Monitor Audio's SF3 in-wall ($399/each) uses a dyed sublimation process -- not Freudian as far as we can tell -- to allow reproduction of any high-res image on the grille, so it hardly looks like a speaker. Monitor also showed a couple of biamped idecks and new trimless in-walls with rounded corners reminiscent of Apple products.
Wharfedale's new Jade series has a Crystal AM enclosure. That is a composite of wood fiber and polymer made in multiple layers of microscopic thickness and arranged to prevent the backwave of the drivers from polluting their output. The aluminum tweeter has an oversized surround to defeat ringing and the woofer is a weave of glass and carbon fiber. There are two towers, two monitors, two centers, and a surround at prices ranging from $4199 for the biggest towr to $1199 for the smaller stand-mount.
USB is something previously unseen on a Rotel receiver or pre-pro. But there is one on the front panel of the RSP-1572 pre-pro, and yes, it's iDevice compatible. The product ships in October for $2199. The next big thing from Rotel will be a second receiver using Class D amplification, RSX-1562, but it wasn't on display.
A whirlwind tour of the Paradigm booth: The Monitor 7 line is the latest version of a killer value series. It has fewer SKUs, and one of them (the Mini Monitor, $279/each) will soon be reviewed in our pages. The Paradigm Cinema Series has gotten its first rethink in 10 years. For a 5.1-channel treatment, mate the Cinema 100CT sat/sub set ($1249, pictured) with the MilleniaSub ($1399). The Millenia LP updates the flat speaker line with 4.5-inch woofers and one-inch tweeters, in various configurations, in 1.75-inch-deep enclosures.
Totem Acoustic, you knocked our socks off. Now give them back. Technically, the Element Series was announced at CES and it is against our code of honor to cover anything but new-for-this-show stuff. However, the center speaker is new, so we've wiggled out. It's called the Wood ($4500/each) and it will be joined by the Water sub ($5500) at a time yet unspecified. The existing models include two towers and a monitor. Powered by Arcam electronics, the big Metal tower ($16,000/pair) provided the best sound we've heard at the show so far, with effortlessly natural and well imaged vocals that flourished despite noise from the show floor.
Paul Barton, the speaker-designing eminence of PSB, has tried his hand at headphones. The M4U 2 ($400) can function in active or passive modes. Active gets you more gain but passive is handy when the battery runs out. Cushions are asymmetrical to follow the form of the human ear. Cord can be plugged in either side. A control cord will add numerous features including the ability to skip songs. The product may surface in time for the holiday season.
To dramatize the efficiency of its two Class D receiver models, Pioneer hooked up one of them to a meter that monitored power consumption in real time as compared to a Class AB model. At left is the Class D SC-57. At right is the Class AB VSX-1021-K. Though rated for more watts, the SC-57 sucks up less power. Pioneer also showed three new Blu-ray players ranging from $199-399 and made a point of saying they are built to last, unlike all too frequently disposable competitors.
Carver's assets have been bought from their previous owner by the Carver Holding Group and many of the company's world-beating products will be reintroduced in early 2012. That will include amps of seven, five, and two channels, not to mention mono-blocks. What caught our eye was a new product, the CSB-601 2.1-channel soundbar. In development is a surround pre-pro. Welcome back.
James Loudspeaker caught our eye with more than one fascinating product. The SPL-618 three-channel soundbar ($6000) features an unusual tweeter array, as you can see. It reminded us of the petals of a flower. Each quartet of tweeters is angled inward -- not with the intention of creating a sweet spot, but to provide good dispersion via summing. The 2.5-inch-deep bar can be made in various widths.