Cambridge Audio has always made fine-sounding a/v receivers but in past years the British brand has had trouble keeping up with the latest features, as often happens with smaller manufacturers competing in the feature-frenetic a/v receiver space. But Cambridge is catching up with 3D and other must-haves with three new models. The Azur 751R has 200 watts times seven, Anchor Bay video processing, an extra sub-out for zone two, and Audyssey 2EQ auto setup and room correction (note that it does not equalize the sub channel). The Azur 651R is similarly equipped with 175 watts times seven ($2200). The Azur 551R ($1200) has 110 watts times seven, Faroudja video processing, and proprietary CAMCAS auto setup but no room correction. Note that these power ratings are into six ohms, so the more customary eight-ohm ratings would be a bit lower (for instance, 120 times seven in the top model). Still, the six-ohm ratings suggest how the receivers will perform with slightly more demanding speakers. And these receivers are far from underbuilt. All have heavy damped metal chassis with large toroidal power transformers and an X-tract heat control system involving a large central heat sink and cooling fans, allowing high performance in a not-too-tall form factor.
The Paradigm people unveiled their new Paradigm SHIFT brand at CES 2011. At CES 2012 they showed the Paradigm SHIFT soundbar—not the company's first, but the first under the new moniker. It includes a wireless sub and will sell for $799 starting this summer. Paradigm also showed new in-ceiling speakers with magnetic grilles and noted that the magnets are embedded in the speaker, not merely glued on. That's the kind of thing you can do when you control your manufacturing. Also shown was a $59 Bluetooth dongle to go with active speakers. Having trouble routing your earbud cables? Paradigm is introducing a $12 ear hook to take care of that problem. On the Anthem side, the M1 mono-block amp ($3499) was being demoed to good effect and the brand's two pre-pros, AVM 50v and D2v, are being updated for 3D.
NAD is now shipping three receivers introduced at CEDIA 2011. They include the T 787 ($4000), T 777 ($3000), T 757 ($1600), and T 748 ($900). All but the bottom model have modular construction to allow a variety of updates in the top two models and video updates in the third. The top model has dual transformers which should do a lot to juice dynamics. This receiver would beat up your receiver and take its lunch money if it didn't have such a dreamy, poetic hi-fi personality.
Giant flat panels, 4K, and 8K weren't the only stories at the Sharp booth, though they did grab all the attentionand real estate. Sitting on static display was the new XV-Z30000 single-chip DLP projector, which provides 3D capabilities with IR-sync'd active glasses (two pairs and the emitter are included, extras are $100 each) that are compatible with Sharp's 3D flat panels and offer the ability to watch 3D content in 2D for those who don't enjoy the stereoscopic experience. Unlike the XV-Z17000 (reviewed here), the Z30000 has a center-mounted, long-throw lens with horizontal and vertical lens shift and motorized focus and zoom. It should be shipping in February for $4500.
Although it was first introduced at CEDIA last September, I missed seeing the Mitsubishi HC-7800D DLP projector at that show. This 3D-capable single-chip model uses IR-sync'd active glasses that boast a much shorter inter-eye blackout time (when both lenses are closed) than most active glasses0.2 milliseconds compared with about 3mswhich means they let more light through for a brighter 3D image. The HC-7800D provides 2D-to-3D conversion and vertical lens shift with manual zoom and focus. It is available now for $3000, including the IR emitter but no glasses (except now through the end of February, when you get one pair in a special promotionwhich is a good deal, since the glasses cost $200 each!).
I saw a demo on a 110-inch (diagonal) Vutec Silver Star screen using a clip from Yogi Bear, an awful movie that nonetheless has great 3D, and it looked quite good with no discernable crosstalk. But even with the reduced inter-eye blackout time, the image was still pretty dim.
The entry point for the LG booth (why do they call them booths when they’re more like stadiums?) was perhaps the knockout of the show, with dozens of LG flat panel displays arrayed in a video wall displaying a stunning loop of 3D images. And because LG is using passive glasses in all of its LCDs, it was able to show 3D not only on these screens but on most of the screens in their booth as well, providing either regular or clip-on passive glasses to all comers.