Making Audio Sound Better
A broad swath of introductions designed to make the most of the dominant consumer music source – compressed music – was presented by suppliers
at all points in the product pricing spectrum at this year’s show. That doesn’t mean that short shrift was given to the luxury customer’s wants or willingness to pay highly for build quality and a bonafide conversation piece.
There’s room for all tastes in audio appreciation these days, at all price tags. Here’s a rundown of what was at some companies’ displays at the Venetian and in the Central and South Halls.
• Bang & Olufsen CEO Tue Mantoni presented B&O’s latest effort in “domesticating technology”: the BeoSound Essence one-touch system ($995; Spring availability), a simplified streaming solution that makes music listening as easy as turning on the light, he said, adding, “It’s all most consumers need, in about 80 percent of cases.” It sends content from any source using AirPlay and DLNA. It consists of a wall- or table-mounted remote receiver that accesses a hideaway box which is the streaming center, via an app.
• SVS showed two new subwoofers, the ported PB-2000 ($799) and the SB-2000 ($699); both feature a newly engineered 12-inch driver developed with 20 generations of prototypes. Both offer flexible connectivity options.
• Velodyne has just entered the personal audio/ Bluetooth wireless speaker category, and is planning to offer a full audio speaker line to complement its subwoofer SKUs, said president Marta Hall. Meanwhile, the focus at CES was on the on-ear vQuiet noise cancelling headphones, offering a 90-percent reduction in jet and ambient noise, and the vLeve designer ’phones ($219) that take a wide choice of decorative skins ($39 and up). Both offer on-ear control capability and a collapsible design.
• Peachtree Audio added the Nova 220SE integrated amp ($1,999; March availability) to its range. It produces 200 watts into eight ohms.
• GoldenEar Technology $2,499.99 Triton One is the company’s new flagship speaker. The 54-inch tower, with a 1,600-watt built-in digital subwoofer amplifier, builds upon technologies used in the Triton line’s other models, and is optimized for two- or multi-channel music and home theater.
• At Paradigm, a grouping of intros made at CEDIA Expo were shown and ready to ship. These included the SoundScape BT 5.1-channel soundbar with built0in subwoofer (February availability). It comes with a wireless module for the optional addition of an external subwoofer. The CS in-wall series, also shown, has been made more installer-friendly and features bezel-less grilles; there’s also the option of square grilles available.
• Monitor Audio’s ASB-2 ($1,650) is being billed as an “audio hub,” and is the company’s first soundbar; it features built-in AirPlay and DLNA. Through AirPlay Direct, it can connect and play content without network access.
• At Antelope Audio, the focus was on satisfying the audiophile community, with the introduction of the Zodiac Platinum DSD DAC/headphone amplifier ($5,500). It uses the company’s signature 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking technology.
• Bryston showed off its new BUC-1 USB converter ($749), for use between a DAC and a computer to effect noise isolation. It offers asynchronous USB input up to 192 kHz/24-bit. The company also showed the first production models of its three-way in-wall and on-wall speakers (TIW and TOW; $560 each), now shipping.
• At the Thiel display, newly realized speaker designs were shown. They included the TM3 ($2,999/pair without stands) and a prototype of the TT3 tower speaker ($14,999/pair). There is also a subwoofer series on the product roadmap for possible introduction in Q3, said the company’s Mark Mason.
• AudioControl began shipping its latest components to handle 4K signals and achieve upscaling: the 100-watt-per-channel $3,950 Concert AVR-6 and the 120-watts-per-channel $6,000 Concert AVR-8. Also shown was the Maestro M8 preamp/surround processor, due out at the end of Q1.
• Bluetooth wireless speaker maker IUI featured the water-resistant Bass Jumper ($69.95), with 10-hour battery life. The company has also forged a licensing partnership with Mini Cooper, and will release in April the Gearshift (Model PF328) wireless speaker ($79.99 to $99.99 price range).
• Audio-Technica presented the SonicFuel over-ear headphones, which offer smartphone compatibility – part of the new AX Series ($89.95). An in-ear version is $49.95. The company has also entered the gaming headphone category with two models: the closed-back ATH-ADG1 ($249) and the open-back ATH-AG1 ($299). Both have built-in mics and a detachable USB D/A converter headphone amplifier.
• Metra Home Theater Group, under its Helios by Audio Solutions brand label, will soon ship its $899 3.1 Audio Mount Sound Bar (Model TVAMSBAR3-1). The 160-watt acoustically tuned combination TV mount/soundbar system features a built-in 6.5-inch flat sub, optical and digital coax inputs and a stereo mini input, and it can support up to 135 pounds and TVs from 50 to 90 inches. The company also made its first foray into home security, offering a surveillance system line called SpyClops. It includes a full portfolio of security cameras, DVRs and power distribution amps, and all can be monitored via a free app (prices range from $160 through $789).
• At the NYNE outpost, the company’s latest IPX-7-rated waterproof Bluetooth 4.0 Aqua wireless speaker was introduced. The company also showed a new, small-footprint interactive illuminated POP display that is vertically modular and can hold anywhere from one to four of NYNE’s SKUs (end-of-March availability). “This year, we’re all about supporting the floor sales retailer,” said company president Arman Arami in explaining the new POP design.
• Totem’s Vince Bruzzese showed off the company’s Totem Kin Monitors ($500/pair) and Totem Kin Sub ($699) in their Venetian suite. The system will be available in the second quarter. Even with their diminutive footprints, they’re designed to deliver clear, precise, musically solid sound reproduction.
• iLuv’s booth featured the SyrenPro outdoor Bluetooth water- and UV-resistant speaker system. Its TrueWireless Stereo technology allows it to be wirelessly paired with a second SyrenPro for stereo sound, via NFC or by the standard pairing method (February availability; $149.99).
• iHome showed numerous wireless and docking speaker solutions and headphones. Among them was the iBN6 ($99.99), a waterproof portable rechargeable Bluetooth speaker that is pairable via NFC with compatible devices, and available in a number of finishes including camouflage.
• Harman and its various brands held product showings at the Hard Rock Hotel. Shown by its Luxury division was the Mark Levinson No. 585 2x200-watt integrated amp (Summer availability; $12,000). It uses an iteration of a Harman technology originally developed for the automobile called Signal Doctor that adds uncompressed enhancements to compressed audio source material, the company said. In the Infinity line, the Infinity One Bluetooth speaker/conferencing system is new ($399). And under the JBL banner, the Authentics L16 tabletop audio system, whose walnut-finish form factor harks back to the company’s L100, bowed ($899; February availability). It offers a fully digital signal path with 24-bit/96kHz capability, and streams music from multiple sources using AirPlay or DLNA. An optional combination inductive power charger/NFC plate will also be available. n