Last week Sony put on its best April clothes and entertained the foreign press in Los Angeles. Consumer electronics scribes attended from the U.K, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, and likely others that I (with apologies) can’t recall. Only a few of local CE press were in attendance, including your humble reporter.
KEF R900 Speaker System Performance Build Quality Value
KEF R400b Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value
Price: $9,400 At A Glance: Sweet, clean highs • Big, generous soundstage • Flawless fit and finish
If you’ve been passionate about audio for more than a few years, or can name five loudspeaker companies with names that don’t rhyme with rose and begin with a B, you’ve certainly heard of KEF. In the late 1980s, KEF introduced a new concentric driver that placed the tweeter in the throat of the midrange cone. Dubbed Uni-Q, the design has been continually refined for over 20 years and remains the centerpiece of most KEF loudspeakers.
2D Performance 3D Performance Features Ergonomics Value
Price: $25,000 At A Glance: Stunning resolution • Superb color • Glorious 2D and 3D performance
With 4K-resolution Ultra HD the latest and greatest star in the consumer electronics galaxy, we ink- and pixel-stained wretches of the press were all champing at the bit to lay hands on one. But at a massive 84 inches diagonal, 216 pounds with its floor stand, priced high enough to put you in a nice new car as long as your tastes aren’t too posh, and still limited in availability, Sony’s new 4K flagship made the company understandably reluctant to ship review samples to all the usual suspects.
In my review of Samsung’s flagship UN75ES9000, 75-inch LCD-LED HDTV, I remark that potential buyers should beware of bad demos of this very expensive set ($9000). Such a demo could make it very difficult to justify the expense.
2D Performance 3D Performance Features Ergonomics Value
Price: $9,000 At A Glance: Superb resolution and color • Impressive blacks • State-of-the-art 3D
If last year was the year of thin in flat-screen HDTVs, 2013 promises to be the year of big. Seventy may well be the new fifty, and we’re not talking birthdays. While this year’s models are still remarkably thin, now your friends can ooh and ahh while viewing them from the front and not just the sides.
Panasonic and Sony have teamed up to produce OLED panels using a (presumably more productive and thus likely more economical) printing technique. If successful, the company's will share panels though go their own way on electronics. Should be interesting to watch. This 4K, 56-inch Panasonic OLED did look fabulous. Of the OLEDs on display at the show, only Sony's and Panasonic's were 4K.
We've all been wondering when Panasonic would make use of some of the Pioneer Kuro knowledge that Pioneer engineers brought with them when they went to work at Panasonic some three years ago whewn Pioneer left the TV business (Panasonic also reportedly licensed some Kuro technology). We won't know for certain until we get our hands on one of the new Panasonic ZT series sets when they come out in the spring (in 60- and 65-inch sizes. But in a dark room demonstration, the blacks looked considerably deeper than the blacks from last year's well-received VT series sets. There will be new sets in all of Panasonic's plasma lines, of course (and LCD sets as well), but its the ZT that has us champing at the bit. Prices are as yet unknown, but hopefully they won't be outrageously higher that the VT series (perhaps $1000 or so more?).
On the video side, CES is a flat screen HDTV-fest, not a projector show. Nor is home theater a common site at the audio-centric Venetian Hotel exhibits, dominated by expensive 2-channel audio. But I was delighted to come across at least one superb audio/video setup. The new Gray Wolf is the latest 3D LCOS projector from Wolf Cinema, and at $8000 the company's lowest price projector to date. It looked amazing--and amazingly bright on a 132-inch wide, 2.35:1 Screen Innovations Black Diamond 0.8 gain projection screen.
The program material I viewed included the latest Mission Impossible flick (from Wolf's collection) and scenes from Prometheus. The latter was one of the three discs I had brought to the show (which also included Thor and How to Train Your Dragon. I was surprised to see a bigger crowd in the room when the selections were finished than before--given the 2-channel-centric leanings of most of those who visit the exhibits at the Venetian. (All of my choices, by the way, were based primarily on their music and visuals, not their action.)
LG's BH9430PW all in one home theater system may be a bit (OK, more than a bit) less ambitious than some of the components we discuss in this report and review in the pages of Home Theater, but for many folks it's all they think they can afford (which is not always the case). It's said to be a 9.1-channel system, but I saw only 5.1 channels in the demo. The small speaker cones use Kevlar, a material long used in some very high-end speakers. B&W, for example, began using Kevlar for some of its drivers in the mid 1970s. I didn't get to hear the LG system; the demo began with a far too loud (for me and the system) crash, boom, bang action scene and I was out of there like a shot.
Amid enough high-end audio components at the Venetian Hotel (the CES venue for specialty audio) to wear down the sternest poker face when confronted with the price tag, the CWT 1000 from T+A Electroakustik (based in Germany, doncha know) produced a sound that almost might justify a per pair price sufficient to buy a nicely equipped Mercedes or BMW. It has six 120mm midranges and a 920mm long electrostatic tweeter, both in side-by-side line arrays, and four 8-inch woofers. There's also a larger CWT 2000 weighing 263 lbs.