Friday, January 11, 2008

CES 2008 Last Day

CES2008 day 3
Wow, what a day! The last day of CES 2008. Never made it to T.H.E. Show, unfortunately. Too tricky to get to and too late in the day.
I did get a lot of time at the Central hall, and a little time to listen to some great stuff at the High end audio Venetian site.
The central hall starts with the huge Microsoft and Intel "booths". "Booths" is the wrong word for some of the displays you see at CES, these things are morethe size of basketball courts, or bigger. I really wish the people manning these booths were not so "friendly". It reminded me of "night of the living dead" zombies all moving in on you to attack you with information about some new gadget or technology. I got away as fast as I could.

I made it to the DLP booth. Even though many think that with the seeming demise of the Front projection TV in leau of flat panels that there is no longer a need for DLP technology, that could not be further from the truth. DLP rocks for Front projection. And Projectors are hot!
Check out the R2D2 Projector:

DLP has the new Dark chip 4 coming out, although with certain program material, you don't care so much if it's darkchip3 or darkchip4:

LG had a great booth with really attractive looking displays. 120Hz video conversion technology, to free LCD from motion blur and artifacts was all over the place this year and LG had a nice presentation on this technology which looks to be coming throughout much of their lineup. Their displays looked cosmetically great as well as visually. They have really come far in a very short time.

LG also had their Combo HD-DVD and Blu Ray players - both for computers and Stand alone. Really great stuff. Not sure if it's really needed so much if the format war is truely over.

Panasonic, had all kinds of insanely great plasmas going on. They had the worlds biggest 150" Plasma:

They had a great demo of their upcoming 1" thick plasmas as well.

The new Plasma series' they had great looking new plasmas in their new consumer lines, but they had such strange program material, that I just can't give you a good shot of them. I didn't see their commercial lines around, but was in a hurry.

One note: Some crazy guy from florida predicted the demise of plasma on a podcast I listen to religiously. I think you guys really need to stay away from that Gator juice! With Panasonic and Pioneer (Kuro and new extreme black) coming out with such great displays I think Plasma is still the high end choice for flat panels.

Sharp had a great booth with beautiful new Aquos LCD Diplays with 120Hz technology, their 120Hz vs 60Hz comparison was the best comparison I witnessed. You could easily see the sharper motion image on the ir demo. I know that 120Hz did not get off to a great start with some manufacturer releases not implementing the technology as well as they should have, but it seems like they are really getting the hang of it now, and LCD may catch up with plasma in the motion resolution area soon. Sharp certainly seems to have it together.
Sharp 120Hz demo:


Sharp Commercial Projectors

Samsung's Gestapo still refuses to let people take pictures in their city block sized booth. So I won't mention all the cool or possibly totally uncool and stupid stuff they may or may not have had. I think I remember something awesome they might have had, but I can't remember because I don't have a frigging picture!

Toshiba had some lovely looking displays and all, but I could feel a pall of over the demeanor of all who entered. It was very much like people at a funeral. They had some great stuff, LCDs with very small black bezels which is my favorite cosmetic attribute in a display, they had a nice interactive HD-DVD demo with the interactive channel making little jazz musician toys move to the sweet sounding jazz music playing from an old HD-AX1 (hey I have that!) but it was a bit somber in there. Maybe it is all really over in this format war.

Adcom had a great display of fabulous Integrated Amps, Power amps, transports and the like which I can't afford, but they sure made me want to change occupations so I could. I'd get into them more, but the whole Toshiba visit has me down, so I just need to go and curl up in a ball for awhile.

OK! Back again, and now at the Venetian for some High End Audio!
You have to forgive the picture quality in these high end rooms, it is not polite to go taking flash pictures while people are listening to this stuff, and I always try and get permission from the reps who are there before taking a picture. I got to listen to about half the speakers I wanted to, since at times these guys have other stuff going on and can't be bothered - especially at the end of the last day. They mostly get guys like me who are into a free listen to stuff we can't afford.

First up, Quad. ESL speaker with II-eighty amps. Quad ESL's are amazing speakers. They are legendary Electrostatic speakers, they sound like nothing. I don't know that the imaging exactly kills me, but this kind of detailed, smooth accurate transfer of electrical currents to sound is a pretty awesome thing for a speaker to be able to do. Most average listeners would find these boring - at first.

Next was the Usher Be-718. At first, the tweeter seemed too bright, albeit extremely accurate, but as the listening material changed and I settled in and everything really seemed to start to coalesce. These were really fantastically musical speakers with excellent imaging, and really accurate reproduction. I only listened to a few songs (typical at these shows) but I really loved them while I listened. I don't know how I'd do in the long run. I have some fear that the beryllium tweeter might get on my nerves with some program material, but I could always weed them out!

From there came almost the opposite in musical selection and speaker sensibility. Von Schweikert VR-4 Anniversary. This is an immaculately done phase coherent speaker that puts the accuracy of the sound coming to your ears above all else. They are handsome, but not at all unusually so. The specs are amazing for such a small footprint, but the listening experience is quite a bit more than what I was hoping for, even with their reputation. These had a wide and deep soundstage which was solid across their frequency range, clear, accurate, musical and without what I'm now sure is phase distortion. These had similar attributes in this way to the Quad ESL, which being an electrostat does not suffer from phase distortion like most of the other excellent speakers I listened to today. Source material, no doubt was a factor in what I heard, but to describe it is difficult. To many, it may sound like a lack of treble, a lack of sibulants, a smoothing of transients. But it sounds Real. They are also incredible with the soundstage. The sax player is exactly Here. Just left and behind the left speaker. Again, the average speaker buyer wants the speaker to have detailed "crisp" highs, pouncing on them. This is for real music.
Now I am not exactly a newbie when it comes to phase coherency, I use Magnepans for my stereo/home theater and Reference 3a dulcets on my computer, but these are making me think about an upgrade.

Also listened to:
Dali Helicon 400
Morel (new prototype)
Spendor S6e

All of these were excellent or better. The Dali and Spendor did not have music playing that was usable, in my opinion to make a good analysis. The Morel was really quite amazing, possibly more enjoyable, than anything else except maybe the ESL or VR-4. Clean, accurate and lifelike, with wonderful imaging. It is a prototype, so it really looks promising.
I would have to go with the VR-4 as my favorite overall. While I think the ESL is a reference standard, it may be a bit too lacking in imaging for me. It could have been the listening material.

Missed: Vandersteen, Anthony Gallo, and everything at THEshow.

Spending 5-10 minutes listening to a system does not give you a real definitive understanding of how it sounds. Sorry.
It is hard for these guys to set things up in the best light. The rooms are not ideal and they have no time for any real room treatments. They have to scrap together systems hoping for a good match. It's amazing they sound as good as they do.
Dali Helicon 400

Morel (new prototype)

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