3D video may have dazzled CES attendees, but there was no lack of excitement about the new stereo speakers, components and technologies on display. Read on for the highlights of the new things that thrilled our ears. Plus, photos of the interesting drive to Las Vegas.
When final figures are released, I'll bet CES attendance was up from last year, due mostly to more international visitors. The show floor was very crowded most of the time and long lines were the norm for demonstrations and food stands.
3D video was the most talked about news, but there were plenty of new stereo components and speakers introduced and lots of great demos to hear.
The show is huge and very spread out. The Convention Center has three separate halls totaling over 1 million square feet of exhibit space and many manufacturers had suites and meeting rooms located in the Hilton Hotel and the Venetian. Traveling from one venue to another is challenging so good planning is essential.
Best Bass: Atlantic Technology AT-1 Speaker with H-PAS
Atlantic Technology demonstrated a production model of its new AT-1 floorstanding speaker with H-PAS acoustic bass technology. H-PAS stands for Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System which, simply stated, permits speaker designers to achieve improved bass performance with 50% smaller enclosures, smaller drivers and thus lower costs. A prototype of the AT-1 was demonstrated at CEDIA, 2009 in September and the design has since been finalized. The AT-1 is a small tower speaker with two 5 1/4" drivers in a 1.6 cu. ft. enclosure that produces bass as low as 29 Hz (-3 dB) with sound pressure levels as high as 107 dB. The demonstration was convincing with solid, tight bass even in a large room. The AT-1 will be available later this year.
Most Unique Speaker Design: Waterfall Audio
Waterfall Audio of France, known for their glass speakers, introduced the very unique Hurricane Evo and Serio on-wall or satellite speakers. Both models feature a finely polished tempered glass frame and choice of three body colors: black, white or silver and several grille colors. They are designed to be used as stand alone speakers or as a complement to a flat panel television or as surround speakers. The Hurricane Evo and Serio both come with wall-mount brackets. Waterfall also makes a line of floorstanding speakers with enclosures constructed of glass.
Able Planet Noise-Canceling Headphones with Linx AudioI found this company interesting because they manufacture a broad range of headphones, headsets, in-ear phones and hearing aids featuring Linx Audio technology. According to Able Planet, Linx Audio provides, among other things, enhanced sound quality, improved speech clarity, filters undesirable sounds, and increases perceived loudness without increasing volume. I haven't tested Able Planet headphones but it seems they could help those with hearing impairments enjoy music.
Best Wireless Music: Micromega Airstream WM-10
Micromega debuted its Airstream WM-10 Wireless music component that streams music from a computer to an audio system. The standalone WM-10 operates on an 802.11n Wi-Fi network and although other similar devices exist, the Airstream boasts greater simplicity in setup and use and better sound quality making it suitable as a high-resolution music source for high-end systems. The Airstream WM-10 features improved CD error correction and outputs high-resolution 192 kHz / 24-bit music files. It will be available soon with an MSRP of $1599.
Sennheiser RS-170 Wireless Headphones
Headphones wouldn't typically attract attention at a trade show where everyone is talking about 3D TV. But Sennheiser's new RS 170 wireless headphones are an exception. I listened to some iPod music on the RS 170 headphones and they sounded outstanding. They were also comfortable and had very effective noise isolation, even in a large, crowded and noisy ballroom. The RS 170 has a range of up to 262 feet, and has a surround sound simulation feature. They will be available in early 2010 with a suggested retail price of $249.
Best Wheels & Tunes: B & W Sound System in 2010 Jaguar XJ
The new Jaguar features a premium B & W sound system in its 2010 XJ sedan. The twenty speaker audio system includes a DVD player and streams music and video content from a hard disk drive, USB storage device or iPod via Bluetooth. The audio system is fine-tuned with the built-in Audyssey MultEQ sound system and the sonic results prove it. The system has a rich, detailed sound quality in stereo and multichannel that you would expect in a home audio system. The XJ model shown in the photo is the top of the line with a five-hundred and something horsepower engine and a distinctive 'Caviar' finish. It can be yours for only $115,000.
Audio Technica Noise-Canceling Headphones
AT introduced the ATH-ANC27 and ATH-ANC25 Noise-Canceling Headphones, the first models in the AT line under $120 to use QuietPoint®. The 27 is an over-the-ear model and the 25 is on-ear. QuietPoint headphones block up to 80% of environmental noise with good sound quality and comfort. Read my profile of the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b headphones
Monitor Audio Apex Speaker System
British speaker manufacturer Monitor Audio showed its new Apex sub/sat speaker system. The Apex line consists of three models: the A10, a wall or stand-mount satellite speaker, the A40, a larger wall-mount satellite and the AW-12 powered subwoofer. The satellites feature die-cast aluminum construction with a black or white metallic lacquer finish with brushed metal alloy side trim. The drivers in the Apex speakers are borrowed from Monitor Audio's Platinum GS and RX series speakers and offer great styling for speakers to accompany a flat panel television.
Coolest Tabletop Digital Media Player: Sherwood iNet-20The Sherwood iNet-20 is a stereo media player with built-in Internet Radio, access to Rhapsody and Napster services, an iPod/iPhone docking station, an 8-inch digital photo frame and an alarm clock all in one stylish package. It has large, easy-to-see numbers on the time and date display and uses an icon driven front panel menu for control. It's a multimedia clock radio with a very cool look. It will be available for $299.