At yesterday's Sony press conference, the company didn't demonstrate the new VPL-VW1000ES 4K projectorthat had to wait until this morning at Sony's booth on a Stewart Ultramatte 150 screen measuring 180 inches diagonally. As with most Sony presentations, this one was mostly talking and not much demo material, but that material was worth the waitexcept for the first clip, which was from Resident Evil at 1080p upconverted to 4K. The clip exhibited severe banding and solarization, which I learned was due to sourcing and processing issues, not the projector. (The original file was 16-bit, which was truncated to 10-bit in the server and then 8-bit for HDMI to the projector.) Also, this clip was projected using Motionflow frame interpolation, which I don't mind, but Tom Norton objected to that more than the banding.
By contrast, the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man due next year was in native 4K from the server, and it looked, well, amazing. Detail was stunning, and the blacks were better than yesterday's showing of the same clip from the Sony 4K digital-cinema projector. After the formal presentation, I confirmed that the VW1000ES can indeed accept a 4K signal over a single HDMI 1.4 connection. Of course, that won't help most consumers see native 4K content, which will be nonexistent for at least a couple of years to come.
Surge protection is great and – take it from someone whose equipment recently suffered from the effects of a wayward bolt of lightning – really, really, really important. Unfortunately, most of the serious surge suppression components on the market have the bad habit of taking up valuable rack space. SurgeX’s new XC series separates the protection from the plug, giving you the ability to mount a strip of 18 or 24 outlets vertically along the back of your AV rack (or elsewhere) whilst the serious surge-suppressing circuitry (with SurgeX patented Advanced Series Mode protection technology, a remote interface, an Over/Under Voltage Protection LED, a Power On/Off LED, and a highly interactive Self-Test LED) sits separately. SurgeX says the company’s XC series are built to withstand a 6,000V, 3,000AMP AC power surge at least 1,000 times without failing. (They’re probably telling the truth, although since I had to leave after the 965th surge, I can’t say I saw it with my own eyes…) They’re also backed by an 11-year warranty and are built in the USA.
JVC opened the show with a bang, introducing eight new projectors. Six of them are further refinements of last year's models, with some significant new features. As last year, they are paired in sister designs, the Reference models (DLA-RS65 at $12,000, DLA-RS55 at $8000, DLA-RS45 at $3500—the latter a $1000 price drop from last year's corresponding model!) and the Procision models (DLA-X90R, DLA-X70R, and DLA-X30Rat the same respective price points as the Reference models) The respective Reference and Procision models are identical in features and differ only in minor cosmetic details and their sales channels (the Reference models are sold through Pro dealers).
Few home automation things – especially in a home theater – can match motorized shades for sheer (or blackout) sex appeal. Whether the shades are coming down in preparation for a movie, or going up after the movie is over, it’s difficult to avoid being mesmerized by the seemingly magical movement of the shade material. But motorized shades have traditionally had two major drawbacks: cost and installation issues (which add to the cost). Lutron’s new wireless motorized cellular shades give the treatment to expensive, difficult-to-install window treatments. The new shades are exciting for several reasons: They’re motorized! They’re affordable! They’re cordless! And I can install them myself! (Yes, I’m drooling over shades…)
On the day before the show opened, the isles were clogged with crates, ladders, and fork lifts doing the Indy 500 shuffle. For how it all looked when the crowds rolled in, scroll down until you get to the beauty shot taken on Thursday morning, opening day. Viewing the chaos on the day before, you never think they'll be ready to open on time. They always are. Kudos to the dozens of behind the scenes "stagehands" without whom there wouldn't even be a show.
Although the claim that it’s “the only wireless whole house music system specifically engineered for music” may engage in a bit of hyperbole, Proficient’s ZERO wireless multizone audio system is designed to transmit audio up to 90 feet throughout a home using 2.4 GHz RF technology. ZERO transmitters support up to 8 receivers and have connections for three analog audio channels plus an optical audio input – and can transmit all channels simultaneously. Proficient says that transmitting all inputs enables the use of one transmitter to send “left and right” audio for “Zone 2” or “rear surrounds” (without latency being an issue) as well as audio to a subwoofer for a home theater system.
The so-called Future Technology Pavilion was open for a press tour on Wednesday, press conference/setup day (the show formally opens on Thursday September 8). Much of the content here was of limited A/V interest, but will be of interest to custom installers who often add home automation and similar services to their repoitoire. The most interesting features here were those that offer a wide range of medical monitoring facilities, providing health and well-being warnings that can be transmitted to the appropriate agencies and individuals if needed. In other words, just the ticket for a granny-friendly house.
The area of the Future Technology display of most interest to home theater fans, however, involved this huge, 244.5-inch x 104-inch, 2.35:1 Stewart Aeroview 100 screen. It's a rear projection setup using six DLP projectors with edge blending. The image you can see here was only 16:9 for this preview, but 2.35:1 material that fills the screen is on the menu for the show days. The image was as impaired, as this photo suggests, by the ambient lighting, which is also higher on setup day than it will be during show hours. For more details, see the next post.
The magic behind the curtain for the Future Technology Pavilion's big rear projection screen (above) consisted of six Digital Projection D-Vision 30-1080 DLP projectors, each responsible for filling one sixth of the image, combined with edge blending to hide the transitions from one projector to the other. These projectors offer a short throw, permitting a short, 9-foot distance from projector to screen.
Once you divide the high definition source image into six segments, each of those segments will be far smaller in pixel count. Each of these segments must therefore be upconverted to match the projector's native resolution. The processing is further complicated by the fact that the screen used here is 2.35:1, not the 16:9 that would be a direct multiple of the six projectors' native resolutions. In addition, allowance must be made for overlap where the images meet. An overlap of about 13% is needed to provide for the edge blending. And the edge blending itself requires major processing power.
The venerable Baltimore-based speaker maker showed three new monitors, two new soundbars, and three new subs. The three StudioMonitors include the SM65, an LCR with two 5.25-inch woofers ($449/each), SSM 55, a two-way design with 6.5-inch woofer, $299/each), and SM 45, two-way, 5.25-inch ($199/each). The two larger models have passive radiators on top; the smaller one is back-ported. All have woofer phase plugs whose rubber surfaces are dimpled to control air flow. These speakers are voiced for the audiophile on a budget, as opposed to the home theater buff looking for deep thrills, so the bass is said to trade off midbass force for greater extension. Shipping October. DefTech's two new soundbars include the XTR-SSA5 ($999) which has woofer-tweeter-woofer arrays for three front channels plus some extra drivers that sorta kinda contribute to surround effects (it's a long story). With Pink Floyd's "Money," the five-channel bar managed to break the cash-register effects free from the bar, about a foot out and to the sides. The three-channel version is the XTR-SSA3 ($799). Three new subs range in price from $599-799 and have remote controllable preset EQ modes. Coming this fall is the ProCinema 400 sat/sub set ($599).
The Talking Heads movie Stop Making Sense was crackling and rocking at the Induction Dynamics booth, benefiting from the dARTS DSP-based room correction developed by stablemate Phase Technology. The system with S1.8Td tower, C1.8d center, S1.8Sd surround, and SW2 sub totaled $55,000-60,000 depending on finish and config. The demo system pictured was in basic black but I loved the gloss rosewood shown in front of the booth. Are 63 different grille colors enough?
Why bolt a speaker onto a sub? Well, if you deploy five or more of them, your surround system's regular sub will have huge reinforcement, great coverage, no holes in bass response. That's what Procella does with products like the new P610. Thanks to shallow depth, it's not as bulky as it looks. Inside are a 10-inch sub driver at bottom with a 6.5-inch midrange and one-inch tweeter at top, the latter recessed deep into a waveguide. Price $3199 for the speaker half and $1499 for the sub half.
The biggest news at Sony's press conference today was the introduction of the VPL-VW1000ES, the world's first "affordable" 4K home-theater projector. With a resolution of 4096x2160, this baby produces up to 2000 ANSI lumens to fill screens measuring up to 200 inches diagonally, and new SXRD panels and Iris3 technology boost the projector's specified dynamic contrast to 1,000,000:1. Of course, it also does 3D, with full anamorphic capabilities in both 2D and 3D mode.
But what about 4K content? Sony claims to be developing a complete line of 4K products and working with the Blu-ray Disc Association on a 4K spec, but meanwhile, the VW1000ES includes an onboard 4K upscaler.
So how affordable is it? Sony would only say "less than $25,000." That's way less than the Sony and JVC 4K digital-cinema projectors (and Meridian's version of the JVC for ultra-high-end home theaters), which bodes well for a 4K future. The VW1000ES should be available in December, and you can bet we'll be putting it through its paces just as soon as possible.