Part II of TK's 2007 CES report, started in Issue 113 ...
At the JVC suite, the big and small of the JVC line got the most attention. That would be the large screen LCD TVs and the JVC earbud line. Apparently, JVC is the top-selling brand in both of these categories.
The earbud news surprised me. I'd never heard of them before, but as soon as I saw them, their "buy me" message was clear. They come in a variety of colors, are extremely attractively packaged, and they have noise-blocking properties (acoustical blocking, not electronic reduction). Top all that with an under $20 retail price and you've got a product that's going to jump right off the peg and into the cart when a shopper spots it.
HD Radio appears to be ready to break through into mainstream consciousness. It's a digital multicasting system that allows FM broadcast stations to send out digital signals in addition to the traditional analog ones. There are already hundreds of new HD channels on the air and that should increase to thousands over the next couple of years.
To receive HD broadcasts, you need only an HD Radio receiving device. So far, these are mostly tabletop radios and aftermarket car radios. BMW has announced that it will include HD Radio as a factory-installed option and Day Sequerra has introduced its Model M4 Precision HD Radio Tuner, based on its FM Reference tuner and carrying a $2795 price tag. Certainly that gives hi-fi credibility to the HD process, but it doesn't achieve hi-fi affordability.
Don't confuse HD Radio with satellite radio. It's strictly local broadcast and local reception. And, as with the terrestrial broadcasting that we've known for decades, once you buy the receiving unit, you tune in and listen for free. In fact, the additional (HD-2 and up) channels are currently commercial-free.
HD Radio claims "CD quality" sound and utter immunity to interference. You can get the whole story at www.hdradio.com, and even check out some content online.
Higher quality online music downloads are available from MusicGiants (www.musicgiants.com, Microsoft Internet Explorer only). The service offers uncompressed WMA format audio files that have full CD resolution. You can get music from the catalogs of all the major companies and transfer the files to any portable devices that support Microsoft DRM. Quite a few files are available without DRM limitations.
Each download from MusicGiants HD Music Store costs $1.29.
"HD Audio" is the new buzz phrase from the Consumer Electronics Association. I spotted a lot of "We Support HD Audio" stickers in the suites of better audio companies, asked for and got some clarification of the term.
First, let's be frank about the fact that the term "HD" has created more excitement and more confusion and hence more power in the marketplace than anything since "digital" hit hard various years ago.
The CEA has tried to promote quality audio gear without resorting to the term "high end." I think they didn't like that because it had an aura of snobbery or pretentiousness. They tried "specialty audio" and "high resolution audio," but they didn't fly. Everybody knew, after all, that CD quality audio was as good as gold. And DVD quality video was superb, too.
And then along comes High Definition. Suddenly DVDs don't look so great any more and perhaps audio recording could be better than the CD, which is, after all, even older technology than the DVD.
I think the listening public might well be ready to embrace HD Audio as a concept, a specifically defined concept. The CEA position is that anything that has at least twice the resolution of a regular CD can properly be termed HD Audio. That would start at 88.2 KHz/16 bit and go on up. A nice combination would be 92 KHz/24 bit audio. That's already part of the DVD-Video standard so there's a broadly installed consumer hardware base to support it.
The industry should take great care, however, not simply to resample or rerecord older, lower resolution recordings on higher resolution media and hang the HD Audio tag on the result. That would totally debase the initiative and turn consumers off much in the way that rechanneling mono recordings into pseudo stereo did back in the 1960s and 1970s.
On the other hand, I would be very comfortable seeing an HD Audio label on a 92/24 product remastered directly from a vintage two-track stereo analog master tape. Others may differ with this position, however.
The AMG event held a lot of interest. It wasn't just a presentation of AMG's own database, media recognition, music search (they call it music discovery), and editorial content technologies. The company brought along over a dozen of its licensees who set up demonstrations of products that enjoy AMG support.
Avoca Semiconductor, for instance, adds voice control to graphical user interfaces for controlling media access. Companies that use Avoca technology can offer control by touch, by sound, and by voice. According to the company, AMG's expertise, metadata, and content were used to create "phonetically enabled content information" that users can search and control with their own voices.
Double Century Software (www.doublcentury.com) produces CD ripping solutions and supports the Acronova DupliQ (www.acronova.com) which will take a stack of 25 CD blanks for quick, unattended, CD duplication. AMG data helps support the conversion and duplication.
And that wrapped up Las Vegas and the CES for another year.
On the plane ride home, I did scan through a couple of home theater oriented publications and came upon a curious conflict in advice on HDTV specifications. It had to do with the difference between 1080i and 1080p. In one magazine, a concerned reader was told: "There is no additional resolution with 1080p; it's just progressive, so you're not really losing anything [if you are viewing at 1080i]."
The other magazine took a contrary position: "TVs with 1080p resolution contain about twice the resolution as 1080i TVs."
The latter statement is more succinct, and literate, and totally wrong. I've heard fuller descriptions of the supposed deficiency of interlaced displays that claim that "with interlaced, only half the screen is illuminated at one time." Nonsense. If you come right down to it, only one dot (well maybe one group of three) is illuminated at one time.
There are precious few 1080 resolution displays out there anyway and unless you have a room big enough (and a budget big enough) to support a 60-inch or bigger screen, you don't need that level of HD. Lots of displays "support" 1080p, but they do it on a 768 line screen so they support 1080p by converting it to a 720p display format. For a 42-inch or less display, 720p is just fine.
I'm happy to see more moderate-sized flat panel TVs with digital support arriving on the market. For a while it looked like the only new viewing gear we were going to be able to buy would be monster panels or pocket sized video media players and cell phones.
I noticed that the Versus network decided this year that it would be a great idea to make its broadcasts of the Stanley Cup Finals available for cell phone viewing. I wonder how many people were able to follow the puck on their phone displays?
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|Title Annotation:||CES 2007|
|Article Type:||Product/service evaluation|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2007|
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