The Home Entertainment Show was held again in New York City at the Hilton from April 28th through May 1st. It?s comprised of dealers and manufacturers alike, showing off their wares in hotel rooms and suites. This is one of the few consumer electronics shows open to the public, and its goal is to reflect the current state of home entertainment products including high definition TV, high-resolution video, and multi-channel surround sound. Unlike other CE shows, HES, which is sponsored by Primedia, features numerous esoteric audio companies along with mainstream brands like HP, Polk, RCA, Runco, Samsung, and Yamaha. Surprisingly, several new 1080p HDTVs were introduced this year in addition to some really slick (if expensive) audiophile-like products. In fact, there were more than 250 brands on four floors of the Hilton. Also, there were several technology seminars presided over by various CE journalists, covering different aspects of Home Theater, Big Screen Technologies, Convergence, and Analog Audio. This reporter?s coverage primarily focuses on new TV/Video and Audio products, and only scratches the surface.
HP, who has long been an imaging company with its extensive line of printers and digital cameras, has entered the TV arena with the introduction of a line of ten HP Pavilion HDTVs; these are comprised of flat-panels (LCD and Plasma) and innovative and impressive DLP (Digital Light Processing) HDTVs, all CableCARD ready. According to HP, ?All of the TVs include new HP Visual Fidelity technologies, which provide enhanced image quality and brilliant color by, depending on the model, gauging a room?s ambient lighting and doubling pixel resolution among other innovations ? and … HP?s logo says ?invent? and that?s exactly what we?ve done with our new line of televisions.? All of the new HP display products will be available in late summer at retail. Unfortunately, at press time, pricing was not available.
HP has introduced their first line of four Pavilion MicroDisplay rear-projection DLP HDTVs; these include two models (MD 5020n and MD5820n) featuring 720p screen resolution, and two models (MD 5880n and MD6580n) featuring 1080p screen resolutions. The displays are equipped with HP Visual Fidelity technologies that reportedly ensure top picture performance from virtually any video source. All models have a seemingly unique lighted front-connection panel (instead of the traditional rear jack pack), designed with a special slot under the TV so that audio and video cables can easily be connected from the front and then hidden from view.
HP TV on Zappa Stand
The 720p MicroDisplay line is comprised of a 50-in. (MD 5880n) and 58-in. (MD6580n) models, which are CableCARD ready; this means that they include an integrated ATSC tuner with a front slot for an optional CableCARD module. Both models have a 1500:1 contrast ratio and a brightness level of 600 nits (50-in.) or 480 nits (58-in.). Housed in a black cabinet with bottom silver trim, both models offer unique optional bases with cable management. Unlike its competition, both sets include an 85-watt 2.1 audio system featuring SRS TruSurround XT.
The 1080p MicroDisplay line is comprised of a 58-in. (MD5880n) and a 65-in. (MD6580n) model, which include integrated CableCARD. Housed in sleek black cabinetry and optional striking base module, both models offer a whooping 8500:1 contrast ratio, and brightness levels of 600 nits (58-in.) or 480 nits (65-in.) respectively. To enhance the sets visually, HP has added ?Dynamic Black? and a 7-segment color wheel, combined to enhance DLP performance and reportedly deliver sharp, seamless pictures, increased contrast, and rich blacks. Like its 720p siblings, the 80 Series includes an 85-watt 2.1 audio system with SRS TruSurround XT, and HD interfaces such as HDMI and component video.
HP PavilionLCD HDTVs are available in 26-in. (LC2600N), 32-in. (LC3200N), and 37-in. (LC3700N) widescreen models. According to the company, each model delivers exceptional image accuracy due to a sophisticated video engine that combines scene-by-scene contrast adaptation with information about the room?s ambient lighting. All models feature a 1366x768p screen resolution along with photorealistic sharpness enhancement, 3D color management, image adaptive contrast optimization, ambient light adaptation, and progressive scan technology with 3:2 pulldown. All three LCD HDTVs feature high brightness of 450 cd/m2, an 800:1 contrast ratio, and response times of 12 milliseconds. Connections include HDMI, DVI-I, 2 HD component video inputs, 2 i.LINK 1394 interfaces, 2 S-Video, and 3 A/V inputs. Audio is rated at 10-watts per channel from twin detachable speakers, and features Virtual Dolby Digital Pro Logic II with BBE Mach3Bass. All three LCD HDTVs feature all black cabinetry with a silver base.
HP PavilionPlasma TVs are available in 42-in. and 50-in. screen sizes that feature ultra-long life panels (up to 60,000 hours) built on next-generation phosphors, which reportedly create an image ten percent brighter than conventional panels. According to HP, the panels were created with the latest video processing technology that delivers up to 3.62 billion colors and 2,048 levels of gradation. The line includes one 42-in. (PE4200) enhanced definition TV, and two high definition models (the 42-in. PL4200 and the 50-in. PL5000). The HDTV plasma models feature 1366x768p screen resolution with progressive scan, 3:2 pull-down along with a contrast ratio of 3000:1, a built-in digital HDTV tuner, a CableCARD slot, an SD and PCMIA Picture Viewer, a super-slim 26-watt 4-speaker system, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 digital optical output. All plasma displays are housed in dark gray cabinets.
Lastly, HP offers three versions of its Digital Entertainment Center that include a personal video recorder (PVR). However, only two offer HD recording capability ? the z555 and z557. Both models include one ATSC over-the-air high-definition tuner and two NTSC tuners for the recording of two standard definition shows simultaneously. The z555 comes with a 250GB 7200 rpm Serial ATA hard-drive; the z557 model comes with twin 300GB hard-drives, one being a personal media drive to deliver over half a terabyte of combined storage. Both models offer high-performance TV quality with the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 PCI-Express graphics card. Both models also include a progressive scan DVD/CD/DVD-ROM player and a 16x double-layer DVD-+R/RW drivers that record/playback movies at 480p. Outputs and interfaces include DVI, component video, analog and digital (coaxial and optical) outputs, USB2.0, 4-pin 1394 (for camcorders), 6-pin 1394 (video source devices), and a 9-in-1 Flash Media Card Reader. Other key features include the PVR capability with 30-second skip, built-in FM tuner, keyboard, and universal remote.
HP Media Center Computer System
Samsung used the Home Entertainment Show to announce its upcoming partnership with Microsoft for the next-generation Xbox (to be introduced at E3 later this month), and to introduce several LCD TVs, one plasma TV, a Slim-Fit CRT HDTV, and both 720p and 1080p DLP HDTVs.
The LCD TV introductions start with a new 20-in. LCD TV with PC/DVD/TV inputs. The model LN-R2050 is currently available at $799. Samsung?s widescreen LCD HDTV monitor line is made up of three models: a 23-in. (LN-R238W @ $1,199), a 26-in. (LN-R268W @ $1,999), and a 32-in. (LN-R328W @ $2,499). All of these HDTV monitors offer HD-grade resolutions of 1366×768 progressive on a 16:9 screen. All of these high-resolution TFT-LCD displays are manufactured on the world?s first Generation 7 CD fabrication line, and feature a 3000:1 contrast ratio with brightness levels at 500 nits (cd/m2). All models include Samsung?s patented DNIe chipset that provides enhanced picture quality via a motion optimizer, contrast enhancer, color optimizer, detail enhancer, and ?my color control? that adjusts individual colors. Audio is rated at 10-watts by 2 along with SRS TruSurround XT. All models are housed in black cabinetry with silver trim. Rounding out the new LCD TV line is Samsung?s LN-R408D ($4,499), which is a 40-in. widescreen HDTV with integrated CableCARD. It includes all of the features found in Samsung?s HD monitor line plus a 12 millisecond response time.
There was one new plasma TV introduction: the model SP-R4232 ($2,999), which is a 42-in. enhanced definition Plasma TV that displays images at 480p. This fifth generation plasma panel incorporates Samsung?s proprietary electronic chassis design, as well as DNIe picture enhancement circuitry to help improve overall brightness, contrast and picture clarity. The SP-R4232 features an integrated NTSC/ATSC/DCR (Digital Cable Ready) tuner, a wide 175-degree horizontal viewing angle, and an SRS TruSurround XT audio system.
Samsung will be offering a total of sixteen HD-level DLP sets for 2005, which are all Digital Cable Ready featuring CableCARD. This breaks down to eight 720p models that use a 0.55-in. Texas Instruments DLP chipset; eight 1080p models use a 0.80-in. Texas Instruments DLP chipset with a different light engine design. Highlights of their 720p DLP introductions include two models of the company?s ?Floating Screen Design 60 Series? in 42-in. (HL-R4266W @ $$2,499) and 50-in. (HL-R5067W) sizes. In fact, there are 46-in., 56-in. and 61-in. models in this 60 Series as well. This design features a black cabinet with speakers mounted underneath the screen (in silver housing) for a plasma TV-like look. All models feature Samsung?s DNIe technology and offer contrast ratios of 2500:1 and brightness levels ranging from 600 nits (61-in.) to 1000 nits (42-in.) Models ending in 67W also include the TV Guide On-Screen feature. All models are currently available.
The 1080p DLP line features Samsung?s proprietary ?Cinema Smooth Optical Engine? that provides super-high 1920×1080 pixel density and progressive scanning for stunning image quality and a 5000:1 contrast ratio. Highlights of the introductions include the HL-R5678W ($4,299), which is a 56-in. model that includes Samsung?s ?Floating Screen Design,? and their proprietary DNIe video enhancement technology. The HL-R5688W ($5,199) is also a 56-in model, the world?s first 1080p display offered in Samsung?s unique Pedestal style design. Rounding out the 1080p DLP introductions is Samsung?s top-of-the-line HL-R6768W ($6,199), which is a whooping 67-in. tabletop variant that includes DNIe technology and 30-watts of audio power. All models will be available in June.
Lastly, Samsung showcased its SlimFit 30-in. wide CRT HDTV ? model TX-R3079WH ($1,099). Announced at CES2005, this model is now available at retail. With a depth of only 15.5-in. (compared to the standard 24-in. depth for most 30-in. wide sets), the TX-R3079W is a fully integrated HDTV that utilizes a flat CRT tube technology for excellent picture quality.
RCA-branded TVs, which are now manufactured by the TTE Corp., used the Home Entertainment Show as a springboard to launch its new line of SDTVs (Standard Definition) and HDTVs. RCA introduced eight new DLP HDTV models, seven rear projection CRT HDTVs, three direct-view HDTV CRT monitors, five LCD displays, and five SDTV sets for a total of twenty-three new digital models. The company?s goal is to provide consumers with the most affordable path to high-definition by delivering an array of integrated HDTV sets, HD monitors, and standard definition digital TVs in a variety of screen sizes and cabinet designs.
First and foremost, RCA will continue its SceniumProfiles DLP HDTV models: the 50-in. HD50TH263 ($4,999) and the 61-in. HD61THW263 ($6,999 and recently reviewed by DesignTechnica.) RCA announced the introduction of eight new DLP HDTV models that encompass three series: the 175 Series, 167 Series that are Scenium models, and RCA 62 Series. All models are 720p, as RCA believes that it?s too premature to offer 1080p products this year. All new DLP sets include an integrated ATSC tuner and are Digital Cable Ready with CableCARD plus an InFocus light engine using Texas Instruments? HD4 chipset.
The RCA 62 Series is comprised of three models: a 44-in. model (HD44LPW62 @ $1,999), a 50-in. model (HD50LPW62 @ $2,199), and a 61-in. model (HD61LPW62 @ $2,799). All 62 Series models also include HDMI and dual component video inputs plus a 6-device illuminated universal remote along with a 20-watt audio system featuring SRS Focus. The RCA Scenium 167 Series and the 175 Series offer identical features, but present completely different cabinetry designs. The silver 167 Series sports bottom-mounted speakers, while the 175 Series offer all black cabinetry with side-mounted (bi-sonic) speakers, giving them a flat panel look. Besides including all of the features found on the RCA 62 Series, the RCA Sceniummodels add TV Guide On-Screen electronic program guide, backlit touch sensors, and SRS TruSurround XT with subwoofer and 1394 A/V record outputs. The 167 Series is comprised of three models: a 44-in. 9HD44LPW167 @ $2,299), a 50-in. model (HD50LPW167 @ $2,499), and a 61-in. model (HD61LPW167 @ $2,999). The 175 Series is made up of two models: a 50-in. model (HD50LPW175 @ $2,499) and a 61-in. model (HD61LPW175 @ $2,999). Except for the HD61LPW175 that will ship this fall, all other models will be available in June.
RCA continues to offer rear projection CRT HDTVs with seven new models this year; they are very affordable. The new models are available in three series: the 59 Series, the 66 Series, and the 68 Series, which are offered in three screen sizes: 52-in., 56-in. and 61-in. models. The 59 Series is represented by a single 52-in. model (HD52W59 @ $1,099) that incorporates a built-in ATSC HD tuner, 3-line comb filter, DVI/component video input, a 20-watt audio system, and a 3-device universal remote. The 66 Series adds scan velocity modulation and a 6-device backlit universal remote. It is comprised of three models: a 52-in. model (HD52W66 @ $1,499), a 56-in. model (HD56W66 @ $1,799), and a 61-in. model (HD61W66 @ $1,999). The 68 Series, which also features a ?floating screen? design, is also made-up of three models: a 52-in. model (HD52W68 @ $1,599), a 56-in. model (HD56W68 @ $1,899), and a 61-in. model (HD61W68 @ $2,099). All models will be available in June.
RCA?s direct-view CRT line is comprised of three HD Monitors and five SDTV (Standard Definition TV) models. The new HDTV monitors are available in one 30-in. widescreen model (D30W850T @$699), and two 4:3 models: a 27-in. (D27F650T @ $549) and a 32-in. model (D32F750T @ $899). All three models, which are currently available, offer TruFlat tubes, TruScan Digital Reality Creation, 3-line digital comb filters, dual syncorscan HD inputs, a DVI input, and a 3-device universal remote. The five SDTV models offer integrated ASTC tuners, allowing consumers to watch digital TV broadcasts at DVD image quality (480p). There are four 27-in. models with prices ranging from $279 to $359, and one 32-in. model (32F654T @ $599).
RCA is also offering five new LCD displays designed for wall viewing. Three models will be offered in the RCA line in three screen sizes, available in June and July. They include a 23-in. model (L23W10 @ $799), a 26-in. model (L26W11 @$999), and the 32-in.widescreen (L32W11 @ $1,499.) All models will include an integrated NTSC tuner, and a 5-line adaptive comb filter. While the 23-in. model will offer a screen resolution of 1280×720, the other two models will offer screen resolutions of 1366×768 and add DVI and HD component video inputs. RCA Scenium will offer two HD LCD TVs with screen resolutions of 1366×768, and feature integrated ATSC/NTSC tuners plus integrated DVD players as well. Key features include HDMI and HD component video inputs along with a Photo Card Reader, USB port, SRS TruSurround XT, and a 3-device universal remote. These are available in two screen sizes: a 26-in. (L26WD131D @ $1,699) and a 32-in. model (L32WD131D @ $2,199), and will be available in September.
Runco, who has been a long-time staunch supporter of Home Theater through their various front video projector display devices and HD controllers/scalers, introduced their new Crystal Series of high-definition liquid crystal displays. According to Runco, each ultra-slim LCD features distinctive signature styling, offering enthusiasts an immersed movie experience. All three widescreen models offer a screen resolution of 1366×768, proprietary Vixix processing, and a 10-watt audio system with detachable side-mounted speakers. Both the 26-in. (CRF-26HD @ $2,495) and the 32-in. model (CR-32HD @ $4,995) include integrated NTSC tuners and offer contrast ratios of 1000:1. The 40-in. model (CR-40HD @ $6,995) is an HD monitor only without an integrated tuner, and offers a contrast ratio of 800:1. However, all models include twin HD component video inputs, DVI, RGBHD-15, and RS-232C connectors. All models are currently available, and feature integrated ISF calibration.
Runco CR-40HD Plasma TV
AR (Acoustic Research) introduced their new DMP3000 Digital MediaBridge at HES2005. Designed as an A/V link between your PC and your home entertainment system, the Digital MediaBridge allows you to take the music, photos, and videos stored on your computer and play them on your home entertainment system. It is WiFi capable via 802.11g. Essentially, it gives you on-demand access to your digital library without having to be in the same room as your PC. It will even pass HD images with resolutions of either 720p or 1080i via DVI and component video outputs. The MediaBridge works with either a wired or wireless home network via Ethernet. It supports playback of standard and high-definition content purchased from CinemaNow (http://www.cinemanow.com/), a leader in broadband video-on-demand. The Digital MediaBridge plays back digital photos and digital videos in WM9, JPEG, MPEG2 and MPEG4. It also plays back digital music in numerous formats including MP3, WMA, AAC and WAV. Included with the MediaBridge is a 6-device universal remote that will operate both your PC and home entertainment system using easy-to-use on-screen menus. Since the DMP3000 is attached to the Internet, it is fully upgradeable. Priced at $349, the DMP3000 Digital MediaBridge will be available in June.
ACoustic Research DMP3000
Kaleidescape took the opportunity of HES2005 to introduce two new whole-house entertainment server systems (KS3000 and KS3500) and Software Release 2.4. Both new systems are based on the new KSERVER-2500 and Software Release 2.4. The new KSERVER-2500 provides 100/1000Base-T Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and stores up to 660 DVDs on twelve 400GB disk cartridges (4.4 terabytes of RAID-protected storage capacity), which is a 33-percent increase of earlier Kaleidescape Servers. According to the company, multiple KSERVER-2500s can be clustered in a single system to store thousands of movies. The Kaleidescape System 3000 provides simultaneous playback in up to five zones throughout the home; the KS3500 provides simultaneous playback in up to twenty-five zones or more, depending on the System configuration and specific movies being watched. Software Release 2.4 adds new features: scripts that allow users to create and play any sequence of DVDs, Multiple Favorite Scenes, and quick Search capability. Prices for the KS3000 and KS3500, which are available now, start at $22,500. Both base systems include one Kaleidescape Server, one Kaleidescape DVD Reader, one Kaleidescape Movie Player, Software Release 2.4, a one-year subscription to Kaleidescape Movie Guide Service, and a one-year subscription to Kaleidescape Software Update Service.
Polk Audio, who has produced quality loudspeakers for many years, is branching out. Polk announced their new I-Sonic Entertainment System. According to the manufacturer, it is the first product to combine IBiquity?s HD Radio technology with XM satellite radio capability and a DVD/CD player. The I-Sonic Entertainment System is a stereo, all-digital audio system that includes an AM/FM radio, a digital HD Radio tuner, a DVD/CD player, and XM Satellite Radio capability via an attachable plug-n-play module (optional). The compact system includes 4-speaker I-Sonic and PowerPort technologies that, according to the manufacturer, ?produce sound quality so big and lifelike that for many, the I-Sonic is capable of being the primary home entertainment system.? I-Sonic technology delivers a room-filling stereo soundstage of 360-degrees. HD Radio is digital radio technology that offers static-free, crystal-clear reception with CD-quality sound from more than 2500 AM and FM stations across the country. HD Radio also offers the station the capability to multi-cast, which means that broadcasters can provide additional content and/or text over the same bandwidth. The I-Sonic Entertainment System will be available in September at a cost of $599. The add-on XM Connect & Play Antenna module will be priced at $49.
Polk Audio I-Sonic Entertainment System
Thiphi Audio has introduced a very compelling home theater in a box. Their model 8801 Surround Sound System, priced at $1,199, is a complete self-powered system that doesn?t need an AV Receiver. Simply add a DVD player and a TV, and you are done. This 5.1 high-performance system incorporates a unique command center into the center channel speaker, and digital processing into the active subwoofer. It comes complete with 7-watt x 5 diminutive satellite speakers and a 30-watt active subwoofer with a long-throw 8-in. driver. Housed in black cabinetry, the system decodes and plays back DTS, Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic soundtracks. To control the system, a credit card-size remote is provided. It is also equipped to support a full spectrum of audio/video source components by including two digital optical, two digital coaxial, and three analog audio inputs. All speaker enclosures are magnetically-shielded.
Thiphi Audio 8801 system controls
Outlaw Audio, who is celebrating its sixth year on the lam (according to their press release), has introduced an absolutely stunning new A/V Controller. Their full-featured model 990, priced at $1,099, is a 7.1-channel audio-video preamp, processor, and tuner for music and home theater with complete DVI and component video switching capability with upconversion. The model 990 processes all DTS aural schemes including DTS-ES, as well as Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Virtual Speaker, and Dolby Headphone layers 1, 2, and 3. It digitally re-masters PCM to 192/24, and features 192 kHz 24-bit DACs for all channels. This preamp/processor also includes automatic loudspeaker set-up and calibration using its included microphone. There?s a plethora of inputs and outputs: two DVI in/1 out, three component video in/one out, five optical and two coax digital inputs/one optical out, five rear panel A/V inputs, six audio inputs with Phono, and a front panel A/V input and mic input. Other key features include lip sync delay, on-screen display, multi-room capability, and high performance tuner with thirty station presets. Lastly, the model 990 includes 7.1 RCA pre-amp outputs with dual sub out 7.1. For the custom install crowd, this model also includes RS-232 controllability and twin 12v triggers. It is currently available on the Internet.
Outlaw Audio 990 A/V Controller
Simaudio, Ltd. has introduced the Moon i-7 Integrated Amplifier. It is a fully-balanced dual-mono design that produces high-current rock-solid 150-watts per channel into 8 ohms with no sonic colorations. It uses ?Class A? amplification power. Simaudio has provided a custom proprietary toroidal transformer design with lower magnetic, electric, and thermal loss that yields an improved power transfer and a lower regulation factor. For more accurate tonal musical reproduction, the company has added their proprietary ?Lynx? circuitry. The Moon i-7 has features an ?M-Lock? circuit for ?user selectable? maximum volume, setting lock-out for each line input. Each line input is also configurable to be ?home theater ready,? where the preamplifier section of the i-7 is bypassed. A 12v trigger is included for remote operations. The Moon i-7 will be available in August at a price of $4,500.
Simaudio Moon i-7
Who said that tube technology was dead? Moscode has introduced their new 401HR Stereo Amplifier that features 200 watts of advanced hybrid tube technology. This powerful and refined 401HR delivers crisp, dynamic, and musical 200-watts per channel of sound using a classic tube driver stage coupled to MOSFET power outputs. It?s presented in a handsome chassis with enclosed heatsinks and sexy drop-down front panel for easy access to the tubes. You can use the factory-supplied tube pairs or literally tune the sound by changing the driver tubes. The 401HR incorporates every circuit refinement that the company has made over the last 20 years for the many Moscode 300s still out there. According to the manufacturer, the new 401HR is a powerful, nuanced and engaging amplifier; it entices you into the music. It also features an attractive but discreet edge-lit logo in the tube window that changes color depending on operating status. And, for those of you out there who are power mad, a mono switch parallels the inputs for easy vertical bi-amping. Available with either a silver or black face plate, the 401HR Stereo Amplifier is currently at retail. The 401HR Stereo Amplifier carries a price of $4,995.”
Moscode 401HR Amplifier
ELP LASER TURNTABLE
While most like to think that vinyl records are passÃ©, many people still wane lovingly over their record collections. Digital compact discs are not the only way to listen to music, and Gramophone records have been produced since Edison?s phonograph. Unfortunately, there have always been numerous problems with turntables; the mechanical belts, phono cartridges, and the needles wear out and scratch the records. With Elp Corporation?s new laser turntable, it has blasted vinyl record technology into the 21st century by beaming a laser onto the record grooves so that there is no physical contract whatsoever with the record. It is the only analog record player that does not wear records. Musical information is processed in analog, and all circuitry is analog as well for completely analog sound reproduction. It connects to any phono pre-amplifier producing audiophile quality sound in either mono or stereo.
The laser turntable can play 7-, 8.5-, 10-, 11-, and 12-in. diameter records. It can playback 33-1/3, 45, and 78 rpm records. There?s also a variable speed control in 30-50 rpm in 0.1 rpm steps, and 60-90 rpm in 0.2 rpm steps. There are a total of five lasers: two for the left and right groove walls, two for tracking groove pitch, and one for tracking groove warp. No adjustment is required for anti-skate, and it uses linear tracking to zero tracking error distortion. Since the optical pickup is controlled by microprocessors, the laser turntable operates much like a CD player with cueing to individual cuts, random access, and repeat play, and it offers numerous programming possibilities. The laser turntable displays elapsed/remaining or total time just like a CD player. Model LT-1LRC plays 45s and LPs, and is priced at $14,999. Model LT-1XRC plays 45s, LPs, and 78s, and is priced at $16,999. Lastly, model LT-2XRC plays 45s, LPs, and 78s of any size, and is priced at $18,999.
ELP Laser Turntable