I was greatly impressed by the performance of the Canton Reference 9.2 DC loudspeaker, which I reviewed in the March 2008 "Music in the Round" in the context of a 5.1-channel system. Those beautiful jewels not only sounded balanced and transparent, they had more sheer grunt in the low end than could be reasonably expected from their size. I wanted to hear more from Canton, but couldn't decide whether to go up in size or down in price. The problem I've always had with Canton is that they offer such a wide range of products that it's like choosing food from a multipage menu at a fine restaurant: everything looks good. It's especially difficult when your hunger is further piqued by your own past experience and the recommendations of others. (Check out the November 2006 issue to learn how much Wes Phillips enjoyed Canton's flagship speaker, the Reference 1 DC.)
A beaming Gregg Dunn hailed me over to the Cary booth and said, "I know what you are looking for!" He was right. In his hands, he was holding the new Cary Cinema 11V, the video-input/processor that mates with the Cinema 11 (now 11A) audio-only pre-pro that I found to be a really wonderful performer in my July column. What the 11V adds is a useful array of video (and audio!) inputs and outputs but, most significantly for audiophiles, it strips the hi-def audio content from HDMI inputs and pipes it through a proprietary digital connection to the 11A. Add an RS232 connection and the two are linked to work as one, although they can function independently. Specs are decidedly cutting edge, with six HDMI 1.3 inputs and capability for 1080p video at 120Hz!
I finally got to see the new Cary Cinema II processor ($3000) that had been whispered about at the 2005 CEDIA. Sleek but prodigious, it has balanced analog and digital inputs in addition to single-ended analog, optical and coaxial digital inputs and a true analog bypass 7.1 input. There's balanced and unbalanced outputs as well as analog/digital outputs for a second zone. But get this: it is also Dolby-HD approved!
CEDIA Expo 2009 was off and running on Thursday September 10. The two large convention floors in Atlanta are packed with displays and products. The focus, of course, is on video, home theater, home integration and, even, centralized vacuum-cleaning systems. Of greatest interest to audiophiles remains the obvious: we all need loudspeakers! (Well, perhaps not the vacuum cleaner systems.) Unfortunately, the buzz on the floor precludes useful auditions and is so great that even the dedicated sound-rooms suffer from excessive noise. So, you will understand that good looks grab my attention.
Emerging technology was also a theme at this CEDIA, even apart from the various 3D video schemes. RoomEQ is, of course, not a new concept and Audyssey treated us to an introduction and demonstration of their new Subwoofer Equalizer that uses the AudysseyPro software and of DSX, their technology for adding additional channels (for width and height) to the standard 5.1 and 7.1 configurations. I have a Subwoofer Equalizer in house now and hope to report on it shortly. In addition, DSX has made its appearance in a new generation of preamp-processors (and AVRs) from Denon, Onkyo, and Integra, so I am planning on experimenting with that, as well, using one of the new Integra processors, the all-inclusive DHC 80.1 ($2300).
Well, I cannot say that I saw everything at the 2008 CEDIA Expo, nor can I say that my dreams came true. However, my major expectation for this show was to see that the major high-end manufacturers had bitten the bullet for HDMI and HD audio. I am happy to say, almost all have: some with products ready to ship; some with availabilities before the end of the year; and some with prototypes and promises for the 2009 CES in January. To list and illustrate them all would take more energy than I can conjure at this late day but here are a few.
The first day of CEDIA, like the first day of CES, is clogged with highly structured press conferences by the major international electronics companies and, since the show floor is not yet ready for primetime and there is the minute possibility that they might actually say something interesting, all the press faithfully parade from one to the next. Sure, I am little less enthusiastic than most since my, and, I hope, our interests are focused on audio, much less so on video and progressively less and less on home integration and central vacuum systems.
While most of the speakers at CEDIA seem to be designed for concealment, from on-wall to in-wall and, even, behind-wall in the case of the Stealth Acoustics designs. The latter mount in the wall but with the expectation that the installer will plaster over them. As a result, no pix from me but you can imagine what they look like by viewing your own wall.
The last Classé power amplifier I reviewed, back in November 2004, was the imposing Omega Omicron monoblock ($20,000/pair), which made glorious sound with the Revel Ultima Studio speakers. But things change. First, my reference speakers are now B&W 802Ds. Second, my system now has three front speakers, supplemented by two B&W 804S speakers for surround sound. While a quintet of Omicrons would undoubtedly be dandy, five such monoliths would take up so much space that I'd be wondering about their effects on the room's sound. With so many channels, it seemed time to investigate whether a multichannel amp could carry the load.