[Community of A/V Enthusiasts]
January 8, 2011 - Day 3 of CES
My last day at CES started with a breakfast hosted by McIntosh. This is the MC452 quad balanced two channel power amplifier. It is rated at 450 watts per channel. The MC452 has integrated handles on the front to help with lifting this beauty.
Another McIntosh innovation on the MC452 is the speaker binding posts on the rear of the amplifier. When unscrewing the top of the binding post, the cylinder in the center does not move. It is spring loaded to help maintain the proper tension on your speaker wire or cable termination. The connectors are easily the nicest I've seen on an amplifier. McIntosh has filed a patent on the innovation and is planning on keeping these gems for themselves.
This is the MC601 600 watt quad balanced two channel amplifier.
This is the MR87 international AM/FM tuner. Quickly spinning the tuning knob moves the channel indicator across the display. Much to my surprise, instead of stopping at the right hand side, it seamlessly moved back to the left and continued on its way with no hesitation. The MR88 US version offers XM and HD radio as well.
If you look carefully at this new product, you will notice that it is actually a McIntosh clock with the two meters indicating hours and minutes respectively. When the right hand meter hits 60, it moves back to zero and starts its journey once again.
This is a prototype of the McIntosh iSystem. It is designed to be an entry level product in the McIntosh lineup and offer exceptional audio performance from your favorite Apple iProduct. In this demo, an iPad is being used.
You may notice that the iPad is not oriented correctly to align with its interface connector. The reason for that is that there is no connection on the top of the iSystem. There is just a simple stand and tray for your device. McIntosh provides a USB jack on the back of the iSystem so you can simply plug in your device's cable and not worry about connection issues.
The back of the iSystem. Those are bass ports on each side. RCA and balanced interconnects are provided for when you want to expand your system.
If you are wondering where the trademark McIntosh meters are on the iSystem, you have to look no further than the iPod and iPad apps that McIntosh has created. The meters are now created in software! Very cool.
One of the great things about CES is that you can see vendors from all over the world. I stopped in at Burmester to have a look at their display. Burmester is a German company that engineers luxury audio equipment that is installed in yachts and high end vehicles such as the Porche Cayenne and Panamera. The equipment in the room was beautiful and sounded fabulous. The system on display costs $300K. Burmester builds all the components themselves except for the turntable. Systems can run over $1 million dollars.
My next stop was Martin Logan to see what was new for 2011. These three speakers from left to right are the ElectroMotion ESL, Theos, and the Summit XJR. The Summit is still in prototype and should be available later this year. The Theos and ElectroMotion ESL are available now. Price is expected to be $2K, $5K, and $10K respectively.
I headed back over to the convention center and to the adjacent Renaissance hotel to talk with Marantz and Denon. Both of them were showcasing their support for Apple AirPlay. AirPlay allows a user of an iPhone, iPad or iPod to directly stream content from the device to an AirPlay enabled media server, receiver or processor. Here's what the interface looks like on the iPad. By simply selecting an icon, the user is presented with a list of available AirPlay output locations. Simply select the device and music starts to play in that location. Multiple output devices can be selected at the same time so you can play music in your living room or den/bedroom simultaneously. It was great to see Apple and non-Apple products playing together so nicely.
The Marantz PM5004 integrated amplifier and the CD5004 CD player.
Denon was in the presidential suite at the Renaissance.
Boston Acoustics was also in the Denon suite. They were showing a couple of creative sound bar solutions for users with flat panel displays. The solutions offered wireless subwoofers, audio integration via the display's TosLink output, and the ability to learn the TV's IR volume commands so the average user can operate the TV and the sound bar via just the TV remote. The models were the TVee Model 25 and 30. The sound on the Harry Potter demo was excellent.
Final thoughts on CES 2011
What struck me the most about CES was the sheer magnitude of it all. I have been to Las Vegas many times for conventions in the past, but nothing compared to CES 2011. The enormous international crowds combined with thousands of exhibitors and locations spread throughout the city made it an event I will not soon forget. From the perspective of products, CES is overwhelming with its diversity. There were exhibitors covering home electronics, phones, appliances, automotive, computer hardware, networking, etc. The list was endless and it would be impossible for anyone to take all of it in. The crowd at CES was not just spending time looking at new products. There were countless people with "Buyer" tags on their show badges talking to exhibitors and discussing business. If the crowds were any indication, this should be a good year for the economy. Time will tell if all those conversations ultimately turn into real orders.
From the video perspective, it was all about 3D. The HDTVs were larger, thinner and better looking than ever and they all offered 3D. If you are in the market for a new HDTV, then you have lots of great options to choose from. If you already have an HDTV, then it is probably unlikely that you will run out and discard your investment just for the 3D experience in your living room. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, the industry is all about 3D right now and the manufacturers and Hollywood are spending countless millions to get our attention and our money. It will ultimately be up to the consumer to decide.
From the audio perspective, I was impressed to see the speaker innovation. Manufacturers like Paradigm, GoldenEar Technology, Atlantic Technology, Martin Logan and PSB Speakers were showing off a wide range of speaker technology and systems that continue to enhance how we listen to music. It was great to see companies like McIntosh and Paradigm introducing more reasonably priced audio products so a younger audience can start appreciating high fidelity. I also enjoyed seeing all the Apple iPod and iPad devices being used in many of the demonstrations as control devices for the audio equipment.
I really enjoyed my first CES and I hope you liked the coverage.
January 7, 2011 - Day 2 of CES
Day 2 began with a 9:00 AM meeting at the Bellagio Hotel. Sounds simple enough right? Get in a taxi at the Luxor and show up at the hotel for a 9:00 AM meeting. There were no taxis to be found! We tried the monorail at the MGM only to find an incredible line just waiting to get tickets. We retraced our steps and ended up walking all the way down the strip to the Bellagio. Sightseeing was at least a perk at this point not to mention the exercise.
New York New York and a Secrets photographer.
We finally arrived at the Bellagio for a very late meeting with Olive Media Inc. Olive was setup in a beautiful suite in the Bellagio which was easily the nicest venue that I visited during CES. It was so nice to experience peace and quiet during a demonstration. Olive is a manufacturer of media servers and they have three models in their server lineup:
What surprised me the most upon first glance was just how much bigger they appear in person compared to the pictures on the Olive web site. The Olive 06HD is their latest creation and boasts a substantial audiophile balanced output stage as well as a very large touch screen.
Here's a shot of the internal components in the 06HD:
The servers offer a rich interface that allow you to interact with your media library, and they offer advanced features such as album art sorting, and advanced genre searching that I have not seen in any other solution. They also offer full control from your favorite iPod or iPad device. The Olive servers also support 24 bit high resolution HD audio tracks so you can enjoy the finest recording quality that is available. I have admired the Olive media servers for some time, and hearing the 06HD in person was really a very enjoyable experience. The sound and detail was fantastic and the passion that Olive demonstrated for their products and for music was exceptional.
We had to say goodbye to the beautiful Bellagio and its lake and continue our walking adventure to the Venetian.
After arriving at the Venetian and waiting over 15 minutes for an elevator to the 29th floor, Jim Milton and I visited with Carey Audio Design which is based in Apex, North Carolina and makes a wide variety of high end audio and video products. On display was the Xciter series Digital to Analog USB convertor (on the top) as well as the new MS-1 media server (on the bottom). The MS-1 is Carey Audio Design's first media server and has support for FLAC, internet radio, 24/96 kHz playback over USB as well as full control from an iPad/iPod/iPhone app.
The SLI-80 is an integrated tube amplifier and is just a beautiful piece of equipment. The amplifier can be custom painted. See Jim Milton's blog for a better picture of the gorgeous blue on this piece.
Carey Audio Design was also showing off their new Cinema 12 series processor. The Cinema 12 supports all the latest digital formats, the latest HDMI 1.4, and boasts a fully balanced design internally.
New this year are the model 200.2, 7.125 and 7.250 amplifiers which are 200 watt x 2, 125 watt x 7 and 250 watt x 7 respectively.
On display was the new CD 303T SACD Professional Version vacuum tube/solid state selectable SACD player. The player can upsample to 768 kHz and allows for tube exchange via a removable cover.
Over at the Paradigm suite, I found a Signature Sub 1 at the door as well as one of the performance graphs from John Johnson's review.
The AVM 50v and the MCA series amplifier.
I was able to get a preview of the MRX 700 and the Millenia One speakers. Simply fantastic sums it up quite nicely. You have to appreciate that this demo managed to completely take me out of CES mode and allowed me to just sit back and enjoy some music and a clip of Prince of Persia for a few minutes. I was blown away at how good the Millenia One speakers sounded. They sound so much larger than their physical size. The MRX 700 ARC processing was definitely helping to tame the problems in this less than ideal hotel room environment.
Paradigm was also introducing their new Paradigm Shift division. Paradigm Shift will be bringing powered speakers, earbuds, headphones, and gaming headsets to the market. With a focus on a younger audience, the Paradigm Shift products will introduce users to Paradigm products and Paradigm Shift will be available for order direct from Paradigm and other suppliers via the internet.
The Active Atom powered speaker can be purchased individually or as a pair and even accepts an Airport Express so you can wirelessly transmit your favorite iTunes music from your computer.
I stopped by GoldenEar Technology to see the latest creations from Sandy Gross. Sandy was the co-founder of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology, and from the sound of the Triton Two speakers, he has another success on his hands.
The Triton Two speakers use a High Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter which moves air by squeezing it with a diaphragm rather than pushing the air like a conventional tweeter. Here's a close-up of the driver.
After lunch, Jim Milton and I regrouped and headed off to the convention center. To say that it was crowded would be an understatement.
There were enormous banners proclaiming enormous 92" displays.
Here's the Mitsubishi 92" DLP television shown against a 46" display size.
Do you remember that 75" display from my CES Press Day coverage?
Do you remember the photos of the show still being constructed less than 24 hours prior to opening? They were now bustling with people and lots of noise.
Here's Jim showing off the Samsung SSG-3700CR 3D glasses. These glasses won a "Best of Innovation" award at the show. They were easily the most comfortable and lightweight active glasses I have tried to date. The batteries were in the ear pieces and they really felt like sports glasses.
The new Samsung display design with the super thin bezel. These panels were gorgeous.
More amazingly thin displays from Sony.
The Tron car. Talk about a nightmare to keep clean and scratch free.
Here's a great shot of the theater screen at the Sony booth.
Camera lens anyone?
Here's the Oppo BDP-95 locked under glass at the Marvell booth. Jim and I did our best to get some good shots through all those reflections. Nothing like seeing it in the wild.
CES offers just about everything. Cell phone cases for example.
Really tiny USB sticks surrounding a penny. Just think how many of these we can lose.
Lots of USB 3.0 and related products.
Musicians were in heaven at Gibson guitar.
The Cinenova 7 seven channel amplifier provides 150/250/300 watts x 7 at 8/4/2 ohms respectively.
The iQuake speakers.
The Cinenova Grande 5 channel amplifier.
The couch potato subwoofer.
The HoLeeS 15" competition subwoofer.
We started the day with travel challenges, so it followed that we should end the day the same way. The bus lines.
We don't get a regular tour bus. We get the Harry Potter style open-air sightseeing version.
Everyone discussed how it felt warm based on what city they lived in. The guy from Minnesota won.
It was cold but we were so happy to be heading for the hotel.
That's it for my day two coverage.
January 6, 2011 - Day 1 of CES
Day 1 at the Venetian began with the highly anticipated NuForce edition of the Oppo BDP-93. NuForce Vice President Casey Ng was very proud to show me the new analog output board that NuForce has created for the BDP-93NE.
The board is a complete replacement for the existing analog output stage in the standard BDP-93. Here's another shot with a lot more fingerprints.
The NuForce BDP-93NE was paired with a pair of Mark & Daniel Fantasia-S speakers. The sound from the demo was simply fantastic. I can just imagine what this would have been like in a proper listening environment without the hotel environment. In case you are wondering, the Fantasia-S speakers have a reference price of $13,800 for the pair.
The Thiel SCS4T speakers were on display in a very comfortable and plant filled demo room. They sounded great and the room was a much appreciated break from the normal convention room decor.
Jones Audio was showcasing their 300W mono-block amplifiers. The pair sells for approximately $25K.
Many of the vendors were exhibiting in private suites in the Venetian. Imagine getting off of an elevator and finding three long hallways with each room on the floor hosting a different vendor. Now imagine that same thing on multiple floors in the hotel and you get an idea of CES at the Venetian. This is definitely an international show and you find vendors from all over the world. Here's an example of such a suite with products from Revolver Audio in the UK. These speakers are Revolver Audio's Cygnus series and run $16,000 for the pair.
Here's a look at Sonneteer's Morpheus music center. The Morpheus has a beautiful design and supports playing music from the internet, your home network, and numerous other sources.
Theta Digital was showing off the Theta Casablanca III HDprocessor as well as a prototype of a 7 channel amplifier. Theta is offering a trade-in program for existing owners of the Theta Casablanca I and II series processors. This program simplifies an otherwise complicated upgrade process and offers owner's a chance to upgrade to Theta's latest technology.
This really cool looking device is the Cantata music center which comes from Resolution Audio. The Cantata chassis is made from a solid block of aluminum. The device houses a slot-loading compact disc drive and supports USB and network playback. The Cantata also supports integration of your iTunes library.
Here's an inside look at the Cantata.
Here's a look at Rogue Audio's tube power amplifier. Rogue Audio was demonstrating an entire two-channel solution including Rogue Audio Cronos Magnum amplifier, Magnepan 1.7 loudspeakers, SOTA Comet turntable, Soundsmith Boheme cartridge, and JPS labs cables for $6,750.
Onkyo was showcasing their reference series two channel audio gear.
The Onkyo reference series equipment was very well finished with excellent case construction.
Here's an exploded view of the inside of the Onkyo TX-NR5007 receiver. What an incredible array of electronics and brands that goes into one of these devices.
Onkyo was also demonstrating DTS NEO:X processing. This new format from DTS introduces front width and height speakers for a more immersive experience. The processing will be available on Onkyo receivers later this year.
The last item of the day was a demonstration of the Atlantic Technology AT-1 loudspeakers. The AT-1 utilizes a patent-pending H-PAS bass system (Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System) which delivered exceptional bass response in our demonstration. The AT-1 are modestly sized speakers and yet the bass response was so palpable that you might suspect that a subwoofer was hiding behind the curtain. The midrange was excellent and it was a real pleasure to not only hear a great pair of speakers, but to also appreciate that this is a technology advancement that will be making its way into other products through the licensing of the H-PAS technology. We are definitely going to be asking for a pair of AT-1 speakers for review.
That's it for my day one coverage at the Venetian.
January 5, 2011 - CES Press Day
After a long day of travel, I finally arrived in Las Vegas for my first CES. Today was CES Press day which featured press conferences from many of the major vendors such as Samsung, Panasonic and Sony just to name a few.
Being my first CES, I was looking forward to seeing some of these marketing presentations to hear the announcements first hand and just to enjoy the show. Thanks to travel delays, I had already missed out on the Sharp and Samsung press conferences.I finally arrived at the Venetian and was simply amazed at the amount of press in the conference center.
The press room was already packed with reporters and bloggers.
Many people were just finding comfortable spaces in the halls to work.
I picked up my press credentials and was off to the Panasonic press conference at 3:00 pm or so I thought. This was the line to get into the room.
I was about 20 people away from getting in the door when the Venetian staff closed the doors due to reaching the maximum allowed room capacity. This was really disappointing since there were so many people who were turned away.
I decided a change of plans was in order so I headed down to the Las Vegas Convention Center determined to not be shut out of the Sony press conference.
I was thankful that the frenzied crowd of the Venetian hadn’t quite made it to the convention center yet. That will happen tomorrow. This wasn’t to say that the convention center didn’t have its own challenges. You might think that all the booths would be ready to go considering this is the largest convention of its kind in Vegas and it starts Thursday morning. At 4:00 PM on Wednesday, this gives you just a sense of how much work had yet to take place to make CES a reality.
If I could only get this 75 inch display back on the plane!
I was successful in getting to the Sony press conference and was rewarded by a very professional marketing presentation and quite a show. The Sony booth was packed with hundreds of press professionals. A large portion of the Sony booth had been arranged as an auditorium facing an enormous screen.
Sony then presented a collection of 3D graphics, landscapes, sporting events, city skylines, concert shots of Shakira and Avril Lavigne, and a preview of the Green Hornet.
Once the intro was completed, the back wall opened and a car rotated onto the stage.
The car was from the Green Hornet movie and Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, and Sir Howard Stringer, the Chairman, CEO, and President of Sony Corporation of America, stepped out of the vehicle. Sir Howard left his 3D glasses on for the first part of his speech and seemed a bit like Jack Nicholson with his trademark sunglasses.
Sony’s message was heavily weighted on 3D. They highlighted a new marketing campaign simply called “Sony - TV Redefined”. They discussed numerous products with the intended goal of allowing a user to get personal with 3D. For example, use a 3D camera to film your child’s soccer game and then easily share that content with family and friends. They also highlighted the impact of 3D on gaming.
Sony also discussed a new cable channel called 3net which promises to bring 3D content to viewers on a continuous basis. They also discussed another online streaming service called Qriocity (pronounced curiosity), which has already launched in Europe and the US.
The press conference wrapped up with a Cirque de Soleil performance from the cast of Viva Elvis which definitely got the crowd's attention.
Our team coverage of the 2011 International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas starts tomorrow.
This is my first time at CES and I will be focusing on the vendors exhibiting at the Venetian. Check back for pictures and updates throughout the week.