CES 2010 is now just a memory, but hopefully not a fading one. On my last day or two I saw a few things that I couldn't get posted while still in Vegas. IDT, the company that now owns the HQV Reon video processing technology, showed a number of interesting new technologies. The most intriguing was a small, nondescript box (no wasted funds on here on cosmetics!) that can perform all the Reon video processing functions, including deinterlacing, upconverting, and noise reduction, plus flesh tone correction&$151;the latter said to be more sophisticated than the flesh tone correction offered in some televisions. No decision yet as to whether it will be marketed under IDT's own brand name or by a third party. The price could be as low as under $100, which would be a huge plus for those whose HDTVs have mediocre built-in video processing.
McIntosh introduced its first Blu-ray player, the MVP881 BR ($8000, shipping this month). Its custom fabricated steel and aluminum enclosure conceals an all-metal drive that handles SACD and DVD-Audio as well as BD, DVD, and CD. Video processing is Silicon Optics HQV Realta. McIntosh also took the wraps off a new pre-pro, the MX 150 ($12,000, also shipping this month), and the MEN220 two-channel room correction system featuring Lyngdorf Audio's RoomPerfect technology ($4500).
The Denon S-5BD is a combination Blu-ray player and a/v receiver. The player is BD-Live capable and the receiver is no slouch either. It includes Audyssey MultEQ auto setup and room correction plus Audyssey's Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ for the ultimate scalable flexibility in low-volume listening -- a boon to action movie lovers who burn the midnight oil. The height-enhanced Dolby Pro Logic IIz surround listening mode is also included. Front panel connectivity includes HDMI, SD card, and direct iPod-capable USB (unless you'd prefer to add Denon's dock). The S-5BD won a CES Innovations 2010 Design and Engineering award and will ship in March for $1799.
Attendance at the show was up this year from the previous year, at 120,000-plus versus 113,000. While this did not approach the record 141,000 of two years ago, it was a healthy increase for those who look to CES as an indicator for the overall well-being of the CE industry. As our video editor and fellow blogger Tom Norton pointed out, "they were hanging off the rafters" at the Central Hall. See press release.
Atlantic Technology was showing a near finished prototype of its H-PAS speaker, first seen in early form at CEDIA. H-PAS stands for Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System, a fancy name for what is claimed to be a breakthrough in bass loading. It combines several speaker technologies, including bass reflex, inverse horn, and transmission line. The system is purely passive;there is no subwoofer hidden in the box and the only drivers in the design are the two 5.25" woofers and soft dome tweeter seen in the photo (which does not do the gloss black design justice).
Magico's Q5 loudspeaker is composed entirely of one-half inch thick aluminum, and while the speaker isn't very larga as high-end floor-standers go, each one weighs 400 lbs. There are two 9" woofers, one 9" mid-woofer, one 6A" midrange, and a beryllium tweeter. The latter is new for a for Magico; the other drivers are similar in design to the drivers in other Magico speakers. $54,000 a pair, if you have to ask! For five channels, that's...never mind.
A proprietary master clock , specially designed disc mechanism, and a rigid, die-cast aluminum chassis are only a few of the reason's why TAD's new D600 CD/SACD (2-channel) CD and (two-channel) SACD disc spinner commands a price of $26,500. Available in spring 2010.
TAD's new monoblock power amp outputs 300W into 8 ohms and 600 watts into 6 ohms. What looks like an amp stand under the thick aluminum chassis is actually a cast iron piece of the amp's structure that houses some of the components and adds to the rigidity of the piece. Each $26,500 monoblock weighs in at 200 lbs.
TAD was demoing both its flagship Reference One speaker (priced in "if you have to ask" territory) and the smaller Compact reference shown here (at $37,000/pair, it's only in the "say again" price range). It sounds spectacular, however, and while you don't need TAD's new disc player and monboblock amps (see below) to make it sing, it couldn't hurt.
You can be forgiven if this looks like one of those odd, transparent speaker systems. But it wasn't put in the Avalon room to compete with the Avalon Time. Its a passive room treatment device from Acustica Applicata (sounds like a singing technique, like a capella), an Italian company. The visible "eye" is a mechanical iris diaphragm, which combined with a port in the base with an adjustable opening and an internal membrane can tune the device to between 26Hz and 60Hz. This is said to improve the low frequency resolution by tuning out bass problem areas over a narrow or broad range. $3600 each.
Though I've covered only a fraction of the rooms at the Venetian so far, with a day to go, my favorite rooms today were the Thiel (above) and the Avalon, where the new Avalon Times were making terrific sounds, driven by monoblock power amps from Jeff Rowland. The Time employs two 11" Nomex-Kevlar composite woofers, a 3.5" concave Ceramic Dome midrange, and a 1" concave Diamond diaphragm tweeter. The Thiel and Avalon systems could not have soundxed more different (Thiel leaner, Avalon warmer and richer) but both flattered a wide range of the music I tried on them. The Avalons, however, will cost you a lot more, at $49,000/pair -- and the fijnish shown is a $4000 option!
The untimely passing last summer of Jim Thiel, the heart and soul of Thiel Audio, was a jolt to entire high-end audio industry. But he left the company in good hands, as its big demo room at CES amply proved. The Thiel CS3.7s ($12,900/pair) were clean, crisp, but never bright unless the program source made them so, it was one of the best audio demos I've yet heard. The front end of the system, and the amps, were from Bryston. Thiel subwoofers fleshed out the bottom below 30Hz. At some point in the future we can expect a matching center channel for this system; according to Thiel reps, Jim left detailed designs for future projects, and a center appropriate for use with the CS3.7 was one of them.
My search for home theater displays at the Venetian hotel, home of the high-end audio exhibits, was frustrating. And while I enjoyed checking out the audio rooms, looking mainly for speakers suitable for home theater (but also for the fun of it!), their prices were often a put-off for multi-channel applications). The Meridian room did not break the price barrier either, but the quality of the system was outstanding. The company left its big 4K projector at home and settled on the smaller DLA-MF10 with an ISCO anamorphic lens (about $28,000 --$15,000 without the lens) and 8-foot wide (approximately) 2.35:1 Stewart Studiotek 130 screen. Even though this projector is based on an older JVC DLA design (extensively modified courtesy of video expert William Phelps) the picture was to die for.
Yeah, it's one of those kinds of things. We're sworn to secrecy (hopefully not too much longer), but we were one of the few who were given a glimpse at a new speaker line from a brand new company called GoldenEar Technology. New companies come into existence all the time, of course, but what makes this one so special is the fact that it's being started by Sandy Gross and Don Givogue, two of the founders of one of our (and many, many other' people's - if all of the stellar reviews and impressive sales numbers are anything to go by) favorite speaker brands, Definitive Technology. Gross was also one of the founders of another speaker brand you might have heard of: Polk. So when we heard Sandy Gross was working on a new speaker, our ears started to tingle (and not just from being at CES for several days). We can't tell you many of the details, but what we saw was elegant, affordable, and has all the makings of another blockbuster line of gear. To use a Vegas analogy, it's the kind of thing you might get if Frank Sinatra and Elvis had a love child. (Yeah, I know it's not biologically possible, but this is Vegas, after all...)