Last year here at CES I was more excited than anyone about the Nikko Home Electronics' R2-D2 Projector but then, as if swallowed by some swamp-dwelling scavenger on Dagobah, the little droid disappeared. This year he's back and better than ever (like when the Rebels cleaned him up for the big ceremony after The Battle of Yavin, good times...), upgraded to high-definition from last year's standard-def plans. This R2-DLP now puts out 2,000 lumens with an 1,800:1 contrast ratio and a DVI input for good measure. He should be landing at retail within about a month and a half, at a suggested price of $2,799. And no, he doesn't have little rockets that allow him to fly. That would just be stupid.
Sony announced that James Bond will make his high-definition debut on March 13 when Casino Royale lands on Blu-ray Disc. The disc will be Sony's first to be encoded with MPEG-4/AVC compression and yet will be a dual-layer 50GB BD.
Vizio showed off their 2008 HDTV line today at the Wynn. The company is jumping on the 120 Hz bandwagon with their new SV Series of 1080p LCDs. Dubbed the Black Tie Series, the 42-inch SV42LF and 47-inch SV47LF use 120 Hz processing and MEMC (Motion Estimation, Motion Compensation) to reduce judder and motion blur, and the company showed an effective before/after comparison. The new models also sport a more attractive gloss-black frame and four HDMI inputs. To enjoy 5.1 sound, you can purchase the optional $299 Jive SV5.1 enhancement kit, which includes surrounds and a wireless subwoofer. The LCDs be available in July for $1499 and $1899.
The newest iPod dock from Creative actually upscales the video quality to 720p or 1080i, and it holds up remarkably well on the big screen. The Creative Xdock HD is a $399 bundle which includes a receiver to accept streaming audio in a second room of the house, and it can support up to three additional receivers, sold separately.
TAD showed off its new Reference One speaker (about $60,000/pair) with a variety of music, from 2-channel to SACD to open reel tape to multichannel. A planned demonstration of high resolution multichannel sound, without video, on Blu-ray disc didn't come off when mastering problems interferred, but the multichanel material, from Reference Recordings, was played from a standard DVD (in PCM) and sounded terrific.
The big tape deck visible in the photo is an old Technics RS 1500. A company called The Tape Project (www.thetapeproject.com) plans to issue a number of pre-recorded analog tapes in 15ips, half-track, two-channel. They will also sell refurbished Technics decks (estimated price about $8500).
Phil Jones of American Acoustic Development told us about some of his new speaker lines. The 3000 Series, including the 3003 floorstander ($3900/pair), uses a silver tweeter and ring (as opposed to cone) woofer. Why is the baffle so wide? More forward energy, said Phil. The more modestly priced Vi Series including the Vi410 ($550/pair) has a soft dome tweeter and carbon fiber woofer.
We're longtime fans of Al Langella, the guy who puts the Design into Audio Design Associates. If the Cinema Renaissance Mach III seems a little on the flashy side (don't worry, the front-panel showmanship can be subdued with a command), be advised that if it follows in the ADA tradition, it'll sound as good as or better than anything else in its category. Seriously. It's got a tube output stage. HDMI 1.3 won't be handled until the next generation, which will come along, well, eventually. Price quite reasonable at under $100,000. If Britney buys this thing, people will think she's gone sane again.
In development at Altec Lansing is Rex, a compact system that establishes its own network, "moving music from anywhere to anywhere," says my former boss Robert Heiblum. It can "see" your PC or another Rex and performs this miracle every time you turn it on. Plug in your iPod or USB device. Enjoy Internet radio, AM, or FM radio. I predict this one will indeed be a monster. Look it for later in the year.
Surround from standard stereo headphones? You bet, and virtually indistinguishable from your speakers. Smyth Research has been conducting stunning demos at shows for a few years now and finally the technology has been licensed by Yamaha. This system tracks head movement so the virtual soundstage remains stationary even when you move your head, and the personalization feature allows you to measure your speakers using microphones placed in your ears then perfectly duplicate them with the headphones. I can’t begin to tell you how convincing all this is. I’m just glad that it’s now commercially available. The little silver boxes you see are the Yamaha implementation.
We've been waiting for Escient, one of the major names in the music-server market, to offer a true video-server solution. At CEDIA, the company showed off its new Vision Series line of video playback and distribution products, but there was no way to directly import movies from the disc drive to the hard drive. Happily, that issue has now been addressed. Escient is releasing two true video servers/players: The VS-100 sports dual 500GB drivers, and the VS-200 has dual 1TB drives. Then there's big papa, the VX-600 media server, which has four 1TB hard drives. The line also includes the VC-1 networked client, to which you can stream movies, photos, and music stored on the servers over a home network. The Vision Series allows access to the Rhapsody online music service, and the players all have HDMI 1.3 connections and 1080p upconversion. The products certainly aren't cheap -- $3,999 for the VS-100, $5,999 for the VS-200, $7,999 for the VX-600, and $1,999 for the VC-1 -- but they're not as bank-breaking as other video servers on the market. Look for the Vision Series in February.