The first development project to follow the death of the late, great Jim Thiel is the CS1.7, which will replace the decade-old CS1.6 as the company's entry-level floorstanding speaker. Its aluminum drivers include a one-inch tweeter and a 6.5-inch woofer with the familiar vibration-controlling star diaphragm. A CS7.3 flagship tower will follow eventually. Given Thiel's traditionally long and pensive development philosophy, it's anyone's guess when the larger speaker will arrive, but the smaller one is very tentatively slated for the first quarter of this year at around $5000-5500.
THX's long-promised Media Director technology has finally found its way into products including two Sharp Elite LCD TV models and the Acurus ACT4 preamp-processor. Media Director automates the selection of video parameters for Blu-ray and DVD titles, saving the less tech-savvy consumer a giant pounding headache. This can be something as basic as selecting 2D or 3D mode or something more subtle. In the example somewhat fuzzily shown, under "Video Processing Flags," are two entries reading: "Video content is intentionally noisy." And: "Video content contains film grains" [sic]. It works not only with Media Director encoded content but also with regular content when the disc is played in a BD-Live enabled Blu-ray player which will go online to grab the data from the THX database. If you're not ready to ante up for a top-line TV for the kitchen, you might still get limited Media Director functionality in a non-Media Director product. It's great that this newbie-empowering technology is finally seeing implementation.
THX has been applying its grey cells to the power amplifier, as THX grey eminence Laurie Fincham explained. The prototype shown uses what he calls a Class ABC topology with newly tweaked rail-switching power supply and compact ceramic (as opposed to bulky electrolytic) capacitors, all run off a lithium iron phosphate battery (yes, iron, not ion). In the picture you see a super-skinny two-channel output stage; adding capacitors would make it only 25 percent larger. Anyway, the result is a powerful low-profile amp that runs cool and efficient, avoiding both the power piggery of Class A and the problematic performance of Class D. And yes, it sounded great with Sonus Faber speakers and Steely Dan's "Gaslighting Abbie," achieving both well controlled bass and a high degree of overall transparency. Why this, why now? Fincham points out that his team is liberated from the tyranny of the product development cycle, enabling them to take a longer view and to incorporate ideas from the entire history of audio going back to the 1920s but also including the latest tricks. For example, the type of battery used is relatively new to audio but has been deployed in things like power tools and electric bikes. The THX amp design has yet to be built into licensed product but current licensees are getting their first look at this show. Potential uses include everything from inexpensive compact products to BD-receivers to high-end multichannel amps.
Toshiba demonstrated how a 4K panel can improve the resolution. The photo above can't do it justice, of course (the 4K panel is on the left), but you could clearly see the difference on some material. Of course, the images were stationary of moving very slowly; motion would likely degrade any resolution improvement.
Toshiba was showing its latest prototypes of glasses free 3D. In comparison to last year's demos, the results were much improved. The secret appears to be the use of a 4K LCD panel, which ups the convergence available to each eyemuch like the new, jumbo 4K set shown by LG appears to improve the (passive glasses) 3D performance of that set. If you’re watching 3D alone, the set tracks your head position and adjusts the picture to provide optimum performance. In a group showing, the 3D works properly only in 9 individual regions across the front viewing area. A small circular bug at the top center of the screen (visible in the photo) tells you if your head is in a hot spot for 3D. Toshiba expects to have sets in stores in late 2012. But the use of a 4K panel suggests that the first such sets will be expensive, so I wouldn't hold off purchasing a 3D set hoping to have a cheap, glasses-free alternative real soon now.
Vegas is a brutal town and, like Stephen Mejias, we hate it. Among its few saving graces: Guests at a half-dozen elite hotels can travel to the convention center via monorail. It almost makes up for the obnoxious mini-bar fridge policy at one stop on the monorail, Harrah's: If you purchase your own drinks and leave them to chill, the management will confiscate them. A label inside the mini-bar fridge says so. Sure enough: it happened. Thanks Harrah's. Let us return the favor.
The Smart Crystal Pro polarization modulator from a new (to us) company called Volfoni (which also makes both active and passive 3D glasses) can take your single chip active glasses DLP 3D projector and turn it into a passive glasses 3D projector. The brochure says it can do this for any 3D single lens projector, but the device has only been verified effective on DLPs.
What it does, in effect, is to substitute rapidly alternating polarization of the filter, which is positioned in front of the lens, for the switching of active glasses. You'll need a connection from the sync transmitter output in the projector to the Crystal Pro to make this work, or alternately DLP Link in the projector (DLP Link is a process that uses rapid interframe bursts of light from the DLP projector that normally triggers active glasses). (If your projector has neither, that is, no DLP Link and an on-board sync transmitter, it will not work, as I understand it. You'll also need a screen that preserves polarization. Estimated cost will be $1500 for the Crystal Pro itself, or $2000 for a package including both the Crystal Pro and a slide that can automatically move the polarizer out of the way for 2D material.
The gorgeous green Focal Diablo Utopia was fed in style by the Devialet D-Premier, winner of a CES 2012 Innovations award. The D-Premier combines the functions of streamer, DAC, preamp, and hybrid amp in a svelte flat form factor. At $16,000 it doesn't come cheap.
Griffin’s new smartphone universal remote control uses Bluetooth to send commands to an IR emitter that sits near your home theater system. As a result, the $69.99 Beacon doesn’t require the user to attach any dongles or special transmitters to the phone (something that makes other smartphone remotes a pain in the butt). The IR emitter is battery powered, so it can be placed wherever is most convenient without the need for running a power cable to it. Models are available for both iOS and Android smartphones.
I've long been impressed with Westinghouse flat panelssurprising, perhaps, but true nonetheless. Among the company's introductions at this CES is the 55-inch EW55, an LED-edgelit model with 120Hz operation and frame interpolation as well as a new brushed-metal black bezel. It should be available in the next couple of months for $1000.
The 46-inch, LED-edgelit UW46 from Westinghouse incorporates 120Hz operation but no frame interpolation and sports a super-slim, silver-edged bezel. It should be available this quarter for $700. The company says that 46-inchers were the best-selling large-size TVs in 2011, a trend I expect to continue at this price.
At 70 inches, the UW70 is the largest LCD TV Westinghouse has ever introduced. With LED edgelighting, 120Hz refresh rate, and frame interpolation, it should be available in the second quarter of this year forget this$2300 or less!
Westinghouse's first foray into 3D, the 47-inch W473D uses conventional CCFL backlighting and passive-polarized glasses. It should be available in the second quarter of this year for $900. The prototype pictured here exhibited severe crosstalk/ghosting, so I'd say the company has some work to do before it's ready for prime timeand even then, it might not fly that well at big-box stores, where 3D is not in much demand.
Wharfedale demoed the top model in its new Jade series, the floor-standing Jade 7. Using vinyl as a source, it sounded most impressive, which was good because a complete surround package built around the Jade 7s is on hand at Home Theater for a future review.