A new company, called SE2 Labs, introduced the ITC One Integrated Theater Console. Built into its 100+ lbs chassis is a BD player,a full set of electronics including pre-pro and amps, and just about everything else you'll need tg drive your speakers. Lots of external inputs, of course. You'll need cash, too, as the retail price is $30,000. But SE2 Labs claims that if the internal components were purchased separately, they would cost $42,000. An amp-less version is available for home theater fans who like to make that choice themselves, but the cost is the same (balanced outputs are provided).
In addition to its ability to decode all the new high resolution audio formats, 110W of power into each of its 7 output channels, and a Faroudja DCDI video processing, the Harman Kardon AVR-7550HD is one of the first AV receivers to offer Dolby volume. (under $3000, early 2009)
Atlantic Technology surprised me in its demo with the high quality sound coming from its IWTS-30, THX certified in-wall speakers. Three of them were used across the front, along with four surrounds and two subwoofers. The IWTS-30 ($1375 each) is a three-way system, and the midrange-tweeter array can rotate 90-degrees when horizontal placement is desired or necessary. The same module also tilts to angle the sound slightly to the left and right, when necessary.
The brushed nickel plated finish of new Audio Design Associates components immediately grabs the eye. For surround buffs the big news is the PTM-7200 amp with seven channels times 450 watts into four ohms. It's ADA's first Class D product. Mate it with the Cinema Rhapsody Mach IV pre-pro with eight HDMI 1.3 ins and two outs, which incidentally gives it something in common with the new Suite 7.1 HD switcher. No word on pricing yet. Shipping first quarter of 2009.
With the TGM-100 Theater Grand Media Server, Sunfire has added a signal source to its excellent speaker and amp products, so now you can have a complete Sunfire system. The server sucks up DVDs and CDs and stores the content on the TGM-HD6 Theater Grand Hard Drive. Note that the latter, on the bottom, has eight slots. Available drives hold one, three, or six terabytes. Sunfire will explore the Blu-ray angle "when it makes sense."
Matthew Polk wanted to design the kind of outdoor speakers he would like to use in his own house. One of the more inspired things he came up with is the Atrium Sat30 ($150/each), a teardrop-shaped speaker that can dangle from the eaves or sit on the ground. If rain gets in, I was told, it evaporates.
The Wadia 170 iTransport is the first iPod docking device to coax a digital signal out of the iPod (incidentally, my 82-year-old mom loves hers). Till now the iPod could output only a line-level analog signal to docks. How Wadia managed this is a story yet to be told. The company insists that there is no need to pay a hacker to crack the case –- the 170 is Apple-approved. Price: $379.
The Harman Kardon AVR 7550HD ($2799) is the one of first surround receivers to feature Dolby Volume, one of the most sophisticated signal manipulation circuits to come along in years. It can take the edge off offensively toppy TV ads and intelligently reduce the dynamics of movie soundtracks, for late-night viewing, without losing intelligibility. Other attractions include 110 watts times seven, internet radio, and of course the full panoply of next-gen surround codecs via HDMI 1.3a.