CES attendance was down a bit more than expected, according to figures released on the last day of the show by the Consumer Electronics Association. 2008 attendance had been 147,000. Estimated attendance for 2009 had been 131,000. But in its press release, CEA has revised those numbers downward to 110,000.
Bryston had this classy-looking new preamp-processor, the SP-3, on static display. It will have all the important bells and whistles, including decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, when it goes on sale, probably in the second half of 2009. No prices were given.
Usher showed up with a whole new line of relatively affordable speakers, the NV series. They're still being refined, but should be available in a few months. The NV 601 is the smallest model in the line. I was one of the first to hear it; they hooked it up for the first time at the show (they claimed) just before I walked into the room, and a few minutes from the close of the show (they had been featuring their more upscale models in their two rooms throughout the show). The sound was impressive, with a solid midrange, good balance, and detailed but very sweet highs just the right balance for home theater and music. Estimated price will be in the neighborhood of $1100/pair (stands not included). There are also two floor standers and a center channel, the NV 603.
Some audiophiles combine their home theater and 2-channel systems. If they have a modest AV receiver, but want to improve the sound of their system, especially for 2-channel playback, one possibility is to use a separate, quality stereo integrated amp to drive the front left and right channels, with their best 2-channel sources connected directly to it. The receiver's front left and right preamp outputs are then connected to one of the line level inputs of the integrated amp for home theater use. This can be made more direct, with less chance of messing with the calibrated home theater volume levels, if the integrated amp offers a fixed-level, pass-through input (independent of the integrated amp's volume control) to which the receiver's front channel preamp outputs can be connected.
The RBH 8300 tower ($8300/pair) is second from top of the line. It has three eight-inch woofers, two 6.5-inch mids, and a 1.1-inch silk dome tweeter. Except for the tweeter, sourced from ScanSpeak, all drivers are proprietary. Thirty finishes are available. Matching center and other models will spring from the loins of RBH's designers in due time.
The 1.25-inch Teteron tweeter in this year-old DCM speaker line is called "synthetic silk." It's said to be as thin as silk, distinguishing it from other synthetic drivers, but is stronger and impervious to moisture. Here it's part of the TFE200 tower ($1000/pair), TFE60C center ($350), and TFE160BDP bipole/diple surround ($500/pair). DCM makes it and the other drivers used in the series, which include 6.5-inch kevlar or glass fiber woofers.
Say hello to Acoustic Technologies, which made its world debut at CES with a product three years in the making. The Classic is a slim tower using a single three-inch full-range driver. Why not do woofers and tweeters? Because they insert a crossover, and with it various irregularities and ill effects, into the signal path. Don't laugh -- this speaker had a highly natural, pleasing, gentle, ungimmicky sound with a well developed midrange and good soundstaging. Vocals sounded just right. Complementary models will arrive next year to bring the new company into surround territory.
This company, once known for beautifully simple and relatively affordable British-made turntables, has branched out into other territories, including the Screen 2 on-wall speaker ($4399/pair). It's roughly four feet tall, and weighs 44 pounds, but is just four inches deep. The driver array includes an eight-inch woofer, two five-inch mids, and one-inch tweeter. The wall bracket is a simple two-piece affair. One part attaches to the wall and the other part to the speaker, so it's easy to remove the speaker from the wall. Revolver has an even bigger on-wall in the planning stage.
The AVR600 ($5000, bottom) is the first HDMI receiver from British manufacturer Arcam and therefore the company's first model to support lossless surround. It's HDMI 1.3, of course -- otherwise why bother? -- with five ins and two outs. The seven times 120 watt amp is Class G, which combines Class AB power output with a linear tracking power supply that ensures peaks are well-supplied with juice. Though Arcam had previously used Class G in HTiB products, this is the first implementation in an a/v receiver. Shipping in February. The company also showed a prototype of a forthcoming Blu-ray Profile 2.0 player (top) – Tom has the details below.
In addition to its AVR600 A/V receiver (expected to ship in March, which is when we're hoping to get a sample for review), Arcam showed an early prototype Blu-ray player. It wasn't quite bug-free, but then it's probably nine months away from market, leaving plenty of time for Arcam to sort them all out. To our knowledge, this makes Arcam and Cambridge Audio, both of them UK companies, the only two small, specialty manufacturers to come forward with a Blu-ray player. The system was producing great sound through a pair of Totem Wind speakers and an Arcam subwoofer
Anthem showed two new projectors, the LTX 500 at $7500 and the LTX 300 at $5500. Both will ship in April. My photos did not come out, but visualize if you will JVC's newest LCoS models. For that's what they areJVCs with Anthem logos. The Anthem folks freely admitted this; why deny a good thing. I didn't get to experience the Anthem demo; they closed it down three hours before the official close of the show.
Both of Samsung’s new BD players, the uber cool hang-on-the-wall BD-P4600 (shown here) and BD-P3600 look good and are fully loaded BD players with BD-Live and full audio decoding. But finally, a manufacturer has acknowledged that not everyone has hardwired Ethernet near their AV gear. Samsung includes a W-Fi dongle for both of these players. The PlayStation 3 has been alone in offering this feature far too long. Bravo Samsung!
3D was a big story at CES. Or at least with several manufacturers, apparently looking for the Next Big Thing. Most of the demos were dismal. The best was from Panasonic. It used shuttered glasses and claimed full HD resolution. More on Panasonic's 3D initiative near the bottom of this blog file (it was posted on the first day). Even Panasonic's however, conducted on their big 103" plasma, suffered from motion lag, uncharacteristic of that form of display, on some of the clips. Much of the material, however, looked stunning.
In the TAD room at the Venetian, speaker engineer Andrew Jones was demonstrating the $30,000/pair TAD Compact reference stand-mount speaker, which features a sophisticated coaxial midrange tweeter driver with beryllium cone/dome material (Similar drivers are used in the far less expensive Pioneer speakers also designed by Jones, though they use beryllium only for the tweeter dome.