Great Days for Audio at CES
Coming into this year’s International CES, it would have been hard to imagine a broader selection of audio products in every form, to fit every taste, than was displayed in the Venetian’s demo suites and on the floor of the newly labeled Tech East (Central and South Halls). Multi-room systems of every stripe, both small-footprint speakers and those that would need the help of wall stretchers to fit into the average home, high-end components, and all manner of headphones with clever, differentiating twists – these were everywhere in Las Vegas last month.
Here is some of what was seen and heard:
• Sony, amidst a wide-ranging group of introductions that included high-resolution home audio and multi-room music-streaming products – as well as a successor (in the HT-ST9) to its successful ST7 premium sound bar system, drew a good deal of attention for its portable audio introduction of the High-Resolution NW-ZX2 Walkman. Sony’s LDAC technology enables transmission of high-quality wireless audio via Bluetooth with one-touch ease. The ZX2 Walkman also has the S-Master HX digital amplifier, which was developed specifically for Hi-Res audio playback; it is said to reduce distortion and noise. Also on board the ZX2: DSEE HX technology, which “upscales” streaming sources that are less than Hi-Res quality. It comes with ah 128GB built-in memory and a micro SD card slot, along with a Lithium-ion battery for up to 60 hours of playback on a single charge.
• Bang & Olufsen took the wraps off what it calls the BeoSound Moment – a wireless “intelligent” music system that the company is touting as the “answer to how cloud-based music should be experienced,” said Marie Kristine Schmidt, vice president. Moment allows all music sources to be accessed with one touch via a detachable double-sided interface. One side is of touch-sensitive oak and features an embedded “ring” that controls basic music selection and volume level. On the flip side is a glass touch panel that can display a color-coded MoodWheel with concentric hot and cold colors across a color gamut spectrum. Once the system learns a listener’s preferences through a feature called PatternPlay, it aggregates content into various color categories and when the user touches various spots within the wheel, the system determines the music mood desired and plays the selection accordingly. The system connects to up to eight WiSA-certified speakers, and its $2,795 price tag when it is available later this year will include a 12-month Deezer Premium subscription. Also new from B&O PLAY is the flagship Model BeoPlay H8 – a premium active noise cancelling headphone that will play for 14 hours on a single charge and that features a unique touch interface on the outside of the earpad whose sensors respond to gestures ($499).