Well, I survived the first day of my first ever CES. Attempting to break down what I saw seems daunting now. Since I’m working with a small window of time before dinner plans with Somfy, I’m going to run through a few things rather quickly.
One of my earliest appointments was with Wisdom Audio, where I had the pleasure of meeting Wisdom president Mark Glazier. He gave me a refreshingly short and sweet introduction of the Insight Series of in-wall, passive speakers launching at CES, which offer a pretty significant price reduction from previous Wisdom speakers at $1,500 each. Glazier said the new series is an attempt to reach a broader market. For what could be a $30,000 complete system, can now be done at $5,000 he said.
Wisdom Audio's Insight Series of in-wall, passive speakers offer a significant price reduction from previous Wisdom speakers at $1,500 each.
Wireless Speaker and Audio Association
I then had a really interesting meeting with WiSA, the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association. I won’t go into too much detail here since I’ll be writing a wireless audio and video feature for the February issue of RS when I get back. It seems like some exciting technology that the association’s president Jim Venable and chief technologist Alan Ruberg were clearly very excited to be working on and bringing to market soon. Ruberg said it’s a great time for wireless audio “to take hold of the market.” It’s hard to disagree there.
Basically, the speakers operate on the Unii band unlicensed spectrum that was historically used for radar operations by the government and features 24 channels, opposed to the couple of channels the 2.4 GHz WiFi band carries. The system relies on a master box that basically detects all speakers plugged into power within a 10m x 10m square space and determines each one’s delay, and distance from one another, so there’s no calibration or programming necessary. And of course, there are no wires connecting the speakers to each other.
WiSA was demoing material on Aperion speakers and Klipsch speakers. Venable said the association is talking to many other loudspeaker manufacturers he expects will be on board producing WiSA-compliant speakers by 2013. He couldn’t name any of these manufacturers, but he said they include, “a lot of folks you know and love.”
I got a look at Onkyo’s latest AV receiver technologies: InstaPrevue, a next gen picture in picture just with multiple screens; and MHL (mobile high definition link) to connect a smartphone through an HDMI outlet. The catch here is the smartphone must have an MHL input. Samsung’s Galaxy S II is one. I briefly discussed the recent news of Gibson’s controlling stake in Onkyo. Paul Wasek, national marketing and product planning manager said he was “very excited.” At this point, he didn’t know much about what the partnership would mean for the brand, but he said “it should be interesting.”
I saw several speakers new and some prototypes coming to market soon from Klipsch, which is rightfully focusing on AirPlay systems. I saw too many products here to mention them all, but my favorite was the Console, a full system replacement that is designed to mirror the acoustical output of a live event; it’s capable of 120 dB output in a traditional living room. An “Enter Sandman” demo highlighted the systems muscle. Also, a wine glass filled with water sat on top of the rectangular shaped system and didn’t even flinch.
Klipsch's Console is designed to mirror the acoustical output of a live event; it’s capable of 120 dB output in a traditional living room.
SunBriteTV is planning a significant new product and marketing push into both residential and light commercial video markets Tom Dixon, VP of marketing, told me. Dixon recently came onboard for SunBriteTV following several years at Pioneer. The new products are coming under the Signature line mantra and will begin coming to market in April. The line will eventually include what Dixon said would be the largest outdoor TV coming in “well above 62 inches,” however the SunBriteTV folks were still deciding between two different specific sizes. Dixon also said they are in the process of rebuilding the entire company, so there seem to be some exciting things to come from them this year.
Lenbrook (NAD and PSB)
A quick trip to Lenbrook (NAD and PSB) provided me with a really nice overview of the business from Mark Stone, marketing manager. After running through the latest Viso wireless digital music system, as well as a range of other new products, I enjoyed a great listen on PSB’s new over-ear headphones, which were previewed at CEDIA. They feature a monitor technology, allowing you to mute music to hear what someone around you is saying in stereo. They gave me the impression I was sitting in a big room that tightly sealed out all outside noise.
Velodyne and Polk Audio
I had several other headphone demos in the afternoon, further articulating a trend we’ve been seeing for sometime now. I’m really looking forward to getting a full listen on my flight home of Velodyne’s vPulse earbuds the folks there were kind enough to send me off with. I also later tried Polk Audio’s over-ear headphones, which were super comfortable, have a microphone and control on the cord, so you can pick up a phone call without having to hit play again after your call ends, and a different concept of the controls on the outside of one of the ears, opposed to on the wire.
As the day was quickly coming to an end, and I still had a few people on my list to see, I made some quick stops to chat mostly. I had a few minutes to demo RBH’s new speakers, which have a funky dual-modular design. It’s essentially a large triangle cabinet with a long oval one on top of it. They were very geometric, but I loved how different they looked. If you’re going to have speakers that big, do you really want them to just blend in and try to be super sleek? They’re never really going to blend in anyway. Though, RBH offers 30 different veneer options.
I thank Screen Innovations for whipping through a Black Diamond screen overview, highlighting the Zero Edge frame introduced at CEDIA 2011. The Zero Edge is “taking off like a rocket,” I was told.
The last few quick stops brought me by GoldenEar and Bob Carver. I demoed the latest equipment pretty quickly, and I really enjoyed getting to know industry veterans Sandy Gross and Bob Farinelli.