There are loads of compact audio systems with AirPlay and Bluetooth wireless compatibility at CES, but how many of them include Monitor Audio's one-inch gold dome tweeter and four-inch aluminum woofer in a biamped configuration for a mere $500? The Airstream 5300 has wider dispersion than an earlier model, with tweeters pushed to the far sides of the baffle, and it has a threaded insert for wall mounting, a nicety you won't find in many competitors.
Sonus Faber seems incapable of producing a speaker that sounds anything less than fabulous and the new Venere line is no exception. The line includes the 2.0 monitor (shown, $1700/pair), the 1.5 monitor ($1200/pair), 3.0 tower ($3500/pair), the 2.5 tower ($2500/pair), an on-wall model called The Wall, ($700/each), and a center called The Center ($800). Features include a new silk dome tweeter, combination polypropylene and fiberglass woofers, an enclosure that mimics the shape of $120,000 Aida floorstander, and a new Italian walnut finish in addition to gloss white and black. Add a sub from REL, another Fine Sounds brand, and you're good to go.
Polk Live: Showgoers listened over UltraFocus 8000 noise-cancelling headphones ($349) while Baltimore’s “cosmic soul cowboy” Bosley Brown and band performed live in a soundproof booth, the first stop in Polk’s Listen Up Tour. Next stop: Macworld.
LP to iPhone: Ion’s iLP digital conversion turntable ($129) records directly to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod using the free EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter app. The table has a USB port for connection to a PC and RCA outputs if you want to go old-school and skip the digital conversion.
Discreet Sound: Want a little music in the bathroom or maybe out in the garage while you finish your Mr. Fix-It project? No problem, just plug SoundFly Air ($200) into any AC outlet and stream tunes from your iPhone or iPad; up to four Flys can be controlled simultaneously. A Bluetooth version that works with only one speaker is available for $180. Sound is decent—much better than the awful sounding Outlet Speaker ($100) BēmWireless introduced at CES.
As mentioned in our early CES entries, Sharp is working on a new variation on LCD display technology, called IGZO for Indium, Gallium, Zinc, and Oxygen. It is said to offer ultra low power consumption, improved touch screen capabilities, and twice the potential resolution of conventional LCD. The limited range of products produced to date include a 4K, 32-inch monitor said to be useful for medical imaging, financial analysis, and other possible applications.
Screen shots are notoriously bad at showing the quality of a display, but even on your computer screen you can see the potential. This shot is only a portion of the entire screen image.
This 21:9, 29-inch may not be just the ticket for that big screen home theater, although it can display 2.35:1 films without black bars. But its primary application will be for a computer monitor, where it can display multiple images at once, including a 4-screen split for multitasking.
Samsung's upcoming Ultra HD 4K sets will feature full array backlighting with zone local dimming, The 85-inch set shown here can be set up with its floor stand or the stands legs removed and the set mounted to the wall. It can then be moved down within the outer frame, as needed, to adjust to the desired height. The speakers are located in the outer frame. In addition, a switch box is included that can accept multiple sources and connect then to the set via a single thin (non HDMI) cable.
Times change. The once illustrious speaker brands Klipsch, Jamo, and Energy now belong to conglomerate VOXX (along with RCA, AR, and others). This lonely kiosk on the main convention center floor didn't look too encouraging, given the vitality of those brands at past shows. At the Venetian, where most of the audio exhibits are held, things looked slightly better. I'd expect the Klipsch name to be kept relatively sacrosanct, and there were some nice looking Jamo floor-standers on static display. But the Energy Demo was relegated to a modest-looking sound bar.
The color shift you may see here and above, plus moire, are the likely result of my camera's pixels strobing with the pixels on your screen. But other than cropping and identical downscaling, no other processing was performed on the photos here and above. The improved clarity of 4K version here is impossible to miss even after the photos were reduced so they could be used in our blog format. The differences were even more obvious in person.
Sony was the only Ultra HD 4K exhibitor that showed a still of a newspaper page in both standard HD and 4K Ultra HD. The photo shown here (standard HD) and below (4K) only show a very small area of the screen.
Also on display was the full range of Samsung's new LED-LCD sets. Shown is the F8000, available in a range of sizes up to 75-inches, it's said to offer much improved black levels with Samsung's Precision Black and Micro Dimming Ultimate (zone edge dimming). In a press demo in the same private, darkened room in which we saw the F8500 plasma, it did seem to have admirably rich blacks.
Samsung's new F8500 plasma sets have been redesigned to provide not only darker blacks but brighter whites as well. In a darkened room demo (not the room in the photo!), a comparison with last year's Samsung plasma was convincing, and we hope to get our hands on one to confirm it when the sets become available about mid year.
Samsung helped usher in a new era of television on the eve of CES 2013 with the announcement of two next-generation TVs: the super-sleek 85-inch S9 Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV, boasting four times the resolution of today’s 1080p sets, and the 55-inch F9500 OLED TV with a Multi-View feature that enables two people to watch different programs simultaneously from the same screen. Pricing and availability was not announced for either model.
The S9 (shown) boasts a striking design with a screen that appears to float within a frame. Highlights include “extremely high contrast ratio,” a proprietary upscaling engine that converts high-def images to UHD quality, and a 1.35 GHz quad-core processor that’s more than three times faster than last year’s processor for improved content/app multitasking. The set has enhanced voice and gesture control and uses a new version of Samsung’s Smart Hub interface with five content discovery panels that appear onscreen as thumbnail images.
At the heart of the F9500 OLED TV are self-emitting red, green and blue sub-pixels that eliminate the need for backlighting, which is said to ensure absolute blacks and pure whites with no motion blur. The Multi-View feature is enabled by special 3D glasses with built-in speakers that deliver a personalized audio experience. The set also uses a quad-core processor and the updated Smart Hub interface.
Although the idea of a digital antenna to receive over-the-air broadcasts with a built in media streamer makes odd bedfellows, it could be the answer to cutting the cable cord. Voxx Accessories announced that it is developing a digital TV antenna with Roku streaming capabilities. The product will be released under the RCA and Terk brands.
Part of Voxx's Roku-Ready partnership, the photo showed a Roku stick attached to a flat omnidirectional powered antenna. It is slated to be released in the fourth quarter of 2013. Few other details are available and I have a lot of questions about how it will work.
For now, it looks like a great solution for TV viewers who like network broadcast TV and a variety of streaming movie options like those available from Roku. We'll keep you posted as we get more details.