One well-attended seminar on Friday (presented once only) covered the listening room and its effect on the system. Chaired by Richard Bird of Rives Audio, it offered advice from four experts on room design and acoustic treatment. While much of the information will be old news to long-time audiophiles, the advice presented new listeners with a heads-up on the importance of the room.
Focal's XS 2.1 system is designed to match the look of the latest iMac computer, right down to the metal trim. There is an iPOD dock on one of the satellite bases and a small, separate sub. $749 for the package shown, including the sub (not visible) but excluding the iMac!
3D was a big story at CES. Or at least with several manufacturers, apparently looking for the Next Big Thing. Most of the demos were dismal. The best was from Panasonic. It used shuttered glasses and claimed full HD resolution. More on Panasonic's 3D initiative near the bottom of this blog file (it was posted on the first day). Even Panasonic's however, conducted on their big 103" plasma, suffered from motion lag, uncharacteristic of that form of display, on some of the clips. Much of the material, however, looked stunning.
Sonus faber's new Cremona M floor-standing speaker (about $12,000/pr) was on static display, but it was obvious that it maintains that Italian manufacturer's reputation for elegant design. It is said to closely mirror the sonics of the more expensive Cremona Elipsa ($20,000/pr), which seriously impressed this writer at last January's CES. A new Cremona center channel is in the works, as well, though it will not be available until some time in 2008.
Harman announced and demonstrated a new audio processing format called QuantumLogic. Extremely complex, what it offers, on both the recording and playback end, is the ability to manipulate the signal in unprecedented ways. For example, it can isolate a solo singer, or just the orchestra, or even just the ambience, and process and move it around in the sound field in almost any way the user (or the recording engineer) desires. The extraction process is nearly total. The process provides extreme flexibility for enhancing (or, it must be said, compromising) the sound, again either on recording or playback. You'll be hearing a lot more about it both here and elsewhere in the future.
The first product to include QuantumLogic will be Lexicon's new MP-20 Media Processor. It has also been implemented in a Ferrari which was on display on the show floor, but that's hardly a mass market item (nor is the five-figure processor!).
Theta's Casablanca III pre-pro, one of the longest-running (though often-updated) pre-pros ion the home theater market, will soon be updated once more with full decoding for all the new high resolution audio formats over HDMI. Casablanca owners rejoice.
LCD televisions with LED backlighting were all over the show (but c'mon Toshiba and others, they are LCD TVs with a new form of backlighting, NOT LED TVs), and Toshiba's 670 series with local dimming are among the best. We know, because you'll see a review of one in our November 2009 issue.
The untimely passing last summer of Jim Thiel, the heart and soul of Thiel Audio, was a jolt to entire high-end audio industry. But he left the company in good hands, as its big demo room at CES amply proved. The Thiel CS3.7s ($12,900/pair) were clean, crisp, but never bright unless the program source made them so, it was one of the best audio demos I've yet heard. The front end of the system, and the amps, were from Bryston. Thiel subwoofers fleshed out the bottom below 30Hz. At some point in the future we can expect a matching center channel for this system; according to Thiel reps, Jim left detailed designs for future projects, and a center appropriate for use with the CS3.7 was one of them.