Up on stage during Sony's gala press conference Wednesday night was a dark, rectangular column. The front projectors and Blu-ray players got the bulk of the run during the presentation, but the HES-V1000 Home ENtertainment Server is no less fascinating.
NHT has come a long way, or a different way, or, whatever. Their A/V pre/pro, bundled with five speakers, two self-powered subs, five 4-channel amps (one for each speak), plus, uh, wires I think, goes for $40,000! Each of the amp's channels is responsible for one of the four drivers in each speaker, so there is no crossover in the speakers themselves. Of course, in the middle of the convention hall you couldn't get much of a feel for the systems sound. I would have liked to have heard an isolated room demo.
Although it's hard to see from the picture above, Fiberoptic Studio's iSky Panels are acoustical panels that include built-in LED star fields. The pre-built panels (24", 30", and 48" square) hook together in a grid using daisy-chain wiring, so it's supposed to be extremely easy for an installer to turn a home theater's ceiling into a night sky for significantly less than it used to cost. In addition to making your home theater look very cool, it'll help with the acoustics, too. The installed system in the StJohn Group's booth was definitely a "highlight" of the Show so far.
The Infinity ERS 610 in-ceiling speaker ($599, October) features a flat diaphragm CMMD woofer similar to that in the high-end and somewhat revolutionary Cascade series. JBL and Revel offer very similar-looking products (under the great Harman International corporate umbrella, of course). The hot one might be the Revel, since it's been voiced by Kevin Voecks. Note the three-position switch at right, which adjusts high-frequency response for the room. Not pictured are the wireless 2.4GHz subs, the 10-inch PSW310W (10 inches, 400 watts) and PSW212W (12 inches, $679, January).
The Integra DTC-9.8 surround pre-pro is THX Ultra2-certified and features both the HQV Reon-VX video processor and advanced Audyssey auto setup and room EQ. Now available for $1600. Not as photogenic but possibly more exciting is the DHS-8.8 HD DVD player, the high-endish class act of the format for $1100 (November). Also saw the DSR-4.8 2.1-channel SACD/DVD-receiver, with 50 watts times two, and the DTR-8.8 receiver, with 140 watts times seven, built-in HD Radio, and several key features of the pre-pro ($2400, November).
I was impressed, and surprised, by the quality of the image that Meridian's iRIS produced on a modestly sized, flat panel screen. More than a simple iPOD dock, this $400 jewel upconverts the low rez image on a video iPod to 1080p, cleans it up in various ways, and outputs it to your HDTV. No, it's not high def, or even DVD-quality, but it was way better than VHS and more than watchable. Two other nearby screens also showed different program material (animation and TV-based) but they weren't as impressive as this one. If the color balance looks a bit whacked in the photo, it wasn't the demo, but rather my hurried attempts at color correction. The untouched, available light photo was badly skewed by the lighting in the convention center.
Richard Schneider, founder of Terrestrial Digital, is right about one thing: there's plenty of free over-the-air high definition signals out there for anyone willing to try. And the signal quality is generally better than anything off a small satellite or cable. Terrestrial Digital's new line of ClearStream antennas are small and practically invisible compared to the 14' Yagi monster I've got on my roof.
No stone has remained unturned in our search for the ultimate outdoor speaker. Niles is showing off some of their new rock "finishes" along with a new planter speaker. Klipsch is also finally getting into the rock business with its first single-speaker stereo model for $299.
Every five years or so it always looks like 3D TV is ready to take the big leap from cheese to prime time. This time, though, it really does look like truly watchable, enjoyable 3D TV is just around the corner. Not more than 100 yards from one another, TI and Mitsubishi showed demonstrations of 3D TV technology using shutter-style glasses synched by infrared emitters. Both demos including original 3D material as well as 2D video that had been "upconverted" to 3D. The calibre of the 3D images varied depending on the subject material and the company doing the conversion. Mitsubishi and Samsung are going to be offering 3D-upgradeable DLP rear-pro sets now or in the very near future.
The horn barely visible at right, part of a new Jamo in-ceiling speaker, is angled to aim directional information toward the listener. Just trust us on this. At $1000, due in spring 2008, one expects great things. Jamo's back boxes are now fire-rated, to pass building codes in some areas. Jamo also showed the Studio Series, including the floorstanding S60, with side-mount eight-inch passive woofer ($700, end September).
The Joseph Audio people say their Insider is designed "to solve the fundamental problem of in-walls"--the tendency of tweeters and woofers to interfere with one another. There is secret sauce in the crossover and consistent off-axis response is a major benefit. Drivers are high-end stuff sourced from Norway. Presumably all that high-caliber design and materials justify the price of $2500/pair.
As reported on below by Shane Buettner, JVC launched another new pair of video projectors, DLA-RS2 and the DLA-HD100. Both are essentially identical, apart from separate distribution channels: consumer for the RS2 and pro for the HD100. The RS1 and HD1 remain available.