Conventional circuit boards and their metallic tentacles may be on their way out—someday. Scientists at Oxford University have developed a new kind of sealed “metaboard” by embedding copper coils into a conductive layer. This meta- board can transfer data and power using magneto-inductive waves instead of wires.
Here's what this blog is not going to be: a diatribe about how much I hate CES and, more specifically, the city of Las Vegas. Oh, I'll give that desert hellhole one or two well-deserved kicks, but you're probably not interested in my self-indulgent whining, so I'll keep that part brief. A reader who has never attended CES, but has heard about it for years, would be more interested in what it's like to actually go, to be there, to have the experience. So I'll give you a taste of that instead. CES veterans will want to skip this blog entirely. This is for the newbies, OK?
The new Kindle Fire HD tablets have a big plus that’s in danger of being overlooked. And that’s Dolby Digital Plus. When Amazon’s literature boasts about “exclusive Dolby audio and dual stereo speakers for crisp, booming sound without distortion,” Dolby Digital Plus is what it’s talking about.
Audio Performance Video Performance Features Ergonomics Value
Price: $1,100 At A Glance: 125 x 7 watts D³ power • Brawny, assured bass • Network audio cornucopia
Someday I will be able to review a Class D receiver without mentioning this up-and-coming amplifier technology in the lead. That day hasn’t come yet and probably won’t in the next few years. But I can see it shimmering on the horizon.
Class D has been steadily infiltrating Pioneer’s upper-crust Elite line since 2008 and now accounts for five of the line’s seven models. With the SC-61, reviewed here, the latest version of the technology—which Pioneer calls D3—has come down in price to as little as $1,100. That’s a far cry from the $7,000 Pioneer charged for its first-ever Class D model five years ago.
CL-2 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value
CLS-10 Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value
Price: $2,888 At A Glance: 180-degree cylindrical tweeter • Stable, wide-open sound • Tilted sub driver
Shape is destiny for Anthony Gallo Acoustics. The company is best known for its spherical and cylindrical speaker enclosures, made of metal and tough as tanks. But the Classico Series is the first Gallo product to use a plain rectan-gular box—for consumers, the company says, who prefer a more traditional look. Though not as curvaceous as other Gallo lines, the Classico is still available in a beautiful Cherry veneer finish, along with the more staid Black Ash veneer of our review samples. Note that the speakers are sold only through the Gallo Website: roundsound.com. The more conventional construction and factory-direct approach make the Classico models among the most affordable Gallo speakers ever.
Amazon has added Compact Discs to an existing trade-in program that already embraces Blu-ray, DVD, games, books, and electronics. There are two categories: Like New, for unscratched discs with original packaging and artwork in mint condition; and Good, for playable discs with light scratches and other disc or packaging blemishes. Send your stuff to Amazon, with free shipping, and a virtual gift card will be credited to your account. Trade-in lucre might be anything from $1.40 for Adele’s 21 to $5.30 for the Special Edition of Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick 2 to $35 for the 13-disc Rolling Stones box set. Of course, some people like having physical media in their libraries, and others may want to keep their audio-codec options open for future reconversions. But if you really hate all that plastic—so much that you want it gone now—here’s your chance to get rid of it and get paid. Amazon will gladly let you consume the credit as new downloads. Search eligible items on amazon.com.
If you’re used to plugging your unencrypted basic-cable feed directly into your TV’s QAM tuner, you might want to sit down. We’ve got some bad news: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has caved in to decades of cable-industry lobbying and will now allow cable operators to encrypt basic-cable service—the bottom tier consisting mostly of broadcast channels—in digital cable systems. In-the-clear cable service, mandated 20 years ago by an act of Congress, is all but dead.
If you want your floorstanding speakers to have Bluetooth, the Crystal Matrix Tower does it with a small module that plugs into the back and a separate transmitter with 30-pin, USB, and mini jacks. Also interesting is the way the half-dozen tweeters are divided into two groups of three, each group aimed outward at a slightly different angle, to ensure wide dispersion. Pricing is $3000/pair.
Every CES is loaded with exhibits from hopefuls looking to make their mark. Many of these tales of aspiration and struggle are never told. Let us say up front that Taiwan-based oBravo does not yet sell its products in the United States. However, its AI-25P powered sat/sub set got our attention with its folded ribbon tweeter, which produced remarkable detail with violin, acoustic guitar, and other stringed instruments. The 2.1-channel system including speakers, sub, compact amp, and dock would sell for $2500. Note that the dock has the 30-pin Apple connector but a snap-in module adapts it to the new Lighting connector.
"Blue" and "Air" has become our notebook slang for products including both Bluetooth and AirPlay wireless capability. There are quite a few of them at this CES. HRT, a new company, features them in the Stage speakers, with analog amplification, preamp, and USB DAC built into a separate module. One-inch tweeters are treated fabric, 3.5-inch woofers are aluminum, and the system sounded fabulous with CD-resolution files of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (and we think it could have sounded even better with a 24-bit file). The price is $999 with Blue and Air or a hundred bucks less without—but why would you do that? Shipping in June.