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Unveiling CES 2013

Sunday at CES is about arriving and getting settled and meeting up with old acquaintances. A large part of our industry is about camaraderie; we share a deep passion for the same things and it makes it easy to develop quick friendships.

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, it means that you aren’t actually in Las Vegas attending CES 2013 right now. So, I’m going to share with you what it’s like to be here on the first pre-day of the show.

Sunday at CES is about arriving and getting settled and meeting up with old acquaintances. A large part of our industry is about camaraderie; we share a deep passion for the same things and it makes it easy to develop quick friendships.

On Sunday I met up with Residential System’s blogger Heather Sidorowicz, and Residential System’s reviewer Dennis Burger, Home Theater’s Darryl Wilkinson, Big Picture Big Sound’s Chris Boylan, Mashable’s Pete Pachal, Sound + Vision’s Brent Butterworth, Ken Pohlmann and Leslie Shapiro, and Electronic House’s Grant Clauser. (Saw, but did not get to talk to, Cali Lewis. And yes, she is every bit as cute and perky in person.) Sunday at CES is a bit like a class reunion, and it’s great to have a catch-up before things start getting crazy during the show.

Cali Lewis, co-host of 

After checking into my hotel, I headed over to the Venetian and spent a few minutes (ie: had a wonderful double-oaked Woodford Reserve bourbon) with Kaleidescape’s Eric Larsen. I was blown away by the company’s shared demo last year with Stewart, D-BOX, ADA and others, and I suggested a couple of possible demo scenes for the show (the hallway “weightless” scene in Inception and the airplane rescue in Superman Returns are both awesome in D-BOX!). We also chatted about how the download store was doing and other plans the company may have going forward.

The big event on Sunday is CES Unveiled and so I headed over there – inconveniently located at the Mandalay Bay this year, the furthest hotel away on the strip and inaccessible via Monorail. My impressions of Unveiled were there weren’t nearly as many companies in attendance this year. Where in the past the room felt packed, this year there were large gaps of open space and only 74 companies in attendance. 

Unveiled seems more about gadgets and trinkets and doo-dads. Things like iOS controlled balls that you can play games with or remote controlled helicopters or phone cases. There were a few things that did standout to me. First was an energy management system for Allure Energy called EverSense that uses a combination location sensing and NFC technology to ensure that your home is always at the proper comfort level. The company’s wall-mounted HVAC controller was very slick and showed full motion video and could display a variety of different functions like music, energy tips, upcoming weather and more.

Fitbug showed a cool gadget that can track how much walking/running you do, and then compare it to your friends and try to guilt/inspire/motivate you into setting goals to being healthier. The company’s founder has a background in motivation and team building and their approach to getting people to be healthier sounds social and interesting.

DISH demonstrated a new second-screen app for the Hopper system which will help viewers to discover what’s on and popular, allow viewers to access Twitter and Facebook feeds to participate in discussions with live programming, and use the Thuuz service, which ranks and identities the hottest sporting events.

The company myCharge showed a variety of mobile charging systems that can take your portable device from zero to full multiple times while on the go. Since my iPhone died shortly after arriving in Vegas, I could totally relate to the benefit of having one of these stowed away in a bag or backpack. Many of the chargers have built-in cabling to directly connect to the device (including the new Apple Lightning connector) and were surprisingly lightweight.

Velodyne’svTrue headphones.

But the most impressive thing I experienced at CES Unveiled 2013 were the new vTrue headphones from Velodyne. These over-the-ear phones not only look sexy-cool with a brushed aluminum body and supple, buttery leather earpads, they created a vault-like seal, completely blocking out the incredibly noisy outside sounds and delivering some amazing audio. This is definitely not another “me too!” headphone design, but a product that shows some serious thought and audiophile leanings.

After Unveiled, another cab ride took me back to the Venetian, where I was able to sneak up to the private suite of GoldenEar Technologies and get a pre-show listen to the company’s new Triton7 tower speaker. They were still setting up the suite, but all I can say is…Wow! Sandy Gross has done it again! It’s not only that these towers look and sound great, producing detailed and rich sound, with surprisingly deep and full bass, and lightning quick treble response from the folded ribbon twitter. No, there are a lot of products that can do that. The amazing thing is that these new speakers do all of that at under $700 a piece! We listened to several track and the imaging and detail is really terrific and it’s likely that these speakers will be a market benchmark at the sub $1000 price point.

Sandy Gross with the new Triton7 tower speaker.

Following our listening session, I joined the GoldenEar team and some others for a spectacular dinner at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon.

All in all, a pretty terrific way to kick off CES 2013…

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