As of Oct. 2007 Technical Audio Devices became Technical Audio Devices Laboratories Inc. under the ownership of Pioneer. That will enable them to deepen their existing relationship, with engineering resources dedicated specifically to the new company. New from TAD is a Class A mono-block amp that uses no more power than a Class B amp. There's also a new floorstanding model, the S-3EX. It's far less massive than the flagship S-1EX and uses a ceramic graphite tweeter in lieu of the beryllium used in other TAD speakers. Stand-mount and center versions to come. TAD's Andrew Jones is one of the best and brightest in speaker design and his next moves will be of the greatest interest to us.
Definitive Technology's Mythos STS mini-tower is a smaller version of the original Mythos, with both distinguished by their built-in powered SuperCube subs. Also in the extruded aluminum enclosure are two 4.5-inch mids in cast-magnesium baskets, an aluminum tweeter, and the 5x10" SuperCube sub along with its two 5x10" passive radiators. Sounded gorgeous with an African chorus floating over the listening room like a diaphanous multicolored mass of clouds. Price: $1499, five hundred less than the original Mythos. Also new are a pair of soundbars, the SSA-50 ($1099) and SSA-42 ($799). The chief difference between these and DefTech's previous soundbar products is that the new ones handle not just three but five channels (with external sub). The demo revealed discernible rear presence and panning. If not as good as discrete speakers, it was certainly darned good.
I’ve heard about Dolby Volume technology, but I hadn’t heard an actual demonstration until today. Dolby’s Craig Eggers gave a short but very effective demo of the technology using a prototype Onkyo receiver with the appropriate Dolby circuitry built-in. Onkyo’s not ready to bring a unit to market yet, but it’s obviously coming (from somebody, if not Onkyo). Dolby Volume helps keep all the sources and programming you listen to at the reference level you choose. It can also keep dynamic peaks (explosions and the like) within a more moderate range when it’s engaged.
Sony's press conference. Somewhere out there, Sir Howard Stringer is announcing the release of the XEL-1, an 11-inch-diagonal OLED TV that's just 3mm thick. The XEL-1 sports two HDMI inputs and a MemoryStick slot for photo viewing, and it's available now for the wee little asking price of $2,500.
We keep hearing that direct movie downloads are the way of the future. The question is, how much are people willing to spend right now for a set-top box that lets them download movies without a computer? The $399 VUDU, on display at last night's Digital Experience event, can store about 100 hours of movie content, which you can rent or buy from the company's online catalog of about 5,000 movies. Most of the current downloads are available at DVD quality, but the company is adding HD downloads to its repertoire and plans to offer 70 HD-quality films by the end of January. The player can output up to 1080p/24 through its HDMI connection, and it’s not too hard on the eyes either, with a glossy black case and matching remote. There are no activation or subscription fees; you can rent new HD releases for $5.99 and classic HD films for $3.99.
Now, this is the rather fascinating thing about our industry. We love awards so much, we hand out "innovation" awards long before the products actually ship. Thus, I can tell you that while Samsung has just started shipping its "award winning" BD-UP5000 DuoHD dual format player, it has just announced its second generation combi, the BD-UP5500, for release in the second half of 2008! I am not in marketing so I have no idea how it goes selling a player whose successor is already announced before it hits the streets, but there you go.
By a bizarre coincidence, three attractive women each holding a Samsung portable device (an MP3 player, a PMP, and an an ultra-mobile PC) wandered into The Venetian Hotel, so the Korean manufacturer roped them into the demo of their new live-TV-anywhere-on-just-about-any-gizmo technology, which will launch here in the U.S. in 2008.
High-end gaming PC overlords Alienware showed off an ENORMOUS curved LCD screen here in Las Vegas, tentatively named... Alienware Curved Display. It's even more impressive in person, wider than any consumer-available screen I've ever seen, with a curve that does a better job filling the user's field of vision for a more immersive experience.
Following up the release of their ultra-sleek Zeppelin iPod system, Bowers & Wilkins is continuing their push into the lifestyle audio arena with the new wireless Liberty audio system. At the heart of the system is the CP1 console, which has a built-in DVD player and touchscreen control panel. The speaker line features powered tower, bookshelf, and center-channel models, as well as a distinctively curvy subwoofer, that you can mix and match. The main console communicates with the speakers wirelessly over a closed, proprietary 2.4-gigahertz network, and the system's designer claims a low latency of 12 microseconds to ensure that the integrity of the soundfield remains intact. The Liberty system sports eight channels of amplification and provides the freedom to configure those channels however you please, whether it’s a 7.1-channel HT setup, a 5.1-channel setup with second-zone stereo, or even four stereo zones. The Liberty is scheduled for release in the summer of 2008, for an estimated price of $15,00 to $18,000.
Trinnov is the name of the new auto setup and calibration system just added to the year-old Sherwood R-972 receiver ($1799). The SMPTE cinema standard is built into it. You can even transfer the SMPTE settings from receiver to USB to PC, log onto the SMPTE website, and analyze the settings. Sherwood also showed a surround-savvy stereo receiver, the RX-4203 ($199) with Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Headphone, and an input that accepts a Bluetooth receiver, just in case you get the impulse to play music from your cell phone.
In development at Altec Lansing is Rex, a compact system that establishes its own network, "moving music from anywhere to anywhere," says my former boss Robert Heiblum. It can "see" your PC or another Rex and performs this miracle every time you turn it on. Plug in your iPod or USB device. Enjoy Internet radio, AM, or FM radio. I predict this one will indeed be a monster. Look it for later in the year.
The future of Blu-ray Disc interactivity is now. At a BD interactivity showcase hosted by Sony and led by film critic Leonard Maltin, Lion's Gate demonstrated what I believe is an industry first BD Live enhanced Blu-ray title, Saw IV. The content was as grisly as one would expect, but we saw the film's director add blogger style comments on screen courtesy of Lion's Gate's MoLog Movie Log feature.
Analog video capture as we know it is fading away, as almost everything under the sun already exists in digital format, at least on our PCs. But what if we could go straight from the composite or S-video output of a source (VHS, camcorder, maybe even DVD…?) and push a digital version of that video via USB onto, say, a portable player such as a video iPod or a PlayStation Portable? Mere days from now, Pinnacle Systems will begin selling the Pinnacle Video Transfer device which does precisely that, an all-in-one solution for one-touch analog-to-digital recording WITHOUT A PC. Clear red and blue lights indicate ready and recording status, and we can also toggle between good, better, and best Mode (quality/file size) settings. Encode takes place in real time and the digital videos can be watched immediately, and later renamed as desired. AC power is required, but the Pinnacle Video Transfer will also charge your iPod while it works.