It's an age old problem. You have a pair of ears. You have a pair of earbuds. Unfortunately, they aren't the same size - and even when the size is about right, the flippin' earbuds are darn uncomfortable to wear for anything longer than a few minutes. You could pay big bucks to have special custom-fit earbud covers made for you personally. Or you could spend $20 (plus shipping) for a set of yurbuds from yurtopia. The company makes 12 sizes of earbud adapters out of surgical silicone. The yurbuds slip over your existing earbuds and channel the sound directly to your ear canal. They're soft and flexible, so they're quite comfortable.
Bring together any two people at CES and you'll inevitably hear the question, "What's the coolest thing you've seen so far?" At the moment, my answer is the plug-less Flipower USB Charger from Powertech. Plug-less? Yes. When you're ready to use the Plipower, you slide what looks like a credit-card-thin outlet cover away from the charger. This fits over a standard electrical outlet, and you use another electric device's plug to hold the Flipower in place - getting two-for-one usage from that outlet. Price and availability have yet to be determined, but let's hope it's soon because this thing is really cool.
One of the highlights of CEDIA 2009 was Atlantic Technology's announcement of H-PAS technology, which gets subwoofer-worthy bass out of a tower speaker. The prototypes shown then have developed into production models that are about to ship. First to ship will be the 5.25-inch tower; the 4.5-inch version may follow later in the year. With the inevitable pipe organ source material, the demo proved the ability of H-PAS to produce deep true bass sans sub. Phil Clements of Solus/Clements, father of H-PAS technology, weathers the media spotlight with good grace.
Onkyo's first foray into separates includes the PR-SC5503 surround preamp-processor ($2699), with the up-to-date feature set you'd expect in an Onkyo receiver, and the PA-MC5500 multi-channel power amp. The amp's got nine channels of 150-watt AB amplification, enough to accommodate both height and width channels, and can connect to the pre-pro via XLR. Both about to ship; pre-pro price may be around $2699. Onkyo also showed the BD-SP807 Blu-ray player which boasts Anchor Bay video processing. (And the company plans to introduce its first -- perhaps anyone's first -- HDMI 1.4 receivers this spring, reports TWICE.)
This marriage of high-end speaker company and high-end media server is one of the most exciting things at the show. The speaker is thiel's SCS4D stand-mount, an IP-based speaker with 32-bit DSP, 200 watts of internal Class D power, and 6.5-inch coaxial driver array. Its tightly focused and well-balanced sound is a stunning example of the Jim Thiel legacy. The Olive media server can rip or burn via slot-load CD drive, has 2TB of storage, and in the back are both analog and USB inputs, so you can add more source components to this self-contained system. Server's wi-fi but speakers need an ethernet connection. Starter system with one zone is $7900, additional zones (basically more speakers) $5250 per zone.
Epsilon is a French company founded in 1938. While these globular objects can serve as passive speakers, the active version is more interesting. It's got 100 watts of ICEpower amplification and connects wirelessly. Look for it in the third quarter for whatever the U.S. equivalent of 1200 euros will be then (currently a bit north of $1700).
CDT's great-sounding mini-sats can be configured in many ways. Our favorite is the 5.1-channel set featuring six sats (two for the center channel) and sub. Unfortunately there isn't an official price attached to it. Want height effects without height processing? CDT suggests you put two sats above the screen and link them to your system with an outboard crossover and attenuator. Yeah, the idea seems weird, but we heard it and it sounded great. Price $350. Two sats and sub go for $500. The new So-Na-Wall flat speakers cost $800/pair.
NewKinetix Re (the e is supposed to have a line over it, but I don't know how to generate that character - basically because I'm alphabetically challenged) is a plug-in accessory for an iPhone or iPod touch that turns either device into an IR remote control. Other such IR-enabling products already exist, but as far as I can tell the NewKintetix unit is the first one that does not require a separate box to generate the IR signal. One can be yours soon for $49.95.
The TV Hat people say it's "the next revolution in video viewing". That's quite a statement for a modified baseball hat that includes a pouch for most sizes of portable video players and a built-in magnifying glass to make the picture seem larger. Some important warnings:
Panasonic's new "Infinite Black Pro" technology will appear in many of the company's new 2010 sets this year (from the G-series up), including all the 3D models. A new filter has been devised which is said to minimize reflective light and increase through-the-glass transmittence from the pixels. A native contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1 is claimed.
Panasonic has two samples of its 152" (diagonal) plasma at the show. This one is showing 4K source material in 2D on the 4096 x 2160 pixel screen (that's 17:9, slightly wider than standard widescreen). The set is made from a full; Panasonic plasma mother glass, in its latest generation. This 2D picture was stunning. No price was announced, but if you have to ask...