One definition of high end is a product that caters to a high end clientele. That sent Meridian in search of "a speaker that doesn't look like a speaker." The result is the charmingly cone-shaped M6. In the tradition of a company that pioneered powered speakers before they became fashionable, it juices each woofer with 350 watts and each full-range driver (not tweeter) with another 125. Yet its wide off-axis response demonstrates good social skills. Shipping in late February for $9000/pair. Also at the Meridian booth was the second Sooloos iPad app, which takes a slicker and more graphic (that is, less text-based) approach than the original.
As Dynaudio's first wireless speaker, the Xeo stays right up to date with a significant CES 2012 trend. Getting that capability with the usual sweet Dynaudio sound will cost you $4500/pair for the floorstander or $2300/pair for the stand-mount. However, if you add additional pairs, you can reduce those speaker prices by the $350 cost of the transmitter/receiver kit. The signal is uncompressed, naturally.
THX's long-promised Media Director technology has finally found its way into products including two Sharp Elite LCD TV models and the Acurus ACT4 preamp-processor. Media Director automates the selection of video parameters for Blu-ray and DVD titles, saving the less tech-savvy consumer a giant pounding headache. This can be something as basic as selecting 2D or 3D mode or something more subtle. In the example somewhat fuzzily shown, under "Video Processing Flags," are two entries reading: "Video content is intentionally noisy." And: "Video content contains film grains" [sic]. It works not only with Media Director encoded content but also with regular content when the disc is played in a BD-Live enabled Blu-ray player which will go online to grab the data from the THX database. If you're not ready to ante up for a top-line TV for the kitchen, you might still get limited Media Director functionality in a non-Media Director product. It's great that this newbie-empowering technology is finally seeing implementation.
THX has been applying its grey cells to the power amplifier, as THX grey eminence Laurie Fincham explained. The prototype shown uses what he calls a Class ABC topology with newly tweaked rail-switching power supply and compact ceramic (as opposed to bulky electrolytic) capacitors, all run off a lithium iron phosphate battery (yes, iron, not ion). In the picture you see a super-skinny two-channel output stage; adding capacitors would make it only 25 percent larger. Anyway, the result is a powerful low-profile amp that runs cool and efficient, avoiding both the power piggery of Class A and the problematic performance of Class D. And yes, it sounded great with Sonus Faber speakers and Steely Dan's "Gaslighting Abbie," achieving both well controlled bass and a high degree of overall transparency. Why this, why now? Fincham points out that his team is liberated from the tyranny of the product development cycle, enabling them to take a longer view and to incorporate ideas from the entire history of audio going back to the 1920s but also including the latest tricks. For example, the type of battery used is relatively new to audio but has been deployed in things like power tools and electric bikes. The THX amp design has yet to be built into licensed product but current licensees are getting their first look at this show. Potential uses include everything from inexpensive compact products to BD-receivers to high-end multichannel amps.
Vegas is a brutal town and, like Stephen Mejias, we hate it. Among its few saving graces: Guests at a half-dozen elite hotels can travel to the convention center via monorail. It almost makes up for the obnoxious mini-bar fridge policy at one stop on the monorail, Harrah's: If you purchase your own drinks and leave them to chill, the management will confiscate them. A label inside the mini-bar fridge says so. Sure enough: it happened. Thanks Harrah's. Let us return the favor.
The Atlantic Technology exhibit at the Venetian featured the first 5.0-channel demo of the smaller H-PAS speaker. We hope to atone for this awful picture of of it with a quasi-review in our print mag. What depraved impulse moved us to go gallivanting off to Vegas when this product was sitting in our bedroom? H-PAS uses a variety of construction techniques to produce deep, true bass without resorting to a sub. While this demo was less than ideal, we could still hear an ideally proportioned rhythm section with precisely pitched bass guitar tones and good impact from the drums. Closing our eyes actually made it sound better: Once we were freed from the tyranny of visually reinforced preconceptions, our ears told us this was the good stuff. Incidentally, the speaker will be sold in single units, so if you want five or seven of them, no sweat.
As reported by our colleague
Darryl Wilkinson, the Klipsch press conference mentioned the G-17 Air compact system, whose drivers and flat enclosure hail from the new Gallery line, and the ginormous one-piece Console, the latter to be produced in Klipsch's hometown of Hope, Arkansas. But the latter was not shown at the time, so here it is. Interesting, the bleeding-edge Palladium and other higher-end Klipsch lines are moving their manufacturing from China back to Arkansas due to higher costs in the former. This isn't a knock against the Chinese but we can't help feeling pleased that more Klipsch speakers are going to be made in America.
Not much has emerged from the Denmark-born Jamo speaker brand since its acquisition by the Klipsch Group, now itself acquired by Audiovox. But that's changing with a bevy of new Jamo products including the MS25 satellite speaker shown here. What a civilian might identify as a tweeter firing into a spoon is actually Jamo's implementation of OmniPolar technology acquired along with Mirage. This new design was reshaped by authentic Danish designers. There will be no new products labeled Mirage, bringing an end to the historic Canadian speaker brand. The product development guy who briefed us punctuated his presentation by saying "Mirage is a brand, OmniPolar is a technology"—a technology living on under another banner.
The first development project to follow the death of the late, great Jim Thiel is the CS1.7, which will replace the decade-old CS1.6 as the company's entry-level floorstanding speaker. Its aluminum drivers include a one-inch tweeter and a 6.5-inch woofer with the familiar vibration-controlling star diaphragm. A CS7.3 flagship tower will follow eventually. Given Thiel's traditionally long and pensive development philosophy, it's anyone's guess when the larger speaker will arrive, but the smaller one is very tentatively slated for the first quarter of this year at around $5000-5500.