[Community of A/V Enthusiasts]
CEDIA attendance correlates with the housing market. CEDIA has a modest increase in non-exhibitor attendance and 450 exhibitors are nods to the stabilized prospects of housing. Some have said the show floor looked less full this year. A group of eleven audio companies moved this year to adjacent hotels, leaving more elbow room for the exhibitors on the main convention floor.
All CEDIA off sites sound rooms were on the 1st and 2nd floors of the hotels connected directly to the convention center. Contrast this to CES which requires a 30 minute bus ride from the convention center to the sound rooms in the Venetian. This trip is followed by long waits for elevators leaving you off at hallways so filled with people that you feel like a sardine.
On the show floor some companies bring large displays that have enclosed spaces for sound demos. CEDIA also offers 15 enclose spaces on the conversion floor. That was welcome relief from the noisy floor where a number of speaker companies demonstrated without sound barriers. Since CEDIA showcases in-wall speakers, more booths were making noise than from just those names, known to audiophiles, for the design of conventional in-room speakers.
Attendees with a penchant for panel TVs would have better off at a big-box retailer since LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Toshiba, among other brand-name OEMs, were no shows. Sony, was an outlier within this cohort, had a huge display. Apparently, strategic planners within Sony’s consumer electronics group have identified custom installation as a space whose growth potential can offset the lackluster sales of the panel TV business.
Not surprisingly, Sony’s new AVR with a built in Control-4 home automation controller resonated strongly. Simple home automation, such as light dimming, can be configured by the homeowner, but unlocking the more advanced control functions requires a Control-4 installer.
Audio Design Associates
A fully operational version of the ADA Cinema Reference Mach IV Pre/Pro subsumes the Trinnov top of the line room correction system and a touch pad screen. In the above photo, Albert Langella, the president of ADA, is standing next to the unit which.
The press photo clearly indicates this is not a component to be hidden in the basement’s equipment room. Putting the Trinnov in the same box as the ADA Pre/Pro eliminates the redundant ADC / DAC conversion of an external room-EQ unit. The EQ has 8 channels in and 16 out. The touch pad screen allows for full control of the Trinnov EQ. The Cinema Reference Mach IV does not appear to be priced less than the sum of the individual parts with a list price of $40,000.
ADA’s large booth was situated at the center of the floor. An enclosed sound room was a welcome addition. I was lucky to get into the ADA room between demonstrations so I was able to get them to play my Blu-Ray of the Mahler 1st symphony (San Francisco Symphony under MTT). Activating the Trinnov EQ resulted in a significant improvement in the sound quality.
A similar ADA installation was found in CEDIA’s future home exhibit, whose theater space was large relative to the footprint available in an individual company’s booth. The CEDIA exhibit was packed for the entire show so I heard the standard demonstration. Unlike so many of the enclosed demo rooms, the levels chosen by CEDIA were not excessive.
This is the new name of the holding company for Denon, Marantz, McIntosh and Boston Acoustics. D+M was absent from CEDIA last year and typically show on the other side of the strip at CES, so it was good to see they had booked four of the CEDIA-sanctioned hotel rooms to display the new products.
The Denon AVR-4520CI ($2500) multichannel receiver and DBT-3313UDCI ($1000) Blu Ray pair are shown above. On the right is Yoshinori Yamada, Product Planning Manager and on the left is Paul Belanger, Technical Product Manager. These staff members were behind a significant new development in these products.
The big news was that the AVR-4520CI brought the clock that drives the convert pin of the DAC array, which produces the analog signals at preamp outputs, to an external jack at the back of the unit. The DBT-3313UDCI Blu-Ray player then slaves to the clock with a jack on its back that connects to the AVR-4520CI. This is the ideal way to eliminate jitter, provided all the buffer circuits between the units are carefully designed. At the moment only these two components support the feature.
The Denon approach is different from the obsolete Sony (HATS) and Pioneer (PQLS) systems, which used an option in the HDMI 1.3a spec called Audio Rate Control. Audio Rate Control used the CEC line on the HDMI to control the player’s speed as necessary to maintain a data buffer on a compatible AVR. The Denon solution does not change the HDMI data originating from the Blu Ray player. If Denon does not expand the adoption of this new system, especially to competitive products, it too will face obsoleteness
Surprisingly the Denon AVR-4520CI is the only AVR or Pre/Pro in the entire D + M line that has adopted the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 with two channel bass management.
Marantz's high-end transistorized stereo gear has been a mainstay since 1967. Ownership of the name has changed several times and for long stretches the high end Marantz equipment was not available in the US. The equipment has re-appeared under D + M a few years ago.
Marantz likes current feedback topologies that appear to be closely derived from the schematics of integrated circuits, though scaled to act as a power amplifier.
This photo, taken by Robert Kozel, shows the power amp boards for the new PM-11S3 integrated amplifier. You can see many more photos of the PM 11S3 in his CEDIA report. The power amp was said to have a new Constant Current Feedback (CCFB) topology although no personnel in the room could provide details. The website is equally silent. It is rated at 100 Watts average power into 8 ohm exactly doubling into 4 ohms. You have to be careful these days. Some high end gear from the Far East now highlights the 4 ohm power on the top line.
On the preamp side Marantz uses a 12 semiconductor (8 transistors and 4 LEDS for bias) multi-purpose sub-circuit they call HDAM S3. The HDAM again mirrors techniques used in integrated circuits. It does different functions depending on how it is externally wired. A total of 40 HDAM units are used in the PM-11S3. The count gets that high since one application is to act as buffers for each low level input and output. Just considering the active component count on the HDMI boards we get to 480 but many semiconductors in the preamp are not on these boards bring the total transistor count higher. Marantz clearly does not follow the KISS principle (look it up on Wikipedia) of engineering.
The last generation of the PM-11 had 36 HDAM S3 boards. From the photo above it appears the added HDAM S3s are on the power amplifier board although the low supply voltage limit for the HDAM S3 makes it unclear how they are being used. The power amp on the last generation PM-11S2 was already complex with 29 transistors per channel.
At $5,000 the PM-11S3 unit looks to be a direct competitor to Accuphase products which have a similar design style and a similar internal complexity. A quick look at the Accuphase website shows that they are much more willing to disclose details of the circuit topologies and the units internal construction. Accuphase justifies why the integrated amplifiers they produce they produce cost well into four figures.
Todd Packer, Technical Project and Product Manager, demonstrated the new ARCOS system at CEDIA (above), with the computer display repeated on a large plasma monitor.
ARCOS DSP hardware is priced from $8000 (A set of 16 digital parametric equalizers for each of the 8 channels) to $13000 (twice the total number of parametric equalizers with up to 20 outputs for active speaker and multiple subwoofer support). The hardware is analog-in to analog-out, with a redundant ADC/DAC conversion, similar to other independently boxed multichannel room EQ systems for home use. A high resolution digital interconnect, for multichannel audio, with HDMI level encryption does not exist.
Improvements in the PC based algorithms focus on systems deploying four subwoofers. The starting point has not changed. Delay, output gain and one band of parametric EQ are set for each subwoofer to achieve the lowest possible seat to seat variation of the 4 subwoofer channel summation. The change evolves the parametric equalization that follows with a maximum of 20 PEQ filters available. The parametric equalizers are adjusted iteratively first using a wide fractional octave smoothing of the measured frequency response, then fine-tuning these initial conditions with the smoothing narrowed.
Once the subwoofer channels and one of the main channels have been corrected, another measurement is made with the complete system active, with the system seeking a time delay between the subwoofer group and the main channel to achieve the flattest response in the crossover area.
To speed things along, eight microphones are deployed simultaneously, one on each seat. The mic preamps and switching system are sourced from the JBL professional group. The 8 microphones are attached to only two chairs for the booth display. Placing a microphone on each chair also allows true before and after EQ validation since the microphones are not moved. When I do this validation I pick up errors since the single microphone never is placed exactly at the same spot for my post EQ spatial averaged measurements. The ARCOS EQs are in the red square. The speaker in the background is for commercial theaters.
Dealers can purchase the calibration system but most dealers rent the kit or hire Harman to do the calibration. Dealers take a 2 -3 day training class to run the system. Harman does not disclose the price of the system but one of the users guides says renters of measurement system should purchase $15000 of insurance when it is returned.
Sherwood was absent from CEDIA last year. This year Sherwood returned with a fresh look, concentrating on components less than $1,000. Gone are separate power amps or pre/pros, including the still state-of-the-art A965 power amp.
Above is the R-977, which at $999, is top of the line. Sherwood’s new US president Gary Graning is on the left of the picture and Eugene Chavez, the Technical Support Director, is on the right.
The unit has a proprietary single point room correction system called SNAP, which unfortunately replaces the Trinnov system in the discontinued R-972 that sold for $1800. This change may account for much of the price reduction although R-977. The R-977 is packed with new support options for portable devices and computer networks lacking in the R-972. The specified average power of 125 Watts (2ch driven 20Hz – 20kHz at 0.08% THD) is a little higher than other in the price class. I await a schematic to investigate the changes in the audio path from the R-972.
This is a photo of with the new Performa 3, a production version scheduled for December release. The lower priced Performa 2 speakers (M20 and F32) were introduced in 2005. These did not have a waveguide on the tweeter. Harman Labs R&D now finds the waveguide critical to matching the dispersion characteristics of the upper end of the woofer or midrange to the lower end of the tweeter. The top of the Performa 2 line, introduced in 2006, incorporated the waveguide technology. All Performa 3’s have a new generation of the waveguide. More details are anticipated an Audio Engineering Society conference.
The speakers were on the show floor and not an isolated sound room. I slipped my compellation CD-R test disc into the HD 990 CD player which, as you can see from the photo, was below the HK 990 integrated amp (reviewed on the site) with the room EQ off. Background noise from nearby booths was too high to pass a critical judgment. Despite this, I could not resist giving them a serious listen to the top of the line F208 by increasing the level to overcome the noise.
I started with the Arensky 2nd piano trio (Delos) and concluded with Mahler’s second symphony (Dallas Symphony). John Eargle was the recording engineer for both performances. I found the speakers to be free obvious colorations despite the suboptimal conditions. The end of the Mahler will tax a good speaker in a normal-sized quiet listening room. The Performa’s remained clean despite the high SPLs they were generating to overcome the background noise.
At CEDIA I had a meeting with Christoffer Ahlén Marketing Director and Anton Danielsson Research Engineers at Dirac Research. Theta Digital and Datasat Digital Entertainment showed hardware products at CEDIA that are compatible with the Dirac multichannel room correction system.
Like other PC based room correction systems all measurement are done with the PC. The USB link transfers the test tones to the Pre/Pros so they can reproduce them on the speakers in the room. Advanced functions such as target curve modifications occur on the PC once the measurement file is in place. The final filter back coefficients are then transferred to the Theta Digital or Datasat DSP chips over the same USB link.
Dirac Research showed the latest PC based GUI for multichannel room correction systems. They appear to have done a good job managing the complexity of moving from stereo to multichannel. Below is an overlay of a 5 channel system before and after correction to the target curve. Correction is not applied in the darker blue areas below 35Hz and above 20kHz
The system can support 16 channels if the hardware supports it. Work is now centered on the development of the bass management system.
Not shown at CEDIA was the Dirac Live Room Correction Suite software, which is designed for computer audiophiles. Unlike the Theta Digital and Datasat solutions the computer does the real time processing and is always in the system. See the website at:
A USB microphone with a calibration file will be supplied with the Dirac Live Room Correction Suite. The production version should be shipping during the fourth quarter of the year.
This is a photo of Dan Laufman standing next to a rack of Sherbourn. Dan is President of Jade Design, the parent of Sherbourn that sells into the CEDIA channel and Emotiva. The R&D department of Jade Design supports both Sherbourn and Emotiva. They are now working to port the TACT room correction system to multichannel Pre/Pros and AVRs in both lines. To make this and other advanced functionality available new JADE products will use at least a pair TI TMS320DA710 Floating-Point DSP chips (consumer product name Aureus). Different products will be distinguished by the choice of mixed signal ICs (ADCs, DAC, and digitally controlled volume), analog chips, I/O options (Sherbourn products will interface with room automation systems and support multi-room distribution) and GUI options.
On this equipment rack a number of Sherbourn's other products including multi-zone power amps.
ADA has been offering Trinnov-based external room correction systems for a few years before incorporating them into the Pre/Pro. For the first time, Trinnov showed its own equipment for home use at CEDIA. The photo below has CEO and principal developer Arnaud Laborie on the left and Curt Hoyt, Director of USA Operations, on the right.
Curt has an active thread on the AVSforum website supporting questions for the first-generation Trinnov system on the Sherwood R-972.
This year’s products use the third generation of the algorithms. One is a stereo unit with four channels to support active speakers. The others support from eight analog I/Os and move in increments of four to 16 in and 32 out. The additional I/Os are available by adding expansion boards.
Professional digital I/Os on the Trinnov pro equipment are absent from the home units. I scanned the convention floor for a multichannel high-resolution digital audio interconnects with HDMI level encryption, but could not locate any. Given the number of years since HDMI 1.1 appeared, I think we may never see it.
Trinnov is doing its best to make the ADCs and DACs transparent with an A-weighted SNR spec quoted as 118dB at 96kHz sampling. These units need an external PC or touch screen for control and displays.
Pioneer introduced a second-generation version of its entry-level speaker system designed by Andrew Jones (pictured above). Andrew is best known for his work on more expensive speakers produced by the Pioneer subsidiary TAD. The floor standers are $250 a pair and the small book shelves are $130 the pair. The floor stander uses three 5.5 inch woofers in a 2.5 way design. 2.5 way designs are difficult to manufacture at any price. Genuine three-way designs are almost always more successful, but it is impossible to offer one at this price. The price limits the number of crossover components. Despite this, Andrew claims the speakers have excellent measured performance due, in part, to a 300Hz rolloff of the bottom two woofers. Independently published measurements of the first-generation bookshelf speakers were better than expected at this price point. It will be interesting to see what has been accomplished with the larger design challenge of the floor-standing speaker.
Simplifi is a distribution company for a number of brands of speakers and electronics from Europe. They had booked a large, CEDIA sanctioned, hotel room in the Weston. Unfortunately two of the staff members were sick so the room could not be opened. The company was limited to a small on floor display.
Simplifi showed the $1100 DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core 2 room correction system. It has two filter banks. One application is to apply correction to a full range speaker. Other applications are discussed at the DSPeaker website.
Since it is a stereo unit it has digital I/O along with analog I/O. Digital inputs include USB and SPDIF. The block diagram of an all digital implementation is shown below.
Note the redundant data converters have been eliminated. External multichannel room correction systems do not have digital I/O for reasons outlined in other sections of this CEDIA report.
An analog microphone connects to the Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core. Individual microphone calibration files are not provided. The system allows up to 8 multipoint measurements.
Virtually all of the user interaction is carried out by using the remote control guided by a small, but high resolution, TFT display on the front panel. A number of advanced features include limiting the frequency of the room correction, adding room gain and an adjustable target curve above 1kHz are set with the remote control and TFT display. Up to 16 users adjustable parametric equalizer sections are said to be available.
Frequency response plots (pre and post calibration) can be viewed on the TFT display as shown in the stock photo from DSPeaker.
No external PC is required to see the plots although the unit transfers measurement files to a PC using a USB cable. Third party REW acoustic analysis software reads the files to provide larger versions of the plots
Dr. Michio Kaku: keynote address
CCNY theoretical physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku, gave the keynote address. A regular on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and PBS, Dr, Kaku is known for his skill at distilling new developments in physics and cosmology for the layman. Dr. Kaku’s research also involves predicting trends based on the latest research in science. The keynote topic was “The Intuitive Home of 2016: What’s After the Smart Home.”
The keynote address was presented the day prior to the show’s official opening. Those who had come early to Indianapolis were mostly setting up displays of the floor, attending CEDIA training classes or were members of the press. The first group would have unlikely had time to attend and the last group would have gravitated to Sony’s press conference, which ran concurrently with the keynote address. Nonetheless, the ballroom was overflowing with 300 people in attendance. I will not summarize the talk here, but will use it as a pivot to the next product topic.
TiVo backup system
DVRs store programs on hard drives. Like all products with hard drives, they tend to crash. When they do, all the shows you have recorded are gone. Until now, these devices could not back up the drives. Since DVRs now store hundreds of hours of standard-definition recordings, there is often more good stuff stored, like Dr. Kaku’s programs, than can be possibly watched a couple days after the program aired. A lot you save to later. Dr. Kaku’s programs require a commitment of time; this is not background entertainment. When the drive crashes, later is never. I can testify to this as this occurred with one of the DVRs supplied by my cable company.
TiVo introduced a backup system in conjunction with Netgear.
It is a genuine automatic backup scheduled as one would do on their home computer. TiVo systems can now store 300 hours of HD programming, which translates to 2000 hours of SD. More information on the interface between the two products is at:
The combination of larger Netgear units and multiple TiVo boxes allows for whole-house video distribution. This often requires a CEDIA dealer to set up correctly. I did not examine that aspect of the system.
Klipsch, which has its corporate headquarters in Indianapolis was not at CEDIA this year but had a very large presence in past years. The absence was especially strange given all the advertisements Klipsch had at the airport. An experimental Klipsch active speaker with a DSP crossover was shown in one of the enclosed, on floor rooms, by the Wireless Speaker & Audio (WiSA) association.
WISA promotes the 7.4 high resolution (uncompressed 96kHz/24bit) transmission standard developed by Summit Semiconductor. At CEDIA WiSA announced that it has set up an interoperability testing program.
The WISA reference board placed inside the speaker includes the wireless receiver, DSP based crossover, two DACs and two switching power amps one for the woofer and one for the tweeter. The sonic results from the many different types of speakers that have been demonstrated using this reference design has been excellent over the years. A DSP crossover followed by individual amplifier driving each speaker provides many advantages over a passive crossover driven by a single external amplifier.
The $2500 Yamaha A-S2000SL integrated amplifier, shown above, may look like and feel like it is from the early 1980s but its internal design is totally modern. Every knob is wired to the microcontroller although some have end stops that make them feel like an analog pot (see below). Each potentiometers is wired as a potential divider that sends a DC voltage to a DAC on the microcontroller.
When the pots are used in this way all the analog signals are confined to the back of the unit as close to the I/Os as possible. Buttons on the A-S2000SL are also connected to the microcontroller. Unlike a real unit from the 80s the A-S2000SL has no phono stage or tape monitor switch.
19th century technology in 21st century components
The quantity of stereo equipment favoring analog controls over internal digitally-controlled chips (see HK 990 review for more details) at CEDIA was surprising. Balance, treble, and bass were often implemented using analog potentiometers with relics from the past, such as motorized volume controls, still on some equipment. On some expensive units, the feel of the controls lead one to believe the potentiometers are not large hermetically-sealed units. In any case, analog controls extract a performance and reliability penalty.
In most cases the higher up the price range you moved the less likely you would see an analog control. Cambridge Audio had a perplexing line progression for the stereo components. The low priced Topaz as well as the top of the line Azur components use only solid state or relay switching. Other Azur integrated amps used analog potentiometers.
A knob which continuously turns is connected to a rotational direction sensor that reports the status to a microcontroller. In most cases you can identify an analog potentiometers if it has end stops but a few components, like the Yamaha A-S2000SL above, just use them to produce a DC voltage that represents the knobs position to the microcontroller. Indentifying when this is the case often requires a service manual.
The case of the missing Tape Monitor
After looking around the CEDIA floor I could see tape monitor functions are nearing extinction on AVRs and even some stereo units. Without a tape monitor, the tape-out jacks mute when selecting tape-in. This prevents a destructive self loop oscillation. I was advised to wear headphones to hear the signal at the output of the recording device while recording. Exactly why the monitor function is disappearing is unclear. It is a costless addition with CMOS signal switching.
On some AVRs, even tape outputs were missing, leaving no connection for a DVD-R or any audio recording device. AVRs are sprouting all sorts of functions to support portable devices and computer networks. It appears to keep a lid on prices, jacks for features like tape-out are being removed.
Those looking for tape-to-tape copy e.g., backing up your cassettes on CD-R will find very few components supporting function. The $500 Yamaha R-S700, which was the Secrets Best of 2012 Value Stereo Receiver, supports this function and also allows taping of one source while recording another. Above is a close up of R-S700 front panel.