The transition from analog to digital TV opened our eyes to a world of vivid images that we now take for granted, but technology marches on, with the promise of something bigger and better always just around the corner. As consumer electronics companies lay the groundwork for a 4K television/video format that delivers four times the resolution of regular HDTV and prepare to roll out the first 4K TVs, an 8K format is already on the horizon.
Yes, this seductively curved work of art is a speaker. And, yes, it is one of the most unusual (and stylish) speakers you will come across. Born out of a passion for modern architecture and industrial design and inspired by the work of iconic designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Rithm is the handiwork of aeronautical-engineer-turned-speaker-designer Paul Schenkel, who set out to create an audiophile speaker that would be appreciated as much for its artisanship as for its sound.
Simple, modern, elegant—the PS1 from Cue Acoustics is definitely not your father’s speaker. Think of it as a forward-looking system for discriminating listeners who crave a simple setup that’s free of wires, hulking speakers, and an ugly stack of components (like the ones collecting dust in the back of your den). Promising big sound and a vivid soundstage, the PS1 system is extremely compact and provides everything you need to pump up the volume except an audio source: a pair of speakers, each with its own built-in 150-watt digital amplifier/processor, and a wireless transmitter that streams uncompressed audio from your TV, PC, smartphone, tablet, you-name-it, to wherever you decide to put the speakers (which, by the way, must be plugged into an AC outlet). Want to grab your tablet and play impromptu DJ at a party? As long as the tablet supports the DLNA connection standard, you can stream audio wirelessly to the PS1’s iPhone-size transmitter, which runs it through a signal processor and sends it to the speakers; otherwise, you can go old school and plug a cable into the transmitter’s digital (optical S/PDIF) or analog (3.5mm stereo) input.
Price: $129 At a Glance: Turns any HDTV into a videophone • Easy-to-use onscreen interface • Simple set-up—usually
Don’t be fooled by the name and calligraphic logo. You won’t find this Biscotti at Starbucks or the local pastry shop, but it does pop up on Amazon.com when you search “Biscotti TV Phone” (“Biscotti” alone leads you to an excellent selection of the scrumptious Italian biscuits). Although video chatting on computers has been around for years, business-style video conferencing on a big screen is still rare among everyday consumers—something Biscotti Inc. hopes to change with its tiny Biscotti-shaped TV phone.
Stunning or strange? One of these words is likely to come to mind when you first lay eyes on the 101 X-treme speaker system, the flagship of MBL’s Reference Line. And what a system it is, handmade to order in Germany and comprising a pair of approximately 6-foot-tall towers, each of which supports two utterly unconventional driver arrays in an open frame, and two subwoofer towers, each comprised of six 12-inch woofers, a crossover, and an amplifier broken into three ported birch and aluminum boxes that can be stacked or laid side by side as needed. (No lows left behind.)
The road to A/V perfection is littered with formats and products that didn’t make it for one reason or another. Some were technically sound but ahead of their time or poorly marketed. Some were victims of bad timing, unforeseen circumstances, or uninspired design. Others were just plain curious in a “what the heck were they thinking?” kind of way. And then there are the tweak formats and technologies—embraced by enthusiasts and ignored by the masses—that refuse to go away. Here, we remember A/V formats, products, and technologies that are gone but (mostly) not forgotten.
Home theater is in your blood. You crave the latest and greatest gear and are constantly thinking about your next upgrade. You can’t resist tinkering. Impossible. You’re regularly chastised by family members for monopolizing the remote, ready to tweak the sound or picture at any moment—and get reprimanded often for doing so just as the opening credits start to roll. Glaringly bright images, lopsided sound, flabby bass—these are things that make you cringe. There’s no getting around it: You’re hard core, and no one is going to stop you from dreaming about quitting your day job to design and build insane home theaters.