The most awaited product category introduction for me is the full-featured lossless digital audio home theatre processor. Just about every “audiophile” or “high-end” electronics company showcased their version of this latest-generation processor and/or receiver.
In past months the major electronics companies, Denon, Sony, and Yamaha all introduced flagship receivers incorporating HDMI interfaces and lossless Dolby® TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio™ 7.1-channel discrete processing.
What I was particularly interested in at the CEDIA EXPO were product introductions in this category by smaller “high-end” companies.
Sherwood’s Newcastle R-972 ($1,800) A/V receiver introduction was amazing, as it featured the Trinnov Optimizer. The professional version of the Trinnov starts at $13,000. This advanced room-correction system, coupled with Sherwood audio engineering, sets a new benchmark for performance and value in a full-featured 110 watts x 7-channel home theatre receiver. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.sherwoodusa.com)
B&K showcased the new AVR70 home theatre receiver and Reference 70 controller. While lacking in internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, the receiver and preamplifier/processor/tuner offer high-quality 7.1 analog inputs for SA-CD, DVD Audio, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio. This is a workable solution when using a Blu-ray Disc™ player with internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio-decoded analog outputs. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. Both units include six HDMI inputs. The power output of the AVR70 is rated at 125 Watts x 7 channels. (www.bkcomp.com)
I was surprised to see a receiver introduction from Proficient Audio, who is known for custom integration loudspeakers. Under the new brand Proficient Electronics, the flagship receiver incorporates Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio processing. (www.proficientaudio.com)
Parasound introduced the NewClassic HDR77, the company’s first surround sound receiver. This is a full-featured receiver with internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio processing, five HDMI 1.3 inputs and one output, and is rated at 140 watts x 7 channels at 8 ohms and 250 watts at 4 ohms. I found the front panel to be refreshingly uncomplicated and intuitive. In the premium performance Halo lineup, Parasound showed the C3 surround processor. The unit has all of the same state-of-the-art features as the NewClassic HDP70, including internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio processing, plus 8-channel balanced XLR outputs. The Halo P7 also was shown. The unit is a 7.1 analog preamplifier aimed at the two-channel audio purist who also enjoys multichannel music and movies. Look for a Parasound review in Widescreen Review. (www.parasound.com)
Krell showed off its stunning, no compromise, new Evolution 707 dual-zone surround preamplifier/processor. The internals on this piece are impressive, as is the custom all-aluminum chassis, available in luxurious silver or a black anodized finish. Performance is delivered through individual 24-bit/192 kHz DACs coupled to each of two zones of 8 channels. The output stages are discrete differential Class A coupled with an ultra-high 1.5 MHz bandwidth design. Full Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio processing is on board. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.krellonline.com)
Cary Audio Design, known for its continuous development of amplifiers, offered the new Cinema 11a, a performance home theatre processor with exceptional sound quality, as is to be expected from Cary Audio Design. The unit features 7.1-channel analog bypass inputs and internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio processing through HDMI 1.3. This is a true audiophile surround processor for music and movies. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.caryaudio.com)
Anthem® Electronics, a division of Paradigm, introduced the second-generation Anthem Statement D2 processor ($7,999) featuring 8 HDMI 1.3 inputs and 2 HDMI 1.3 outputs, as well as internal decoding of 8-channel Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio via two dual-core 800 MIPS (million-instructions-per-second) DSP engines. The Statement D2 V.2 also features an updated VXP digital image processor, which provides two independent 12-bit channels of “fully adaptive” deinterlacing. The processors support DVD-Audio in 7.1-format up to 192 kHz. Anthem’s Room Correction System™ (ARC™) is standard on the Statement D2 V.2 preamplifier/processor. The ARC technology is designed to compensate for acoustical problems by automatically configuring each loudspeaker’s tonal balance. The technology is based on equalizer filter requirements created during the Athena Acoustic Research Project, performed by Canada’s National Research Council. (www.anthemAV.com)
Pioneer showcased a new product lineup in the Elite category. This included the flagship SC-09TX, a no-compromise full-featured surround sound home theatre receiver rated at 200 watts x 7 channels at 8 ohms. The unit features six HDMI 1.3 inputs and two out. The SC-09TX is striking with its front-face full-color LCD monitor. Of course, there is on-board Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.seeingandhearing.com)
Denon showcased the AVP-A1HDCI ($7,500) Ultra Reference 12-channel A/V home theatre/multi-media preamplifier, POA-A1HDCI ($7,500) fully balanced 10-channel power amplifier, and DVP-602CI ($2,500) HDMI video processor/switchers in the company’s “Denon Theater” at the CEDIA EXPO. Denon put on a superb demonstration of an optimum performance home theatre experience. Certainly, the AVP-A1HDCI is one of the most advanced controllers available, with uncompromised performance. Their new receiver lineup features ten models, with the flagship AVR-2809CI and AVR-989 (both $1,199 each) featuring HDMI 1.3 capability, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio internal decoding, Audyssey Dynamic Volume, Audyssey Dynamic EQ, and Audyssey MultEQ. The initials “CI” stand for professional Custom Integration special features and capabilities. (www.denon.com)
Marantz America introduced three new 7.1-channel A/V receivers. The SR6003 ($1,200), the SR5003 ($800), and the SR4003 ($550) all feature HDMI repeating capabilities, eliminating signal loss and allowing them to repeat 1080p video signals from HDMI input to HDMI output, as well as decode a variety of audio signals via HDMI, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Marantz also showcased the advanced networking capabilities of its new AV8003 ($2,400) A/V preamplifier/processor with on-board 1080p video scaler and decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. A companion MM8003 140-watt x 8-channel power amplifier also was showcased. (www.marantz.com)
Classé showcased its statement SSP-800, a 10-channel surround sound preamplifier/processor offering both balanced and single-ended connections for all channels. Via HDMI 1.3b, the unit supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Classé is known for its superior audio performance. Audiophile design parameters include high-quality digital-to-analog converters and output stage components configured to ensure exceptional dynamic range and resolution. A complete reference system at Widescreen Review is comprised of Classé’s Delta series. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.classeaudio.com)
Sim Audio’s new Moon CP-8 flagship surround preamplifier/processor features 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio decoding and video processing via two HDMI 1.3a inputs and one output. This audiophile-quality processor also features 7.1 analog inputs and outputs. (www.simaudio.com)
NAD showcased its new modular architecture, which they term “Modular Design Construction” or MDC. MDC is a new and unique mechanical design architecture developed to enhance NAD’s ability to introduce high-performance, high-value products that improve performance and simplify service. MDC also allows NAB to easily upgrade their products, protecting consumers against early obsolescence. NAB deserves praise for this innovation. Previously Theta Digital originated modular architecture in the high-end performance category and continues to offer its customers upgrades through card replacement. The issue addressed with modular architecture is the challenge of keeping up with new digital formats. The rapid advancement of home entertainment technologies has left consumers wondering whether or when they should risk investing in premium audio/video systems. Obsolesce in the age of digital can occur within a year. This is not acceptable, and too many companies are rushing products to market to meet the demand for state-of-the-art models without proven merits. NAD’s Modular Design Construction uniquely addresses these issues. NAD is committed to MDC and to providing their customers with the comfort of knowing their investment will not become prematurely obsolete. The cornerstone of the design is six easily removable modules. The modules maintain all input and output connectivity and include circuitry for Digital Video, Digital Audio, HD Analog Video, SD Analog Video, Analog Audio Inputs, and Analog Audio Outputs. At the CEDIA EXPO NAD showcased a new preamplifier/processor and receiver with TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio processing.
The always innovative and inventive engineers at Audio Design Associates (ADA) worked their magic at the CEDIA EXPO, showcasing new audiophile quality home theatre controller/preamplifiers featuring an abundance of HDMI 1.3 inputs and dueling HDMI outputs. Of course, internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio are featured throughout. This outstanding audiophile performance was showcased in the new Suite 7.1 HD and Cinema Rhapsody Mach IV. The company also debuted a standalone audiophile quality Trinnov Optimizer, which will enable users to optimize any 7.1 audio system in their installation. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.ada-usa.com)
Theta Digital, now owned by Amplifier Technologies Incorporated (ATI), introduced the fully upgraded Casablanca IV surround processor with on-board decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. As the Casablanca architecture is card-type modular, previous Casablanca IIIs will be able to be upgraded with the new lossless audio module and HDMI interfaces. We look forward to upgrading our Casablanca III with its on-board audiophile-grade Xtreme DACs and Six Shooter multichannel straight-line analog preamplifier to the IV (complete with new faceplate). Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.thetadigital.com)
For me, the absolute highlight of the CEDIA EXPO was the Steinway Lyngdorf demonstration. The new company is the unprecedented partnership between Steinway & Sons, makers of the world’s finest pianos for over 150 years, and Peter Lyngdorf, Europe’s acclaimed developer of high-performance audio systems (including Lyngdorf Audio and DALI). The Steinway Lyngdorf home theatre sound system demonstrated at the CEDIA EXPO is an entirely digital-based system from the onset of the audio signal input up to the loudspeaker drivers and the boundary subwoofers. The full-range loudspeakers feature integrated proprietary digital amplifiers with active equalization. The system is controlled by the revolutionary Model P1 Surround Sound Processor, which features 8-channel RoomPerfect™ adaptation technology. The controller decodes the audio signal in the digital domain via the proprietary Steinway Lyngdorf Link and HDMI 1.3 interfaces. The result was the finest movie surround sound and music reproduction I have ever experienced! Peter Lyngdorf sneaked a preview of the P1 RoomPerfect capabilities on the 2008 Home Theater Cruise to Alaska, using Triad Speakers. Triad is the distributor of Lyngdorf Audio products in the U.S. This is one system that every serious enthusiast needs to audition to experience what an optimum performance home theatre system can deliver! The razor-sharp dynamics and transient attack, as well as the bass extension, created a realism that raises the bar for sonic and spatial performance. Experiencing this system will convince anyone that upwards of 80 percent of the home theatre experience is AUDIO! (www.steinwaylyngdorf.com)
Another outstanding audio presentation was provided by Wisdom Audio in their sound room. The company featured the new full-range planar magnetic Sage Series architectural loudspeakers driven by their ICEpower™ SA amplifiers and Audyssey MultiEQ® XT room correction. (www.wisdomaudio.com)
JL Audio, known for a line of acclaimed subwoofers, unveiled the new Primacy™ X3 active loudspeaker and the new Fathom® f212 powered subwoofer. The Primacy X3 is a fully active three-way system with audiophile-grade Single Cycle Control™, three-channel switching amplifier, and dual power-factor-corrected power supplies. While the physical form is compact, the 1,000 watts of total power and DSP-corrected frequency, and time and phase response ensures high-dynamic output capability and excellent tonal, balance, and coherence. The Fathom f212 employs a pair of massive, new generation 12W7 subwoofer drivers centered around the largest, most powerful and most refined motor systems JL Audio has ever used on a 12-inch woofer. The demonstration was superb with deep, tight bass and excellent transient response. Additionally, the company showcased the Fathom IWS, an in-wall subwoofer system featuring a new patented low-profile subwoofer driver at only 2.5 inches deep but with 1.5 inches of peak-to-peak excursion capability. The IWS enclosure is comprised of a complex internal structure that maximizes internal enclosure volume while maintaining rigidity and controlling resonance. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.jlaudio.com)
Thiel continues to develop leading-edge loudspeakers. I personally own two full-range home theatre Thiel systems, one based on the CS6 and the other on the CS3.7. Both systems include SS2 SmartSubs at each CS6 and CS3.7 position, plus SS3 SmartSubs for the LFE .1 channel. The CS3.7 will be featured in the living room home theatre system in the Optimum Performance Home® national showcase home, now under construction at The Sea Ranch along the Pacific coastline of Northern Sonoma County, California. (www.ultimatehomedesign.com)
Thiel unveiled zoet™, a joint venture between Thiel and BICOM, Inc. This is the first truly plug-and-play, multi-room, premium-quality distributed 7.1 Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio home theatre system. Using Ethernet or proprietary connectivity, zoet is extremely easy to set up. The system uses zoet self-powered IP-addressable Thiel loudspeakers, which can be located throughout the home and connected to the zoet dB1 distribution processor using existing in-home Ethernet, its own lossless proprietary wireless network, or both. Any music or movie player you already own will work with zoet. The system is operated from a simple and intuitive remote control. System upgrades are facilitated via an intuitive Web interface and automatic firmware updates. The system preserves signal synchronization between loudspeakers using proprietary zoet algorithms so that its performance equals that of traditional high-end audio systems. Bass integration is automated using Thiel’s SmartSub technology. Channel steering and mixdowns are automated as well, so that no matter what the loudspeaker configuration is no signal information is lost. Presently, a Thiel self-powered version of the CoherentSource® SCS4 is available, with other Thiel loudspeakers to become part of the system in the future. The SCS4 is a versatile, two-way, bookshelf-sized loudspeaker system uniquely suited for outstanding front, rear, or center-channel use. The system features a completely coherent time and phase coaxial/coincident driver mounting, in order to reproduce a balanced and coherent signal regardless of listener position. (www.thielaudio.com)
There were new Blu-ray Disc player introductions as well at the CEDIA EXPO.
Denon introduced the DVD-1800BD Profile 1 Version 1.1 Blu-ray Disc Player ($749), which features HDMI 1.3a full-bitstream Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats pass through.
Marantz showcased the BD7003 Profile 1 Version 1.1 Blu-ray Disc Player ($800), which joins Marantz’s high-performance BD8002 Blu-ray Disc Player ($1,200). As with the Denon machine, the new high-value players features HDMI 1.3a full-bitstream Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats pass through.
LG Electronics showcased its BD300 Blu-ray Disc player, which can stream video off the Internet, in particular, movies and TV shows from Netflix’s 12,000-plus-title library. At present, the downloads are limited to “almost” standard-definition and two-channel audio. Unfortunately, original motion picture aspect ratios are not assured. Translation, this is not your serious enthusiasts’ service. The 1080p24/60 player is BD-Live™ “ready” but lacks internal storage needed for BD-Live downloads. Instead, you must connect an external storage device via USB to store the BD-Live content locally. The BD300 internally decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio and outputs the signal as linear PCM over its HDMI 1.3 output. It can also transmit these lossless codecs’ raw bitstreams, but there is no provision for 5.1- or 7.1-channel analog outputs. (www.lgusa.com)
The new Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD Blu-ray Disc player ($800) appears to be the finest Blu-ray Disc player to date. This is a player that exceeds the full Blu-ray™ standard and includes BD Live with 4 GBs of internal memory and internal audio decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The level of components and build quality sets a new standard in disc players. The electronics feature 8 stereo Wolfson Audio DACs running in mono dual mode, effectively balanced mode. Jitter reduction circuitry is applied to all outputs. There are 7.1-channel analog audio outputs and dual HDMI 1.3 outputs. The player features a true 1080p24 video output, 16-bit color support, and a 12-bit, 297 MHz video decoder. Look for a review in Widescreen Review. (www.seeingandhearing.com)
I recommend that you explore each company’s Web site. And as always, look for new performance product reviews in upcoming Widescreen Review issues.
Editor-In-Chief & Publisher