Check out these show reports to get a sense of what was there:
The two exhibits that really caught my attention were the following:
1. Smyth Virtual System (SVS) - This is a prototype 5.1 virtual surround headphone system whose accompanying white paper subtitle reads "Headphone surround monitoring for Studios". Peter Smyth, PhD. Invented DTS and is well known is the “surround sound” studio community for his accomplishments. He was on hand to demonstrate the SVS.
At its core the system has a computing engine that captures and recreates the sonic character of any 5.1 speaker system and the acoustic space (namely the room ambiance and room speaker interaction) that it is playing in, tailored to the ears of the person listening through the headphones. There is a 15 minute speaker/headphone/ear calibration procedure that you first go through to set up the system. Since ear calibration is part of the process, the procedure must be performed for each person (at the listening position) that wants to listen through the headphones. After the procedure is completed, you can A-B the headphone system to the 5.1 speaker system in real time. Once the levels are matched between the speakers and the headphones, you conduct the A-B by listening to the system in the room and then listening to the system through the headphones. The headphones automatically mute the speaker output when you put them on, and re-enables it when you take them off. This allowed for very quick and repeat A-B and A-B-A comparisons to be made without any downtime when switching.
After going through the A-B-A process multiple times, I sat there in sheer amazement, as what I heard through the headphones was remarkably close to what I heard from the speaker system playing in the room (including all of the dynamic range, surround effects and room ambiance cues properly placed in space and time). The system also compensated for the sonic effects of moving or turning you head from side to side.
This sure would make late night movie watching a breeze when the rest of the family is asleep!
2. Headroom laptop/desktop system - A pair of biamplified Harbeth mini monitors (which Headroom markets with there system in addition to Amphion Ion's which I did not hear) were driven by a preamp/DAC combo (if memory serves me correct) and a pair of class D amplifiers by Headroom that are presented in attractive, matching scaled down black chassis (plural?). The deep wide soundstage, 3-D imaging and nuanced detail that I heard from this nearfield desktop system belayed its modest dimensions and quite literally sucks you into the music with a purity of presentation that is typically reserved for a traditionally sized high end system playing in a “calm” room. It was uncanny, to say the least, to be experiencing this from a desktop system setup on a table in a hotel ballroom.
Headroom also markets some very cool (and heavier/sturdier than you might think by looking at them) stands that raise the Harbeths (and any number of speakers with similar dimensions) to ear level while storing the preamp, DAC and amplifiers within the stand to minimize the systems foot print. The sturdiness of the stands to reduce cabinet resonances coupled with the height of the speaker being at ear level really added to the fidelity of the system as compared to when the speakers are sitting directly on the table. It also looks pretty cool to have your laptop flanked by downsized, stacked high end gear.
System Price - $5,000 (not including laptop).
In any case, that's my report and I'm sticking to it!