CES 2012-Full Coverage

Introduction to the CES 2012 – Piero Gabucci Show Coverage

Admittedly, not much has come out of CES since Blu-ray made its huge impact several years ago. We all curse and complain about the immensity of the show and the lines, and the distances and the walking and the damned shuttle buses. And yet, CES occurs just after the holidays and we approach the New Year with enthusiasm and wonder, like kids on Christmas morning, hoping for that one cool present we didn’t expect to get.

Those of us covering CES from an audio standpoint, or more specifically, 2-channel audio, it’s an opportunity to see old friends, make new ones and support those committed to the passion of music reproduction. I look forward to spending most of my time at the Venetian, listening to some amazing gear and coming away feeling like it will be a Grand New Year in audio.

GoldenEar Technology

GoldenEar Technology has gone from 0-60 in the last couple of years in a relentless manner, churning out one excellent product after the next. In fact I joked with Sandy Gross, someone who has been in the industry for a long time, that he was just hitting his stride.

What I think is a much better proportioned speaker, the new Triton Three is slightly smaller than the Triton Two and sheds $500 per speaker. GoldenEar removed one of the two subwoofers and a mid-bass driver, but left the important and wonderful sounding ribbon tweeter. The sound is natural, and engaging, and at $1,000 a piece, a very affordable high-end audio speaker.

Soundbars are soundbars, but not like the SuperCinema 3D Array (don’t call me a soundbar). At $999, the triple ganged midrange drivers/ ribbon tweeter presents an elegant 3-channel arrangement. GoldenEar refers to this design as 3D optimization technology developed with Princeton professor, Dr. Edgar Choueiri which deals with the issues of crosstalk when channels are placed in close proximity. 


Magico probably doesn’t need much introduction – they have consistently received rave reviews for the speakers. I spent some time listening to the massive Q7, a four-way design of which I don’t even want to give you the price, (hint: most people spend about the same on a small house.) But shown is what will replace the V3, the Q5, at $28,600 a pair. Also a true four-way design, it’s aluminum skin is finished in a stunning candy-apple red.

Martin Logan

Dwarfed by the $25,000 CLX electrostatic from Martin Logan is a new line, modest in every way including price (to be determined). The Motion 40/20 are floorstanding speakers in a full line by Martin Logan that will include a center channel, surrounds, and a bookshelf. They replace the Motion 10/12 models. Through the perforated grill is visible the “Folded Motion Transducer” tweeter.

The line includes flat monitor styled speakers to compliment the ever-thinning panel television. Referred to as SLM, this LCR also features the folded Motion Transducer. At less than 2″ fully wall-mounted, the SLM is priced at $495.95 each.


So you think CD players are dead? Not according to Richard Schram of Parasound. He passionately made a case for a better way. The CD 1 includes a computer that reads the disk that spins at 4 times the normal speed of a CD drive. It takes up to 5 seconds to read each CD to reduce jitter, and also to maximize the information on the disk, playing it clean. Elaborately shielded, the power supply, and computer boards, etc., prevent any interference. Balanced XLR outputs, high-end DAC and much more will set you back $4,500.

If you must absolutely own something from Parasound, how about an incredibly priced 24 bit/192 KHz DAC? Inputs include a USB, optical and coaxial while outputs include both RCA and XLR balanced connections. Beefy for a small unit, because of the large toriodal power transformer, the Zdac will be priced around $450.00. I’d sure love to compare this to my Benchmark DAC, that costs 3 times that.

And shelf mounted.

Atlantic Technology

Sharing the room with Parasound, newly patented H-PAS Atlantic Technology showed their new bookshelf speakers, the AT-2 now available for $1,800 per pair. Boasting the same Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System, the AT-2 played well beyond their modest 16″ high size.

Chris Heinonen Show Coverage

CES Round Up

CES 2012 was a success for the show, with over 153,000 people coming through the doors over the week. It certainly felt that way, as there was rarely a place to sit down, or room to walk, and always more to see than you could possibly see. I’ve spent the past day trying to catch up on all the coverage as there were entire venues that I wasn’t able to get to during the week. I also only had two days to see everything, as I was taking the ISF Level 2 class and should be certified for that very soon.

The best thing I saw was the Sony CrystalLED display. That was the one thing I wanted to take home and put in my living room and could be totally happy with. The OLED panels from Samsung and LG were also beautiful, and coming for certain later this year we were told, but the content on them didn’t let me get as clear an idea of how they performed. The motion on the CrystalLED just set it apart as well.

There is so much to see and talk about at CES, that I will summarize the good and bad things about it this year.

– New display technologies (CrystalLED, OLED) offer previous unseen flat panel performance that will make everyone raise their game
– 4K displays coming to the home this year
– 3D projectors showing less crosstalk than before
– High-end headphones coming down in price (HiFiMan HE-400, Sennheiser HD700)

– Comparison demonstrations between new technology and old technology where the old panel is obviously setup in correctly. If the new technology is so much better, you can have a fair comparison.
– No native 4K content, just upscaled Blu-ray
– Everyone selling a line of headphones, even if that’s not their normal line of products at all, just to capitalize on a craze
– The incredible crowds that you have to fight through
– Manufacturers that don’t train people in their booth about the new products, so you can’t find out information that you need to know

In the end it was a very interesting trip to CES and a chance to get to see new technology years before it might be at your local AV store. Hopefully by the time CEDIA rolls around this fall even more people will be announcing new models, and some of these will be available to buy.

Day 2 of CES began with a relaxing press conference for HiFiMan, which included a piano and violin player to give us some wonderful music while we enjoyed breakfast. Since CES really wears you down after a couple days, the relaxing start was certainly very enjoyable. HiFiMan also introduced a new headphone, the HE-400, which is planar magnetic like their other models but is easier to drive with a 92.5 dB sensitivity, and a list price of only $399. For us to listen to these they gave us all a sample, along with their new HiFi portable player with selectable gain for in-ear or over-ear headphones, and a selection of music from HDTracks.

The headphones themselves sounded wonderful, with lots of details and a very open sound. They were also well built and allow for custom cables if you wish to use them with a balanced headphone amp as well, or just have a shorter set of cables with a 3.5mm connector made for portable use. HiFiMan was also showing off their new high end headphone amplifier, which can put out a ridiculous 5 watts of Class A power into a pair of headphones. The whole unit was very high quality, with a stepped attenuator volume control, and weighed far more than you might expect for a headphone amp. It will list for just under $1,500 when available.

Sim2 was showing off their LED powered Mico LED projector. With 1100 lumens of LED light, this is bright enough for people to use in a lit environment that you previously couldn’t consider LED for. The availability of a variety of ambient light rejecting screens as well means you can put this in your living room and had people over to watch the game without having to turn out the lights, and the LED light source means you can run it day after day without worrying about light dimming. They were also showing their projector that uses triple-flash technology for 3D, and a fellow writer who can usually see rainbows on DLP could not see a thing, not any ghosting on the image. Still my favorite 3D projector out there.

Toshiba was showing a 4K display, as well as a 1080p display, so you can see the difference the resolution makes on native content. The 1080p looked blurry in comparison, but it looked to be real 1080p content and not intentionally made worse. People might debate about the need for 4K, especially as there is no native 4K source out there right now for people to use, but it really does look better than 1080p and it will be nice if it comes to the home this decade.

Toshiba was also showing off their glasses free 3D, which used a 4K display as well. In the lower right corner you can see a guide to help you get into the correct spot to get the full effect of the 3D display, which is helpful. I saw a bit of a 3D effect, but not a major one, but I also saw a major texture on the screen that was really distracting to me. Just like with passive 3D, if you want to avoid active 3D glasses you might have to deal with a texture on the screen to do so, and some will find that more annoying that wearing something for the movie.

Vizio was showing off a new line of Blu-ray players, including one with GoogleTV built in, and using a Marvell QDEO chipset. Since the QDEO has done well on our benchmarks before, and GoogleTV seems to be really catching on this year at CES, this might be a very interesting product to get in later this year and see how it performs. The one thing that I really want to investigate is the presence of HDMI pass-through and see if it leaves the HDMI signal totally untouched or if it has an issue.

Vizio also has a new remote for these players, which uses IR but has a keyboard on the flip side. With all the online content searching, as well as wireless passwords and online account info, this makes for a much better solution than having to use arrow keys and the enter button to get data into the TV.

The most exciting thing from Vizio was their new 21:9 Cinewide displays. This is the 71″ model, which has a backlit LED array setup to deliver great contrast ratios, but also totally black sidebars when watching normal 16:9 content on it. The extra width really brought kinescope format movies to life (I am biased, with a 2.40:1 screen in my basement), but it also means you can use apps to track sports scores while watching the game without having to cut off anything from the image. These should finally be shipping very soon.

BenQ had their new W7000 projector on display for me, and was showing off Cars 2 in 3D. Since I have a 2 year old son, I’ve seen Cars 2 in 3D roughly 100 times at this point, and I’ve seen it in 3D quite a bit as well on various displays. With the BenQ, I saw no crosstalk on the screen, even in the scenes that I’ve watched many times as I know exactly where the crosstalk happens. With a full CMS to really dial in that Rec 709 color gamut, and 1100 lumens even when calibrated (2000 in the brightest mode for watching sports or something similar), and a range of lens adjustments, this is a projector that will really satisfy those people looking for a great 3D projector for the home. With a street price of $2,500, it won’t hit them too hard in the wallet either.

I had never covered CES before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have covered CEDIA the past few years so I thought I was ready, but CES is a totally different beast. Everything is bigger, larger, and with less room to walk around. However it also has some really cool stuff that you might not see anywhere else.

Walking into the convention center the first thing that caught our eye was the Sharp 8K display. While a prototype with no firm release date, there is no way I can explain the detail you could see here. With native 8K content that looked to be at 60 frames per second, people and details were as clear as if they were standing there. I couldn’t see any pixel structure no matter how close I got to the screen, and on an image of a street you could look as far into the background as you could and it was still incredibly detailed. Forget 3D, if you can get 8K in the future, you’ll be blown away.

Sharp was also showing a 4K display next to a 1080p display, and this was even more relevant as the 4K display is going to ship later this year (date and cost unknown). The 1080p looked soft and fuzzy in comparison, though I can’t be certain of how the source and display were configured. Even with a 50″ display (estimated size, it wasn’t posted) you could tell a big difference in clarity from a few feet away.

Sony was showing a prototype of their CrystalLED display. Instead of using a few LEDs to light an LCD panel, this has individual LEDs for each sub-pixel, with over 6 million individual LEDs in total. With people showing OLED displays, this was Sony’s way of showing a different tech that offers some of the same benefits.

As you can see, the display is thin, with NO off-axis viewing issues that I could see at all. Colors and brightness stayed all the way to the edge of the screen, even at extreme viewing angles. Blacks were dead black, and the contrast ratio was incredible with some night scenes. The most amazing thing was a panning shot that showed absolutely no trace of motion blur. Having been testing that recently, all displays available now show some motion blur and loss of resolution, that we take it for granted that things just look that way on a display. With this, everything was crystal clear and amazingly detailed. I really hope this keeps developing, as I want this in my living room now.

Though I was focusing on video, JL Audio had some new subwoofers that they were showing over in the car audio section. Priced at $2,000 for the 12″, it still uses the high end woofers that JL Audio is famous for, but with a more basic finish and control set than their Fathom line. They looked very nice in person, though I wasn’t able to find a ship date.

Not to be left out, Samsung had a 4K display as well. Unlike the Sharp, this was just a technology demo and had no other display to compare it to. It did look very nice, with tons of detail in shots of trees and other nature shots.

Samsung was showing an OLED display that will be shipping later this year. No one could give me a definite price, but it looked very nice with deep, dark blacks and vivid colors. Unlike the Sony CrystalLED demo, this was using a lot more synthetic, CG content so it was harder to tell for certain how great it might look.

LG also had a 55″ OLED set, which you might be able to see in the photo above, but you might not since it is ridiculously thin. Dark city scenes looked wonderful, with dark blacks and lights not causing blooming around them. I did notice that when you went off line there was a shift from white to green with the panel, so it didn’t have the same color fidelity as the Sony set, but this one will be shipping this year, with a price point not yet announced.

LG also went through and updated their selection of Apps to make it easier to browse, and they had a large selection of 3D content available. This is nice since the lack of 3D content is still a major barrier to its acceptance. LG had a 4K resolution set, but unlike the other sets this supported passive 3D, but the 4K nature means you can get the full 1080p resolution on current content with this passive 3D set. I also didn’t notice the patterned retarder that bothered me so much on their 50″ passive model, but the bright lights of the convention center could be helping to hide the texture.

Panasonic has been the plasma leader for a while now, and their VT50 looked to keep that up. With a new neoPlasma panel that promises even better motion resolution (where plasma already beats LCD easily), the blacks were inky and deep, and the bezel was thinner than before as well. This has a good chance of being one of the best sets this year that you can buy without a second mortgage to pay for it.

Panasonic made Blu-ray players last year that were fantastic, so good that I bought their 210 model for my home. This year they have a whole new lineup (including a tiny Blu-ray model that would have been an ideal fit for the bedroom that I put the 210 in), and this was their new high end audio model. With dual HDMI outputs, gold plated RCA multichannel outputs, full bass control, and higher end capacitors and other board components, this will be a very interesting one to get in for testing. If they can keep the same great video processing they had last year, but add on even better audio performance, the $350 list price could make it an easy purchase for a whole lot of people.

Of course, people come to Vegas to get married all the time as well. Including these two booth models, who got to spend their day at the Nikon booth posing for people to show off the new Nikon D4 camera, and plenty of show goers who kept coming up and snapping their picture.

CES starts on Tuesday, but companies have already started to announce products to beat the rush of thousands of press releases early next week. LG has already made waves with their OLED panel that they will be demonstrating. 55″ large, 4mm thick, and a price that we don’t know yet, and it’s the one thing I can’t wait to see in person. LG will also have a 4K LCD display, and since they are the main people pushing Passive 3D right now, this will allow them to have full resolution 3D with passive glasses, which could be a very nice thing.

Samsung will also be showing an OLED set people believe, and so I’ll be checking that out as well. I will be covering everything related to displays, projectors, Blu-ray, and anything else video that I can see. I won’t be making it for press day like Robert will, but I will also be taking the ISF Level II course while at the show so I can try to bring even better analysis to video reviews I do in the future.

Stephen Hornbrook Show Coverage

Final Impressions and a few more pics..

CES was very busy this year, as the lines seemed longer and the crowds more dense. Now that I have had a peaceful night of sleep back at home, I can look back at the trip more clearly. The star of the show for me was easily the Sony Crystal LED. From what I heard, its the real deal and should come to market, although no date or pricing is known. “Smarter” TV was also very prominent with all the major brands offering a better integration of internet and TV. I have yet to see how it will revolutionize how I watch TV programming, but with better remotes yielding easier navigation and interactivity, it will at least be less painful to search youtube. the OLED sets were definitely cool, but I was more drawn to the various 4K sets as the increased resolution made for a smooth amazingly detailed picture. Many of the new model LCD’s and Plasmas had very small bezels for pretty sleek looks. If you are in the market for a new TV, you will definitely have plenty of great looking sets to choose from in 2012. 

Beautiful sounding headphones from HiFiMAN

New Epos ELAN15 $1399pr.

New Music Hall MMF 5.1SE $1095 and 7.1 $1495

NAD processor – modular design, 3D, Audessy MultEQ XT ($4500) and 7 channel amp – THX Ultra, 160watt ($3500)

Anthem class D M1 monoblock

stunning Mark Levinson gear

new Revel M106 bookshelfs, sounded very good. $1700

New Performas coming this summer.

Magico S5

Wilson’s with LAMM gear



MiCO from Sim2, an LED powered projector meant for more than just playing movies. Fill a wall with dynamic art to match the decor of your home. The MiCO can be left on all day long due to its LED light engine. 

Toshiba’s new line of TV’s had very slim bezels for a sleek look. the had 4K as well and a few new Blu-ray players on the way. 

The Glasses-Free 3D does nothing for me. I personally think it looks horrible. give me 4k!

ioGear had some great wireless products, like a wireless HD box that actually works through walls.



Parrot had some nice sounding bluetooth, noise-canceling headphones, and a one unit stereo speaker as well. 

Apparently a large portion of the attendees are male?? who knew. a little something for them..


new Sennheiser HD700 headphones! msrp $999

Earthquake subs


E111 and E112 subs from JL Audio. very well built with class D amps.

GOLD Segway. This guy is livin large.

Samsung’s highlight was of course their large OLED screens. Crazy thin, but they weren’t showing any real content. just an animated loop of bright colors. The contrast is clearly great on these but their Series 8 and 9 sets looked great too, and those are somewhat affordable. 

Samsung also had a beautiful 4K display as well. No pricing or release date 🙁

LG’s Giant 3D wall.. it was very weird. 

LG OLED, closely guarded by an elite force.

LG 84″ 4k displaying 2D and 3D

3D sound HTiB 

new bluray players with smart tv. new interface with the magic remote looks really good. very smooth and fast. 

Dual play shows player 1’s image through the left eye only (2 left lenses from a pair of passive 3D glasses), and player 2 through the right eye. works very well. 

Panasonic had updated Viera lineup and they continued to look even better. 

clearer motion in 2012 model. noticeable difference.

new audiophile Bluray player from Panasonic

Micro player

Lazy bastards.


As the bright desert sun rose upon the Las Vegas Convention Center, another CES show threatened to destroy my feet from ridiculous amounts of walking. I’ve covered the show for the past two years where we saw the “rebirth” of 3D dominate the show floor and I wondered what the mega tech companies would try to woo us with this year. The answer? Well, sadly not much. 3D is still here and quite prominent, but in a less obvious way than the previous two years. All the display manufacturers have their latest models out and it seems the majority of their lineups are 3D enabled but it was almost as if they expected us to have accepted 3D into our lives already. They didn’t seem to be trying as hard to sell us on this 3D gimmick and I’m not sure if that is because they are overly confident in the concept, or they know it isn’t as accepted as they thought it would be. Regardless, 3D is gonna be around for quite awhile, so hopefully the quality continues to evolve. So far from what I have seen, with the exception of the conceptual 4k sets, nothing seems to have changed much since last year. There was much greater improvement in 3D quality from 2010-2011 than from 2011-2012. The main focus for ’12 models seems to be in form factors, with slimmer and more elegant designs.

Now this year isn’t completely void of new technologies. Both Samsung and LG had gorgeous 55″ OLED TVs. A technology that has many of us nerds drooling over for some time. OLED’s benefits over LCD and plasma are its ability to emit its own light on a per pixel basis and to have near infinite contrast ratios due to the pixels being able to shut off completely. All that happens at a very high refresh rate, giving moving images a leg up over LCD panels.

Not to be left out of the new display technology game, Sony had a tech of its own, called Crystal LED. Don’t ask me to explain how it’s made or works, but I can tell you that it works well, really well. Off angle viewing is easily as good as plasma and colors were bright and saturated (overly so, but one sure hey wanted it in “vivid” mode). Most striking was how well it handled motion. Moving images were amazingly clear, the best I have ever seen. No concrete news on release or pricing, but I am more excited about Crystal LED than any other display tech I saw today.

Then Sharp was showcasing a very impressive 8K display. It was breathtaking.

Check out my photos below.

Glorious Sony Crystal LED

revamped Sony interface, and sweet remote with keyboard on one side and pad and buttons on the other. perfect for a more interactive TV.

New, light 3D glasses and Chris modeling them.

The awesome Sony reference speakers. Big brother and little brother. 

Sharp had an absolutely stunning 8k set. I would take this over 3D any day!!

these are photos.. OF THE TV!

Sharp also had their Elite LCDs and many 80″ LCD models as well. Overall a pretty good showing by them.

4k vs. 2k

Samsung OLED.. so thin

Lots more on the way!! 

Coverage starts here on Tuesday, so please check back to see all the latest TV’s, electronics and gadgets at this year’s CES! Hopefully 4K will be a little more prominent. Let us know if there is anything in particular you are interested in and we will try are best to report on it.

Nick St. Denis Show Coverage

This being my first CES, I had no idea what to expect. Sure everybody told me it was going to be huge and overwhelming, but I know now you can never be too prepared for the nerd overload present in the Las Vegas convention center. Luckily, I count myself as a full fledged member in the gadget lovers nerd community. I had my most comfortable shoes on, my official CES backpack and my elbows ready to wiggle my way into the coolest demos.

The buzz word this year for TV’s was “Smart”. While I consider myself a somewhat capable “intellectual” (and I use the word “intellectual” VERY loosely), I’m not sure what to think about a TV that is striving to be smarter than me. Well, after visiting my first booth at Marvell (makers of a chip that powers Google tv) I’m convinced that a smarter tv is going to make my life much easier and possibly more sedentary. Google tv is featured in a lot of the new tv’s. What it does is is it seemlessly integrates web browsing, program guides, youtube, etc onto your tv. Type in “Charlize Theron” and BOOM, you get google search results on her, links to buy her movies on amazon, or the ability to instantly view her movies on Netflix or Youtube. PRETTY COOL!

Of course, the theme at CES is “big”, so it was hard to not walk by and be floored by the wall of TV’s Panasonic had on display at their booth. The gamer inside of me was drooling over the notion of 50 of my friends battling with each one having their own individual screen on the “wall”. One can dream…

Of course, like everybody else, I love all of the pops and whistles of the new OLED televisions and the larger and larger high resolution displays with passive 3D glasses, but my real interest is interacting with my tv’s and gadgets. Sharp was the first booth that caught my eye with a true interactive tv. An exhibitor was “painting” directly on the touch screen using both fingers and a stylus. Mind you, this was a television, and not a monitor, per se. We’re talking 55 inch and gorgeous! While this can seem gimmicky on the surface, I could see a few applications that could be helpful for presentations or entertaining friends at home.

The Sharp booth was also where I saw my first 4K television. While it was spectacular and definitely noticable on its own, I was annoyed by the fact that Sharp was trying to compare the higher resolution by comparing it side by side with a 1080p television. The 1080p television was CLEARLY a poor 1080p televison on it’s own. Come on, SHARP! The 4K looks great on it’s own merits! You don’t have to use trickery to drive home your point!

SHARP more than made up for it, though, with the display of the worlds first 8K tv. The detail was astounding on this thing! A small crowd was gathered around it gushing at the cherry blossom video they kept looping. It’s still a ways off for the consumer, but it’s exciting to see where things are going.

With the Playstation 3 already being fairly well established, SONY is ramping up their push for the new PS Vita handheld. While I’m not much of a handheld gamer, I do like that fact that you can start a game at home on your PS3, pause it, and then continue your game on your PS Vita. The platforms are so close now that it’s becoming difficult to tell the difference between a handheld gaming device and a home console. This certainly is helpful for those unavoidable ahem… bathroom breaks, during my marathon gaming sessions.

I was drawn to a developing long line and noticed it was for the SONY 3D gaming headset. The headset consists of a pair of goggles you put on with built in headphones. In theory, it seemed like a cool idea, but I was sort of disappointed by it. I don’t like that fact that your periphreal vision lets you see what’s going on around the edges of the headset. It was very distracting. If I’m going to be immersed in a virtual world, I want to see ONLY that world. On top of that, the 3D wasn’t very good and the headset wasn’t very comfortable. These things need a little work, I think.

Speaking of “Immersing” yourself into your theater, I AM a fan of my kicker system at home. Call of duty is my “go to” game at home and I’d be lost without the “kick” I get in the butt when I fire off an RPG. Unfortunately there are times when I can’t game in front of my full home theater so I’m forced to game in the comforts of my “alternate” home theater in my bedroom. With no room for a couch, I use a stand alone chair to sit on. Normally that would mean I’d miss my RPG “kick”, but Earthquake comes to the rescue with their kicker system that attaches directly to the base of my chair. This thing is every bit as powerful as any couch kicker system. Now I can bring my battlefield to any room in my house.. Make war, not love!

There’s no doubt that Microsofts Kinect has kicked open the door for gesture based interfaces. While I do have one, I still think that it’s in its infancy and has a ways to go before it becomes the “must have” interface that I think it will eventually be. I think the true importance of Kinect up until this point is that it has opened the door for people to run with the idea of gesture based television. Primesense is an Israeli based company that to me, had the brightest and most well thought out gesture system at the show. With such organic, natural gestures as simply pinching your fingers together to pull a tv show out of a channel guide displaying all channels in real time or waving goodbye to exit the page, the system just felt very intuitive and easy. They had a few games, a fitness program, and a very artsy dancing animation that added pscyhadelic shapes images to a booth model dancing in front of the tv. The whole system was rather impressive and I think was the best example of where this technology is going.

Being a certfied gadget freak, it’s no suprise that my favorite thing of the show was a simple great idea that was buried deep beneath all of the high resolution displays and booming subwoofers. LG not only had easily the most impressive booth display with their MASSIVE wall of specatular 3D televisions (Their 3D demo was as impressive, if not more, than the first time I saw Avatar on IMAX), they introduced a way of displaying multi-player games that I thought was nothing short of brilliant! Again, I’m a HUGE multiplayer gamer and I frequently have guests over to my house to play with me. I’ve never been a big fan of the split screen gaming, The other players screen is just too distracting. LG is including a new feature on all of their new 3D televisions that fixes this. What they do is, they take both images and display them full screen on your television on top of each other. Which pair of glasses you are wearing determines which image you see on the screen. Player ones glasses allow him to only see his image while player two only sees his on the same screen. Two players playing separate views against each other on the same full screen… Now THAT is cool! I want this NOW!

Robert Kozel Show Coverage

Final Thoughts:

CES 2012 has come to a close and it is really good to be home. I have uploaded my coverage from Wednesday and Thursday and I also wanted to share some final thoughts.

The show seemed to be a big hit based on the enormous crowd. From an audio/video perspective, the new innovation really seemed to be in the display technology. I saw many examples of 4K displays and the new OLED technology looks very promising. By far the most impressive display was the Crystal LED television from Sony. The picture was stunning and I really hope this comes to market very soon. We still saw a lot of 3D, but it’s clear that 3D isn’t quite the hit that was hoped for. 

On the audio side of things, it’s pretty amazing that personal audio has become such a popular theme. From companies like Bryston, Cary Audio Design, and HiFiMAN developing dedicated audiophile quality headphone amplifiers, to all the companies offering headphones, it’s clear that there is serious interest in a better quality listening experience. While some of the headphones appeared more gimmicky than others, there were definitely many high quality products to choose from. I should also mention that the Dirac Live Digital Room Correction system was the most interesting home theater technology that I saw at the show.

The theme of connected devices was present everywhere. From the concept of smart televisions to personal fitness devices that shared information with apps on your phone, watch or television, it’s clear that the industry wants all these devices to play together. Time will tell how quickly this technology is adopted and certainly not all of these solutions will have long term staying power. 

That’s it for my coverage of CES 2012. I hope you enjoyed it.

Thursday – 1/12/12 – CES 2012 Day 3

Thursday was my last day covering the show and I headed off to the convention center for a look at all the products on display. I couldn’t cover all the halls in one day, so I focused on the major players in the Central and South Halls. The LVCC was bustling with activity as I expected.

Just inside the entrance was a display for Ford boasting electrified vehicles with up to 100 plus miles per gallon. 

While this may look like an artist’s portrait studio, it is actually a demonstration for the Samsung Galaxy Note. The product is both a phone and a tablet and has amazing stylus technology which allows the device’s stylus to be used like a pencil. 

Look at the caricature that the artist was able to draw with this small handheld.

Just beside their massive 3D theater display, Panasonic was showing off a solar powered vehicle. This wouldn’t work for a morning commute just yet, but the technology is pretty amazing.

While we have all seen plenty of 3D televisions, how about a 3D picture? This is technology from CASIO called digital painting. Using just one regular photo, CASIO is able to render a three dimensional “Relief Transformation”. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of this in the future.

Remember how this booth looked on Monday evening after the press conference?

It was now complete and filled with people.

The Samsung Super OLED displays were stunning and a CES 2012 Best Innovations Awards honoree.

The Super OLED displays were incredibly thin.

As you can imagine, Canon and Nikon were showing their products at the show. I had no idea that a Canon image stabilizer lens contained so many parts.

Sony had Kellie Pickler stop by to sign autographs in their booth.

This was my most favorite product of the show. It’s the Sony Crystal LED display. This 55″ marvel uses three distinct red, green and blue LEDs per pixel. The picture was the best I’ve ever seen in a display. It’s still considered a prototype, but Sony will have these flying off the shelves if they can master the fabrication process.

If you had any doubts about the impact of Samsung on the consumer electronics industry, then just check out the incredible crowd at their massive booth. 

Toshiba was getting in on the 4K display bandwagon. The 4K displays were certainly beautiful. Now if we only had lots of native content.

ESPN was setup to broadcast a boxing match in 3D. I didn’t have time to wait for the fight and I didn’t want to deal with this crowd.

Bluetooth low energy devices made their appearance. Bluetooth low energy devices are part of the Bluetooth 4.0 specification and will allow devices to operate for months or even years on tiny coin-cell batteries. Casio was demonstrating the technology with an entire line of Bluetooth smart watches. The new devices will allow for integrations with other devices. For example, the watch can warn you if you left your cell phone behind or synchronize with your favorite bicycle or workout equipment to help you monitor your workout.

LG was boasting the world’s largest 84″ ultra-definition 3D TV.

I was surprised to see so many manufacturers showing off headphones and earbuds.

These headphones from Parrot offer the ability to control the volume just by touching the outside of the ear piece.

Skullcandy was displaying a wide array of headphone styles and colors.

The “Street by 50” headphones from SMS Audio were on display. Rapper 50 Cent was also on hand to sign autographs.

Soul headphones designed by Ludacris were on display.

Audio Technica was displaying an entire lineup of audiophile headphones.

Audio Technica was also showing their solid bass headphones. Bass enhancement in headphones was definitely a theme.

Even more headphones!

Earthquake was showing their new line of edgeless in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.

Gibson Pro Audio purchased the Stanton Group and was displaying this impressive DJ system.

Several lucky musicians escaped the CES crowds and enjoyed some private listening sessions on the Gibson guitars.

The Microsoft booth was packed with people. It is hard to believe that this will be the last year that Microsoft will have space at CES. I hope they aren’t making a mistake by not attending next year.

That’s it for my highlights from the LVCC. Keep reading for more coverage from the Venetian.

Wednesday – 1/11/12 – CES 2012 Day 2

Day 2 began with a small press conference hosted by HiFiMAN. While everyone enjoyed breakfast, two musicians entertained us with beautiful violin and piano music. The press conference was hosted by Dr. Fang Bian who founded HiFiMAN in 2007. 

Dr. Bian explained that he grew up with the Sony Walkman portable music players and always wanted to develop a portable music player that delivered high fidelity. With that goal in mind, he started HiFiMAN and began selling high quality headphones and personal audio products. At CES, HiFiMAN introduced the HM-601 Slim portable music player. The player comes with 8 GB of internal storage and can be expanded to 32 GB with an external SD card. Along with the ability to play high resolution FLAC files, the HM-601 has a high/low gain switch so that it is able to power both high efficiency in-ear monitors as well as most full-size headphones.

HiFiMAN also introduced their HE-400 planar magnetic headphones which have a sensitivity rated at 92.5 dB so they can easily be driven by portable devices such as your favorite iDevice. HiFiMAN gave everyone in attendance a sample pair of the HE-400 headphones along with an HM-601 player. Each player was loaded with a selection of music from HD Tracks. We all enjoyed taking a break from CES as we listened to the warm, detailed sounds coming from these products. The sound quality was excellent and it was such a great way to start the day.

HiFiMAN also introduced their new EF-6 reference headphone amplifier. The EF-6 delivers 5 watts of Class A amplification which should be more than enough to power any headphones. The EF-6 will be available in January for approximately $1,500. The blue headphones on top of the EF-6 are the HE-400.

My next stop was over to the Residence Inn across from the convention center to see what was new from Definitive Technology. Many manufacturers take this approach to stake out quieter and less stressful surroundings in the hotels near the convention center. The first demo was a prototype active soundbar system which effectively replaces the need for a receiver and multiple speakers. In this demo, the soundbar under the television was connected directly to an Oppo Digital Blu-ray player. The electronics in the soundbar decode the high resolution bit-stream coming from the player and apply SRS processing to recreate a three-dimensional surround field using just the drivers in the sound bar. Bass was handled by the small subwoofer on the bottom right under the television. The demo sounded great. The product should be available later this year and will certainly appeal to people who want a simplified installation without the complexity of a receiver.

Definitive Technology was also demonstrating the finished versions of the new StudioMonitor bookshelf speakers. The StudioMonitor 65 speakers sounded fantastic.

You see a lot of large limos in Las Vegas, but rarely do you see someone sitting on the roof working on a laptop while the vehicle is moving.

After a slow bus ride thanks to all the CES traffic, I was back at the Venetian. As if CES wasn’t big enough already, the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) was located just across the hall at the Venetian conference center this year.  PMA focuses on photo and imaging products.

I took a very quick walk through PMA just to see what they had. It was definitely a photographer’s dream haven. I did think these articulated camera mounts were pretty cool.

Some of the 2012 innovation award winners were on display at the Venetian conference center. Here’s the Lexicon DD-8 multi-room power amplifier. This won for delivering more power in less space than any other competing products.

Here’s the Dune HD Pro which won for high performance home audio.

The Sharp AQUOS 80″ television won for the largest LED LCD HDTV currently on the market. This TV is more than twice the screen area of a 55-inch television. I’m sure it will be replaced by a larger panel soon.

This monstrous 92-inch set from Mitsubishi won an innovation award. At $5,999 it was certainly the largest DLP set on display and shows that DLP technology is still alive and well. The television is also 3D capable.

Back at the Venetian Towers, it was time for some more high-end audio and to wait in line for an elevator. 

Here’s the beautiful Manley Stingray II stereo integrated amplifier. This retails for about $5,600.

Here’s a system featuring a pair of Manley Mahi amplifiers. The Mahi produces 40 watts RMS in ultra-linear mode and around 20 watts in triode mode. The speakers are from Silverline Audio. The small speakers are the Minuet Supreme Plus at $699/pair, the SR17 Supreme at $7,500/pair and the Bolero Supreme at $15,000/pair.

Vinyl was well represented. Here’s the Music Hall MMF-11 turntable which lists for $3995.

Here’s the Music Hall USB1 for $249.

From left to right, here are the Music Hall MMF-2-2.LE for $499, the MMF-5.1 for $875 and the new MMF-5.1SE for $1095.

This beautiful turntable is from Basis Audio. It’s called the Inspiration.

Here’s the Kronos turntable from Knonos Audio.

While we sometimes don’t see other members of the Secrets team until the evening, I did spot Secret’s Dr. John Johnson hanging out with Jeff Talmadge at the NAD suite. 

Here’s Dr. Johnson talking with Jeff Talmadge, Mark Stone and Peter Hoagland from NAD.

I stopped by Amplifier Technologies, Inc. and spoke with Jeff Hipps about the new Dirac Live Digital Room Correction system. ATI has entered into a licensing agreement with Dirac Research AB which is located in Uppsala, Sweden. The Dirac Live system reduces the effects of early room reflections and improves the clarity and bass response in the listening room. Jeff shared some of the Dirac user interface and he did a basic demo of the Dirac Live system. The user interface seemed very intuitive and was running on a Windows 7 laptop. Here’s a shot of the measurements screen which provides a simple graphical choice for the listening area and then shows where to take measurements. In this case, nine measurements are recommended for the sofa.

The interface actually shows you the impulse response in the time domain. In this picture, the graph from 10 to 27 ms is the response before Dirac and the graph from 27 to 39 ms is the response after Dirac processing.

In spectrum view, the interface shows the average spectrum before and after Dirac processing. The interface allowed for user control of the response curve and even allowed Jeff to select where he wanted various target points to be placed. He even demonstrated the ability to create a notch-filter to eliminate a troublesome frequency that might make an item in the listening room rattle. In this example, the notch filter is at 300 Hz. This was easily the nicest user interface that I’ve seen for a room correction system.

Jeff ran a small demo of the Dirac system and playback clarity was definitely improved. The Dirac implementation shown at CES was making use of an outboard Dirac system so the processing was going through extra A/D and D/A conversions. When finalized, the Dirac Live system will operate entirely in the digital domain and will be available as an upgrade to the Casablanca III HD in June of 2012. The upgrade will also extend the bandwidth of the Casablanca III HD to 192 kHz and add 12 channels of post-processing. 

Light Harmonic was showing their DaVinci USB DAC which boasts sampling rates up to 384K. Here’s a look at the case and the internal aluminum construction. The power, analog and digital circuit boards are all separated into three distinct layers in the DaVinci. 

The DaVinci provides native support for the Mac OS and retails for around $20K. The music playing through the DaVinci sounded fantastic. Now if I could only win big at the casino.

Pass Labs was showing their Xs 150 mono-block amplifiers and the SR-2 speakers. 

These beauties are the P-845 II 60 watt tube mono-blocks from LA Audio.

Krell was showing off the new S-550i integrated amplifier. The S-550i provides 275 watts @ 8 Ohms and 550 watts @ 4 Ohms with both channels driven. It will be $5,000 and should be available in Q2 2012.

Krell was also showing the Phantom III preamplifier. It will have an optional digital module which adds support for USB. It also supports an Ethernet connection for access to local network and internet streaming. It will also be $5,000 and should be available in Q2 2012.

Meridian was showing their beautiful 40th anniversary edition reference digital audio system.

Meridian was also showing the new M6 loudspeakers.

Lamm Industries was showing their ML2.2 single-ended power amplifier.

The Venetian is also the place to see the ultra-expensive, price doesn’t matter systems. This system boasts amplifiers from Lamm and Wilson Audio Maxx3 speakers. The total retail price for everything including the turntable and the cables is a staggering $599,000. 

That’s it for Wednesday. I was glad to head off to the Venetian for a relaxing dinner. It also gave me a chance to enjoy some of the beauty of the Venetian Hotel.

Tuesday – 1/10/12 – CES 2012 Day 1 – Part 2

I was very happy to run into Jeff Talmadge at the NAD booth. Many of you may know Jeff from his days at Denon. Jeff is enjoying his new role at NAD and he was very excited about the NAD product offerings. Jeff showed me the new T787 Surround Sound Receiver. This is the NAD flagship receiver and has a suggested price of $4000. The T787 is built with a modular design so customers can configure the product to their needs. The T787 supports 7 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs, 200 watts per channel of amplification and uses Audyssey MultiEQ XT for room optimization.

NAD was also showing their C446 Digital Media Tuner and their C390DD Direct Digital DAC amplifier. The C446 acts as a digital media player and can access music from your network, USB devices and internet radio. The product supports control interfaces for both Apple and Android devices and supports FLAC, MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC formats. The C3990DD includes a Direct Digital USB module with support for 24/96 for one device.

psb was showing the new Image T2 speakers.

psb had the final version of the M4U 2 headphones on display which they introduced at CEDIA last fall. The M4U 2 can be used in three modes which include Active, Active with noise cancellation and passive without power.

Arcam was showing their new D33 reference DAC which supports USB, AES, coaxial and optical inputs. The D33 is the unit at the top of the Arcam equipment rack.

CES showcases companies from all over the world. Here’s a picture of the EMP-2 Blu-ray player from Electrocompaniet in Norway. This player lists for $2,995.

There were many companies featuring two-channel equipment and of course tube products were found everywhere. Here are some beautiful tube amplifiers from Conrad-Johnson.

Simaudio was showing their new 380D digital to analog converter and the new 180 MiND which stands for Moon intelligent Network Device. The 380D has 8 digital inputs including USB. The 380D has an asynchronous jitter elimination system and uses the ESS Sabre-32 DAC chipset in 32-bit Hyperstream mode which converts the signal using 8 DAC’s per channel. The 180 MiND is a network streamer which can access music from a computer, network attached storage (NAS), or UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) device on your network. The 180 MiND will be available as s small standalone-device or can be included directly into the 380D DAC.

GoldenEar Technology was showing the new Triton Three Tower speakers which are a smaller version of the outstanding Triton Two Tower speakers which I just reviewed. The Triton Three Towers include an 800 watt ForceField subwoofer in each tower and list at $999.99. The Triton Three Towers are perfect for people will a smaller room that may not need all the power of the Triton Two Towers. 

GoldenEar was also showing off their new SuperCinema 3D Array. The 3D Array is the same form factor as a sound bar and includes three of the GoldenEar High Velocity Folded Ribbon (HVFR) tweeters and six midrange drivers. So what’s so special about this you ask? It has the effect of creating a soundstage which makes you think that you are listening to a pair of standalone speakers. This will be a solution for people wanting great sound with just a single speaker under their display. The SuperCinema 3D Array was paired with a ForceField subwoofer and was the only sound bar demonstration that I saw that actually started with music!

Cary Audio Design was showing off their newly designed logo as well as two new headphone amps.

The SH-1 is a solid state headphone amplifier.

The HH-1 is a hybrid tube headphone amplifier.

While not new for CES, the CAD-300-SEI integrated amplifier is simply gorgeous.

The highly regarded CD-303T CD/SACD player/DAC was on display.

So was the Cinema 12 Processor. I hope to be bringing you a review of the Cinema 12 soon.

Here’s a look at the Esoteric K-05 CD/SACD player. This lists for $9,900.

TEAC was showing some beautiful equipment. Check out the A1-3000 integrated amplifier.

It’s hard to believe that even in 2012 cassette recorders can still be seen at CES. Here’s the AD-RW900 CD/Cassette deck from TEAC.

Here’s a Class A stereo tube amplifier from Unison Research called Simply Italy.

Cambridge Audio was displaying their Stream Magic 6 Network Music Player along with the Azur 651A Integrated Amplifier.

Here’s a look at the Azur 851A Class XD integrated amplifier (2 x 120 watt) and the Azur 851C CD player. The 851C can also be used as a DAC and a digital pre-amp. Its USB input supports 24-bit/192 kHz.

Here’s the Azur 615BD 3D blu-ray player and the Azur 651R 7.1 receiver.

Checkout the cool design and finish on these speakers from Focal. These are the Diablo Utopia speakers.

This is a Devialet D-Premier amplifier. Inside this gorgeous piece of polished aluminum are a preamplifier, stereo power amplifier and digital to analog converter. The D-Premier is only about 1.25 inches thick.

Pathos makes some beautiful tube gear and they certainly know how to have fun and put their name into the heat sinks on their equipment.

Christmas Story anyone? It’s not a leg-lamp, but a beautiful piece of fragile Pathos gear in a custom crate.

I stopped by the WiSA suite to learn a little bit about the WiSa wireless speaker and audio initiative. WiSa is a Wi-Fi based protocol that makes use of the UNII frequency band in the 5.1 to 5.8 GHz range to transmit digital audio directly to speakers without the need for speaker wires or amplifiers. The protocol supports 24-bit 96 kHz and promises to allow consumers to add any WiSA compliant speakers into a system up to a 7.4 speaker configuration. While the audio may be transmitted wirelessly, the speakers require internal circuitry to process the signals and the speakers do require power. The system does allow for simplified speaker placement in a room as long as power is available.

The WiSA team was offering a look at the actual network utilization taking place in the hotel. Here’s the Wi-Fi utilization spectrum consumed by wireless networks in the area. It’s pretty crowded in there.

Here’s the utilization from WiSa in the unused 5.1 to 5.8 GHz range.

The demo made use of a popular clip from the “House of Flying Daggers.” The demo system was a 7.1 surround system from Asperion Audio. For the demo, a PlayStation was connected directly to the Asperion Audio device and the multi-channel audio was then transmitted wirelessly to the speakers without any amplifier or speaker wires. The demo sounded good and was certainly effective at demonstrating the technology. We’ll keep an eye on this technology to see how it develops.

I stopped by Onkyo to see their latest technology. They were showcasing the new MP3Tunes Music Cloud Service which allows you to store your MP3 files in the cloud and access them from your Onkyo receiver or portable device.

The new iOnly music system allows you to plug you iPod or iPhone into this standalone system and enjoy music with the built-in speakers.

The iOnly Bass supports all iDevices including the iPad and offers extended bass response.

Android control apps are here to stay.

Finally, picture-in-picture is back! Onkyo was demonstrating the ability to provide live thumbnail images corresponding to each active HDMI input on the receiver. Onkyo is calling this InstaPrevue. Sports lover will be happy once again.

Bryston is celebrating their 50th anniversary! They were showing their new BHA-1 headphone amplifier which is now available.

Bryston was also showing the SP3 processor/preamp which is also shipping.

The interior design of the SP3 is modular. Here’s a look at the top section which has the HDMI circuitry.

Removing the top tray reveals all of the discrete channel circuitry.

That wraps up the coverage for day one. I have lots more to share. I apologize for the delay on day two, but there is only so much time and so much to see.

Tuesday – 1/10/12 – CES 2012 Day 1 – Part 1

Today was the first day of the show and I spent my time covering things at the Venetian. The first stop of the day was a breakfast presentation at the McIntosh Laboratory suite. Charlie Randall, the president of McIntosh, gave an overview of some of their upcoming products. McIntosh is introducing a 50th anniversary limited edition of their MC 275 tube amplifier. The MC 275 is a thing of beauty and comes in a gold-toned chassis and offers 75 watts per channel in stereo and 150 watts mono. The tubes startup in a sequential fashion and the illumination turns green when the tubes are ready for operation. 

Here’s a shot of the MC 275 with the protective cover over the tubes.

McIntosh was also introducing a new line of multi-channel equipment aimed at the home theater market but at a much lower price point for McIntosh gear.

The first product is a new processor called the MX 121. This processor will retail for around $6K which is half the retail price of the previous MX 150 processor which I reviewed this past year. The MX 121 features Audyssey XT room calibration, support for HDMI 1.4a 3D video switching, and will support Apple i-devices with AirPlay.

The MC8207 is a new 200 watt x 7 amplifier which replaces the traditional McIntosh blue meters with new digital meters. This not only lowers the price point on the amplifier, it also makes it friendlier for people who don’t want the blue meters in their theater space or who put the equipment in a closet and don’t get to appreciate the cool meters.

McIntosh was also showing their new MVP891 Blu-ray player which supports 3D video and offers quad-balanced D/A convertors available through the balanced audio outputs.

Based on requests from their customers, McIntosh is also introducing a line of interconnects which will simplify the decision of what cables to use with McIntosh equipment.

NAD was showcasing their T187 Surround Sound Tuner and Preamp-Processor as well as their T975 7-channel power amplifier.

NAD was also showing their M50 digital music player, the M52 digital music vault which offers 3 terabytes of storage in a Raid 5 configuration, and the M2 direct digital amplifier.

To control all that digital equipment, NAD has developed an iPad application to simplify management and control of your digital music.

NAD also displayed the new M15HD2 surround processor and the MV15 digital video upgrade module for existing M15HD customers. The M25 seven-channel amplifier offers 160 watts/channel. It may be hard to see in the picture, but the model number on the M15HD2 was still M15HD. I asked if this was still a prototype unit, and I was told that the model number is not officially changing on the equipment case in order to manage costs that would otherwise be incurred due to product recertification if the model number changed.

Paradigm was showing some of their new products in the Paradigm Shift product line. The small adapter is a module which adds wireless blue-tooth connectivity to the A2 bookshelf speakers. 

Here’s the complete line of stereo earbuds. The earbuds come in three versions. The E1 is tuned to the Monitor Series 7 loudspeakers. The E2m is tuned to the high-end Studio Series speakers. The E3m is tuned to the high-end Signature Series speakers.

Paradigm was showcasing their new line of in-ceiling speakers. These speakers feature a much smaller bezel and the grills are attached using magnets. The speaker is angled at 30 degrees to allow for much better positioning in the listening room.

The Anthem D2v and AVM 50v were on display. Both models will be 3D ready when released.

Anthem was also showing the M1 Class D single-channel amplifier which offers 1000 watts of amplification.

That’s it for tonight. Much more to come tomorrow.

Monday – 1/9/12 – CES 2012 Press Day

After a wonderfully uneventful travel day, I arrived in Las Vegas for CES 2012. Today was CES Press day which featured press conferences from many of the major vendors such as Samsung, Panasonic and Sony just to name a few.

Being my second time at CES, I was prepared for the crowds so I arrived early for the Samsung press conference which started at 2:00 PM. To give you a sense for the crowds, I got in line at 12:45 PM. By the time they started letting us in, here’s what the line looked like. The line wrapped both directions down the Venetian conference-center hallway and continued down an adjoining hallway.

We were told the room held roughly 1500 people and thankfully I made it into the room after waiting all that time.  Here’s the room just before the presentation from Samsung got started.

CES is an international show and there were press and camera crews from all over the world reporting on the show. This gives you a sense of the camera crews working the Samsung press conference.

As you would expect, the Samsung conference highlighted Samsung success stories such as being the number one brand of televisions for the last six years and being number one in refrigerators. The Samsung message was all about TV centric technology marketed under the Smart TV brand. The presentation focused on Smart Interaction, Smart Content, and Smart Evolution. Smart Interaction is Samsung’s take on making the TV responsive to the users in the room. With small cameras mounted on the new line of Samsung televisions, the TVs will be able to use facial recognition to see who is using the television and will also be able to respond to physical gestures. The Smart Content refers to the ever growing set of Smart Applications that run on the Samsung televisions. These applications will be able to provide content that is relevant to the users of the television. Examples ranged from photo sharing, kids programming, fitness programs, and of course movies and television programming. The Smart Evolution concept made the risky claim that the televisions would be able to keep up with changes in the technology without having to replace the television itself.  While it sounds like an appealing concept, the fine details were left out in the marketing slides. We’ll see what details we can find on this during the week.  The message was clearly all about creating a digital ecosystem with the Samsung Smart TV as the center of the entertainment world for a typical household.

Samsung showed their new ES8000 flagship LED TV. This beauty was 75 inches and featured a dual-core processor and an integrated camera. The television is able to run any of Samsung’s Smart Apps. Samsung was really pushing the fact that the development platform is being used by many application development companies. Samsung stated that over 20 million Smart Apps have been downloaded to date. They also presented a check in the amount of $100,000 to PartyShots for their photo booth app which was developed for the Samsung television. Samsung also announced that Angry Birds will be available as an app for their TVs and there will also be an on-demand animated channel for Angry Birds for those that just can’t get enough of these addictive birds.

Samsung introduced their first Super OLED (organic light-emitting diode) television. I am not sure why they had to throw in the word Super right from the start, but that’s marketing. The set will be 55″ and will support 3D. The set requires no color filters thanks to the OLED technology. The set was very bright even from a distance in this very large room. We’ll get a closer look at this in the Samsung booth during the week.

Samsung also showcased their new Galaxy Tab which boasts LTE support on Verizon.

Given the crowds and a limited amount of time, I decided to pass on the Panasonic press conference and headed down the road to the Las Vegas convention center to checkout the Sony press conference. Sony had a similar 3D theater as last year but they scaled back on the size. It was still enormous for a convention center booth.

The conference opened with Sir Howard Stringer who is the Chairman, CEO, and President of Sony Corporation. There was a lot of talk about the new PlayStation Vita handheld which launches on February 22, 2012.

Similar to Samsung, Sony also shared their vision of a shared set of technology and applications which allow users to share movies, music, photos and applications across a wide array of Sony devices and televisions. 

Sony also announced enhancements to their Sony Music Unlimited service which offers service in 13 countries.

The Sony Ericsson name will now become Sony Mobile Communications.

Sony talked about PlayStation certified applications which will run on a variety of Sony devices including the new Sony tablet and mobile devices.

Sony announced that their Internet Enabled TV will be powered by Google TV. This promises to open up Android based applications for Sony televisions.

Sony showed the Tablet P which has a clamshell design with two independent screens that can easily fit in your pocket.

While not announcing any 4K display panels, Sony did announce a 4K home theater projector which will upscale HD content to 4K resolution.

After a great 3D clip from the upcoming Men In Black 3 movie, Will Smith and Barry Sonnenfeld came on stage to join Sir Howard for a guest appearance and some Sony humor.

The Sony presentation ended with a performance by Kelly Clarkson who sang “You Don’t Know Me”. Sony definitely knows how to put on an entertaining press conference.

On my way out of the convention center, I took a few shots of the show floor. These were taken at around 6:00 PM on Monday night. It’s hard to believe that all this can be ready by Tuesday morning.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow is the start of the show and I’ll be spending my day covering the Venetian.

Our team coverage of the 2012 International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas starts on Monday, January 9th.

This is my second time at CES and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the industry will be showcasing this year. I expect to see lots of 4K displays, OLED display technology and of course tablets galore. I will be focusing on the vendors exhibiting at the Venetian. I will be covering receivers, processors, media servers, speakers and just about anything that looks really interesting. I arrive on Monday for CES Press Day and am planning on hitting the Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony press conferences as long as I can get a seat.

Check back for pictures and updates throughout the week starting late Monday evening.

John E. Johnson Final Notes

There are a couple of things that I noticed this year’s CES had lots of: One is switching amplifiers. Many companies are moving in this direction, in part because they deliver more power for less money, but also because they are efficient and high tech. The one shown above is the new Anthem M1, which, at 35 pounds, will deliver 1,000 watts RMS into 8 ohms, and 2,000 watts RMS into 4 ohms. It is a very advanced design that circumvents some of the problems that plague older designs. For one thing, it has lower distortion at high frequencies.

Here is a close-up of the heat pipe in the M1. The output devices are located underneath the copper tubing indicated by the red arrow. They get hot, and a fluid in the copper tubing evaporates, removing heat from the output devices. The vapor travels through the tubing to the area indicated by the yellow arrow, where the heat is dissipated through heat sinks, and the vapor condenses back into liquid. A wick transports the liquid back to the area by the output devices.

The second thing I noticed at the show was a proliferation of headphones, ear buds, and headphone preamplifiers. The new Bryston headphone preamp is shown above. It is equipped with special output connectors for some of the more sophisticated headphones (electrostatics, for example).

Earthquake is getting into the pro market with this high powered amplifier made for concert use. It delivers 3,000 watts RMS into 4 ohms for each of the two channels. It uses a conventional input stage and a switching output stage. It weighs 135 pounds and will cost in the range of about $2,500.

This is a view of the inside of the Levinson No. 53 switching monoblock that I reviewed some time ago. You can see the enormous power supply capacitors in the bottom two corners, and this is just one side of the amplifier. The entire circuit you see here is duplicated on the other side. I was told that some overseas customers are purchasing 5 of these at a time for use in their home theaters. That’s $125,000.

Levinson also showed some new processors and preamplifiers. Very likely, we will get our hands on some of these.

Pass Labs demonstrated their new two-chassis pure Class A monoblocks. The model illustrated is the XS-150 which delivers 150 watts for each monoblock. There is also the XS-300. They are the largest (physically) power amplifiers they have ever built. They won’t be available for a while.

Pathos is unique in more than just sound. Notice the clever use of their name in the design of the heat sinks. This is a new model of integrated amplifier that delivers 10 watts per channel of pure Class A sound.

Turntables continue to dominate many high end audio exhibits. This one has two tonearms, one of which is at the top of the picture and is a conventional design, while the one on the right side folds down and allows the cartridge to slide in a linear fashion across the LP.

On the video side, Vivitek had numerous projectors on display, most of which were 1,024 x 768 in resolution rather than high def. They are small, and meant for small screens with the projector sitting on a coffee table.

This Vivitek projector uses an aspherical mirror in front of the lens to project over the top of the projector and back. This allows it to be close to the screen, and yet project a large image. The spec sheet is shown below, and the specs indicate this unit is made for board room meetings with the windows not being totally blacked out.

4K and even 8K video displays were at the show, seemingly aimed at the consumer market, and with the implication that their availability is not too far off. The problem is that the latest statistics show that Blu-ray players are in only 17% of American homes, and only 23% of American homes have HDTV. The broadcast industry is still tingling from haven spent hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading their studio cameras and transmission circuits to HD. Even now, if you watch a football game in HD, it is obvious that some of the cameras are standard def, scaled to 720p. Many consumers don’t even know what Blu-ray is, and don’t care about high definition. It’s the content that is most important, not how sharp the actor’s chin whiskers are. 4K and 8K resolution are fine for commercial theaters, but I just don’t see going beyond 1080p being popular as a consumer purchase.