There’s been a lot of talk lately about the end of the man-cave era. I’m not sure I could find a better example of anything that would be more proof of the existence of a trend away from the dedicated, tech-dominated home theater room in favor of a new emphasis on stylish integration of the home theater into people’s homes and lifestyles than this very interesting credenza from Adrian Lifestyles Furnishings. In most ways the Lila Pearl Credenza is a very traditional home entertainment cabinet with media drawers, adjustable shelves, and back panels that provide easy access to components and cables. But it’s also one of those pieces of furniture that you will either immediately hate or absolutely love. The company says the finish is “lacquer finish on Lila veneer”. I’m not quite sure what a “Lila veneer” is, but the color was an extremely interesting combination of purple and rose and mother of pearl. It’s not the sort of thing I’d have in my house, but I know several people who would gladly use it for their TV and associated gear. Adrian Lifestyles Furnishings offers a lot of other cabinet designs, including traditional wall unit style furniture, in a variety of domestic and exotic woods, finishes, sizes, and door types. Pricing was not available.
Security and convenience are two big benefits of having a home automation system. Unfortunately, the various door, window, and motion sensors that are the “eyes and ears” of the system are often big and ugly. At Control4’s mega-booth, NYCE Control was introducing “the smallest Zigbee home automation devices in the world”. And these gizmos certainly are small. The $89 door/window open/close sensors shown on the left of the NYCE display pictured above are not much larger than a quarter. Coming in the very near future will be a garage door sensor ($89) and a special device NYCE calls an “asset protector”. Basically a small white square just like the larger of the two parts of the window sensor, the $89 Asset Protector can be discretely attached to just about anything. The sensor is designed to immediately signal if it senses a large amount of motion. NYCE says you can attach this to the back of an HDTV, for example, as an additional security device that can notify your Control4 system that major movement – as in, someone is trying to take the TV off the way – has been detected.
Panamax’s new MR4000 has eight protected power outlets with Level 2 Power Cleaning and Filtration. Panamax says that this helps to eliminate the “common symptoms of contaminated power (loss of detail, pops, hisses, hums and others). The MR4000 also monitors incoming line voltage and disconnect the connected equipment from power if there’s a brown-out or surge. It also has an AC outlet on the front of the unit for quick, temporary power connections. The MR4000 is available now for $199.95.
Truth be told, the only reason most AV journalists come to shows and conventions is for the free swag. Tough times in the economy and shrinking promotional budgets have done some serious damage to the quality and amount of swag a savvy journalist can accrue over the course of three or four days of press conferences and meetings. While not the best swag ever, Universal Remote Control’s Mitch Klein scored big points with surprise offerings like these which he presented to a select group of bacon-enthusiast journalists. No word on whether URC will ever begin manufacturing a remote control that looks like a large slice of crispy, delicious bacon – even though many of us have begged them to do it.
Artison, the company founded by respected audio designer Cary Christie nearly a decade ago, is replacing its SB-1 SoundBar with three low-profile models designed for seamless integration with the new generation of ultra-thin TVs. The numerical designations of the new Studio Series models---Studio39, Studio46 and Studio55---reflect the approximate width of the soundbar, although each grille is custom fitted and color matched to the TV it’s being used with as in the photo above.
Highlights of the soundbars include a 2.25-inch-deep extruded aluminum, bass-reflex cabinet, 3.5-inch carbon-fiber mid/woofers---Studio39 has four drivers, the other models have six---three 1-inch Vifa tweeters and two 1-inch “stage” tweeters that fire out the sides of the enclosure to expand the sound stage. Pricing is $999 for Studio39, $1,499 for Studio46 and $1,999 for Studio55. The Studio46 ships this month with the other models expected to be available in October/November.
Runco is in Indianapolis with several new DLP front projectors across a range of price points, including three models in its new XtremeProjection Series targeted at high-end installations, the X-200i ($14,995), the X-400d ($34,995), and the X-450d ($39,995). The X-200i features integrated processing, while the two top models ship with the DC-300 Dimension Digital Controller, an outboard processor said to be optimized to enhance 3D performance. The X-200i, shown here and demonstrated for press on Thursday, is a single-chip DLP projector rated for 1430 ANSI lumens and up to 50 foot-lamberts of light output. It threw some impressive images of Kung Fu Panda on a 120-in Stewart Studiotek 130 screen.
What you see is Meridian's Media Source 200. This little fella makes adding additional zones easy. Plug an ethernet cable into it and it'll output to Meridian DSP speakers via wireless Cat5 SpeakerLink. There's also a mini-jack that serves as a combo optical or analog connection for your signal source of choice. Product ships end of this month for $1000. Meridian also announced two new in-walls, the DSP520, a 5.25-inch two-way design, and the DSP 630, similar but with extra woofer. They've got RS-232 and IR ports, both bidirectional, and are shipping in November at prices to be announced.
See that USB port on the back of the Marantz SA-11S3 disc player? The advent of computer-worthy USB ports on audio products is a development whose importance can't be overstated. True, there are a lot of great outboard DACs on the market, with more to come—but what if you don't want that extra box and power cable in your rack? One option is to build the DAC into another product such as the Pioneer SC-68 surround receiver, or this Marantz SACD/CD player. Incidentally, it does not do Blu-ray or DVD. The Burr-Brown DAC has resolution of 192/24. Build quality is typically superb, with copper substituting for aluminum in the back panel and some internal parts. Price is $4000.
The wiggling-needle volume meters that are synonymous with McIntosh are now equally pleasing-to-look-at LEDs. The MC8207 seven-channel amp ($6000) on which they blink boasts 200 watts per channel into both eight and four ohms. McIntosh also showed two pre-pros, one of which was making its debut at CEDIA. That was the MX121 and it brings AirPlay and music streaming from Pandora and the like. Price is $6500. Both shipping now.
Of the four soundbars in Polk Audio's line, two are new, and one is quite remarkable. We're talking about the SurroundBar 9000 IHT ($799). This 5.1-channel bar has three tweeters for the front channels and dedicated woofers for each of the five channels, with each driver powered by 45 watts, plus external eight-inch sub. What fascinates us is that bass frequencies from 80-200Hz are routed to all woofers in the bar. In other words, if there's significant bass content in any one of the five channels, it's routed to the other channels as well. This allows better bass handling than you'd expect in a bar. It also allows a lower crossover to the sub, an audiophile-approved 80Hz, which keeps voices from booming out of the sub. Connectivity is optical and analog, both times two, with Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. Guess what? The 9000 worked wonders with a James Taylor concert track, with realistic acoustic guitar harmonics and a vocal presentation that was crisp but not fatiguing. The other new guy is SurroundBar 5000 IHT ($399), a 2.1-channel Bluetooth bar with a pair of full-range drivers backed up by a 6.5-inch sub. Both shipping this month.
Home-automation stalwart Crestron is demonstrating at CEDIA Expo a Near Field Communication (NFC)-based technology called airConnect that enables homeowners to trigger personal control settings for a home theater system and other devices connected to a central control system by simply holding an NFC-enabled smartphone close to an NFC tag in the room. The tag can be programmed to initiate any number of activities or automated routines, such as turning on system components, closing motorized shades, lowering a projector screen and launching a control app on the phone. The NFC tags, which are 1-inch, paper-thin squares, can be embedded in convenient locations, such as behind a wall keypad. A number of Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices are NFC-enabled and Crestron says it will support iPhone and iPad as soon as they incorporate NFC technology.
Crestron is also demonstrating enhanced AirPlay functionality for its Sonnex multiroom audio system, which allows you to stream audio from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac PC to any room in the house without having to switch audio sources. Hit play and the system detects audio signals and automatically switches to the AirPlay source. The Sonnex system incorporates high-performance digital audio processing, full matrix switching and high-powered amplification.
Remote control and home automation company URC introduced two brand new remote controls to CEDIA. Yawn…I know. The world needs another remote control as much as it needs another set of $20 earbuds. But the URC TRG-100 and TRG-200 have built-in gyroscopes and use motion-based technology so all you have top do is move and point the handheld remote to control the cursor directly on the TV screen. The basic TRG-100 has a minimalist design with very few buttons. The TRG-200 has direct numeric keys along with other direct function buttons. The new remotes are designed to work with URC’s Total Control whole-house systems with the company’s new MRX-20 Advanced Onscreen Network System Controller.
The MRX-20 offers a simple as well as a more elaborate on-screen user interface that is very cleanly overlayed on top of the HD picture on the TV so the user can summon direct TV controls – or, more interestingly because it’s done so unobtrusively, access controllable features provided by other URC control devices throughout the house. Pricing and availability for the new TRG remotes and the MRX-20 have not been announced.
Sonance, which introduced the first in-wall-speaker a couple decades ago, is demonstrating the third generation of its Invisible Series speaker panels at CEDIA Expo. The panels mount flush in the wall and can be covered with up to an eight of an inch of any flexible material---including spackling compound, wallpaper or plaster---and painted over without compromising the performance. Hailed as the company’s best sounding invisible speaker to date, the panels are designed to fit between the studs in standard 2 x 4 wall construction. Judging from the demo on the noisy show floor, the sound is surprisingly decent.
The four new models boast 90-dB sensitivity, enabling the panels to play much louder than previous generation panels. All models have an injection-molded polypropylene diaphragm, extruded aluminum frame and require only 2 inches of depth for mounting. Optional enclosures are said to reduce sound transmission to adjacent rooms by up to 20 dB. The IS4 three-way panel shown in the photo has a suggested retail price of $1,600 per pair. Other pricing: The two-way IS2 is $1,100 per pair, the single stereo IS4SST is $900 and the ISW Woofer is $600.
Normally known for making high-end indoor seating, CINEAK’s new outdoor collection features hand-crafted seating made with marine-grade materials so they can take a beating and keep on seating. While you’re enjoying your outdoor view, you can soon listen to one of CINEAK’s customizable outdoor entertainment systems that look like attractive outdoor storage consoles – but inside they hide marine-grade speakers and subwoofers and integrated LED lighting. The entertainment systems are available in a multitude of finishes including a variety of woods, painted aluminum, carbon fiber, and acrylic, as well as custom finishes by request. Interlocking panels can be removed, replaced, or mixed and matched for a truly unique look.