CES 2005 - It's Just So BIG!
Part 3 - (Audio, Video, Home Theater Gear and...
the Monster in the Courtroom)
The South Hall featured mostly audio,
video and home theater exhibits.
the aisle from the Temple of Runco in the Convention Center's South
Hall was Parasound,
who is clearly staking a claim on the mid-level home theater separates
with several new products on display. The model 7100 Home Theater
Controller ($3,000, available in March, 2005) and 5250 five channel
amplifier ($2,500, also slated for March, 2005) make a nice affordable
alternative to the higher priced models
in their Halo line. The 7100 controller
features all the latest surround decoding (including Dolby Pro Logic
IIX), THX Ultra2 Certification, plus video up-conversion that passes
S-video and composite video inputs to component video outputs.
Parasound's new home theater
model 7100 and five channel amplifier, the model 5250.
more interesting to the purist audiophile who is looking to integrate a
high quality multi-channel source like DVD-Audio or SACD into his or
her system is the P2 preamp (price: TDB, availability: "within 60
days") which includes a phono preamp (MM/MC) as well as two 7.1 channel
analog inputs and 8 channels of output.
Parasound's new analog-only audiophile
the P2 (top) features 2 multi-channel line level inputs.
The P2 rear panel includes balanced inputs and outputs (for 2 channel
sources only), plus unbalanced inputs for multi-channel sources.
I was lingering at the Parasound booth, chatting with Barry Willis from
Stereophile, Gordon Sell from GSPR came by and offered us a guided
of some of his other clients' coolest new items at the show. First stop
was Atlantic Technology, who were
showing off their new integrated Left/Center/Right speaker the FS-4000
($899, available March, 2005). This unique slim design is
hang on the wall, complementing the visual aesthetics of flat panel
televisions, while greatly enhancing their sound.
Atlantic Technology's FS-4000
speaker, shown here with the grille
next up, introducing a new high-end center channel speaker in their
"Karat Reference" series. Weighing in at 88 pounds, the Karat
Reference 2 DC ($5,000) features a 3 1/2 way design, power handling up
to 600 WPC and a rated frequency response of 20 Hz to 30KHz. Yes,
my friends you can finally set your processor's center channel speaker
to "Large" in good conscience. Canton also showcased their
new "Vento" line of loudspeakers. Named for the Italian word for
wind, the Vento "combines German engineering with Italianate
curves." Well they sure were easy on the eyes, and if the sound
is comparable to other Canton speakers I have auditioned, then they
should be easy on the ears as well. Models include the Vento 809 DC
Vento 807 DC ($3,500/pr), Vento 802 ($2,000/pr) and the Vento 805 CM center channel ($1,500 each). All are available in cherry wood
veneer and silver lacquer finishes and should be available now at your
local Canton dealer.
Gordon Sell (GSPR) and Barry
Willis (Stereophile) pose with Canton's new
"Vento" loudspeaker. Vanna White, look out! You've got nothing on Barry.
stop on the GSPR train was Wireworld, who introduced a new
DVI/HDMI cable as well as a unique new flat speaker cable. The DVI/HDMI
cable, the Starlight 52 "Five Squared"
(Pricing: TBD, Available February, 2005) can be run as long as 100 ft.
says the manufacturer, and features a newly designed silver-clad copper
internal shield for "nearly ideal shielding and conductivity."
Their new Horizon 52
"Five Squared" flat speaker wire ($1.50/foot, available now) and Insta-wire™ speaker
connector (patent pending, $5/each, available February, 2005) are ideal
for custom installers but also useful to anyone who enjoys quick
speaker set-up. With these cables, neither stripping nor
crimping is required -- just cut the speaker wire to length, slide
the end into their banana-style connector, snap the edges in and you're
good to go. The cable is asymmetrically shaped so it only
fits into the connector one way, thereby eliminating potential phase
problems. A very clever solution indeed.
Wireworld's new Starlight 52
DVI/HDMI cable and
Horizon 52 speaker cable with Insta-wire connectors.
Denon had quit showing demos for the
day when I finally reached their exhibit area with weary feet an hour
or so before closing time, but many of their new and upcoming products
out on silent display. It seems the theme this year had been to add DVI
and HDMI to
more of their products, both DVD players and receivers. The
upcoming AVR-4806 home theater receiver ($3,500, available in April,
2005) was one example of this. This 130 WPC THX Ultra-certified
behemoth will be one of the first to feature HDMI
switching. It also includes a DVI connection and three component
video inputs. Outputs include both HDMI and component video.
Denon's upcoming AVR4806
receiver features one
DVI, 3 HDMI, and three component video HD inputs
the aisle, Marantz was still doing home
theater demos, showcasing the latest version of their critically
acclaimed VP-12 single chip DLP projector, the VP-12S4 ($13,499 with short or
medium-throw lens, $16,499 with long-throw lens). Featuring the
current TI HD2+ chipset, the VP12S4 actually represents a radical
redesign of the VP12 with all-new video processing optimized for high
definition sources. According to product manager Dan Miller,
Marantz looked for a high quality High Def scaling chip from the likely
suspects, but none was to be found so they partnered with Gennum
(well known in the broadcast industry, but not so much in the consumer
realm) to implement an optimal custom solution. Gennum's VXP
("Visual Excellence Processing") 9350 chip handles format conversion
for all SDTV and HDTV input formats (480i, 480p, 1080i), scaling them
to 720p output for display in the native rate of the
projector. The result, on 1080i High Def source material
was a smooth film-like image with
natural, accurate colors and minimal image artifacts.
Marantz shows their latest
version of the VP-12 projector, the VP-12S4.
in the Monster
rooms, the monsters were showing many interesting items including the
"Action Couch Extreme" ($14,999 to $19,999, expected in Summer, 2005)
which is an enhancement of their existing Action Couch that provides,
yes, you guessed it, Motion Simulation. Although I thought I
heard the name "D-Box" mentioned, when asked what technology they were
using the monstrous reply was "that is yet to be decided."
Hmmm... licensing negotiations, anyone?
Other items on display included many pieces I had seen previously at
Entertainment Show in New York last May, including elegant home
theater furniture, elaborate power conditioners, high ticket tower
speakers and gut-wrenching powered subwoofers, but one unusual product
that caught my eye was a new mirrored screen option for their
InvisiSound™ frame ($4,000 for frame, $5,000
including mirror). In case you have not seen or heard of this before,
the InvisiSound frame for flat panel televisions houses an assortment
of speaker drivers concealed within what looks like a fancy picture
frame. The mirrored front completes the illusion -- what appears
to be a large framed mirror actually hides a plasma or LCD television
up to 50 inches in size, with a full complement of left, center and
right channel speakers. At the touch of a button, I "found Nemo"
the plasma screen jumped to life and the sound of music and talking
fish filled the room. The sample on display was "early production" and
it did dim the brightness of the picture a bit, but the Monster Cable
expect to improve on this before it goes into final production.
Monster Cable's "M-Design" makes TVs and
with InvisiSound frames for plasma and LCD displays.
They Did The Monster Bash
Later that evening, Monster Cable continued their tradition of hosting
one of the hottest parties at CES with a live performance by Rod
Stewart at their dealers' awards banquet. Although I shouldn't complain
(free tickets to Rod Stewart and all), but Monster Cable did put the
press folks all the way to the extreeeeme right side of the hall where
it was difficult to make out the fact that there was someone on stage, let alone
that it was Rod Stewart. I ended up mostly watching the big screen
monitor instead of the stage. And I gotta say, for a 60-year old, Rod
Stewart was remarkably well preserved and put on a great show.
Belting out his
classics plus a few traditional American classics like "What A Wonderful World," Rod put
the BOOM in Baby Boomers. I can only hope to be as energetic in my
so-called sunset years. Go, Rod!
And as luck would have it, I sat next to a gentleman with a very
interesting story. His name was Mike Shkolnik, and he was working
on an article for a newspaper in the Northwest. He told me a
monstrous tale about the darker side of audio marketing and legal
wrangling, of which I had
only heard vague rumors. According to Mr. Shkolnik, it seems that
Monster Cable, for the last few years, has been sending threatening
"cease and desist" letters and even filing suits against
folks who use the word "monster" in their company name,
web site address (domain name), even movie titles (e.g., "Monsters,
Inc."). Apparently Monster Cable is now claiming
rights to the word "monster" and anyone who uses that word in
any professional venture, beware!
Mike is the owner of the domain "monster.biz" which he quite lawfully
acquired with the intention of selling monster toys (which you can find
at his primary site "madmartian.com").
Shortly after registering the web site, Mike claims he received a cease
and desist letter from Monster Cable, as well as a demand that he
relinquish the domain name to Monster Cable. He fought back...
they dropped the case (he actually gained a monetary settlement from
Monster Cable as well as a letter of apology), but apparently
others have not been as lucky, including the owners of a small
vintage clothing store in Washington state called "Monster Vintage" (monstervintage.com) who
have seemingly spent the last couple of years in legal hell.
According to the Monster
Vintage web site, attorneys representing Monster Cable sent letters
to the owners of Monster Vintage in 2002 claiming trademark
infringement and sent these folks a "license agreement" that would
enable these small business owners to license back their own domain
name from Monster Cable for a fee plus a percentage of future gross
income from the business. How Monster Cable could claim a
trademark on "Monster Vintage" eludes me (completely different
industry, completely different context, nary the word "cable" in
sight, etc.), but the story makes for interesting reading.
According to the latest updates, earlier this year Monster Cable
dropped the suit, but that doesn't erase the damage done (monetary and
otherwise) over the last two and a half years. Meanwhile,
Mr. Shkolnik says he is planning a documentary on the subject of
trademarking common English words, which you can read
about at the web site, "Monsters
of Crock" and he details his own experience with Monster Cable on his own web site.
Continue to Part IV, featuring Sanyo's
Z3 front projector, Sony's SXRD rear projector and surround sound
camcorder, Samsung's REALLY BIG Plasma HDTV, DTS Entertainment's latest
acquisition and much more.
Just joining us, why not start at the beginning in Part I of this