Though Quad is best known for its venerable flat-panel electrostatic speakers, which are true audiophile classics, it has been marketing more conventional box speakers for several years. Thus it is no surprise to find the company releasing its first sound bar. The three-channel L-ite has drivers of silk and kevlar that are designed and manufactured in house. The bar is $699. Add $500/pair for matching surround satellites and $1100 for the 10-inch, 300-watt sub. Shipping in March.
We maintain that a well-voiced sat/sub system can be a thing of joy and Epos is one good place to look for one. The 8VS 5.1 system includes a satellite that looks smaller than its 9.25-inch height with matching center and sub. Tweeter is aluminum, woofer is kevlar, and price is $1750. Nice black gloss finishes too.
While Atacama makes conventional speaker stands like the ones at far left and right, the star attraction is obviously the Aurora 6 at $449/pair. That price includes the glass columns but not what fills them. So how would you fill your Auroras? This could be a creative opportunity for folks who collect stones, marbles, or beach glass. How it would affect the resonant character of the stand we cannot say.
We are maxi. We would prefer to be mini but that would imply a life without pastries and beer. AktiMate, however, inhabits both modes of being with the Maxi and the Mini. Both of these 60-watt active speakers have a cool iPod dock that can fold down into the enclosure when not in use. Both have three line ins, USB in, and ethernet connectivity; the Maxi, a small fraction of an inch taller, adds internet and FM radio plus wi-fi. Maxi: $1000. Mini: $650.
Resolution Audio's Cantata audio server is pleasingly slim but not enough to crowd out the slot-load CD drive. Network connectivity is ethernet and you can also connect source components via SPDIF, XLR, or RCA. iPhone and iPod touch control is available. Price is $6000 and the company offers a similar-looking stereo integrated amp that would complete the set nicely.
Sonneteer's Morpheus audio server will play anything your home network dishes up through a PC or other device. You can supplement it with Sonneteer's 3TB external hard drive, which adds the convenience of a slot-load CD drive for burning. The basic unit has 50 watts times two and sells for $3995. Double that if you add the extra drive. One angle that came up in our discussion was the fact that the system rips with metadata from free providers; a more deluxe service costs extra. If you're buying a pricey audio server, find out where it's getting its metadata and consider how that will affect the experience of using it.
Since we last show-blogged about Meridian's Sooloos audio server, the mag has run a full review. The latest wrinkle for CES 2010 is the ID40 Sooloos Card, which integrates the server with Meridian 800 Series components such as the 861 Surround Controller (now in its sixth generation, $25,995). In the new 808.3 Reference CD Player ($19,995) the card is standard equipment. What pleased us most was the news that the company's amazing active speakers will move beyond their longtime puritan black gloss finish to embrace a rainbow of colors.
PS Audio, best known for its high-end DACs and powerline accessories, has augmented its Perfect Wave DAC ($2000) with The Bridge ($500). The latter allows anything on your home network to send signals to the DAC via wi-fi or ethernet. Yup, there's iPhone/iPod touch control and the company may add Google's Android phone to that list "if it gets popular enough."
Hipper audio servers like Cary Audio Design's Music Server are coming with iPhone/iPod touch control. Cary wrote its own app for this purpose. The product has 1TB of onboard storage and can accept an external drive via USB. It backs itself up automatically and comes with Shoutcast internet radio. Pricing was roughly estimated to be $2000-2500.
The Arcam AVR600 is one of the best receivers we've ever reviewed. Making its debut at CES was the slightly slimmed down AVR500, with 100 watts times seven, versus the older model's 120. Arcam's Class G amp topology has to be heard to be believed. A preamp-processor and multi-channel power amp were also on display.
As we stepped through the door at Lenbrook's joint PSB and NAD exhibit, PSB's Paul Barton said: "Have you heard the NAD digital amp?" The M2, winner of a CES Innovations 2010 award, was playing with PSB's floorstanding flagship Synchrony. It had a tight and crisp though not terribly warm sound compared to what we have heard the same speaker do with analog amps. (Incidentally, the Synchrony is one of our all-time favorite towers.) Power output 250 watts times two into either four or eight ohms. Price $5999. NAD also showed its new M56 Blu-ray player, which is fully up to date with BD-Live capability, and at $1999, it ought to be.
Van Den Hul's HDMI Flat 180 is pleasingly plump, tomato red, and has a hinged connector that can take sharp turns. Every phat HDMI cable should be so agile. It's HDMI 1.4 compatible, and at $175 per meter, it ought to be.
Panasonic not only made the biggest push for 3D at the show, it also had the most consistently effective demos. All used shutter glasses, and all of Panasonic's new plasma sets are claimed to use faster phosphor elements to minimize left-right crosstalk (lingering images can be an issue when separate images must be presented for each eye. (Hopefully the new phosphors won't compromise color accuracy. The color in the demos looked fine, but such demos invariably deviate from the D6500 color standard.)
Panasonic showed two new portable Blu-ray players, the 10.1-inch DMP-B500 and the DMP-B100 (shown here). They don't have full HD resolution, but that shouldn't be a negative with such small screen sizes. I want one; they looked better, with a BD disc, than any portable DVD player I've ever seen. The one missing feature is an external video input. Why is that important? The player could then perform double duty as an off-screen monitor for use with a big screen projection system when it isn't needed as a portable device. An OLED display instead of the LCD imaging used here would also be nice, but a $3000 portable OLED Blu-ray player might be a hard sell
A demo of Toshiba's new top-of-the-line Cell LCD HDTV, with its 500+ zones of full backlit LED local dimming side-by-side with last year's LED local dimming set with far fewer LED zones, was exceptionally effective, even if too much was made of the new set's increased brightness (and too much of it used for the darkened demo room) . Toshiba claims a peak of 1000 cd/sq meter -- that's close to 300 foot-lamberts, nearly 10 times what I'd recommend for a good picture in a darkened room. Hopefully
a movie or cinema mode will produce a more sensible brightness level.