Radiient Technologies’s first products were HDMI switchers and distribution boxes, but they’re going all out to develop high-performance wireless audio transmitters and receivers that can be built-in to speakers or added on externally. Based on the quality and performance of their current HDMI gear, the wireless components should be excellent, too. Not surprisingly, they mentioned that a lot of the video companies they’ve been dealing with have requested wireless video devices, as well. Expect to see product for sale before the end of this year.
Formerly known under the informal project name of Blackbird, the THX Media Director has emerged from R&D and we got a sneak peak. Metadata are authored into Blu-ray (or whatever) discs. The player might handle the metadata with a firmware upgrade or you might need a new player. Your surround processor, possibly the Lyndorf pre-pro certified for this purpose, then uses the metadata to adjust aspect ratio, color temp, picture mode, surround processing, and all those other settings that are either a bear to deal with or you (well, other people) might not be knowledgable to fool with. If this thing flies, it'll bring high-end home theater performance out of the tweaker ghetto. (Pictured, two early THX Media Director certified products, top: Anchor Bay DVDO VP50 video processor. Bottom: Lyngdorf D-1 surround pre-pro.)
Boston Acoustics' new slogan is "Play Smart." The smart part means choosing good-sounding speakers. The play part means having a little fun while you do it. That's where the Horizon Series speakers come in. First introduced at CEDIA and available now, the series consists of a number of bookshelf and floorstanding models to accommodate many budgets and room types. Midnight (black) and Mist (white) are the two basic color options; however, for an additional cost, the Boston P.O.P (Personal Option Plan) lets you tailor the speaker grilles in a variety of colors to match your dcor. The cabinets’ rounded edges and soft-touch finish add to the fun. Also shipping this month is the matching $400 HPS 8Wi, a wireless subwoofer with an 8-inch woofer and 150-watt amplifier that operates over the 2.4 GHz band.
Toshiba is clearly promoting its Regza LCD sets above other technologies as there were only two DLP sets shown. The new Regza line has some impressive innovations which could push Toshiba to the LCD forefront. Even the 720p sets have a dynamic backlight to improve contrast ratio by a factor of 5 and advanced 14-bit video processing (instead of 8). All 1080p models have a wider color space but the Cinema Series sets (available up to 57”) also have XVycc technology for enhanced color space conforming to the new IEC standard plus a 120 hz refresh rate. Most models are coming by April but the Cinema Series will be delayed until June/July.
There's not much of a kind way to state our fascination with seeing how Toshiba would respond to this latest turn in the format war, Warner's move to exclusive Blu-ray support in 2008. On a primal level it feels almost like that guilty rubber-necking at a car wreck on the road. However, Toshiba's HD DVD point person Jodi Sally got up and out in front of the press straight away at Toshiba's conference and put on a very brave face in recounting HD DVD's successes.
Toshiba not only provided more details on its recently released second gen HD DVD players, the HD-A2 ($499) and HD-XA2($999), it shocked the throng of press by announcing the HD-A20, a $599 1080p player that will be available later this year.
I was going to give you the specs for Toshiba's new HD-XA2, but why don't I just show them to you? Notice that while the player supports Dolby TrueHD, it only supports the core track of DTS HD Master Audio. That is, the player will not decode DTS HD Master Audio to full resolution multichannel PCM for transmission to your audio system via HDMI as digital PCM (or convert it to analog for extraction from the player's analog outs in full resolution). Instead it will play back such a track as standard DTS. Presumably it will transmit DTS HD Master Audio in its native form through the HDMI 1.3 link, but we still will need AV receivers or pre-pros that will accept and decode that form of signal from an HDMI 1.3 connection. As yet, none will do so, but we expect to see them within the next year.
On Monday night (yes, I'm late), I went to a rave and a product introduction broke out. Mitsubishi's intro of LaserTV was all glitz and glam, complete with white chocolate martinis and dancing girls and swirling lights. And TVs. Mits indeed made one of the loudest, bravest and most fascinating product intros of CES in unveiling its LaserTV category. What's brave is that this is a large RPTV technology, with lasers as a light source, in a world that's not only going flat, but flatter and flatter by the minute.
Meridian has noticed something that many companies haven't- the current iPod is a video playback device. Meridian's MV-D1 dock not only allows your AV system to control the iPod and hear the music, it features component and HDMI outputs with built-in scaling up to 1080p!
Last month I risked all and took my Canon Rebel XTi camera on a wild sled ride down the winding gravel road in front of my house. It was the same sort of stupid thinking that got Sonny Bono where he is today, but fortunately the sled, my body, and – most importantly – my Canon camera made it through the slippery downhill adventure unscathed and dry.
The Venetian, the new home of the Specialty Audio and Video exhibits, was primarily a two-channel oasis. Here (and below) are two highlights. I didn't get into many of the rooms; if I peeked in and there didn't seem to be screen there, I had to move on, as time was very short and the two-channel exhibits there are being thoroughly covered by our sister publication, Stereophile. But I did check out a few rooms that prior experience suggested might be prime. The VTL-Avalon room was one of them. The system sounded pristine through VTL's vacuum tube electronics and Avalon Acoustics Eidolon Diamond speakers.