Two more members Constellation Audio's new Performance line are the Lyra phonostage (left) and Crux 2-channel power amp (right), which delivers 250Wpc into 8Ω. Like the Vega preamp and Sygnus CD player/music server/DAC, these products deliver virtually the same sonic character as their counterparts in the Reference line for about a third the price, and they look wicked cool to boot.
New to Constellation Audio's flagship Reference line is the Sirius universal disc player/DAC, which houses the transport, audio circuitry, and power supply in three separate chassis. (The transport and DAC are shown here.) The transport can play CDs, SACDs, and DVD-As and output the native bitstreams from each to the DAC through a proprietary optical connection. Other inputs on the DAC include two AES/EBU, S/PDIF (RCA and BNC), and two USB ports, which lets you play digital files from virtually any source.
I heard the Sirius playing various cuts using the Constellation Altair preamp, two Hercules monoblocks, and Tidal Sunray speakers, and it sounded spectacularsuper clean and well articulated with excellent imaging and definition. Bernadette Peters singing "Blackbird" was a revelation.
Constellation Audio produces some extraordinary audio components, and the brand new Vega preamp (left) and Cygnus CD player/DAC (right) are no exception. Both are members of the company's Performance line, which uses virtually identical circuitry as the much more expensive Reference line with less costly components and construction techniques. Still, these products provide over 90 percent of the Reference line's performance at about a third the price$15,000 to $20,000 eachand they share the same gorgeous industrial design.
The best free gift at CEDIA came from CoolIT Systems who make cooling systems from high-end gaming and home theater PCs. Their Cool It chiller plugs into any USB port (either 1.0 or 2.0) to power its cooling element, which will keep a can of soda deliciously chilled for as long as your computer is on. Ideal for those all night illegal downloading sessions.
Joining Definitive's in-ceiling lineup is the RCS II, a step up from the company's smaller existing in-ceiling models. Sealed into a medite enclosure are a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter, two 5.25-inch woofers, and two 6.5-inch passive radiators. The enclosure is tilted at a 45-degree angle. Price: $569 each.
One of the highlights of CES for me is the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) awards event, at which content providers, hardware manufacturers, and retailers are recognized for their excellence and innovation. There are three awards for hardwareSight (video displays), Source (Blu-ray players and the like), and Sound (electronics and speakers). As a side note, I've suggested more than once to the DEG that the Sound category should be split into twoSound (electronics) and Speakers. Otherwise, one or the other type of product goes unrecognized each year, yet both are essential for a complete home-entertainment experience.
This year, the award for Sight went to the Panasonic TC-P50VT25 3D plasma, while the selected source device was the Panasonic DMP-BDT100 3D Blu-ray player, and the Sound award went to the Sony STR-DA5600ES AVR. I'm honored to be included in the panel of judges for these awards, and all three of this year's winners received my vote.
Among software titles, Lost: The Complete Collection won for best TV on disc, while Avatar Extended Collector's Edition took the theatrical category. The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story won for best music title, and the best catalog title was The Sound of Music 45th Anniversary Edition. Life (narrated by David Attenborough) was picked as the non-theatrical title of the year, and Disney's A Christmas Carol snagged the 3D Title of the Year award.
A hot issue among surround buffs is HDMI and what it does or doesn't do. If you want your system to handle next-gen surround formats like DTS-HD Master Audio, you need HDMI version 1.3 connectivity in your receiver. According to Denon's Steve Baker, his company's receivers will support HDMI 1.3 "as soon as the chipsets become available." That is likely to happen in 2007 though it's hard to be any more specific than that. In the meantime, you'll have to be content with the fact that Denon's ASD-1R docking station ($129) comes in both iPod-white and iPod-black.
Digital projection went all out with this comparison; 5 different DP projectors displaying the same material. The Titan 1080p-250 is at the lower left ($42,995 + $12,995 for the premium lens option of your choice); the dVision 1080p ($29,995) is at the upper left. At the lower right is the Titan HD-250, a 720p design ($29,995 plus $9995 for the lens). I compared the two Titans closely, and while at first glance the 720p design looked outstanding, the 1080p's image was both smoother and, at the same time, more naturally sharp. Yes, those differences were relatively subtle, but nonetheless significant. Needless to say, you really can't see any of this from the screen shot shown here.
The equipment rack in the CEDIA Home of Electronic Lifestyles, jointly sponsored by HP and Lifeware provided the heart of a connected home on display across from the convention center. Perhaps putting the rack holding the utility gear for the bathroom would not always be the best choice.
I always love driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for CES, especially when I avoid snow and rain as I did by one day this year. Topping the last summit affords a beautiful view of Primm, NV, with its hotels, casinos, and outlet stores in the middle of the desert.
SpeakerCraft gave us a naked look at the company's TIME speakers that descend from the ceiling anytime you're ready to hear music or watch a movie. Although they all use a one-inch tweeter and an eight-inch woofer, the individual drivers in each of the three models are made from different materials. When used with SpeakerCraft's TIME Controller and Remote, up to eight TIME in-ceiling speakers can be programmed to descend from 15 to 45 degrees and rotate to any position within 320 degrees. Memory settings can be programmed for different listening requirements, such as two-channel, multi-channel, and party mode. Pricing for the speakers starts at $350 each. The TIME Controller and Remote is $400.
Anchor Bay Technologies announced the availability of DVDO’s most ambitious video processor yet, the iScan VP50. In addition to offering the ability to scale 480i/p, 720p and 1080i to 1080p, the new model can properly deinterlace 1080i to 1080p using Anchor Bay’s new HD Precision Deinterlacing algorithm. It features several HDMI inputs and can also accept and process 1080p signals and uses 10-bit processing throughout.