There was a definite shortage of home theater exhibits at this year's home entertainment show. But no shortage of interesting products. When faced with limited home theater presence, I go to plan B: look for loudspeakers. Speakers do of course, handle two types of program material in most homes: music and films. If they sound good on music that's more than half the battle. And if they don't, even Angelina Jolie can't help them.
CinePro showed its new Mighty Powershelf two-way speaker ($3300/pair), together with the Mighty Center Channel ($2700), two jumbo 12" Dual isobaric subwoofers ($5000), and a rack full of CinePro electronics. The projector was from SIM2. The sound was punchy and dynamic, even though I did request a slightly lower playback level than those that CinePro usually favors.
Also sharing the room with CinePro was VidaBox, a media center designed as a full-function server capable of storing music, television programming, and movies on its hard drive. It is also said to be capable of both Blu-ray and HD DVD playback. Shane Buetter has more to say about the VidaBox in an earlier blog entry (below)
Two makers of one-box solutions for virtual surround sound were at the show. ZVOX was covered earlier in our show report (below). Soundmatters is the other. The Soundmatters SLIMstage40 Surround Console ($899, available in July), available in either silver or black (the silver version is shown in the photo, just under the flat panel set) uses four seven active drivers and eight internal amplifiers (170W total) to simulate a full surround sound experience. At 3.4" deep, it's designed to fit under a wall-mounted, flat panel television.
Pictured here is the Vandersteen Model 5A, which is my reference loudspeaker. This pair is finished in striking carbon fiber. This speaker has bult-in powered subs and an 11-band EQ that allows its response to be tailored for flat response below 20Hz in virtually any room. This also allows you to put the speakers out in the room where they image best without sacrificing bass response as is typical as you move out from the room boundaries.
No one would ever be willing or able to do this at home, but Rives Audio, XLO, RPG, and VAC put together two identical systems in two identical hotel rooms - but with one important difference. The second room was sonically and electrically treated to clearly demonstrate how important it is to account for the acoustics of the room when it comes to putting together your home theater system. Not only was the equipment/cable setup the same in both rooms, but the demo material was synchronized, as well, so they even took that variable out of the equation. The differences in performance were definitely not subtle.
This morning's Ask the Editors panel was another fun and engaging event full of excellent questions and (hopefully) informative answers. At one point the subject of separate systems optimzed for two-channel audio vs video and surround sound came up, offering me a chance to get my own message out there on this subject, and to admit to you all that I am in fact a card carrying analog druid. I do not have two systems and I sacrifice nothing in performance for either.
After winning a RAVE award from us at Home Theater Magazine, the folks at Audioengine showed off their newest speaker, the Audioengine 2. It's a smaller version than the $349 Audioengine 5. Like its bigger brother, the new speaker is powered and has dual analog inputs. It'll sell for $199 per pair, and the Audioengine folks say it should be available in about three weeks. Off to the side was a prototype of an Audioengine 5 with a cabinet made from solid bamboo that will be available in the near future for around $699.
OK, first of all, apologies to everyone, and especially our beloved web monkey, who hates stock photos at shows. I couldn't get a decent shot of the Vidabox equipment so I grabbed an image from the web.
Sometimes the adulation of the thronging crowds is just too much. Video Editor, Geoff Morisson, followed by Audio Editor, Mark Fleischmann, ride down the escalator to sign autographs. It was just one of the many times the editors were mobbed by adoring fans (or maybe those were bill collectors...)
There was one sure way to beat the long cab lines outside the Grand Hyatt. It was a bit breezy and sometimes a little nerve-wracking, but I never had to wait in line to take a bicycle taxi to dinner during the Show. Lane markers evidently don't mean anything to these guys. At least the open seat conveyance did have a seat belt. It's hard to get a receipt for your expense account, though.
Cinepro was here at HE 2007, and had everyone talking about its demo. And talking loudly, because after hearing the Cinepro Mighty surround system odds are you weren't hearing anything else unless you'd brought earplugs too!
There wasn't anything brand new in the way of announcements or products - just great sound and video. Meridian's room featured the company's DSP3100, DSP3100C, and SW1600 digital loudspeakers with the G91A DVD/controller/tuner and DVP1080MF video processor along with an unnamed plasma TV. The Meridian gear totalled about $20,000, which makes me remember why I need to make more money. In the back of the room was a static display of one of Meridian's custom install speakers.
The MI6 is Britain's equivalent of the CIA. The M16, on the other hand, is a floorstanding speaker from Epos that will sell for $1600/pair. An M8 center will be available for $600, an M SUB will complete the system, and of course you're at liberty to use any of the company's sterling monitors as surrounds.
Surround electronics were thin on the ground at HES but Krell did display the S-1000 pre-pro ($6500) and S-1500 multi-channel amp. The latter can operate with five, six, or seven channels and sells for $6000-7000 depending on configuration. Both shipping now. Krell also showed an iPod dock.
Would you like to base your surround system on a pair of slim towers, like the Silverline Preludes, at $1200/pair? Or would you prefer something smaller like the Minuet, at $600/pair? In either case, you can buy them one by one and please yourself. The Chinese silk dome tweeters kept cymbals from getting spitty and the 3.5-inch paper midwoofers mustered a surprisingly well-proportioned and tuneful string bass.