Dedicated home theater rooms with a row or two of plush, oversized reclining seats with built-in cup holders certainly are cool, and if I had the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to do a full-blown dedicated home theater room I’d put in half a dozen of those types of chairs, too. But I prefer a home theater room that can be used for more than watching a movie. Some of the Bass furniture at the company’s booth on the floor at CEDIA fits that ideal nicely with designs that are meant to be rearranged when the purpose of the room changes. (At least now I don’t have to go to IKEA.)
Everyone's favorite Finnish loudspeaker company showed the 5041a in-wall sub. It's got two 6.5-inch drivers mated with the external RAM3 amp and will sell in the $3000-4000 range. In other Genelec models -- including the 12-inch monitor, 15-inch monitor, center, and on-wall models -- the amps formerly located on the back of the enclosures have been changed to in-rack amplification. Installers and customers spoke and Genelec listened.
Proficient is not a new company, but this is its first line of receivers. Of the three designs here (one of them 2-channel stereo), the M80 ($1250) is the most interesting. Rated at 130Wpc x 7, it offers full decoding for DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. Available early in 2009.
The entire Focal Utopia line has been extensively re-engineered into its third generation. The flagship Grande Utopia EM ($180,000/pr) is shown. It's the first commercial loudspeaker system in decades (to our knowledge) and possibly ever (at least in the hi-fi era), to use an electromagnet in its woofer design. Electromagnets were common in the Paleolithic era, but were all but abandoned in the middle of the last century for the simplicity of the permanent magnet.
But the electromagnet has undeniable advantages, including adjustability, and in this case can be used to tailor the characteristics of the speaker's bass to suite the music, the listener, and the room.
The front panel LCD screen is an integral part of the new SSP220. It looks great, as does the rear panel connection which feature both single-ended and balanced outputs. Video processing includes converting component to HDMI up to 1080p. It's good to see some high end companies like Halcro getting into the home theater game, even if the SSP220 is $12,000!
The Harman Kardon AVR 7550HD ($2799) is the one of first surround receivers to feature Dolby Volume, one of the most sophisticated signal manipulation circuits to come along in years. It can take the edge off offensively toppy TV ads and intelligently reduce the dynamics of movie soundtracks, for late-night viewing, without losing intelligibility. Other attractions include 110 watts times seven, internet radio, and of course the full panoply of next-gen surround codecs via HDMI 1.3a.
The $2,799 flagship receiver from HK has all the right buzz words going for it, including Faroudja DCDi video processing and scaling to 1080p, Dolby Volume, in-receiver decoding of Dolby TrueHD and dts-HD MA, four HDMI inputs (only one output though), Internet radio and seven channels of 110 watts.
Dali announced its news Lektor loudspeaker line. There are three bookshelf speakers in the line (at $450, $475, and $645 per pair) an LCR suitable for any channel ($420 each), two floor-standers (the 8 at $1800/pair and the 6 at $1200/pair, and an upcoming subwoofer. At this price point, the Dali ribbon tweeter is gone, replaced by a dome tweeter and a cone midrange. Available in late October.
In addition to its ability to decode all the new high resolution audio formats, 110W of power into each of its 7 output channels, and a Faroudja DCDI video processing, the Harman Kardon AVR-7550HD is one of the first AV receivers to offer Dolby volume. (under $3000, early 2009)
The good news is, owners of the Theta Casablanca can finally get HDMI switching capability (4-in / 1-out). The price? $4,000 provided you're at Casablanca 3 level. To get there from my original Casablanca would add between $3K-$4k to that price. How bad do you want it?