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CES Day One: Kaleidescape, JBL, Velodyne, WiSA and More

After coffee, I followed Cheena and Tom to Kaleidescape’s demo room where I sat through the Ultimate Home Theater Demo. For the second CES now, a consortium of first-class manufacturers has teamed up to deliver a top-notch home theater demo to CES-goers. Unlike the CEDIA crowd, which is well familiar with how amazing home theater can be, the typical CES attendee is, shall we say, less savvy.

My second day at CES 2013—Day One of the show proper—started off before the show opened with a breakfast meeting with Kaleidescape’s co-founder, Cheena Srinivasan, and product manager, Tom Barnett. We had a chance to discuss the company’s new download store and some exciting future product possibilities over a latte and croissant in the Venetian’s Bouchon Bakery. While the lawsuit ruling handed out earlier this year did not go the company’s way (it’s now awaiting appeal), without being mired and bogged down in the courts and litigation, Kaleidescape looks to return to what it does best: focusing on innovating and creating terrific new products. I’m expecting some exciting, game-changing announcements from the company later in the year!

Left to right: Kaleidescape co-founder, Cheena Srinivasan; John Sciacca; and Kaleidescape product manager, Tom Barnett.

After coffee, I followed Cheena and Tom to Kaleidescape’s demo room where I sat through the Ultimate Home Theater Demo. For the second CES now, a consortium of first-class manufacturers has teamed up to deliver a top-notch home theater demo to CES-goers. Unlike the CEDIA crowd, which is well familiar with how amazing home theater can be, the typical CES attendee is, shall we say, less savvy. Along with Kaleidescape, the demo included Stewart Filmscreen (a 12-foot wide Firehawk Cinecurve screen), D-BOX Technologies (motion seating), ADA (pre-amp and amplification), Triad (LCR Gold speakers and subs), Acoustic Innovations (seating) and Digital Projection providing the terrific video.

The Ultimate Home Theater Demo.

To demonstrate that a “home theater” is not just about movies, they began the demo with some high-def football, clearly catering to this native Bay Area boy by showing a clip from a San Francisco 49-ers game. Following the football clip was an awesome version of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” from Josh Groban’s “Awake Live” Blu-ray featuring Lucia Macarelli playing a violin like she is trying to saw it in half. The demo concluded with some film cuts highlighting the D-BOX seating, with a subtle bit from the new Spiderman movie as you feel his webs being plucked by Lizard Man, and then an aggressive bit from Superman Returns where Sup rescues a doomed airliner. Sometimes we forget how awesome a well-crafted demo of terrific gear and source material can be, and this did a great job of reminding you why we do what we do.

From there I headed up to the Harman Luxury Group to check out JBL, Revel and Mark Levinson. After a home theater demonstration, nothing brings you back to reality like a little Everest DD67000 demo, JBL’s new $75,000/pair flagship speakers driven by a pure analog stack of Levinson gear. The Beryllium compression drivers sounded amazing and easily filled the room with amazing sound. Revel was also showing the new Ultima Rhythm 2 subs, which they had playing in a stereo pair producing bass that was effortless and deep and rich, with a wallop when called for. Mark Levinson also had on display a wicked-cool looking preamp/processor that featured a color touchscreen.

JBL’s new Everest DD67000 speakers.

Slightly off my beaten path, I attended a press event from an Italian company, I’m Watch. If you can’t tell from my last name, I’m a paisano, and I have a soft spot in my heart for products from the old country. You know, stuff like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Armani. I’m Watch makes a very intriguing “smart” watch that connects to your Android or iOS phone via Bluetooth. When tethered, you can read messages, email, and tweets from the watch as well as make phone calls. It’s the closest thing to a Dick Tracy watch I’ve run across and the styling actually looks pretty cool. Below is the I’m Watch being modeled on the arm of an incredibly attractive Russian girl at the press event. (Don’t just take my word for it; ask Home Theater’s Darryl Wilkinson too…) I’m still getting the watch configured and hope to be able to share more thoughts on it later on after I’ve lived/played with it for a bit.

After a great lunch at Delmonico’s with Lutron’s Melissa Andresko (if you get the chance to order fries in truffle oil, I highly recommend it!) I returned to the fray by heading back up the Venetian towers and visiting the folks at Velodyne. I got a glimpse of the vTrue headphones at the Unveiled event on Sunday night, but wanted a better listen. In a quieter space, these phones really don’t disappoint. They are really comfortable with soft, supple leather pads and some really deep, solid bass. I know that in-ear models are all the rage, but for serious listening, the vTrue sound even sweeter than they look—and with the brushed metal and leather accents, they look frickin’ sweet! Also cool were Velodyne’s vFree Bluetooth phones. While they didn’t have the fit and feel and sound of the vTrue (can you tell that I’m really into the vTrue ‘phones?) the wireless connectivity and controls discreetly placed on the side of the phones was way cool and made a compelling argument for cutting the cord.

After Velodyne, I headed over to see Martin Logan. I’ve always been a fan of their airy, electrostat panel sound and consider a visit to their booth a requisite at any show. While the new BalancedForce sub with dual 10s will surely be a potent addition to the bottom end of the line-up, it was the PBK (Perfect Bass Kit) microphone system. For under $100, end-users can use technology ported down from Anthem’s acclaimed ARC room correction to get the best, tightest bass in their space. The PBK works with a variety of new Martin Logan subs featuring USB inputs, and I’m hoping to bring a kit and sub in for review!

From there I headed to WiSA, the Wireless Speaker & Audio group. I got a brief demonstration of a WiSA system at CEDIA, and was looking to hear more from the company. Their system can support 7.4 channels up to 96/24 audio with a guaranteed to work range of 30-feet. (It likely will go much further, but they are emphatic about the 30-foot range.) The speakers only require power to operate, having the WiSA receivers and amplification on-board. They demonstrated a 7.1 channel Klipsch Reference system with the WiSA technology built in, being fed wirelessly from a Sharp AQUOS Blu-ray player. They demo’d House of Flying Dragons, which played loud with deep, tight bass, with full surround, and it didn’t exhibit any noticeable latency or popping or clicking as is common with some wireless technologies. Also, a look at the WiFi traffic in the Venetian showed that WiSA can compete with incredibly noisy environments, proving that WiSA may be the high-end wireless solution the custom world has been looking for!

My final Venetian stop of the day was the Bang & Olufsen press event. B&O mentioned that they have 674 showrooms worldwide—more than Apple! One of B&O’s successful recent ventures has been its automotive division and the company is displaying the state-of-the-art Audi Q7 Concept Car at the show. The Q7 features “3D sound,” which includes 23 speakers using more than 1500 watts and a new 23-channel DSP amplifier. The speaker layout includes: two loudspeakers in the dashboard center (tweeter and broadband), two tweeters in the dashboard (left/right) with acoustic lens technology, one mid-high loudspeaker in each A pillar, one tweeter in each A pillar, two loudspeakers in each front door, three loudspeakers in each rear door, two surround loudspeakers in each D pillar, and one closed subwoofer box in the spare wheel compartment.

Celebrating the one year anniversary of the PLAY line, introduced last year, B&O demonstrated the new BeoPlay A9 loudspeaker. You’ll either love or hate the look, as it resembles a large satellite dish/wok/serving platter in appearance, but the speaker features classic B&O tactile response (touch to raise, lower, mute volume) and surprisingly rich sound quality with deep bass. The speaker is offered in a variety of solid wood leg finishes and fabric covers to help customize the look. It can also be wall-mounted with the included mount.

That’s the wrap on the first official day of CES 2013…

John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.