Truth be told, the only reason most AV journalists come to shows and conventions is for the free swag. Tough times in the economy and shrinking promotional budgets have done some serious damage to the quality and amount of swag a savvy journalist can accrue over the course of three or four days of press conferences and meetings. While not the best swag ever, Universal Remote Control’s Mitch Klein scored big points with surprise offerings like these which he presented to a select group of bacon-enthusiast journalists. No word on whether URC will ever begin manufacturing a remote control that looks like a large slice of crispy, delicious bacon – even though many of us have begged them to do it.
Panamax’s new MR4000 has eight protected power outlets with Level 2 Power Cleaning and Filtration. Panamax says that this helps to eliminate the “common symptoms of contaminated power (loss of detail, pops, hisses, hums and others). The MR4000 also monitors incoming line voltage and disconnect the connected equipment from power if there’s a brown-out or surge. It also has an AC outlet on the front of the unit for quick, temporary power connections. The MR4000 is available now for $199.95.
Security and convenience are two big benefits of having a home automation system. Unfortunately, the various door, window, and motion sensors that are the “eyes and ears” of the system are often big and ugly. At Control4’s mega-booth, NYCE Control was introducing “the smallest Zigbee home automation devices in the world”. And these gizmos certainly are small. The $89 door/window open/close sensors shown on the left of the NYCE display pictured above are not much larger than a quarter. Coming in the very near future will be a garage door sensor ($89) and a special device NYCE calls an “asset protector”. Basically a small white square just like the larger of the two parts of the window sensor, the $89 Asset Protector can be discretely attached to just about anything. The sensor is designed to immediately signal if it senses a large amount of motion. NYCE says you can attach this to the back of an HDTV, for example, as an additional security device that can notify your Control4 system that major movement – as in, someone is trying to take the TV off the way – has been detected.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the end of the man-cave era. I’m not sure I could find a better example of anything that would be more proof of the existence of a trend away from the dedicated, tech-dominated home theater room in favor of a new emphasis on stylish integration of the home theater into people’s homes and lifestyles than this very interesting credenza from Adrian Lifestyles Furnishings. In most ways the Lila Pearl Credenza is a very traditional home entertainment cabinet with media drawers, adjustable shelves, and back panels that provide easy access to components and cables. But it’s also one of those pieces of furniture that you will either immediately hate or absolutely love. The company says the finish is “lacquer finish on Lila veneer”. I’m not quite sure what a “Lila veneer” is, but the color was an extremely interesting combination of purple and rose and mother of pearl. It’s not the sort of thing I’d have in my house, but I know several people who would gladly use it for their TV and associated gear. Adrian Lifestyles Furnishings offers a lot of other cabinet designs, including traditional wall unit style furniture, in a variety of domestic and exotic woods, finishes, sizes, and door types. Pricing was not available.
I could have really used this when I installed and reviewed SunBriteTV’s 4660HD 46-inch weather-resistant outdoor flat-panel HDTV several months ago. In fact, I looked everywhere for (at least I thought I had) and asked anyone who would listen about a surge protector for the HDMI connection going from the system inside my house out to the HDTV on the back patio. Having gone through the pain of a relatively extensive surge from a frighteningly close lightning strike, I’m slightly more aware of the potential downside of too much electricity. As far as I can tell, Ethereal is the first company to offer an in-line surge protector specifically for HDMI connections. The Ethereal HDM-SP is available now for $159.99 – a price that could wind up saving you a lot more if you live in lightning-prone locales like I do.
NuVo took some of the wraps off of the company’s new multizone wireless/wired digital audio distribution system that consists of two wireless/wired amplifiers (20 watts x 2 or 60 watts x 2), a three-zone rack-mountable component with three built-in stereo amps, an optional dedicated NuVo remote (similar in size and shape to an iPhone), iOS and Android control apps, and a special NuVo router. The NuVo router is only required for wireless installations, otherwise each of the zone amplifiers can be connected to your home LAN. The control app is beautifully designed, easy to use, and changing/linking zones is super intuitive. Pricing hasn’t been officially set yet, but product should be available beginning later this year. This is definitely one of the most impressive multizone wireless audio systems I’ve found so far at CEDIA.
The Klein K-10 Cinema Pro tri-stimulus colorimeter may not do absolutely everything that twice as expensive color spectroradiometers will do, but it comes close, is much faster, and will read much lower light levels. At $5900, it must be used with color calibration software such as the SpectraCal we use for our reviews. (Not coincidentally, it was being demonstrated in the SpectraCal booth.)
The Darbee video processor is said to cleanly enhance a video image. Based on what I saw at CEDIA (and based on Kris Deering's review that's available on this site) it does the job surprisingly well. I did notice, however, that if there are artifacts in the source material it will enhance those as well! But the degree of enhancement is adjustable.
The Darbee Fidelio, not yet available, will be a more upscale version of the current Darbee video processor when it ships at a date TBD (the basic Darbee will still be in the line). It is expected to sell for around $2000 and offers not only video enhancement but a touch screen interface, Video EQ, Multiple inputs and modes, and downloadable features.
Seymour-Screen Excellence showed its new, acoustically transparent screen that does the job without an obvious weave or visible perforationsthough its surface does have some texture to it. It's available in a variety of formats including fixed frame, retractible (masked or not) and curved widescreen. A 100-inch wide, retractible, 2.35:1, flat model will cost you about $4000. For masking, add $2000.
When it comes to high-end speakers, Sony has had tough sledding in the U.S. market, despite some quality products. Its current SS-AR1 and SS-AR2 are excellent designs, but at $27,000 and $20,000 per pair respectively, they'll be a hard sell to any but the passionate and well-healed audiophile.
So when I saw a new pair of concept speakers side-by-side with Sony's new 84-inch, 4K flat panel on the company’s show floor booth I was intrigued. They weren't getting much attention from the CEDIA crowd, of course. All eyes were on the HDTV, and the sound was at a very low level and drowned out by the general din of the convention center din.
But the speakers were being demonstrated rather secretively at a nearby hotel. The official introduction is still weeks or months away (possibly at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver in October but more likely at CES in January), so it’s all very hush-hush for now. If I tell you more about them here I’d have to kill you. But you can get a closer look in the following entry, including the speaker’s unique tweeter arrangement. For now I'll just say that they will get a lot of positive attention when they arrive officially. The pricing is still TBD, but will be lower, and perhaps considerably lower, than the SS-AR1 and SS-AR2. And unlike be those determinedly 2-channel designs, matching centers, bookshelves, and subs will be available.
Of all the cool stuff at CEDIA 2012, by far – for me, at least – the most impressive and most cool thing I saw/heard/experienced was the voice-controlled home automation add-in for a Control4 system from Houselogix, called voicepod, that will be available later this year. Any number of voicepod “pods” can be used to allow you to control a virtually unlimited number of functions that may be available in your particular Control4 system. A voicepod is a small, flat device that looks somewhat like an electric hot plate for a coffee cup. Built into each voicepod is a microphone and speaker that allows the system to talk back to you in order to confirm commands or ask for additional commands. In order to keep the voicepod from responding to random conversation in the room, communication with the system has to be woken up by saying, “Hello, voicepod,” after which a female voice asks you what you would like to do.
During the demonstration, Theodore Rosenberger, the President and Founder of Houselogix, turned lights on/off, raised/lowered Lutron wireless shades, selected preset angles and panned a security camera, and even programmed the system on-the-fly to respond with specific phrases. I’ve seen quite a number of voice-controlled devices and systems over the years, and this one from Houselogix is by far the most exciting I’ve come across. Even though it’s only in beta testing now, I’ve already begun begging Houselogix to let me get my hands on a voicepod or two to integrate into my Control4 system.
Scheduled to be available later this year, NextGen’s latest remote control extending device is a hockey puck-like device that receives signals from a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth and blasts out the corresponding IR code so you can control your AVR gear using NextGen’s smartphone app. Pricing is expected to be $79.95.