Sony introduced three new AV receivers. The claim to fame of both the STR-5800ES (130 Watts per channel) and STR-2800ES (100 WPC) is that they may be directly integrated with the popular Control4 home automation system. They may also be used with a variety of other automation systems. The third model, the STR-DA1800, does not have Control4 built-in. All three offer 4K upconversion, full WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplay, and Internet access features.
Sony’s launched its new XBR-84X900 84-inch diagonal LED edge-lit LCD set at its CEDIA EXPO 2012 press conference. With a native 4K resolution (3840 x 2160), it can display native 4K material at 24Hz or 30Hz, or upscale 2K sources to 4K. With its passive 3D glasses, it can also produce a full 2K 3D resolution to each eye (passive glasses in a 2K 3D set reduce the resolution of a 1920 x 1080 source to 1920 x 540). The set looked spectacular and will be available at selected Sony stores in November for $25,000.
Sony also announced two new flagship XBR-HX950 LCD flat panels: 55-inches ($4500) and 65-inches ($5500). The sets offer full LED backlighting with local dimming and are available now.
Though outwardly similar to last year’s VPL-HW30ES, Sony’s new VPL-HW50ES (available in October) is an updated design. It incorporates the same Reality Creation processing as the company’s flagship VPL-VW1000 4K projector, scaled down here for 2K operation. There’s a new Iris 3 algorithm for the projector’s advanced dynamic iris, for a claimed dynamic contrast ratio of 100,000:1. The light output is also said to be increased by 30% to 1700 lumens. The 3D transmitter is internal, and the 240Hz panel is claimed to reduce 3D crosstalk. There’s also a 2D-to-3D conversion mode and a 244-zone panel alignment feature to insure convergence.
While at $4000 the VPL-HW50ES is more expensive than the HW30ES (which remains available at a reduced price of $3000), the new projector’s price includes 2 pair of active 3D glasses and a spare projection lamp.
When it comes to high-end speakers, Sony has had tough sledding in the U.S. market, despite some quality products. Its current SS-AR1 and SS-AR2 are excellent designs, but at $27,000 and $20,000 per pair respectively, they'll be a hard sell to any but the passionate and well-healed audiophile.
So when I saw a new pair of concept speakers side-by-side with Sony's new 84-inch, 4K flat panel on the company’s show floor booth I was intrigued. They weren't getting much attention from the CEDIA crowd, of course. All eyes were on the HDTV, and the sound was at a very low level and drowned out by the general din of the convention center din.
But the speakers were being demonstrated rather secretively at a nearby hotel. The official introduction is still weeks or months away (possibly at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver in October but more likely at CES in January), so it’s all very hush-hush for now. If I tell you more about them here I’d have to kill you. But you can get a closer look in the following entry, including the speaker’s unique tweeter arrangement. For now I'll just say that they will get a lot of positive attention when they arrive officially. The pricing is still TBD, but will be lower, and perhaps considerably lower, than the SS-AR1 and SS-AR2. And unlike be those determinedly 2-channel designs, matching centers, bookshelves, and subs will be available.
With its line-array Model LS at the left and right consisting of fifteen 5.25-inch woofers and eight AMT tweeters, a similar array in the center partially hidden by an acoustically transparent screen, a stack of eight 12-inch woofers in each front corners, and a complementary setup in the rear, Steinway-Lingdorf produced the most dynamic sound, by far, at the CEDIA EXPO. All of the speakers were multi-amped, and Lingdorf’s proprietary room compensation was included. The gunfight from Open Range was so loud, but clean, that I needed ear muffs. None being handy, fingers in the ears sufficed after the first few volleys whizzed over my head. It can all be yours for a few bucks short of $500,000.
Stewart Filmscreen has long been known for top quality projection screens, available in a blistering variety of screen materials. But they aren't exactly Blue Light specials. To attract more consumers to the benefits of a projection setup, Stewart has introduced a line of screens more affordable than its other offerings. Called the CIMA line, these screens will all be 16 x 9, fixed frame, and available in a range of standard sizes. Two materials will be available: grey with a gain of 0.9 and White with a gain of 1.1.
For those who have the spare cash, Stewart also demonstrated the latest version of its Director's Choice screen, offering an almost infinite variety of aspect ratios, settable and selectable by motorized masking at the touch of a button. The 15-foot wide model shown retails at just short of $60,000.
The Tannoy people say they fine-tune their systems for music first and everything else second. We think that's a good attitude. The new Definition Series features "dual concentric" driver arrays with the center physically positioned and time-aligned to the acoustic center of the mid-woofer, reducing phase issues to nil, we were told. Internal bracing uses "differential materials technology" including a free-floating structure to protect the crossover. These speakers all have dual woofers with models including the 10-inch DC-10T and 8-inch DC-8T towers, 6-inch DC-LCR, and 12-inch Definition sub. The 7.1-channel system demoed—with big towers in front, smaller ones behind, center, and sub—totals $29,600 and it sure did sound musical with the evil-singing-cockatoo clip from Rio.
The Klein K-10 Cinema Pro tri-stimulus colorimeter may not do absolutely everything that twice as expensive color spectroradiometers will do, but it comes close, is much faster, and will read much lower light levels. At $5900, it must be used with color calibration software such as the SpectraCal we use for our reviews. (Not coincidentally, it was being demonstrated in the SpectraCal booth.)
The wiggling-needle volume meters that are synonymous with McIntosh are now equally pleasing-to-look-at LEDs. The MC8207 seven-channel amp ($6000) on which they blink boasts 200 watts per channel into both eight and four ohms. McIntosh also showed two pre-pros, one of which was making its debut at CEDIA. That was the MX121 and it brings AirPlay and music streaming from Pandora and the like. Price is $6500. Both shipping now.
TV bling? Who knew. Séura, the master of TVs that morph into mirrors and mirrors that turn into TVs, is showcasing the Crystal Frame Vanishing Television Mirror at CEDIA Expo. Incredibly, all that glitters around that 55-inch screen is not gold but a gazillion tiny Swarovski crystals. Really. How much will Crystal set you back? How's $16,500 sound? Séura offers more than 100 vanishing TV options with screens ranging in size from 10 to 75 inches with prices from $2,000 to $35,000.
The company is also introducing the Storm 1080p outdoor television with LuminOptics technology, which is said to ensure a bright, clear picture even on those sunny days when you're lounging poolside. Highlights include an anti-reflective tempered safety glass cover, an airflow system to control moisture brought about by extreme changes in temperature, an O-ring system that keeps water and other contaminants at bay, aircraft-grade aluminum construction and the ability to withstand temperatures as low as 30 below zero or as high as a scorching 140 degrees. Available in 42-, 47- and 55-inch screen sizes.
Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Some of the automation systems on display at CEDIA are so technologically advanced that they certainly do seem like magic. But not far from the convention center, I found a clue to what’s really going on. If there’s an entire area just for elves to park their cars, what other fantastical creatures might be working behind the scenes? Leprechauns? Fairies? Now I understand why so many of the presenters talk about using wizards to program their systems.
Soundcast Systems’ awesome wireless, portable, weather-proof speakers are amazing in terms of both sound quality and wireless range. But the Outcast and Outcast Jr suffer from the same problem. They’re both basically white cylindrical towers with no visual personality other than “blah”. Now Soundcast is partnering with Skinit, Inc to provide skin adhesive wraps for the two speaker towers. Soundcast says the skins are easy to put on and feature a “residual-free removal”, so you can remove old and apply new skins whenever your heart desires a new look. Skinit offers a large online library of colors, patterns, photography, art, professional sports leagues, colleges, and universities from which to choose – or you can even customize your own design. Pricing is $49.99 per wrap for either the Outcast or the Outcast Jr, and they’re available from Soundcast Systems’ or Skinit’s websites.
The gorgeous zebrawood finish and Retro meets Danish styling of Triad’s towering Cinema Reference speaker was hard to miss on the CEDIA Expo show floor. The 47.5-inch-tall CR LCR 1 main speaker combines a horn-loaded Air Motion Transformer (AMT) driver with two 8-inch midrange drivers and a 15-inch woofer. The companion CR Surround is 27 inches tall and features a pair of 1-inch compression tweeters and two 5-inch mids in a horn-loaded configuration and a 10-inch woofer. In-wall, on-wall and stand mounting options are available. Estimated pricing is $12,500 each for the CR LCR and $5,000 each for the CR Surround, both of which are expected to be available for sale in January. A companion subwoofer is being developed.