Home Theater Systems Buying Guide
Home Theater Receivers Buying Guide
Our CEO and founder, Bob Cole, reports on his 42nd trip to the most renowned and innovative consumer electronics show of the year.
40 years ago, CES was all about audio. In the years to follow, video became more and more important. This year, it was all about the Internet Of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, wellness, wearables, and all sorts of electronics related to activities of daily living. I’ve always said the role of consumer electronics is to improve the quality of one's life. Bringing a concert and movie home personalizes those experiences but now there is so much more. We’ve been automating lighting and shade control, HVAC systems and general house operational systems for quite some time now. All that stuff has only become better and more simple. The big story at CES this year, however, is how almost every part of one’s life can now be made better and more simple thru electronics. Here are some examples:
In the field of health, great strides have been made for hearing using small earbuds that make dialogue more “hearable” (as in clearer, not necessarily louder) during movies or when in loud restaurants without the need of a hearing aid. Just a little bud you pop in your ear and your life has improved! I saw a pair of glasses for Dyslexics (like me) that corrects the appearance of words so reading becomes more normal (too late for me). Skincare, fitness, body motion all enhanced through apps and wearables. I actually controlled a slot car on the track using my brain - yes, my brain; I just had to think about the car slowing down and speeding up, which is exactly what it did. Virtual reality was everywhere using goggles and props to simulate skiing, racing, boxing, and even playing basketball where it really felt like the real thing!
Everything I've seen in years past is now more simple and better with real robots everywhere! Connected appliances did more and more of the work for you. LG had a refrigerator that actually grew your produce for you. There was a stovetop that cleaned itself and a cutting board that, well, cut things up for you. Ever find yourself doing your business in the bathroom and there was no toilet paper? There is a Rollabot by Charmin that will go get it for you just by asking it nicely. I saw a small device that could save lives. You attach it to your baby’s diaper and it monitors every breath, beat, and movement - replacing that noisy baby monitor. It surely will add much extra anxiety to today's helicopter parent, but the more hip parent will appreciate it for what it is. It will also work for your aging senior relative, letting you know how and what they are doing with appropriate alarms set for whatever concerns you. “Mom, that is your third martini in an hour! You got to cut that out!”
Cars (or should I say transportation) was a big deal at CES, as it has become the last few years. The big news from Sony this year wasn’t a new TV technology or news about PS5, it was their Vision-S car. It was totally transparent, as in see-through, and the 360 Reality Audio in it was exactly that. Totally immersive sound everywhere that wasn’t just clever, it was really, really good. There was a huge Uber drone. I’m talking a giant vehicle that looks like the drones you know but big enough for 6 people. Other drones for single passengers were ubiquitous. The flying car could happen soon! Self-driving, collision avoidance and integrated connected features were displayed by all the manufacturers. This stuff is real and coming to your garage sometime soon!
Ah, but my heart is in the AV gear and there was enough of that to keep me happy. Headphones are changing in a big way. Built-in artificial intelligence is changing how they connect you to your audio, your environment, and your own personal listening tastes without your having to do anything! Some even correct the audio for your personal hearing ability level and many have Alexa and Google Assistant voice control built-in. True wireless will shortly take over 50% of the headphone market, you mark my words. For those not aware, true wireless refers to Bluetooth earbuds that have neither cords nor wires between them nor to any audio source. The mic, controls, and battery are built into the housing of the earbuds. Think Apple AirPods. It’s a little bud that fits in your ear. Super easy to use and super easy to lose! There is an accessory wire that connects them to each other and you for a cost. (Duct tape would also work.) In anticipation of your earbud rolling down the aisle of an airplane and getting stepped on, manufacturers will be offering singles for sale. But, it’s worth it and you will get used to it. They really are amazing.
We had the pleasure to be the very first people in the US to hear Focal’s new Chora 826-D Dolby Atmos speakers, which will be launching from World Wide Stereo this month along with a video product tour from Adam. It was one of the hits of the show and received many accolades from the press. One of three new models from the Chora lineup, the Chora 826-D, is a floorstanding speaker with an upward-firing driver that delivers the height channels for an Atmos soundtrack. Focal Audio has designed the driver to direct the sound towards the ceiling at a carefully calculated angle so that it reflects around the entire room. It was very impressive for only ~$5,000 including 4 towers, 2 subs and a center channel. Stay tuned for our videos of the entire Chora series.
JBL added a new classic speaker consistent with last year’s launch of the L100 classic, the L82. Like its brother, it is retro in style and has a compact two-way design, sold as mirror-imaged pairs with each one using a one-inch titanium dome tweeter with an acoustic lens waveguide and front-panel HF level attenuator. Standing at 18 inches tall, they are $2,500 a pair and available in black, blue, or the classic JBL orange.
The new Samsung Q950 8K QLED TV was a stunner. No bezel, 8K resolution, updates to the 8K Quantum Processor, and Full Array Local Dimming system, a new Adaptive Picture+ mode for optimizing performance according to the ambient light conditions in the room, and even a sonic equivalent, called Adaptive Picture+. Using 99% of the front facade for the screen and measuring only 14.9mm deep, it's a beautiful television. For you OLED lovers, LG and Sony now offer a 48” OLED TV. Supply will be limited because the 48” comes off the same OLED master as the 77” OLED, so there will only be as many 48 inchers as 77”!
Check out some of the photos we grabbed off of Bob's phone from the trip in the gallery, below.
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