The media server category is growing. Sooloos distinguishes itself by concentrating on its touchscreen interface. You can import iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries, though ripping through Sooloos will allow true gapless playback by encoding each CD as a single long file. The basic configuration holds 2500 CDs though a test version has done up to 100,000. Touchscreen is fanless, therefore totally silent, and suitable for your listening room. Rendering and storage components are separate and can be kept in a closet. You can search with multiple criteria -- jazz, or jazz with Thelonious Monk, or jazz with Thelonious Monk recorded in the 1950s. There's Rhapsody support. Meridian made a wise move by getting involved with these people (and vice versa).
The new Radiance line from Acoustic Energy, one of Britain's finest speaker makers, includes tower, monitor, center, and sub models with varying configurations built around 6.5-inch woofers, 5-inch midranges, and 1-inch tweeters, all aluminum. Thermal management -- that is, letting heat escape -- was a design priority, implemented with a double voice coil that sits both inside and outside the former. The ring radiator tweeter is designed to match direct and reflected sound into a seamless whole. The minimalist crossover uses no resistors. A 5.1 set with towers in the front left and right positions will sell for $6200, while four monitors, center, and sub will go for $4400.
The A-shaped Avalon Aspect boasts 92dB efficiency, which should make it compatible with home theater use as long as you're willing to buy five of them -- no complementary center or other models yet. For $8500/pair you get two 7-inch kevlar woofers and a one-inch proprietary neodymium composite tweeter. The latter gets a waveguide-like treatment thanks to a foam structure built into grille. You won't see it unless you pop the grille and look at the underside, as Avalon showed us.
PSB's SubSeries 500 subwoofer ($2149) propels a 12-inch woven fiber driver into action with a Class H tracking power supply amp rated at 500 watts continuous power, 750 dynamic, and 1500 peak. The combination extruded aluminum and MDF enclosure should be tough enough to stand up to that onslaught of low-frequency vibration. Stop drooling, that's not polite.
Though strictly speaking, it was a Friday when we saw the Polk OWM5, a $179 speaker that will tolerate any of nine mounting methods if you speak to it nicely. Let us count the ways: vertical wall mount, horizontal wall mount, vertical shelf mount, horizontal shelf mount, corner mount, horizontal ceiling mount, vertical 45-degree wall mount, vertical corner wall mount, and standard articulating wall mount bracket. There's also an OWM3 which is less versatile, with a mere seven mounting methods.
Strictly speaking, we should be telling you more about NAD's first Blu-ray player, and you've already heard about its a/v receivers, but the Viso Two HTiB got our attention with stylish looks. It's a DVD (and DVD-Audio) player with built-in 50-watt stereo amp and Dolby Virtual Speaker (and Dolby Headphone). Price is $1299 if you want something really cool looking to play your old DVD library in the bedroom. But what's that underneath?
Why, it's NAD's first speaker line, the Viso Thirty bookshelf and center channel models. They've got titanium tweeters, four-inch polypropylene woofers, and a $699 pricetag (we need to clarify if that's per speaker).
The Samsung BD-P4600 full-featured player has been designed with more than a “touch” of the red color to go along with their TVs. The whole unit is a deep red. Designed to hang on the wall, or sit angled to show off its good looks on a shelf, Samsung simply added good looks to its best Blu-ray Disc player. Featuring Netflix and Pandora for streaming media, this player can use Samsung’s $39 wireless dongle so the user doesn’t have to find other solutions (like powerline adaptors or running long lengths of Ethernet cables) to connect online. Sleek enough to keep your interior designer happy.
With networked TVs and media sharing devices we can get online content from partners like YouTube, Netflix, CBS.com, etc. Now Boxee offers a software solution that creates an easy meny to find online content that works on computers including Macs and Linux-based operating systems. What’s really cool is that you can put the software on a flash drive and add it to an AppleTV. This adds the capability of watching many online streaming video partners including video streaming like Netflix, Hulu, CBS.com and MTV to the previously limited partners on AppleTV.
Sherwood has just released its first soundbars to the consumer electronics audience, and with prices set at $160 and $130, they won’t leave you without any change in your pocket. The SB-4221i ($160) features dual 2.75-inch drivers that are driven by a 15 watt per channel amplifier. Sherwood’s $160 model also has dual built-in subwoofers that are driven by a 30 watt RMS amplifier.
Will we ever see HD resolution higher than 1920x1080 for the home? Do we need it? While Samsung didn't answer that question, it did show two UHD prototype sets, this plasma and a larger LCD, both doing 4K by 2K. Vaporware? For now, probably, but nice to know that some are thinking about it.
Another big trend at the 2009 CES is ultra thin LCDs and plasmas. But that was a trend last year, too, and few of the sets have yet reached the market. Interestingly, the 9mmn plasma that Pioneer showed last year was a no-show this year. Are consumers willing to pay a premium for extra skinny displays? Are they unhappy with their current 4" thick flat panel. The jury is still out