CES 2015 news News & Opinion

CES 2015 News and Show Floor Coverage – Day 1

Each year we cover CES in Las Vegas—the largest trade show in the world. Our CES 2015 news and show coverage is always fun and exciting, with the latest gear and technology announcements and a whole host of exciting trends that mark out what we can expect from the rest of the year. Each CES show has revealed, to some extent, the “hype masters” for the year. Some of those technologies and products turn out to be huge influences on home theater and whole home A/V (like Blu-ray) while others fizzle out (like 3D). This year the trend seems to be quantum dots (nanotechnology to makes TV pictures look brighter, bolder and clearer), 4K Ultra HD TVs, OLED (which is finally starting to make some headway), 4K Blu-ray, and wearables…Oh, and drones. You can expect lots and lots of drones!

First up is LG’s curved 4K OLED TVs which look incredible. I can’t wait to see more OLED products hit the market this year—and at lower retail prices. Could this be the year OLED takes off? We’ll see.

Takee had a very interesting phone that used eye-tracking to produce a holographic 3D image that rivaled anything I’ve seen with software-based tracking. It requires an add-on that straps to the back for full holographic use, but it’s a start. Maybe they’ll be able to project Carrie Fisher for real before she recaps her role as Princess Leia in December of this year.

DISH was on-hand with their new 4K Joey, a world-first set top box from a pay-TV provider and an indicator of what we can expect in the future. The more exciting news was that DISH is working on aligning itself to provide content in 4K for later this year as well. The new DISH 4K Joey will be due out in the second quarter of the year.

Following up join the 4K Joey was the new DISH remote that includes advanced voice recognition and a minimalistic approach to controlling your home entertainment system.

The HDBaseT Alliance announced that specs 1.1 and 2.0 have been approved by the IEEE Standards board for adoption. HDBaseT may be making its way into more and more consumer and pro installation products before we know it (and that would be a VERY good thing).

Denon is upgrading its HEOS speakers app to ensure they work with Google Cast. That will usher in a whole new host of applications that can send audio to HEOS.

Epson showed off their newest Home Cinema 600 projector. At just $379 this CES 2015 news may finally cause consumers to see projectors making their way into every home that desires a big screen experience. It has 3000 lumens and HDMI inputs with a very slim form factor and both horizontal and vertical adjustments to hit your screen even under difficult installation conditions.

For $149, these Meteor M2 zinc die-cast speakers from Samson may not be the cheapest thing you can hook up to your desktop or laptop computer, but they may be the coolest retro-design. We love the look and the laid back (literally) configuration.

The A-Audio Prodigy Bluetooth speaker is a large speaker that can function as a single unit, or you can pull apart the magnetically sealed system into two for even more location options. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC technology for easy pairing, and it has a 12 hour battery life (with a 1,300 mAh of power on each side) that can be recharged and even replaced. Available in April/May 2015 for $199.

Moving into some high end audio, Mark Levinson previewed the No 536 Mono power amp which can push 400 Watts into 8-ohms or 800 Watts into a 4-ohm load. This thing is a monster and looks like a solid addition to the line that will cause many audiophiles to drool.

Acoustic Research added 4 new speakers to its indoor/outdoor line, each with Bluetooth audio capabilities. These are beautiful and sure to be a hit with interior designers and those looking for speakers that look as good as they sound. These will be available in Spring of this year (2015).

Ion Audio showed off a new Bluetooth turntable that streams your vinyl wirelessly for a more modern take on your classic albums.

On the power management front, Skyline unveiled the Wireless PowerHub, a 5-port power system that allows all of its outlets to be used by larger transformer (power bricks) if needed, and which also includes a pair of USB chargers at 2.1A. What makes it impressive and unique is that each port can be controlled via the SkylinkNet iOS or Android app.

The new Supertogoth three-speaker multi-room system costs only $299 and puts Bluetooth in just about every room in your house. The system can be expanded to up to 5 speakers (at least) and looks like a nice, almost retro, solution for any home.

AudioTechnica showed off its SonicPro ATH-MSR7 over-ear headphones at CES 2015 which look really sweet and promise a nice audiophile experience. They’ll be available in black and gunmetal (the gunmetal version has brown leatherette pads and headband). MSRP is $249.

The Nano series dSp and i-dSp processors from HRT can serve as interfaces between your smartphone or tablet and your headphones and speakers—making for a much better audio experience than what you’ll get from the default (and extremely cost-conscious) DACs on your electronics.

Surender laid out their beautiful machined aluminum X-PAC and N-PAC systems which combine a streaming music server, DAC, and media player into one. The $5,999 X-PAC combines the X100 music server and X725 DAC with amplifier and features 100 Watts per channel of amplification and enough storage (6 TB expandable to 12 TB)  to contain the equivalent of 10,000 CDs. The $4,999 N-PAC includes the N100 and serves as a network-only device that can be expanded later by accessing Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices.

Pass Labs was on hand to debut their new $9,000 INT-60 (60 Watt) and $12,000 INT-250 (250 Watt) integrated amplifiers. They feature Direct Access buttons for the four inputs on the machined faceplate, and there’s also a digital level display, volume control and mute button. On the back are the aforementioned four line-level inputs, plus a line-level output and two pairs of Furutech speaker binding posts.

Cambridge Audio surprised us with a pair of new amplifiers (plus some other goodies we’ll get into next). They put out the CXA60 and CXA80 stereo amps that use Class AB amplification to deliver, as you’d expect, 60 Watts and 80 Watts respectively into 8-ohms. Build quality is impressive as well, with separate, dual mono windings on a low-flux toroidal transformer inside each. The CXA80 also steps things up with a high specification Wolfs 24-bit 192kHz WM8740 DAC.

We also saw the debut of the Cambridge Audio CXR120 receiver and flagship Cambridge CXR200 receiver with 120 Watts and 200 Watts of power respectively. These amps present an excellent design for those looking for a multipurpose room that can switch from movies to music in the blink of an eye. Both receivers feature the same Cambridge Audio StreamMagic music streaming module found in the CXN network music player. The CXR200 has 8 HDMI inputs and adds complete Zone 2 control, with a second HDMI output that can send a discrete source to a second zone.

The Cambridge Audio CXN Upsampling Network Music Player has a beautiful color TFT display that features album art as well as all critical information. This player supports AirPlay and has dual Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DACs for pristine audio reproduction. There are both balanced XLR as well as stereo RCA outputs, and Cambridge added a USB 1.0/2.0 input that supports DSD streaming.

ZVOX now has a Value Series of SoundBase speakers. The 24″ wide ZVOX 350 Soundable and the 28″ wide ZVOX 450feature TOSlink and coaxial digital inputs as well as Bluetooth streaming with AptX. They include the same Output Leveling feature that tames the audio from commercials, and both SoundBase speakers include a built in “subwoofer” that delivers a low frequency response of 48 Hz (450) and 45 Hz (350).

I believe I have seen the most beautiful speakers in my life, and they are the new flagship Estelon Extreme towers. They look like a beautiful sculpture, twisting and layering up to their full height of 81.5″ (there are actually five adjustable heights!). The cabinet is made of marble-based composite material and features two 10″ aluminum dome bass woofers, a 10″ aluminum dome mid-woofer, a 7″ ceramic inverted dome midrange, and a 1.5″ diamond inverted dome tweeter—all by Accuton.

AVID let loose an “entry level” Ingenium turntable at $1.999 that features sapphire bearings and a platter that was derived from the Diva II, a solid aluminum chassis, and carbon fiber tone arm. The main chassis is machined from 2-1/2″ solid aluminum and allows for different arm fitting options.

Of course no CES 2015 news and show report would be complete without some really high-end audiophile products. If you’re really into reference vinyl, then the $26,995 AVID Acutus Reference SP turntable will no doubt pique your interest. The system uses full 1kVA power supply. The motor suspension has also been fine-tuned, and a new twin belt drive system aids grip and control.

Balanced Audio Technology’s BAT VK-225SE solid state stereo power amp retails for $6,495 and was showing at the Venetian. The BAT VK-225SE amplifier uses a discrete bipolar output transistor design and delivers 150 Watts per channel into 8 ohms. The VK-225SE amplifier also features BAT’s SUPER-PAK power supply circuit with greatly increased energy storage capacity.

Lastly (on Day 1 at least, we’ll give you more coverage tomorrow), we got to see the Wharfed Diamond 200 speakers which debuted last year. Wharfed put out three new towers, a couple of new bookshelf speakers. a matching center channel, and two new subwoofers. This system can be configured in numerous ways to fit into any two-channel or home theater environment. These models each feature a new lacquered baffle and cabinet design, an improved bass motor system, and a new slot-loaded port for improved airflow. They also feature upgraded crossovers.

Continue to CES 2015 Show Coverage from Day 2 –>

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