Lacking the high-end street cred of a boutique brand, Sony probably won't get much credit for producing the best sound of CES 2013 (at least so far) with its new ES speakers. The NA-2 tower ($10,000/pair), NA-5 monitor ($6000/pair), N-8 center ($3000), and matching sub ($4000) have the same Scandinavian-made multi-chambered birch cabinetry of the existing AR-1 and AR-2. Note the triple tweeter configuration, shown here on the center but present on all the new models. No, you're not seeing two super-tweeters flanking a tweeter, just three tweeters, though they're not the same size and are not all getting exactly the same frequencies (we'll have to get into the intricacies some other time). Fed by Pass amps and high-res sources including vinyl and DSD, the tower established an instant comfort zone with its super silky sweet top end, fatigue-free and convincing midrange, and controlled bass. In addition to today's press announcement at the Venetian, Sony is also showing the ES speakers in a 9.2-channel configuration at its gigantic booth in Central Hall.
Sony was the only Ultra HD 4K exhibitor that showed a still of a newspaper page in both standard HD and 4K Ultra HD. The photo shown here (standard HD) and below (4K) only show a very small area of the screen.
The color shift you may see here and above, plus moire, are the likely result of my camera's pixels strobing with the pixels on your screen. But other than cropping and identical downscaling, no other processing was performed on the photos here and above. The improved clarity of 4K version here is impossible to miss even after the photos were reduced so they could be used in our blog format. The differences were even more obvious in person.
Sookbox showed off a prototype of their modestly priced high-performance home media “personal cloud” server/computer in the Eureka Park section of the Venetian. Sookbox is designed to take all of your media content – whether it’s your personal media, a subscription service, or media available for free from the internet – and host it on a single, unified framework so you can access it anywhere using a smartphone or tablet and allow you to play that content on any target device. Sookbox says it’s different from the typical media server product because of three things: the Sookbox software includes a true internet browser that eliminates the need for proprietary apps; the Sookbox framework devices are all IP addressable and globally accessible; and the Sookbox control app is open-source API, something which will hopefully encourage a great deal of creative development by other companies and even users. The main components of the Sookbox include the Sookbox Server with four HDMI outputs, 16 analog audio outputs, 1.5 TB storage capacity, simultaneous multizone delivery of content, and more. The Sookbox Stream Runner is a small, black-box-style device that provides two-way IP connectivity along with an HDMI connection for a display, 3.5 mm analog audio output, and built-in Wi-Fi. Sookbox says an unlimited number of Stream Runners can connect with any one Sookbox Server. The Sookbox Software is what glues the system together, includes a built-in browser, is iOS, Android, and Windows compatible, and allows for gaming without a location-dependent console. Pricing and final form factor hasn’t been determined, but 50 beta units will go into production later this month.
Amid enough high-end audio components at the Venetian Hotel (the CES venue for specialty audio) to wear down the sternest poker face when confronted with the price tag, the CWT 1000 from T+A Electroakustik (based in Germany, doncha know) produced a sound that almost might justify a per pair price sufficient to buy a nicely equipped Mercedes or BMW. It has six 120mm midranges and a 920mm long electrostatic tweeter, both in side-by-side line arrays, and four 8-inch woofers. There's also a larger CWT 2000 weighing 263 lbs.
Tannoy's new Precision line includes continues to use a coaxial array—the company calls it a dual concentric array—with the tweeter mounted at the center of the midrange driver. But this new version is revoiced for greater efficiency and dynamic range. The line includes the Precision 6.4 tower, $3200/pair; the Precison 6.2 tower, $2400/pair; the Precision 6.1 monitor, $1200/pair; and the Precision LCR, $1000. All have six-inch woofers, hence all the sixes.
The boombox is alive and well in the form of the TDK Life on Record Wireless Boombox from Imation, which uses the TDK name under license. You won’t find a double cassette deck on this box, also known as the A73, but it does have an FM radio with presets and a feature few of us would have imagined back in the early ’80s: high-quality AAC wireless streaming via Bluetooth v2.1.
Features include good old-fashioned bass and treble knobs, a USB charging port so you can keep your phone powered up while you’re slinking down the street with the box on your shoulder, and an auxiliary input for when you want to go old-school and hook up your Teac tape deck. The A73’s rechargeable battery is said to last up to 6 hours when fully charged. List price is $400 but Amazon is currently selling it for $264.
Although the idea of a digital antenna to receive over-the-air broadcasts with a built in media streamer makes odd bedfellows, it could be the answer to cutting the cable cord. Voxx Accessories announced that it is developing a digital TV antenna with Roku streaming capabilities. The product will be released under the RCA and Terk brands.
Part of Voxx's Roku-Ready partnership, the photo showed a Roku stick attached to a flat omnidirectional powered antenna. It is slated to be released in the fourth quarter of 2013. Few other details are available and I have a lot of questions about how it will work.
For now, it looks like a great solution for TV viewers who like network broadcast TV and a variety of streaming movie options like those available from Roku. We'll keep you posted as we get more details.
Don't get us wrong: Moving the high-end audio exhibits from the lowbrow Alexis Park to deluxe digs at the Venetian has been the best thing the CES authorities have done for showgoing audiophiles. Now we can browse in comfort and style. But we still feel sad when we realize that we've spent more time at the glitzy Venetian than in its ostensible inspiration: sweet, crumbling, quiet, car-free Venice. Sigh.
Theta's Casablanca surround preamp-processors sell for $17,000-30,000. By that standard, the new Supernova is more accessible at less than ten grand. If you squint you'll see the USB jack which serves two purposes: room correction and a 24/192 DAC for your computer audio fix. Shipping third quarter of this year.
Allure Energy’s new EverSense 2.0 is a “home environment and energy management product” – or, put another way, a next-generation, super-high-tech thermostat/home automation hub that can also be used for streaming music, viewing photos, and getting weather updates – with built-in Proximity Control and NFC technology. The new system allows homeowners with an Android phone running a mobile app called EverSense to change the home environment simply by setting the phone on a SyncPad triggering the EverSense 2.0 to turn lights on/off, adjust the temperature setting of the thermostat, and set the security system based on the user’s programmed preferences. In the future, homeowners will be able to add and control other smart devices within the EverSense ecosystem. While the owner is at home, NFC technology in the user’s Android phone will let the system know how to react based upon which SyncPad the phone is placed. When the homeowner leaves the house, though, the system will use its built-in proximity control technology to manage temperature and other aspects of the home’s environment based on how near or far from home the user happens to be. In other words, the EverSense system is smart enough to realize when you are away and when you are on your way home and will adjust the thermostat accordingly to save energy while you’re away while making sure that the house is comfortable when you arrive home. EverSense 2.0 units are expected to be available for sale directly to consumers sometime during the first quarter of 2013. Final pricing on the hardware hasn’t been announced. No monthly subscription fees are required.
THX had a lot to talk about. Tascam is a new brand among THX-certified receivers with the PA-R200, shipping in January for $1299. It is THX Select2 certified. The German manufacturer Teufell has earned THX Multimedia certification for the G850 satellite/subwoofer set, including a dual six-inch sub said to reach down to 35Hz. It ships in February or March at a price to be determined. The first THX-certified (for video) 4K display is the Sharp LC60HQ10, a Japan-only model. Finally, a pair of A/B demos showed the fruit of THX's collaboration with Sontia on a means of correcting acoustic defects in loudspeakers, as opposed to room correction or other forms of DSP magic. With satellite speakers the SPT Optimized version had noticeably greater bass extension. With monitors, there was better focused soundstaging and more detail, though also more brightness, that last part not necessarily an improvement. Initial applications would include soundbars and other products where speakers are matched with amps.
Tivoli's wildly successful Model One and PAL radios now come in Bluetooth versions. Adding the wireless capability pushes the price of a Model One from $149 to $259. Also touted was the free Tivoli Radio app, which offers iOS and Android access to 100 of the internet radio stations that Tivoli's servers supply to the NetWorks internet radio.