The area of the Future Technology display of most interest to home theater fans, however, involved this huge, 244.5-inch x 104-inch, 2.35:1 Stewart Aeroview 100 screen. It's a rear projection setup using six DLP projectors with edge blending. The image you can see here was only 16:9 for this preview, but 2.35:1 material that fills the screen is on the menu for the show days. The image was as impaired, as this photo suggests, by the ambient lighting, which is also higher on setup day than it will be during show hours. For more details, see the next post.
The so-called Future Technology Pavilion was open for a press tour on Wednesday, press conference/setup day (the show formally opens on Thursday September 8). Much of the content here was of limited A/V interest, but will be of interest to custom installers who often add home automation and similar services to their repoitoire. The most interesting features here were those that offer a wide range of medical monitoring facilities, providing health and well-being warnings that can be transmitted to the appropriate agencies and individuals if needed. In other words, just the ticket for a granny-friendly house.
Although the claim that it’s “the only wireless whole house music system specifically engineered for music” may engage in a bit of hyperbole, Proficient’s ZERO wireless multizone audio system is designed to transmit audio up to 90 feet throughout a home using 2.4 GHz RF technology. ZERO transmitters support up to 8 receivers and have connections for three analog audio channels plus an optical audio input – and can transmit all channels simultaneously. Proficient says that transmitting all inputs enables the use of one transmitter to send “left and right” audio for “Zone 2” or “rear surrounds” (without latency being an issue) as well as audio to a subwoofer for a home theater system.
Few home automation things – especially in a home theater – can match motorized shades for sheer (or blackout) sex appeal. Whether the shades are coming down in preparation for a movie, or going up after the movie is over, it’s difficult to avoid being mesmerized by the seemingly magical movement of the shade material. But motorized shades have traditionally had two major drawbacks: cost and installation issues (which add to the cost). Lutron’s new wireless motorized cellular shades give the treatment to expensive, difficult-to-install window treatments. The new shades are exciting for several reasons: They’re motorized! They’re affordable! They’re cordless! And I can install them myself! (Yes, I’m drooling over shades…)
JVC opened the show with a bang, introducing eight new projectors. Six of them are further refinements of last year's models, with some significant new features. As last year, they are paired in sister designs, the Reference models (DLA-RS65 at $12,000, DLA-RS55 at $8000, DLA-RS45 at $3500—the latter a $1000 price drop from last year's corresponding model!) and the Procision models (DLA-X90R, DLA-X70R, and DLA-X30Rat the same respective price points as the Reference models) The respective Reference and Procision models are identical in features and differ only in minor cosmetic details and their sales channels (the Reference models are sold through Pro dealers).
Surge protection is great and – take it from someone whose equipment recently suffered from the effects of a wayward bolt of lightning – really, really, really important. Unfortunately, most of the serious surge suppression components on the market have the bad habit of taking up valuable rack space. SurgeX’s new XC series separates the protection from the plug, giving you the ability to mount a strip of 18 or 24 outlets vertically along the back of your AV rack (or elsewhere) whilst the serious surge-suppressing circuitry (with SurgeX patented Advanced Series Mode protection technology, a remote interface, an Over/Under Voltage Protection LED, a Power On/Off LED, and a highly interactive Self-Test LED) sits separately. SurgeX says the company’s XC series are built to withstand a 6,000V, 3,000AMP AC power surge at least 1,000 times without failing. (They’re probably telling the truth, although since I had to leave after the 965th surge, I can’t say I saw it with my own eyes…) They’re also backed by an 11-year warranty and are built in the USA.
At yesterday's Sony press conference, the company didn't demonstrate the new VPL-VW1000ES 4K projectorthat had to wait until this morning at Sony's booth on a Stewart Ultramatte 150 screen measuring 180 inches diagonally. As with most Sony presentations, this one was mostly talking and not much demo material, but that material was worth the waitexcept for the first clip, which was from Resident Evil at 1080p upconverted to 4K. The clip exhibited severe banding and solarization, which I learned was due to sourcing and processing issues, not the projector. (The original file was 16-bit, which was truncated to 10-bit in the server and then 8-bit for HDMI to the projector.) Also, this clip was projected using Motionflow frame interpolation, which I don't mind, but Tom Norton objected to that more than the banding.
By contrast, the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man due next year was in native 4K from the server, and it looked, well, amazing. Detail was stunning, and the blacks were better than yesterday's showing of the same clip from the Sony 4K digital-cinema projector. After the formal presentation, I confirmed that the VW1000ES can indeed accept a 4K signal over a single HDMI 1.4 connection. Of course, that won't help most consumers see native 4K content, which will be nonexistent for at least a couple of years to come.
In addition to its mainstream consumer plasmas, Panasonic makes a line of professional models for broadcast monitoring and high-end custom installations. New from the company's pro division at CEDIA is the 65-inch TH-65VX300, which boasts over 12,000 steps of gradation and the ability to reproduce the DCI color gamut as well as Rec.709, SMPTE-C, and EBU. It provides circuit-board slots to customize the input complement, and its internal scaler can be bypassed if you have a better outboard processor. It looked quite good under less-than-ideal conditionswhich it should for $6250.
Projectors are always big at CEDIA, and Panasonic has two new models on display. I already covered the PT-AE7000U in a previous post, but new at the show is the PT-AR100, an entry-level, 1920x1080 LCD model spec'd with 2800 lumens of light output and a dynamic contrast ratio of 50,000:1. Features include a 2x zoom lens, lockable joystick to adjust the horizontal and vertical lens shift, and the ability to change the lamp and filter without unmounting the unit. It will be available by the end of October for a list price of $1999.
Last month, Sharp unveiled its new Elite-branded LED-backlit LCD flat panels, which I hadn't seen until now. Licensing the Elite moniker from Pioneerwhich collaborated on the new panelsSharp has hit a grand slam, filling a distinct void in high-end flat panels left by Pioneer's departure from the TV business. The PRO-X5FD has all the bells and whistles3D (including 2D-to-3D conversion with user-controllable effect), access to online content (Netflix, Vudu, etc.), THX certification for both 2D and 3D, and ISF certification to name a few.
The Onkyo TX-NR5009 ($2899) and TX-NR3009 ($2199) and their Integra equivalents are the only receivers that upscale to 4K x 2K. But they weren't as photogenic as the two docking systems, the iOnly Play, left, with cool sliding cover over the dock; and the iOnly Bass, right, which is large enough to accommodate an iPad. Pricing $249 for either.
The Integra DTR-80.3 nine-channel receiver ($3000) and DHC-80.3 pre-pro ($2600) and their Onkyo equivalents are the only receiver/pre-pro that upscale to 4K by 2K. That they can be ISF-calibrated for each source component is just as unusual and even more impressive. Pictured: Ten reasons why custom installers like to do business with Integra.
Klipsch now makes headphones, as shown by Brooke Hilsmeyer. The killer is the MODE noise-canceling model which sounded great and worth $350. There is also a smaller non-NC Reference 1 and an S4A earbud, designed especially for use with Android devices.
The relaunched MK Sound has introduced something it never had before: a true tower loudspeaker. Previous ones were actually just stand-mounts on tower-shaped pedestals. The THX-certified F-950 ($2200/pair) has two 5.25-inch woofers with dual magnets for extra oomph plus a soft dome tweeter in a box to protect it from its own back wave. Also shown were three new THX-certified subs (8, 10, 12 inches) using MK's famous push/pull technology.