present an incredible value. Sometimes less is more after all!
Savant introduced an interesting wireless surround system that integrates it’s home automation know-how into it’s operation. The 3-channel active soundbar can wirelessly integrate (via WISA) with the two matching surround speakers and up to 2 matching subs. The system supports various streaming services and can be controlled via the custom Savant Music app. Price is $1500.00 for the soundbar. Add two surrounds, a sub and a custom Savant remote control and the cost is $3500.00 for the package.
The last thing I saw, and heard, at CEDIA and a nice way to end my coverage. A delightful 2-channel system by MBL. The dimmed lights, the cool gear, the spacious omni-directional sound, a little bit of a jungle vibe, and a humidifier/diffuser with peppermint aromatherapy oil. Ahhhhhh! Bliss.