The soundmatters SLIMstage40 packs 170 watts from eight amplifiers into a 39-inch-long bar that sits below a video display. At $899, this speaker bar may be the simulated-surround solution for you. For more bass, check out the low-profile SUBstage200 ($399) or basketball-size SUBstage250Cube ($449).
Would you like to base your surround system on a pair of slim towers, like the Silverline Preludes, at $1200/pair? Or would you prefer something smaller like the Minuet, at $600/pair? In either case, you can buy them one by one and please yourself. The Chinese silk dome tweeters kept cymbals from getting spitty and the 3.5-inch paper midwoofers mustered a surprisingly well-proportioned and tuneful string bass.
Surround electronics were thin on the ground at HES but Krell did display the S-1000 pre-pro ($6500) and S-1500 multi-channel amp. The latter can operate with five, six, or seven channels and sells for $6000-7000 depending on configuration. Both shipping now. Krell also showed an iPod dock.
The MI6 is Britain's equivalent of the CIA. The M16, on the other hand, is a floorstanding speaker from Epos that will sell for $1600/pair. An M8 center will be available for $600, an M SUB will complete the system, and of course you're at liberty to use any of the company's sterling monitors as surrounds.
There wasn't anything brand new in the way of announcements or products - just great sound and video. Meridian's room featured the company's DSP3100, DSP3100C, and SW1600 digital loudspeakers with the G91A DVD/controller/tuner and DVP1080MF video processor along with an unnamed plasma TV. The Meridian gear totalled about $20,000, which makes me remember why I need to make more money. In the back of the room was a static display of one of Meridian's custom install speakers.
There was one sure way to beat the long cab lines outside the Grand Hyatt. It was a bit breezy and sometimes a little nerve-wracking, but I never had to wait in line to take a bicycle taxi to dinner during the Show. Lane markers evidently don't mean anything to these guys. At least the open seat conveyance did have a seat belt. It's hard to get a receipt for your expense account, though.
Sometimes the adulation of the thronging crowds is just too much. Video Editor, Geoff Morisson, followed by Audio Editor, Mark Fleischmann, ride down the escalator to sign autographs. It was just one of the many times the editors were mobbed by adoring fans (or maybe those were bill collectors...)
After winning a RAVE award from us at Home Theater Magazine, the folks at Audioengine showed off their newest speaker, the Audioengine 2. It's a smaller version than the $349 Audioengine 5. Like its bigger brother, the new speaker is powered and has dual analog inputs. It'll sell for $199 per pair, and the Audioengine folks say it should be available in about three weeks. Off to the side was a prototype of an Audioengine 5 with a cabinet made from solid bamboo that will be available in the near future for around $699.
No one would ever be willing or able to do this at home, but Rives Audio, XLO, RPG, and VAC put together two identical systems in two identical hotel rooms - but with one important difference. The second room was sonically and electrically treated to clearly demonstrate how important it is to account for the acoustics of the room when it comes to putting together your home theater system. Not only was the equipment/cable setup the same in both rooms, but the demo material was synchronized, as well, so they even took that variable out of the equation. The differences in performance were definitely not subtle.
The DCS Scarlatti CD player and Brinkman Balance turntable, arm and cartridge were a formidable front end in one of the Singer rooms. VTL's TL-6.5 tube preamp and TP-6.5 phonostage gently handed off the signal to a VTL Reference S-400 stereo tube amp. The big surprise for me was the speaker system at the end of this audio reproduction chain. Escalante Design's Fremont speaker had an unusual two toned finish that made me think palomino pony. The speaker was very boxy, very unconventional by modern aesthetics, but boy, this speaker was blessed with a beautiful tonal range with powerful but controlled bass. Big well designed tubes amps like the VTLs will do that.
OK, I admit I called this the "Stereophile show" in an earlier Blog. George Lucas didn't release another bad prequel to Star Wars, these people were all "on line" for the HDTV 101 seminar hosted by Home Theater's Geoff Morrison, and featuring UAV's Tom Norton and myself. Yeah, home theater enthusiasts, you came out for us! Thanks!
Back on the limited home theater front, Meridian/Faroudja had a small room with both audio and video, the latter a modest flat panel display. The heart of the audio system was the new Meridian G95 ($8495), a complete processor/amp/DVD player all in one case; in other words, it's a high-end DVD AV receiver, offering five channels of 100Wpc amplification. But it does have limitations, which are rather surprising for such an expensive device. There is no DVD-Audio playback (Meridian has long been a champion of that format), and no way to get an external multichannel source into the receiver (there is no multichannel analog input and no HDMI switching to provide multichannel audio on HDMI). The only HDMI connection is the HDMI output for the internal DVD player.
There isn't a lot of budget gear at HE2007, but then the show has always trumpeted itself as a high-end show. New York dealer Sound by Singer had five rooms filled with increasingly expensive gear, but the first room was at least relatively real world, with a price of approximately $6000. The speakers were the JM Focal Chorus 836V floorstanders at $3000/pair. The electronics were from Cambridge Audio (the 840A integrated amp and 840C CD player, at $1500 each). The sound was very clean and well balanced. My only reservation: from a front row, center seat the imaging was a little bloated. But it was a fine-sounding system, and the step up to the next system in Sound by Singer's progressively more expensive chain of rooms was over $30,000. But that system was anchored by the JM Focal Electra 1037Be ($10,995/pair), one of the best sounding speakers I've heard at the show.
Silverline was demonstrating two different speakers, the floorstanding Prelude ($1200/pair) and the small Minuet ($600/pair). I heard the Preludes ($1200/pair). One attendee remarked that the Preludes sounded better than a lot of more expensive speakers at the show. Apart from a trace of aggressive brightness, which could well have been due to a completely untreated room, I have to agree. The speakers sounded more dynamic, and bigger, than their size might suggest. Silverline makes a wide range of speakers, including a center channel (which at $1200, may be a little pricey to mate with the Preludes).
Rives Audio is repeating a demonstration that was a hit at last year's show in Los Angeles. Two rooms are set up with near identical systems. One room is completely untreated, the other uses a variety of acoustical treatment devices plus electronic equalization of the bass (using two Rives Sub-PARCs and extra amps to support the equalizers). The speakers in both rooms are Talon Thunderhawks ($25,000/pair), the amplifier the VAC Alpha Integrated ($10,000, an all-tube design with 100Wpc), and the CD player the Wadia 580i ($9450).