Some audiophiles combine their home theater and 2-channel systems. If they have a modest AV receiver, but want to improve the sound of their system, especially for 2-channel playback, one possibility is to use a separate, quality stereo integrated amp to drive the front left and right channels, with their best 2-channel sources connected directly to it. The receiver's front left and right preamp outputs are then connected to one of the line level inputs of the integrated amp for home theater use. This can be made more direct, with less chance of messing with the calibrated home theater volume levels, if the integrated amp offers a fixed-level, pass-through input (independent of the integrated amp's volume control) to which the receiver's front channel preamp outputs can be connected.
Usher showed up with a whole new line of relatively affordable speakers, the NV series. They're still being refined, but should be available in a few months. The NV 601 is the smallest model in the line. I was one of the first to hear it; they hooked it up for the first time at the show (they claimed) just before I walked into the room, and a few minutes from the close of the show (they had been featuring their more upscale models in their two rooms throughout the show). The sound was impressive, with a solid midrange, good balance, and detailed but very sweet highs just the right balance for home theater and music. Estimated price will be in the neighborhood of $1100/pair (stands not included). There are also two floor standers and a center channel, the NV 603.
Bryston had this classy-looking new preamp-processor, the SP-3, on static display. It will have all the important bells and whistles, including decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, when it goes on sale, probably in the second half of 2009. No prices were given.
CES attendance was down a bit more than expected, according to figures released on the last day of the show by the Consumer Electronics Association. 2008 attendance had been 147,000. Estimated attendance for 2009 had been 131,000. But in its press release, CEA has revised those numbers downward to 110,000.
OK, I added the "sinister" part. But doesn’t it still sound like a super secret weapon employed by an evil genius in a Bond flick? Sharp showed two new BD players at CES. The most compelling of the two is the BD-HP22U, which is BD-Live out of the gate, including 2GB of onboard storage and a USB port that can be used to expand storage capacity and upload new firmware. The audio decoding is murkier- Sharp’s reps and the logos on the player indicate decoding capability for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The press release is only specific on its ability to output the advanced codecs as native bitstreams. The BDP-HP22U will be available in May for $299.
JVC’s TH-SB100 raises the soundbar to a new level. Not only does it ship with a BD-Live capable Blu-ray player, this “3.1-channel” system includes left, right and center channels plus a wireless subwoofer for the boom king. Ok, like all “wireless” speakers we’ve seen AC is required, but you get the drift. Available in April for $699.
Opoma continued its reputation of having the biggest screen at the show. It was well over 10-feet wide, and the new HD8200 projector (discussed far below) was putting up a bright image even at that size. The image was also crisp and detailed. The color was clearly off (with fleeting hints of too much green, especially in flesh tones), but that's a calibration issue and should be easily fixable. l
This new spectroradiometer was brought to my attention by William Phelps, video expert and currently working with Meridian on its digital projectors. A spectroradiometer is a sophisticated test tool used to measure and calibrate video displays (we use the Photo Research PR0650 in much of our testing). This SP-100 from Orb is not a product for the average consumer, but something for the calibration specialist, or well-healed video perfectionist, to know about. Not cheap at about $8000, it's nevertheless less expensive than much of its direct competition. According to Phelps, it compared favorably to a $30,000 Minolta device.
Joseph Audio announced the Pulsar, a two-way stand mount speaker that will retail for $7000/pair when it streets later this year. There's no center channel, but if you can spare the dime you could buy five (or seven) of them for identical performance in each channel!
Chario is Italy's largest high-end speaker manufacturer.The setup here shows the Academy Serendipity (far left and right), Academy Sovran, and Academy Solitaire center channelthe Academy series sits at the top of Chario's line, and fall into the "if you have to ask" price category. The Solitaire ($17,000/pr) was recently reviewed in Stereophile.
We've seen the Meridian 810 Reference Video System before; it's the first 4K x 2K video projector available to the consumer. It won't come cheap a just a few thou south of $190,000 for the projector, video processor (needed to scale available 1920x1080 material up to 4800 x 2400. It looked fabulous, even though even better images are possible from it with native 4K program material (essentially non-existent to you and me). They had to settle for a 10' wide projection screen (a curved, 2.35:1, Stewart Studiotek 130), and were claiming 48 foot-Lamberts! Clearly the projector is intended for a much larger screen.
This diminutive speaker (about as high as the water bottle sitting beside it), uses two 3.5", full-range drivers. While it may be used as a surround, its real purpose is as the first speaker specifically designed for use in the new Dolby height format, Pro Logic IIz (discussed in an early blog). No price as yet; this was an early prototype.
Panasonic showed a prototype of a TV remote control that works on technology like that of a mouse touchpad on your laptop. Actually, it is equipped with two touchpads and is motion sensing. A point and click technology, the secret is in the onscreen navigation and onscreen virtual remote. Turning it sideways you can thumb-type—like you would for texting—on the onscreen virtual keyboard. The cartoon thumbs that appear onscreen to show you what you are clicking on definitely add a comic personality to this interface.