Gibson has its famous Flying V guitar, the high-end audio community has Aragon’s signature V-notch power amp, introduced 25 years ago in Mondial’s Aragon 4004 amplifier and resurrected in the Iridium Monoblock, flagship of the recently revived Aragon brand.
The Steinway Lyngdorf LS Concert speaker is distinguished not only for its towering stature and exquisite looks but for its technical design, which combines the virtues of line-source and dipole speaker design.
Barrister-turned-speaker-maker David Hart had the human ear in mind when he designed this unique speaker—but I see a giant molar turned on its side. I’ll let you decide what to make of it and whether it’s worth the asking price of $64,000 per pair in bronze, $300,000 in silver, or upwards of $5 million in gold (shown). Why so expensive? Remarkably, the 28-inch-tall cabinet is cast in solid bronze, silver, or gold, which explains the 110-pound weight (in bronze). Add to that the 200 hours it takes to cast and hand-finish each pair at Hart’s factory on Isle of Wight.
OK, you can stop drooling now. We know you can’t wait to get your hands on the world’s first TV capable of displaying 8 million pixels of luscious detail—four times the resolution of 1080p. (We can’t, either.) Sony’s 84-inch XBR-84X900 4K LCD HDTV is one of the first 4K TVs to reach a handful of stores across the country. The heart of the set is a new chip that analyzes images with resolutions of 1080p or lower and upscales them to 4K. How well the chip performs that task is vitally important since 4K content for home viewing is not likely to be available for some time, even though Sony says 10,000 U.S. movie theaters are already using 4K projectors, and a growing number of theatrical movies are being shot in 4K.
This may well be the most regal headphone amp you’ll ever lay eyes on. Make that amps, as in a pair of Class A monoblocks—one per channel—which is how the WA-234 is sold. But its majestic looks and meticulous industrial design (60 sheets of aluminum are used to create those wavy side panels) tell only part of the story.
German designer Helmut Brinkmann is on a never-ending quest for audio perfection, in this case with perhaps the most imperfect of music playback devices—the turntable. As he explains on the Brinkmann Audio Website, “Vinyl record playback is an exceedingly delicate and massively complex undertaking”—one he tackles with mastery in the flagship Balance turntable, which has undergone constant refinement since it was introduced 28 years ago. The goal is to achieve true high fidelity and come as close as possible to attaining the illusion of a live performance.
Yes, this seductively curved work of art is a speaker. And, yes, it is one of the most unusual (and stylish) speakers you will come across. Born out of a passion for modern architecture and industrial design and inspired by the work of iconic designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Rithm is the handiwork of aeronautical-engineer-turned-speaker-designer Paul Schenkel, who set out to create an audiophile speaker that would be appreciated as much for its artisanship as for its sound.
Simple, modern, elegant—the PS1 from Cue Acoustics is definitely not your father’s speaker. Think of it as a forward-looking system for discriminating listeners who crave a simple setup that’s free of wires, hulking speakers, and an ugly stack of components (like the ones collecting dust in the back of your den). Promising big sound and a vivid soundstage, the PS1 system is extremely compact and provides everything you need to pump up the volume except an audio source: a pair of speakers, each with its own built-in 150-watt digital amplifier/processor, and a wireless transmitter that streams uncompressed audio from your TV, PC, smartphone, tablet, you-name-it, to wherever you decide to put the speakers (which, by the way, must be plugged into an AC outlet). Want to grab your tablet and play impromptu DJ at a party? As long as the tablet supports the DLNA connection standard, you can stream audio wirelessly to the PS1’s iPhone-size transmitter, which runs it through a signal processor and sends it to the speakers; otherwise, you can go old school and plug a cable into the transmitter’s digital (optical S/PDIF) or analog (3.5mm stereo) input.
This morning, I attended a press preview of the newly renamed Dolby Theater at the Hollywood and Highland complex in Hollywood, California. The official unveiling of the venue's new signage will take place this evening amid throngs of peoplean extravaganza not unlike the Academy Awards ceremony that makes its home thereso I was glad to get a sneak peek beforehand.
The concept of 3D audio is gaining a lot of traction lately, in both commercial and consumer settings. Tom Norton recently wrote about his experience with a system called Imm Sound, which employs many speakers around and above the audience in commercial cinemas, as does Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro. On the home front, several companies have developed technologies that purport to create 3D soundfields from two speakers or a soundbar, including Gen Audio's Astound Sound and Sonic Emotion's Absolute 3D, both of which have been discussed on the Home Theater Geeks podcast here and here, respectively.
Then there's SRS Labs, which has been working on 3D audio perhaps longer than anyone else. Not only does this company offer a variety of proprietary soundfield-expansion algorithms, it is also the founding member of the 3D Audio Alliance (3DAA), which is working on an open-standard specification called Multi-Dimensional Audio, or MDA.
Stunning or strange? One of these words is likely to come to mind when you first lay eyes on the 101 X-treme speaker system, the flagship of MBL’s Reference Line. And what a system it is, handmade to order in Germany and comprising a pair of approximately 6-foot-tall towers, each of which supports two utterly unconventional driver arrays in an open frame, and two subwoofer towers, each comprised of six 12-inch woofers, a crossover, and an amplifier broken into three ported birch and aluminum boxes that can be stacked or laid side by side as needed. (No lows left behind.)
When the Federal Communications Commission approved the ATSC digital broadcast standard in December 1996, most consumers shrugged as the pundits (us at Home Theater included) heralded the greatest advance in television since the introduction of color in the 1950s. Time has proven us right. With six times the detail of standard-definition video, HDTV has been both a revelation and a revolution. For those who care about picture quality, one quick look was enough to know the world had changed, and we were never going back.
Eleven years ago, in the fall of 2000, the Sunday Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times published a long freelance article I wrote announcing the birth of digital cinema. Digital projection for large venues was mostly a dream at the time, but the technology existed and had been proven to provide satisfying images for the average moviegoer. Meanwhile, digital cinema’s biggest booster, filmmaker George Lucas, had just finished shooting Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones in 1080p/24-frame-per-second digital using a cutting-edge camera developed by Sony and Panavision. It was the first major motion picture to be shot entirely in video.
And now for something completely differenta speaker made of concrete! Designed by Shmuel Linski as his final project to graduate from Shenkar College in Israel, the so-called Exposed speaker is nothing if not unique.
In addition to the Reference system I wrote about a few weeks ago, MBL also showed its mid-range Noble line in an adjoining room at T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach, CA, last month. I must say, this more moderate setup fit the funky hotel room better than the bigger system next door.