By Chris Martens and Arnie Williams
DALI: The Danish speaker manufacturer unveiled its new Lektor range of speakers, which slot into the Dali lineup directly below the Ikon series. Designed to appeal to home theater and stereo enthusiasts seeking affordable yet still very revealing and sophisticated speakers, the Lektor models offer a sound we would characterize as detailed and subtle, yet also rich, warm, and evocativeâ€”and just a little bit â€œforgivingâ€ (so that the speakers will â€œsing,â€ even when used with modestly priced electronics. Watch for an upcoming review in Playback. The top model in the Lektor line is the three-way, four-driver Lektor 8 floorstander ($1800/pair).
Also shown at CEDIA were a new series of tabletop and floor stands that help complete Daliâ€™s Motif-series family of on-wall/standmount â€œplasmaâ€ speakers (to be reviewed in Playback 13). Finally, Dali gave a sneak preview of the new Motif subwoofer, which is coming soon.
DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY: Definitiveâ€™s two main announcements for CEDIA involved a range of so-called â€œDisappearing In-Wallâ€ speakers (for in-wall and in-ceiling use) as well as the new Mythos Nine L/C/R tabletop/on-wall speaker. The â€œDisappearing In-Wallsâ€ feature high quality drivers butâ€”perhaps more importantlyâ€”cleverly designed mounting flanges that allow use of incredibly (and almost invisibly) thin grille frames. The concept is to provide the next best thing to speakers that must be â€œspackled-inâ€ to the wall and painted over, yet that allow for much simpler installations.
The Mythos Nine is an L/C/R speaker based on the core drive-unit technology of the Mythos STS floorstander (recently reviewed in Playback). As such, the Nine makes the ideal center channel speaker for use in STS-based systems, though it can also be mounted on-wall and used for L/C/R or even surround application.
DENON: Denon rolled out its new DVD-1800BD Blu-ray disk player ($749), which is a profile 1.1 player that provides Deep Color and Bonus View support, bitstream output for the latest Dolby and DTS codecs, 1080p upscaling for DVDs, andâ€”for audio-minded enthusiastsâ€”stereo analog outputs fed from â€œhigh-class Burr-Brown DACs.â€
Also seen at the show were Denonâ€™s 10 recently announced new AVRs, including the multi-zone AVR-2809CI ($1199), AVR-2309CI ($849), AVR-1909 ($649), AVR-1709 ($449), and AVR-1609 ($349), as well as the value orient Retail Home Theater series including the AVR-989 ($1199), AVR-889 ($749), AVR-789 ($599), AVR-689 ($399), and AVR-589 ($299). Interestingly, all models feature some level of Audyssey automated room EQ system (higher-level versions in the higher-priced models), and all support Audysseyâ€™s new Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume features.
To allow last yearâ€™s Denon top-tier controller and AVRs to keep pace with new developments, the firm announced feature-pack upgrades for its AVP-A1HDCI controller, AVR-5808CI, AVR 4308CI, and AVR-3808CI A/V receivers. The upgrade consists of firmware modifications to add HDMI CEC (consumer electronics control) One Touch Play features, Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume features, Sirius radio-ready features, and Rhapsody streaming capabilities. The feature pack download will cost $100 for AVR-3808CI and AVR-4308CI owners, but will be offered free of charge to AVR-5808CI and AVP-A1HDCI owners.
Last but not least, Denon showed new CX-series purist stereo components targeted toward music enthusiasts who prefer exquisite systems in small-ish packages. The main CX system consists of the DRA-CX3 stereo receiver ($1200), the DCD-CX3 SACD player ($1200), and a pair of SC-CX303 small monitor speakers ($1200). Also announced was the even more compact RCD-CX1 stereo SACD player/stereo receiver ($1600), which can be paired with the CX303 speakers, or the even smaller SC-CX101 mini-monitors ($700/pair).
DYNAUDIO: Dynaudio had two main announcements for CEDIA: one relatively simple and the other more complex. On the simple end of the scale, the Danish firm added a new entry-level model to its affordable range of DM-series stand-mount monitorsâ€”specifically, the new DM2/7 (so named because itâ€™s a two-way design with a 7-inch mid-bass driver).
On the more elaborate end of the scale is the new, five-model Excite family of loudspeakers, which essentially takes up where the previous Dynaudio Audience range left off (namely, to provide serious performance at an affordable price, with just a hint of a forgiving quality that makes the speakers suitable for use with mid-price electronics). The Excite family includes two floorstanders (the X36 and X32), two bookshelf models (the X12 and X16), and a center channel (the X22 Center).
FOCAL: Another important top-tier roll-out was the roughly $185K/pair Focal Grand Utopia EM speaker, which features an all-new Focal beryllium tweeter whose motor assembly shows some remarkably clever and innovative thinking. The speakerâ€™s woofer, interestingly, does not use any fixed magnets in its motor structure at all, but rather uses a massive electro-magnet (hence the â€œEMâ€ designation) that allows myriad set-up and tuning options. As Wilson does in the Alexandria X2 and Maxx 3, Focal has set up the Grand Utopia EM so that its midrange and tweeter modules can be precisely angled and aligned, meaning thatâ€”unlike previous Focal flagships, which demanded very big roomsâ€”the Grand Utopia EM can conceivably be used in not-so-large rooms (though the Grand Utopia EM is a large, visually imposing speaker). An admittedly biased spokesman from Focalâ€™s U.S. distributor, Audioplus Services, said that on first hearing the speaker he found its emotional impact so gripping that he wept openly, and has since started thinking â€œhmmm, maybe a second mortgage wouldnâ€™t be such a bad way to finance a pair of theseâ€¦â€
HARMON/KARDON: Released its long-awaited flagship AVR, the AVR 7550 HD ($2799), as well as its little brother, the AVR 3550 HD ($1199). Both models feature the latest Dolby and DTS codecs. Both receivers feature H/Kâ€™s EzSet EQ system (EzSet II in the 7550HD), Faroudja video processing (via the Torino chip in the 7550HD), and can use H/Kâ€™s new Bridge II iPod dock. But in day-to-day use, one feature we think customers will appreciate most is the beautiful HD-resolution graphical user interface Harmon/Kardon has created for these receivers. Itâ€™s easy on the eyes and appears (on the basis of a brief demo) to be easy to understand and intuitive to use.
INFINITY: Showed its new flagship Prelude Forty floorstanding loudspeakers ($12K/pair). The Prelude Forty is meant to commemorate the firmâ€™s fortieth anniversary. The sleek speaker, which borrows both industrial design cues and driver technology from the firmâ€™s Cascade-series speakers, is a 3 1/2-way design featuring a roughly 1-inch CMMD (Ceramic Metal Matrix Design) tweeter, four rectangular CMMD MRS (Maximum Radiating Surface) midrange drivers, and two 8-inch, side-firing. The speaker was on static display, so comments on its sound will have to wait, but we can vouch for the fact that itâ€™s certainly a looker. Other new offerings from Infinity included an expanded range of wireless subwoofers.
INTEGRA: For CEDIA, Integra showed its new DHC-9.9 preamp/processor, and four new A/V receivers: the DTR-9.9, DTR-8.9, DTR-7.9 and DTR-6.9. The preamp/processor and top two AVRâ€™s are the first in the world to provide ISFccc (Imaging Sciences Foundation Certified Calibration Controls). All of the listed models also incorporate THX Loudness Plus features as well as Audysseyâ€™s new Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume features.