The SS-AR1 floorstander ($27,000/pair) has appeared at various shows in the past and we've seen it before. But CES 2011 marked its real entry into popular consciousness as part of a Sony division that also includes ES receivers and projectors. Ray Kimber of Kimber cable and IsoMike recording fame and Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds lent their credibility to the proceedings. The speaker's blend of woods includes a cabinet of Hokkaido maple that's harvested only in November when it's at the peak of its powers. Drivers are designed by Sony and custom made by ScanSpeak. The piano black finish is done by a company that makes, um, pianos. Demos included a Nat King Cole tune in which the strings were vivid yet unhyped and the voice reproduced so well, it practically burnt a hole in our brain. We're convinced this is a very fine speaker indeed, and not at all surprised, having liked Sony's long-gone SS-series speakers from the 1990s.
The BDP-1 Player, as Bryston calls it, does not include a hard drive or streaming capability. Instead, taking a high-performance approach to the music serving process, it accepts high-res music files via digital in and feeds digital out to the Bryston BDA-1 DAC. Player at top, DAC at bottom. Pricing: $2150 each.
While DTS was industriously showing the 11.1-channel version of its Neo:X technology at South Hall, Onkyo was demoing the same technology at the Venetian, but in more low-key way, and with a mere 9.1 channels (5.1 plus back-surround and height, no width). We can't explain why, but it sounded better, even with the same demo material. The guy in the pic must have agreed as he slowly levitated into the air, somehow drawn to the height channels like a moth to flame, and spontaneously combusted.
We're pleased to announce that the D'Agostino Momentum monoblock amp has won the Home Theater 2011 CES Blog's Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cosmetics. It sounded good too, but man, look at that thing. It is the first product from Dan D'Agostino's new company -- you may remember him as Mr. Krell.
For folks who don't want to keep their two-channel and multi-channel rigs in separate rooms. You can see how that works. Parasound also showed two five-channel amps, the 250-watt Model 5250 ($2800) and the 150-watt Model 5125 ($1900). Both are THX Ultra2 certified and have dual toroidal power supplies.
While it wasn't new, and didn't have the ultimate refinement of the Revel/Levinson system playing in the adjacent room, the imaging of JBL's massive horn-loaded Synthesis 1400 was striking and endlessly engaging. With two of these, you don't need a center speaker. With Mark Levinson electronics, the system weighed in at $44,500.
The Revel Ultima2 Salon2 speakers were driven by Mark Levinson electronics. Nothing new here either, but with a simple piano-bass-drums recording featuring Ellis Marsalis (not even an SACD, just a CD) the system sounded so natural we could have sat there all day. Total pricing just south of $122,000.
The products Meridian promised at CEDIA 2010 are realities. They include the Media Core 200 (shown) whose "more accessible" $4000 price point will probably make you want to fling a whole bunch of these 500GB babies around your well appointed home. It combines Sooloos media server software with iWhatever or computer input, and we're not being sarcastic when we say that's a winning combination. Also shown were the Media Core 200 stereo preamp ($3000) with the DSP3200 powered speakers. The former includes a stereo width control: key in how far apart your speakers are, and it'll make the distance seen even wider (in a good way). After all, real people don't always put their speakers where they should go.
That's it in the middle. As we've previously reported, it's the floorstanding big brother of the SCS4 stand-mount (left) with a slightly different crossover and outrigger feet that make it stable even in a house full of rocketing toddlers. Price $3690/pair.
IOGEAR took the wraps off a prototype of a Wireless 3D Media Kit that can wirelessly stream HD video and audio up to 100 feet and supports full HD 3D video with resolutions up to 1080p (24/30/60 fps) along with 5.1-channel digital audio. The transmitter includes four HDMI inputs, one composite, one component, and one USB. The receiver has one HDMI output and one USB port. The USB ports are to be used with wireless keyboards (which IOGEAR also happens to make). The receiver also has built-in IR that allows control of hidden source devices. Each transmitter can support up to four receivers. Price for one kit (includes one transmitter and one receiver) is projected to be under $500 when it begins shipping sometime in June of 2011.
Optoma introduced the Neo-I, an all-in-one AV iPod dock with a built-in pico projector, speakers, 16-watt amplifier, and an HDMI input. The promotional materials say it’s capable of projecting up to a 120-inch image, but I think that’s pushing it a bit. Skins will be available for the bezel surrounding the speaker grilles that will allow you to personalize the dock. MSRP is $449.
One of the few loudspeaker-related audio demos on the floor at South Hall was the DTS demo of 11.1 surround with extra channels for height and width enhancement. It actually started with a mere 7.1 movie demo and worked its way up to footage of two savvy musician slash sound designers using a combination of acoustic instruments and electronic processing to create a height- and width-enhanced soundscape. The instruments included one that combined the functions of bass violin, cello, viola, and fiddle. A tree was also used as a musical instrument. It was noteworthy that the demo relied on 11.1 more for aesthetic effect (hmmm, that sounds nice) than for realism -- that is, an evocation of something that happens in the real world and is reproduced convincingly. From our seat in the back and off center, the effect was pleasing but not something we'd cite as grounds for adding numerous speakers to a basic 5.1 surround system. However, our colleague Josh Zyber saw another DTS 11.1 demo at Nobu two nights prior and said it was very impressive, with strong imaging in places you wouldn't expect. The pic, incidentally, is what folks saw while waiting in line for the 11.1 demo: other showgoers in raptures over DTS headphone technology.
As I type these words, I am staring through Flexon by Marchon eyeglass frames, so I was predisposed to find the company's 3DTV eyewear aesthetically pleasing. Marchon has a patent on technology for a side-to-side curve that allows the eye to move up to 30 degrees off center without geometric distortion, so these frames may be especially good for watching 3D on a big screen up close. Pricing starts at $40 and ranges up to $179 for the Lacoste version. There will also be Nike frames for $129-139. The pricier frames double as sunglasses that lighten or darken as needed.