Thursday, January 11, 2007

CES 2007 Venetian High End Audio

The location of the high end audio gear is in a new location at the Venetian, which is a fantastic place, but we still missed the relaxing walk around Alexis Park Hotel and the easy walk to "The Show" (the "other" high end audio show) next door at the St Tropez.

We heard the Gradient Evidence Mk III speakers with Sonneteer transport and amplification first and the combination was wonderfully musical and refined. Highly recommended. In addition, the Sonneteer Sedley phono stage is available with a USB connection for backing up vinyl recordings to a computer. This is the highest quality way we have yet seen to record your records to your computer.

We next got to listen to the Symposium Panorama Loudspeaker prototypes. These use planar dynamic ribbon mid/high drivers of very low mass, with a separate twin driver aperiodic folded transmission line bass enclosure. They are huge and a bit ungainly looking and may not pass the WAF test, they are truely something to listen to. They take detail to a new level well beyond what cone speakers can provide. The bass enclosures match incredibly well which is very hard to do with planars or electrostatics.

Any chance possible to listen to the AvantGarde Acoustic Duo would be crazy to miss. These are not popular because they are beautiful and amazingly efficient, so that they can be driven by the most simple low wattage tube amps. They are popular because they sound so damn realistic. Presense is the definition of these speakers, as in the singer or instrument sounds like they are right there in front of you.

Finally, we went to the McIntosh room. Everyone knows them for their incredible amplification and transports, but they do make loudspeakers as well. I believe what we saw and heard was the new version of their line source XRT2K speakers with redesigned woofers which we were told are a huge leap forward for the woofer design. All drivers are sized in order to properly disperse their entire frequency range, with 2" midranges and 3/4" tweeters (lots and lots of both). Well the truth is in the listening, and the results are spectacular. I cannot say I have ever heard bass of this quality and volume. The soundfield was also remarkable, particularly for a line source. Moving about the room you could still hear the far end speaker sound field properly located. Dynamics to die for and loud clear and totally musical, these things may make people forget that McIntosh makes amplifiers. Well, ok, that's a bit much. Check them out if you ever get the chance.
CES 2007 International Hall
We didn't get many pictures at the International Hall, doing so requires long conversations and exchanges of business cards which can really make covering the hall take a long time. We prefer to try and snatch up the brochures of what looks interesting as we go by and run off before they can catch us. It's great execise and really speeds things up. Besides, to be honest we wanted to get to the Venetian so we could listen to some awesome sound systems.

HDMI was very hot this year, with many vendors for cables, switchers and distribution amps. Memory card picture frames were also everywhere at CES this year, so much so that you may soon see them for sale in 7/11.

Genmore International Showed off some real eye candy cables.

Carve had the usual computer cables, adapters and KVM stuff, but what really stood out was their selection of small USB hubs. Small is in with USB hubs, and they had small ones, a nice looking variety.

Racewood Secu-Tech had some very small Audio/Video recorders which would record to SD cards. They also had a small quad recorder for 4 signals which could take hard drives under 300GB and LCD audio/video recorders that used SD cards.

Unitek had everything USB, Card readers, hard drive cases, flash drives, Hubs, audio adapters, PCI Express cards, PCMCIA ExpressCards and the usual adapters.

VideoHome had all kinds of PC/TV recording and connection, icluding video capture, video tomonitor, and wireless audio/Video.

That's it, we are off to the Venetian for our desert!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

CES 2007 Central Hall

We jumped on a bus to the central hall where all the buzz is. This is the splashiest hall where the biggest of the big boys display. Throw a rock and it will bounce off at least 12 flat panal displays before it hits the ground.

CES 2007 Central Hall
Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, LG, all the big players are here. Some of the displays you would swear are as big as a city block.

Before we get into the big boys, please forgive a little bit of a rant.
Like many people, I have Cable TV, multiple HD DVR's multple HDTV's in multiple rooms and it does cost a bit of money. But, I can't watch what I want, where I want, when I want without having to go to the room with the DVR that has that program on it unless I want to go into "on demand" which is a pita, and is not always even available, and sometimes has an extra charge even though I have the bloody program recorded on a different DVR. This has gone on too long for the sake of "content protection". When can I have a solution that will allow me to have happiness? Sure there are non HD solutions. Is that happiness? No, it is not. I don't want to record this content to DVD, or "steal" anything, I just want to time shift things, and have a complete, converged system with plenty of reasonably priced, easy to add storage to allow me to enjoy all the possible HD goodness available. Even normal people with a single HDTV and a single DVR should at least have easily upgraded storage options and a gui on their set top box that is not like windows 1.0. Vista could change this, but only if a lot of others get their act together. Pretty soon, we consumers will all just throw in the towel on the whole mediacenter thing, go to Apple TV or forget the whole thing and just spend all of our time on youtube. Um, ok, rant mode off.

Vista Does stuff
Microsoft is doing the big Vista push. It looks good, sounds good and it does great things. Thrilling and all, but XP works ok, and, well, see above.

Intel was very impressive. Their core2 Duo laptop video editing demo was great. Their core 2 Quad processor demos were equally great. The knowledgeable people manning their booths were great at showing off the capabilities of their great new processors. The Viiv booth was informative and even manned by sympathetic people who understood our general rantiness about the whole big multimedia splash that "seems" sans HD. In fact they gave us some hope. There will be (maybe already are D-link?) networked media "extenders" with HDMI output that will allow us to build a new DIY Media center with Vista that can transmit HD video to our HDTV's. We'll see.

DLP with LED? Yes, there was at least one displayed. This could be a great thing for DLP for more reasons than bulb life. Brightness, Color accuracy and gamut improvements would be nice added features.

LG Blu Ray/HD DVD Dual player - with the "Blues Brothers"
Blu Ray was all around as was HD DVD, but we are annoyed by the format war as much as anyone. Yes, LG did announce their dual format drive with the "Blues Brothers" which was entertaining. We certainly applaud LG for this.

Interesting too, was the blocked view of all connections on the back of the LG dual format drive. Is this product really real yet? We hope so. Might take a little while, but we love 'em for it.

Samsung people told us that snapping pictures of their new displays was not allowed, so we will not show any pictures. We might have said something good about their new displays, but with their attitude, we will not show any pictures of anything Samsung, just to be fair.

Toshiba had no problems with everybody shooting their new HD DVD players including their HD-XA2 player with Silicon Optix HQV processing. Sweet!

Enough for now, tomorrow, the International Hall at the Hilton, and hopefully a little High end audio at the Venetian.
CES 2007 Sands Expo Center

Well, we made a quick change of plans today. The monorail line was too long so we trekked on foot to the Sands Expo center rather than go straight to the Hilton International part of the show. The Sands grows every year and is filled with all kinds of products as well as the Innovations award winners. After that, on to the Central Hall. OK, lets get started.

While Enermax makes great cases, this is not one of them. It is a very unusual demo though. Liquid cooling is all the rage at this years CES, but this may be going a bit too far.

Lian Li is another great case manufacturer with some great cases this year, including some nice HTPC/Media center cases. This case is apparantly from their "snail period".

Cool cleaners - the iRobot vacuuming robots not only can avoid bumping into things, but they also can avoid falling off of them! Soon they will be furry, cute and have big loving eyes and smiling mouths so you can do away with the vacuum, dog or cat.

It's a house, no, it's a plane, no, it's a Runco projector!
Always amazing, but if you have to ask the price, well....

What's French, cute, and reads RSS feeds out loud? The Nabaztag Smart Rabbit is all that, hopefully it has a sexy french accent.
CES 2007 the South Hall
Some highlights.

Qualcomm Wireless Mobility booth was one of the most interesting we have ever seen. We dug it.

Belkin really had a great booth, with a group of different home settings and quite a few interesting devices set up to show how they might be used in the various locales...
Their Tunestudio was a new Audio interface connection for recording to iPods. Is this a new Belkin or what?

D-Link had a great booth with tons of great networking stuff. Their partner - Pure Networks has a great looking, easy network setup program called Network Magic that helps you setup, maintain and get more out of your network with a great gui design that looks like it can help network novices get the most out of their home networks without the help of their poor, overburdened geek freinds! You can download a free 30 day trial from:

Seagate/Maxtor had way too much to mention, just an amazing variety of storage solutions. Our favorite is the FreeAgent Pro - Access your content from anywhere, share it with anyone, and sync it to almost anything. Locally on your network or over the Internet. Wow!

Faroudja and Meridian had a fantastic demo showing off their MCTi film judder reduction technology. If film judder bothers you (hey who doesn't it!) you will be amazed at the difference this makes. Of course we did NOT ask for the price! Maybe someday this will get down to current DCDi type priced products. Fantastic demo, nonetheless.

Algolith had the new Flea with HDMI miniature Mosquito Noise reducer, compression artifact reducer which is around $1000, quite a budget device in comparison to their other video processors.

Gennums VXP processing was also shown off with great demos of most of their features. Very impressive demos in a large booth this year.

Gefen had a vast number of interesting new products including a budget Component video and HDMI scaler, two media recorders, Wireless USB 2.0, Wireless HDMI, Wireless Component video with audio, and a new high end scaler with Gennum VXP processing. Woah.

Thermaltake and Silverstone had amazing cases for HTPC or Windows media PCs. Stunningly nice lloking cases ready for proud display in the living room. Shown is the massive Thermaltake Mozart IP. Yikes!

That's just some of the great stuff we ran across in the huge South hall at CES 2007.
more tomorrow....

Monday, January 08, 2007

Yes we are here at CES 20007 in Las Vegas! So far we are still in the recovery stage. Coming from New Jersey to Las Vegas is never easy, and a quick resurgence of energy is best accomplished with a good Sushi dinner and some refreshing adult liquid jet lag reducers. Mission accomplished, we prepared for tomorrows (Tuesday, January 9th) slog through the most brutal of torture tests.

The Plan:

Tuesday - The infamous "south hall."
Larger than most U.S. cities, the south hall is a brutal walkfest through a gigantic variety of Audio/Video, computer and all manner of consumer electronics devices.
As an athletic event, the CES show should be done in stages. The South hall is like the Mountain stages in the tour de france. Never ending and filled with interesting twists, turns, traffic and unforeseeable problems it just seems to go on forever.

The plan is to do the International hall and central hall with the "quickie" run through the north hall to catch some of the amazing auto "booth babes" which are a good way to pick up some steam between halls. The International hall is mostly Chinese and other importers. Despite the popularity of the other "hot technology" halls, this one has some of the most interesting products imaginable, some good, some truly odd to our sensibilities. The Central Hall is the big time splash hall of technology for a lot of the major players in computers and A/V. Unfortunately this hall is very large, and among the dreck in the back there are some really interesting finds.

The Sands Expo center and a bit of the Venetian.
The Sands expo center has the innovations award winners and a lot of other real interesting stuff. Many importers also display here. The Venetian has the high end audio stuff.
Unlike before, the Venetian is not going to be next door to "The Show" - the other high end audio show in Vegas, which was formerly right next door. This is a big drag, since that was a great thing, two shows of great, high end audio right next to one another, but what can you do?

We will try to give you some decent pictures and a few highlights of less reported things. We are not going to give you another picture of the latest 104" plasma which everyone else will give you. We are here for the stuff you use to connect it.