The Paradigm people unveiled their new Paradigm SHIFT brand at CES 2011. At CES 2012 they showed the Paradigm SHIFT soundbar—not the company's first, but the first under the new moniker. It includes a wireless sub and will sell for $799 starting this summer. Paradigm also showed new in-ceiling speakers with magnetic grilles and noted that the magnets are embedded in the speaker, not merely glued on. That's the kind of thing you can do when you control your manufacturing. Also shown was a $59 Bluetooth dongle to go with active speakers. Having trouble routing your earbud cables? Paradigm is introducing a $12 ear hook to take care of that problem. On the Anthem side, the M1 mono-block amp ($3499) was being demoed to good effect and the brand's two pre-pros, AVM 50v and D2v, are being updated for 3D.
NAD is now shipping three receivers introduced at CEDIA 2011. They include the T 787 ($4000), T 777 ($3000), T 757 ($1600), and T 748 ($900). All but the bottom model have modular construction to allow a variety of updates in the top two models and video updates in the third. The top model has dual transformers which should do a lot to juice dynamics. This receiver would beat up your receiver and take its lunch money if it didn't have such a dreamy, poetic hi-fi personality.
Cambridge Audio has always made fine-sounding a/v receivers but in past years the British brand has had trouble keeping up with the latest features, as often happens with smaller manufacturers competing in the feature-frenetic a/v receiver space. But Cambridge is catching up with 3D and other must-haves with three new models. The Azur 751R has 200 watts times seven, Anchor Bay video processing, an extra sub-out for zone two, and Audyssey 2EQ auto setup and room correction (note that it does not equalize the sub channel). The Azur 651R is similarly equipped with 175 watts times seven ($2200). The Azur 551R ($1200) has 110 watts times seven, Faroudja video processing, and proprietary CAMCAS auto setup but no room correction. Note that these power ratings are into six ohms, so the more customary eight-ohm ratings would be a bit lower (for instance, 120 times seven in the top model). Still, the six-ohm ratings suggest how the receivers will perform with slightly more demanding speakers. And these receivers are far from underbuilt. All have heavy damped metal chassis with large toroidal power transformers and an X-tract heat control system involving a large central heat sink and cooling fans, allowing high performance in a not-too-tall form factor.
Cardas is best known for bleeding-edge cables but is moving into earbuds with the EM 5813 Ear Speakers. Their heavy and lustrous metal casings are brass in the $425 model and steel in the $325 model. Despite their weight, they fit well and don't fall out easily if you pick the right cushion size (took me a couple of tries). Cardas went to a lot of trouble to make the tube mimic the shape of the cochlea, in proportions that adhere to the Golden Ratio, a longtime Cardas design obsession. (It seems to have resulted in a long string of great-sounding products.) The diaphragm is about the size of the eardrum.
Monitor Audio's Shadow on-walls come in four sizes, all with four-inch flat mid-woofers and the famous C-CAM tweeter used in company's other speakers, built into tough extruded aluminum enclosures. Prices range from $849 to $1649 per pair. They sounded mellower than is typical for Monitor and were home theater worthily dynamic.
PSB's Imagine T2 tower can be mentioned in the same breath as the brand's world-beating Synchrony line. The titanium tweeter and polypropylene midrange are backed up with three polypropylene woofers crossed over at 500Hz, 250Hz, and 80Hz, making this a five-way speaker. All drivers live in separate chambers to prevent them from interfering with one another. The result of all that scrupulous construction and ingenuity is a genuinely fantastic sounding speaker with powerful bass, a musically adept midrange, and just the right amount of top end. The number of audio demos at the show that came close can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Price is $3500/pair in veneer or $3850/pair in gloss white or black.
Myspace CEO Tim Vanderhook, and co-owner, Justin Timberlake announced Myspace TV at the Panasonic CES press conference. Available on Panasonic TVs as part of VIERA Connect on their next generation of Smart VIERA TV HDTVs, Myspace TV allows users to share and comment on the TV shows that they’re viewing.
Vanderhook began by explaining,“Historically, TV has been a shared experience, as people gathered together to watch their favorite programs.” Viewers can make comments on programming creating a group conversation that will show up on their friends’ Myspace TV.
Two years ago I prodded for a new Thiel center channel to match the company's flagship CS3.7 speaker. Now it's here—or will be later this year. The MCS1.2 uses the same coaxial midrange-tweeter driver as the CS3.7, along with a pair of smaller, newly developed woofers. In addition to use with the CS3.7s, the MCS1.2 can also be used as left and right front speakers and/or surrounds. Pricing TBD.
In an adjoining room, Thiel was demonstrating the new CS1.7 (estimate $5500/pair, available early in 2012), a replacement for the well-received CS1.6. They use the same woofers as the MCS1.2, below, and sounded superb driven by Bryston electronics. But I might add that Thiel has used this same room for the last three CESs, and it hasn't produced anything short of audio magic there yet.