I'm a bit reluctant to say this, but my experience with Boston Acoustics goes back a long way – to the days when the Boston Acoustics A40 and A70 speakers were the giants of the bookshelf speaker world. In fact, most of the Boston A-series speakers back then were highly regarded when it came to sound quality. Build quality was so-so but decent for late-1980s vinyl-wrap box cabinets. Just about any store that carried them sold tons of Boston Acoustics' bookshelf and floorstanding speakers, and they were proud to do it, too.
There are two (actually three depending on how you look at it, but who's counting?) major benefits to owning a front-projection HDTV. The size of the image, ranging from 60 to 120 inches in most home theater systems, makes movie watching at home almost as enjoyable as - and, in some cases, better than - what you'd see at the local multiplex. When it comes to images under 80 inches, of course, you can always rely on a rear-projection HDTV for the center of your home theater. But that's where a front-projection television has its second advantage. Even with the slimmest of the current rear-projection television designs, there's still the issue of the amount of physical space in the room that's taken up. While the amount of actual space is fairly small, the emotional space is still pretty high. ("You're not putting that in my living room!") With a paper-thin screen hanging on the wall or descending from the ceiling plus a small projection unit located across the room, the physical and emotional space used is negligible. What about plasma or LCD flat-panel HDTVs? When it comes to 60-inch or larger televisions, front-projection HDTVs can be purchased and installed for much less than an equivalently sized flat-panel - and, in many cases, you'll enjoy a better quality image.
High-end speaker maker Burmester, US introduced a trio of slim speakers at CEDIA. All three speakers – the B30, B25, and B20 – are three-way, full-range, floorstanding models. Each uses a new air motion transformer (with a frequency range of 2,700 – 45,000 Hz) that's mounted in a small horn. This high-frequency driver design is said to be highly efficient and highly dynamic. The speakers also share a similarly engineered side-firing oval woofer with a powerful Ferrite magnet system. The oval shape helps maximize the cone's surface area while making it possible to construct a narrow speaker cabinet.
They say you can't please all of the people all of the time, but Sony's newest DVD burner aims to do just that. Sony's new DVDirect (which Sony asks that you pronounce as "DVD Direct" even though they left out a "D" and a space) is "the first in the world capable of stand-alone, real-time DVD recording, as well as computer-attached burning." As such, Sony hopes it will appeal to those camcorder owners with poor or negligible computer skills who still want to be able to archive precious (and typically quite boring) family memories on DVD while at the same time fulfilling the needs of more computer-savvy members of the household.
Bucking the trend of “smaller is better”, HP brought what’s probably the largest Ultrabook to CES. I know personal health is a big deal at CES this year, with companies such as Omnimount promoting easy ways of making changes to our largely sedentary lifestyles through the use of the company’s full-motion TV mounts and fitness-promoting, adjustable workstations. But maybe the JustStand.org “Wellness Uprising” has gone a little too far. Typing up a 200-word blog post with your feet will definitely give you a good workout, but getting the ultra-Ultrabook to fit under your seat on the airplane is going to be much harder. And I, for one, certainly don’t want to have to lug around the Smart Car-sized power supply…
RealNetworks' Rhapsody music service keeps finding new partners to jam with. Earlier this month, Sonos announced a software update to their multi-room digital music system that allows users to access Rhapsody's immense library of songs without requiring a computer. Now the behemoth big box retailer Best Buy is giving the free world access to the Best Buy Digital Music Store - a an on-line purchasing playhouse powered by the Rhapsody 4.0 service.
Wireless transmission of data may look like the wave of the future, but it's a lot further along in the computer world than in the traditional AV environment. Yes, manufacturers are undoubtedly burning the midnight oil in hopes of becoming the first to develop a wireless standard for high quality transmission of audio and video programming inside the home. But for now, good old hard wiring is the only way to go.
Price: $699 At A Glance: DVD-Audio and SACD playback • Pure audio mode • Not a Blu-ray 3D player • Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio Decoding•
Fastest Drawer in the West?
A quick Internet search can easily turn up a Blu-ray player or two for sale at close to $100—and plenty of decent-performing ones for less than $200. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a refurbished player for under a hundred bucks. The great thing about the situation for consumers is that there are plenty of goodperforming, affordable Blu-ray players out there—but that means any upscale manufacturer has its work cut out for it to distinguish itself from the herd. So if a manufacturer is going to be bold enough to come out with a Bluray player for $699 or so, that machine had better be top notch.
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: Second- and third-zone A-BUS keypad outputs with video • Extra channels to biamp front speakers • Audio Split mode • Optional iPod dock
Simpler Sounds Better
I’m not sure I qualify as an Anglophile, but I do like most things British—except for spotted dick. Even after you know that it’s just steamed suet pudding, it still doesn’t sound any better. So I expected that I’d feel a continually growing affinity for the new Azur 650R AVR from Cambridge Audio (that’s the “other” Cambridge for you Massachusetters). Since it began in 1968, the company has made a well-respected, high-fidelity name for itself. It even built the world’s first two-box CD player. After a tough time in the mid-’80s, Cambridge Audio was acquired by Audio Partnership, which currently owns a number of other venerable U.K. brands. As I hear them tell it, this economy of scale is a good thing for Cambridge Audio—and something that most higher-end companies don’t normally enjoy—because such a spread of brands lets the parent company employ an unusually high percentage of engineers on their staff (almost 40 percent). They happily tell the fact as if it guarantees them success and good cheer. Or at least good gear. I certainly expected it to be that way. I was initially impressed by the specs and build quality, so it surprised me when I didn’t keep that warm and fuzzy-logic feeling after I first set up the Azur 650R. In fact, I began to think that maybe Audio Partnership had hired too many engineers.
Cambridge Audio’s newest 3D compatible BD player, the Azur 751BD, features an upgraded audio section, a custom transport, dual configurable HDMI outputs, and both 7.1 analog and dedicated stereo analog outputs. Coming in March, the 751BD will sell for $1,199.