C.E.D.I.A. opened a few weeks ago in Indianapolis, IN, and fostered several themes. The most important themes were: iPod connectivity, HDMI connectivity, and displays (TVs) with resolutions of 1080p. If there ever could be two technologies that are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s the iPod and 1080p displays. The iPod craze is taking over high-end Audio, which seems to me like an oxymoron. Virtually, every AV Receiver manufacturer is now offering iPod connectivity on either the front or back panels of the receivers. Personally, I think its odd, but that’s just me.
HDMI and AV Receivers/AV Processors were also in the news at C.E.D.I.A., which are adding HDMI switching and upconversion capability. Finally, after a couple of years, HDMI 1.1 connectors are being adding to numerous receives from various brands including Sony, Pioneer, Yamaha, JVC, Denon, Marantz, NAD just to name a few. This is an important step towards the HDTV conversion process. In the past, AV Receivers and AV Processors only included component video inputs and outputs making it somewhat cumbersome to use the digital video connectors from satellite/cable set-top boxes. Now, HDMI is significant as it will pass both digital video and 5.1 digital audio.
Essentially, it also affords a much simpler connection between source components such as a DVD player or a cable or satellite HD set-top box, for example, and the display device by using only one connection on the TV. Based on the current generation of display products, many models only have one HDMI connection so by placing HDMI connectivity to the AV Receiver certainly facilities the connection of several HDMI-enabled products. As well, some of the AV receivers from companies like Denon, Marantz, or Yamaha, for example, may also included video improvement circuitry from chip companies like Silicon Optix or even Faroudja, which is especially helpful on improving and cleaning up standard definition images.
Moving onto 1080p displays. Obviously, 1080p displays are the step-up for 720p displays. Manufacturers are keeping 720p displays in their lines to reach “price points” only. Texas Instruments (TI) showed off 1080p DLP technology in their booth by offering demos of a one-chip 70-in. 1080p rear projection display, and also a new one-chip 1080p front projector (The first of its kind. Previously, all front projector 1080p displays were of a 3-chip design). Four TV manufacturers are now offering rear projection 1080p DLP displays including: HP, Mitsubishi, Samsung, and Toshiba. To round out 1080p DLP technology, Optoma TV introduced an 80-in. and 100-in. tunerless monitor-only rear projection display called ‘BigVision,’ which is designed to be placed within the wall for a completely custom-install look. In our last report, I discussed Sony and its 1080p SXRD along with its initial two model —
Not to be outdone, Epson showed twin 1080p 1920×1080 CrystralPRO 3LCD displays HD displays in 55-in. and 65-in. screen sizes that will be tunerless monitor-only models. These will be officially launched at CES. The LCoS camp offering 1080p displays included LG, Brillian (along with Olevia), and Sony with its SXRD technology, and JVC with its variant HD-ILA technology. Previously, Hitachi had announced that it would also be offering a line of LCoS high-definition displays, but had indicated at the show that these models were delayed indefinitely. Reportedly, production problems are the cause. Sharp has also put its 1080p DLP plans on hold in favor of its LCD technology as the company unveiled a new 65-in. 1080p LCD HDTV. LG is also offering a 55-in. 1080p high-definition LCD tunerless monitor-only.
Epson Crystal Pro
Shifting gears from C.E.D.I.A. for a moment, I want to touch upon this week is the Canon Expo that was held in New York last week. It previewed new consumer and business products. The highlight of this Exposition was that the company showed three concept display products plus SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display). The prototype display products were: OLED — designed to be used initially in digital cameras and cell phones and then larger displays, LCoS — Canon showed the press a 1080p front projector, and also 64-inch 1080p rear projection LCoS display that was only 12-inches deep.
Of course, the highlight for me at Canon Expo was to see 14 SED HDTVs being shown in various types of cabinetry. While not quite ready for prime time, we should hopefully see SED from Canon (and Toshiba) on the main floor at CES 2006, which will be held in Las Vegas, NV the first week of January 2006. While there have been no marketing announcements as yet, it seems fairly clear that SED will be launched in the 4th quarter 2006. Of course, the big question is, “Is it too little and too late for SED as the prices for flat-panels continue to fall?” That’s a good question. I hope not because SED seems to hold the promise of a superlative television without any of the short-comings of either plasma or LCD. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
On the audio-only side at C.E.D.I.A, numerous speaker companies introduced new and excellent sounding loudspeakers. However, there is one company that I want to single out — Infinity — for exceptional design and creativity. Infinity, which is part of the Harman Industries Group, introduced their new ‘Cascade’ loudspeaker technology. I had the opportunity to listen to this revolutionary driver technology in Northridge, CA in August. They sounded absolutely awesome! Offering a completely new driver design over run-of-the-mill cone drivers, this rectangular-shaped flat-panel speaker driver has been designed to complement flat-panel TVs. Currently, these speakers are offered in several attractive types of free-standing models. However, ‘Cascade’ clearly has applications to be part of an In-Wall Speaker system, and could also be conceivably placed within the frame of a flat-panel HDTV. I strongly recommend that ‘Cascade’ be auditioned for anyone looking for speakers to complement their new flat-panel display.
They say that “size is everything,” and that big screens can never be too big or too thin. Well, Optoma TV has certainly taken it to the next level by describing their new ‘BigVizion’ 1080p DLP rear projection behemoth as “An Architect’s Dream.” Unlike other rear projection high-definition displays, this model comes with no cabinetry whatsoever because it is created to be placed within the wall for a true custom installation appearance. BigVizion will be available in both 80-inch and 100-inch varieties. While offering the look of a hang-on-the-wall flat-panel, it doesn’t suffer from plasma “burn-in” or LCD image smear, but still offering 1080p image clarity. Price = TBA.
Sony has brought its SXRD technology down from the lofty heights of QUALIA with the introduction it’s new 50-in. and 60-in. Grand Wega — KDS-R50XBR1 and KDS-R60XBR1 HDTVs. These sets are a sight to behold for brightness, image quality, and picture resolution. These full-featured high-definition televisions offer 1080p screen resolutions with some of the best image quality available. For superlative image quality, Sony is utilizing an “Advanced Iris” system that combines with the three SXRD panels and Sony’s Cinema Black Pro mode, which can maximize contrast ratios up to a whooping 10,000:1. Prices are $3,999 (50-in.) and $4,999 (60-in.)http://www.sonystyle.com
Sony has launched an entirely new BRAVIA line of XBR flat-panel televisions in screen sizes ranging from 26-in. to 40-in. The KDL-V40XBR1, for example, is a fully integrated HDTV featuring CableCARD, and offers a screen resolution of 1366×768. These BRAVIA models feature Sony’s advanced Wide Color Gamut-Cold Cathode Florescent Light (WCG-CCFL) backlight system that produces a purer white light for a wider and more accurate range of colors, and Super Patterned Vertical Alignment that produces faster response times for improved clarity. Price is $3,500. http://www.sonystyle.com/
Sharp has launched the largest direct-view digital cable-ready LCD HDTV currently available. Sharp’s new Aquos LC-65D90 features a massive 65-in. screen for the ‘The Big Picture.” It comes complete with all of the accruements that you’d expect to find on a full-featured high-definition television providing a full spec screen resolution of 1920×1080 or 1080p. For enhanced color reproduction with deeper and more vivid reds, Sharp includes its proprietary ‘Four-wavelength backlight system.’ The LC-65D90 has a response time of less than 12 milli-seconds for virtually no blurring in fast moving scenes. Price is $20,999. http://www.sharpusa.com/
Philips has taken that famous line, “Mirror?mirror?on the wall,” to heart with its line of LCD TVs hidden in the mirror. It?s a dual functionality product doubling as a reflective mirror and a HD Capable LCD TV. Image quality is 1280x768p, and because of their special polarization process, there is 100-percet light transfer on the Mirror TVs making them very bright indeed. If you turn it off, it?s a mirror. If you turn it on, it?s a high-quality, fully featured LCD television. The sleek design of the MiraVision Mirror TVs hides the TV’s electronics and wires, providing an architecturally refined display solution. Currently, Philips’ Mirror TVs are available in three screen sizes: 17-in. (portrait), 23-in. (portrait and landscape) and 30-in. (landscape) models. The 30-inch landscape model takes advantage of the entire widescreen (16:9) surface of the display. Optional customizable frames are available. Price is $3,500. www.flattv.philips.com/miravision
HP has entered the high-definition TV arena with several new Pavilion DLP HDTV sets in both 720p and 1080p screen resolutions. A stunning example of their creativity is their MD6580p. While this 65-in. model has all of the accoutrements of high-def sets, HP has designed an unusual cabinet and base system that allows you make all of the connections on the front of the HDTV instead of the back, and then those cables snake underneath set the set and out the back. The front attached cables are hidden underneath a stealth panel. Price is $4,999.
HANNspree LCD TVs offer an unprecedented fusion of art, technology and sheer fun. All sets, for instance, feature a multi-dimensional 360-degree design, offering unique aesthetic appeal from all perspectives, front, back and sides, letting owners place them virtually anywhere in a room ? even in the center. There are three diverse themed lines: Sports, Style and Fantasy. In addition, all sets utilize high-performance features and high-quality LCD screens. The accompanying ‘Backboard’ 23-in. LCD TV, for example, is just one of many different and diverse designs offered by this unusual company. The set features a transparent backboard-style shield with sporty round speakers protruding from each side of the TV giving off the feel of a basketball “backboard,” and includes a front panel digital read-out that resembles a game clock. Price is $1,199. http://www.hannspree.com/