Vegas is a brutal town and, like Stephen Mejias, we hate it. Among its few saving graces: Guests at a half-dozen elite hotels can travel to the convention center via monorail. It almost makes up for the obnoxious mini-bar fridge policy at one stop on the monorail, Harrah's: If you purchase your own drinks and leave them to chill, the management will confiscate them. A label inside the mini-bar fridge says so. Sure enough: it happened. Thanks Harrah's. Let us return the favor.
The Atlantic Technology exhibit at the Venetian featured the first 5.0-channel demo of the smaller H-PAS speaker. We hope to atone for this awful picture of of it with a quasi-review in our print mag. What depraved impulse moved us to go gallivanting off to Vegas when this product was sitting in our bedroom? H-PAS uses a variety of construction techniques to produce deep, true bass without resorting to a sub. While this demo was less than ideal, we could still hear an ideally proportioned rhythm section with precisely pitched bass guitar tones and good impact from the drums. Closing our eyes actually made it sound better: Once we were freed from the tyranny of visually reinforced preconceptions, our ears told us this was the good stuff. Incidentally, the speaker will be sold in single units, so if you want five or seven of them, no sweat.
As reported by our colleague
Darryl Wilkinson, the Klipsch press conference mentioned the G-17 Air compact system, whose drivers and flat enclosure hail from the new Gallery line, and the ginormous one-piece Console, the latter to be produced in Klipsch's hometown of Hope, Arkansas. But the latter was not shown at the time, so here it is. Interesting, the bleeding-edge Palladium and other higher-end Klipsch lines are moving their manufacturing from China back to Arkansas due to higher costs in the former. This isn't a knock against the Chinese but we can't help feeling pleased that more Klipsch speakers are going to be made in America.
Not much has emerged from the Denmark-born Jamo speaker brand since its acquisition by the Klipsch Group, now itself acquired by Audiovox. But that's changing with a bevy of new Jamo products including the MS25 satellite speaker shown here. What a civilian might identify as a tweeter firing into a spoon is actually Jamo's implementation of OmniPolar technology acquired along with Mirage. This new design was reshaped by authentic Danish designers. There will be no new products labeled Mirage, bringing an end to the historic Canadian speaker brand. The product development guy who briefed us punctuated his presentation by saying "Mirage is a brand, OmniPolar is a technology"—a technology living on under another banner.
This is Mishka the talking dog saying "I love you" on YouTube. No kidding. If it's on the internet, you know it must be true. This was actually a demo of InstaPrevue, a feature being built into Onkyo's network-enabled a/v receivers. The cool part, aside from the talking dog, is that you can view picture insets showing the content of source components as opposed to prosaic text labels like HDMI1, HDMI2, or that classic of the genre, HDMI3. The talking dog (have we mentioned the talking dog?) was being streamed from an iPhone via MHL, or Mobile High-definition Link, another new Onkyo receiver feature. Onkyo was also talking up cloud storage capability for receivers via its partnership with MP3tunes. The first two gigabytes are free.
The first development project to follow the death of the late, great Jim Thiel is the CS1.7, which will replace the decade-old CS1.6 as the company's entry-level floorstanding speaker. Its aluminum drivers include a one-inch tweeter and a 6.5-inch woofer with the familiar vibration-controlling star diaphragm. A CS7.3 flagship tower will follow eventually. Given Thiel's traditionally long and pensive development philosophy, it's anyone's guess when the larger speaker will arrive, but the smaller one is very tentatively slated for the first quarter of this year at around $5000-5500.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a one-eyed Cyclops or a three-eyed alien being locked away deep in some secret laboratory in Area 51 - no one likes the idea of wearing glasses to watch 3D video. Stream TV hates glasses for 3D, too, and this morning they showed off the company’s Ultra-D technology that can produce a glasses-free 3D image that’s watchable across a wide range of viewing angles. (Just to eliminate any confusion, “glasses-free” doesn’t mean you get “free glasses” with the system. It means you don’t need no stinkin’ glasses at all to watch 3D on the screen.) According to Stream TV, the proprietary technology can be used with all types of displays; and they anticipate we’ll see Ultra-D technology in everything from flat-panel TVs to tablets to smartphones.
I arrived in Vegas on Sunday just in time to attend the Toshiba party at Tao, an ultra-hip nightspot at the Venetian. Among several demos on hand was this 55-inch 4K flat panel showing real 4K images, which looked stunning. It's also an intriguing autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D display, which Barb Gonzalez will tell you about in a separate post.
Photo by Barb Gonzalez
I was honored and privileged that DTS asked me to moderate a panel discussion during its Sunday evening party at Lavo at the Palazzo. The luminaries included (left to right after me on the far left) sound designer Diego Stocco, producer/engineer/musician Alan Parsons, producers Iz and Bobby Avila, engineer/producer Elliot Scheiner, and producers Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam. A lively discussion focused on the importance of audio quality and included fascinating comments on data and dynamic-range compression, digital versus analog recording, the useand misuseof autotune processing, multichannel music, and the importance of experiencing high-quality audio, especially for youngsters who might not know anything other than highly compressed sound through crappy earbuds.
Having worked with artists such as Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Boyz II Men, Prince, and many others, the legendary producing duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have signed a new group called the RoneyBoys(left to right) Isaac (12), Ian (10), and Israel (16)after Jimmy's son found them on YouTube. The three brothers performed at the DTS party Sunday, singing and playing small ukulele-guitars, and I was very impressed with their musicianship, especially at such a young age. Unfortunately, things got a late start because the venue wouldn't let them into the bar area at first!
Improving so-called Smart TV functionality seems to be one of the big stories at CES this year. Sharp's news in this regard is its Aquos SmartCentral interface, which will be provided in most of its 2012 LED-LCD TVs. A newly designed graphical user interface lets you search for content, browse the web, and access over 100 of the most popular online services, including Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, YouTube, and CinemaNow. You can also customize the system for different users with different apps, wallpapers, and viewing formats, and you can access Aquos Advantage Live, which lets Sharp techs to remotely connect to the TV to assist with setup, troubleshooting, and optimization of picture quality.
At its press conference today, Sharp introduced an entirely new line of TVs under the Freestyle moniker. Available in four screen sizes20, 32, 40, and 60 inchesthese are fully networked LED-edgelit LCD TVs with a slimmer and lighter design than most, which lets you place them just about anywhere near a power outlet. With only one HDMI input, they are clearly intended to access most content via their built-in WiFi, though they also have two USB ports and an Ethernet port. The 20-incher includes a built-in battery, while the others seen here being carried by Vanna White wannabes were custom-powered by separate battery packs.
Updating its 80-inch LED-LCD TVs, Sharp announced the LC-80LE844U (seen in the center above sitting atop a car) and LC-80LC645U, both with full-array LED backlighting (but no local dimming), Quattron technology (which adds a yellow subpixel to red, green, and blue), 3D capabilities, built-in WiFi, and Sharp's new Aquos SmartCentral interface described earlier. The 844 boasts a refresh rate of 240Hz, while the 645 is 120Hz. Also unveiled was the 9 Series, including the 70-inch LC-70LE945U (left) and 60-inch LC-60LE945U (right) LED-backlit LCD TVs with local dimming, the first Sharp sets to provide this important feature.
While no price or availability date was announced for LG’s 55” OLED HDTV, its prototype drew big crowds at the opening press conference of the day. So big, in fact, that you can’t see the set with the madding crowds pushing in for a closer look.
What we do know is that the set uses what LG refers to as 4-Color Pixels (red, green, blue, and white) together with a Color Refiner for color consistency over a wide viewing angle.
An eye-opening infinite contrast ratio is also claimed. This is possible because OLED is a self-illuminating technology in which the individual pixels, in theory, can be completely turned off. Response time is also said to be 1000x faster than in LED/LED sets.
LG’s OLED TV is as pleasing aesthetically pleasing as it is technologically trend-setting. It’s passive 3D-capable and an incredible 4mm thin (about one-sixth of an inch) and a feather-light 17 lbs.