CES 2009 Day 3
Sands Convention Center/Innovation Hall
Boxee had a very hot booth. Their website description: "on a laptop or connected to an HDTV, boxee gives you a true entertainment experience to enjoy your movies, TV shows, music and photos, as well as streaming content from websites like Hulu, Netflix, CBS, Comedy Central, Last.fm, and flickr".
So basically they are an HTPC interface with built-in online support for the most popular online TV and movie sites. The interface looked sweet. I can't wait to get home, fire up my Mac and try it out!
Sleek had some very nice looking earbud headphones, both wired and wireless, with some of the most interesting features you can imagine. The earbuds unplug easily from the cables making the cables easily replaceable. Little parts on the headphones can be easily removed to give increased bass or treble, and the fit in your ear seems much better than just about any I've tried. The overall look was indeed, sleek.
Sony had some Innovation award winning nice little camcorders that were as small and feature filled as anything else I saw. Take their "smile shutter" technology, where a still photo can automatically be taken when someone in the move frame smiles - amazing!
Shure had a very cool award winner - an almost adapter sized XLR to USB Microphone adapter for digital recording with zero latency and better than CD audio quality. Basically the smallest form factor Mic Preamp/Audio Interface imaginable. Super cool.
Liquid Image won for a 5.0MP Camera built into a scuba diving mask for swimming, snorkling or scuba diving. Plus, it was pretty cool looking.
Vuzix won for the first and only Widescreen Video eyewear. It has 16:9 video form factor they claim equivalency to a 52" widescreen. Not sure how they figure that, but they look cool enough. Hopefully they don't weigh as much as a 52" widescreen...
The logitech Harmony 1100 touchscreen universal remote won my award as the best remote I saw. Certainly won't be cheap.
The Tonium Pacemaker P211 won for being the worlds first pocket-size DJ system that "let's you mix, play and perform anywhere, anytime. I saw some people having a fantasic time with it at their booth. It's about the size of a womans compact mirror. Pretty amazing stuff.
Chieftec stepped up with some pretty serious looking HTPC cases with VFD screens and impressive looking construction quality and nice finishes.
Venetian High End Audio
Judging speaker quality is a tough job in short listening sessions, especially without control over the music being played. The manufacturers always play music that highlights what they consider a speakers strengths and downplay it's weaknesses. The rooms are also vastly different. Some rooms are small and narrow and others are huge with high ceilings. All of these differences make trying to compare imaging and bass performance tricky at best.
Totem diverged greatly from their typical designs with the new "Wind". They are pretty stunning looking and sound pretty incredible with the usual Totem "tonefullness".
Usher was showing off some new models in their Dancer series. I listened to the Mini One and another who's name escapes me. I love these speakers and the Beryllium tweeters are fantastically detailed and yet still somehow sweet sounding to me. The overall sound though, seems entirely dominated by them. I love to listen to them, but I don't know if I could listen to them forever.
I also listed to the new TAD Compact Reference, which also sports Beryllium in a scaled down version of their Reference One's. These seem to do a better job of matching up the tweeter with other drivers. Their coincident tweeter/midrange and woofer are from the Reference One, and the sound is superb, but they apparently didn't have enough power to drive them in the rather huge room they had.
YG Acoustic claimed to have "The best speaker on Earth". They were massive and filled the huge room they were in with some rather profound quality sound. It was hard to find fault with them, but they just seemed to me to have too much in the upper midrange/lower treble area. It seems to be pretty typical for a lot of speaker companies to have various bulges in what you might call the "detail" area. It is some fantastic detail indeed, but it's not my cup of tea.
Vandersteen was spinning serious vinyl on a seriously scary Table. I show my lack of high end knowledge by not immediately recognizing it, I guess, but I cannot fathom how it could possibly be shipped without complete disassembly. It sounded absolutely wonderful. Of course the Vandersteen speakers are what I came to hear. I am a big fan of time alignment and coherence in speakers and have never had a chance to hear Vandersteens, which I hate to admit. These were Vandersteen Seven's and they were utterly wonderful from top to bottom. It may have helped that I listened to music I liked, and perhaps the cozy setup they had helped as well. But it's a bit telling that I came back for another round of listening. I certainly can't afford these, but I'll definitely check out the lower end models next time I'm shopping for speakers.
Quad ESL's are considered one of the finest speakers available. I heard them last year as well, and again they sounded as "right" as any speaker I've ever heard. I don't know if I just hit them at the wrong time, when they are playing music without a wide sound field, the room is just too narrow, or if they just don't create any kind of wide sound stage , but both times they sounded practically mono. If not for that, I'd gladly sell my car, move close enough to work to bike it, and live happily with these forever.
Von Schweikert Unified 3 was another speaker I think I would love to live with. I didn't hear much familiar music, and there was, at times, some background noise, so I know they are extremely good, and can't wait to hear them again.