Theta's Casablanca III pre-pro, one of the longest-running (though often-updated) pre-pros ion the home theater market, will soon be updated once more with full decoding for all the new high resolution audio formats over HDMI. Casablanca owners rejoice.
Dedicated home theater rooms with a row or two of plush, oversized reclining seats with built-in cup holders certainly are cool, and if I had the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to do a full-blown dedicated home theater room I’d put in half a dozen of those types of chairs, too. But I prefer a home theater room that can be used for more than watching a movie. Some of the Bass furniture at the company’s booth on the floor at CEDIA fits that ideal nicely with designs that are meant to be rearranged when the purpose of the room changes. (At least now I don’t have to go to IKEA.)
This flash photo was taken off-axis SI's Black Diamond screen, one of several entries in the market to make video projection practicable with some room lighting. It actually did a good job in avoiding wash out by at least a modest amount of ambient light
Classe is bringing out a whole line of electronics designed specifically for custom installation in a rack. Though the cosmetics are different from their standard lineup, the performance and prices) are not. Shown here is their 600W (into 8 ohms) monster monoblock.
There's a whole new 15 series of Rotel AV receivers and separates, finished in handsome new dress (also available in black). The two receivers and pre-pro decode all the new audio formats via HDMI, and will pass 1080p/24 on HDMI (there is no video processing--a deliberate design choice).
Here's the new B&W CM series center channel, the CMC-2. The big change here is the use of a vertically positioned midrange and tweeter, which is nearly always the best way to configure a center speaker, if you must use a horizontal design--and most of us do. The midrange here is also a new and exciting design; it's a smaller version of the surround-free (FST) midrange driver that's featured in many B&W models, including the new CM9 (above).
B&W has added three models to its CM range of speakers: The CM9 ($1500 each) is now the largest of the two CM floor-standers, the CM5 ($750 each) now the largest of the two stand-mounters, and the CMC-2 three-way center channel ($1000). More on the intriguing center channel design below.
LCD TVs that incorporate LED backlighting with local dimming are a pretty big theme at the show, and Sharp has thrown its hat into that ring with the Limited Edition series. Even more impressive, the 52- and 65-inch sets are also ultra thin, measuring a mere 1 inch thick in the main portion of the screen (the central region is a bit thicker). They use red, green, and blue LEDs instead of white, and Sharp claims a color gamut 150% of NTSC. The colors were striking and almost too intense, especially red. They should be available in October, but pricing is TBD.
In a strong design departure from its previous projectors, Mitsubishi is introducing the Diamond Series, which dovetails nicely with the company's rear-pro and LCD top-of-the-line series of the same name. The HD6500 (pictured, $2500) claims a dynamic contrast ratio of 15,000:1, while the HC7000 ($4000) boasts an incredible 72,000:1 thanks to a new iris. Of course, I'll believe it when I see it for myself, but the demo in a semi-dark environment looked pretty good, and from past experience, I expect it to look great in a more controlled environment.
Unveiled first at Samsung's line show a couple of months ago, news of the BD-P2500 Blu-ray player was embargoed until the launch at CEDIA, but the 2550, an identical player intended exclusively for Best Buy, let the cat out of the bag well before that. The 2500 is fully compatible with BD-Live, including 1GB of onboard memorynone of this memory-stick nonsense. Also, HQV processing is backhuzzah! It should be available in October for $500.
Here's another product I learned about months ago but couldn't write about under embargo. Mitsubishi's 149 line of LCD TVs includes an innovative speaker system called the Integrated Sound Projector (ISP) at the bottom of the screen. This sound bar has 16 drivers with beam steering for a convincing simulated surround in an enclosed room. The user interface includes a very cool control screen for the ISP (pictured here), and the demo was actually quite impressive, way better than conventional TV sound. The 149 is available now in 46- and 52-inch sizes that list for $3100 and $3600, respectively. Finally, a TV audio system that I could listen to with pleasure.
Monster Cable and SpeakerCraft put on quite a party Friday night. After Monster's Dealer of the Year awards were handed out, the Doobie Brothers took the stage at the Wells Fargo Theater and rocked out for an hour and a half. Man, those old guys can still kick it pretty good.
Canadian audiophile speaker manufacturer Totem has a new in-wall and in-ceiling line called Totem Tribe. The ceiling mounted speaker caught my eye, as its angled woofer-tweeter-woofer array nicely aims at the listening area while three dual-stage passive radiators help extend bass performance down to 57 Hz. The sound of the single playing unit was remarkably alluring.