This is Part 2 of a two-part show report on CEDIA Expo 2012, which was held in Indianapolis, IN from September 6-8.
Now to be frank, most people quite rightly think of CEDIA as a home theater and/or custom-installer-oriented show, both of which are true observations, but even so I have discovered that at least some manufacturers have chosen to use CEDIA as their venue of choice for rolling out new headphones, earphones, and personal and desktop audio products. Thus, I gathered notes on new Playback-related products seen and heard at CEDIA and have pulled them together in the report, below.
Note: To make things easier for online readers, I’m covering manufacturers in alphabetical order. As always, my apologies to manufacturers whose worthy products I fail to mention here. Enjoy.
Joining in the desktop audio revolution in a meaningful way, Monitor announced its new Airstream WS100 wireless multimedia speaker system ($399). The Airstream speakers look like swept-back, two-tone, black and silver cubes that perch on your desktop with a notable absence of speaker and/or interconnect cables. Instead, connectivity is handled by a wireless, 2.4GHz USB dongle based on SKAA technology said to provide “superb CD quality audio.” Each Airstream speaker features a 3-inch C-CAM mid/bass driver and a ¾-inch C-CAM tweeter, with the mid/bass driver and tweeter driven, respectively, by built-in 20-watt and 10-watt amplifiers. Interestingly, you can also connect up to four Airstream systems to a single source, for low cost, easy to use whole-house audio systems.
At last year’s CEDIA event, NAD unveiled a fascinating portable/desktop audio product called the VISO 1, which was a combination iPod dock-speaker, Bluetooth speaker, and astonishingly competent self-powered desktop/tabletop speaker system. This year, NAD introduced a new wrinkle by releasing a new Apple Airplay-compatible version called the VISO 1 AP ($599). The main differences between the VISO 1 and the VISO 1 AP are that the latter drops the former’s iPod dock, offering Airplay connectivity instead, and that the VISO 1 AP adds a 96/24-capable USB digital audio port as well (making the VISO 1 AP a natural for use in computer based applications).
Like the original VISO 1, the VISO 1 AP uses NAD-developed combination Class D amplifier/DSP modules with speakers developed with and for NAD by the firm’s sister brand PSB Speakers. Indeed, no less an authority than PSB founder Paul Barton was responsible for creating the voicing for the VISO 1 and VISO 1 AP systems. The upshot of this is that the VISO rigs may look like sleek “lifestyle” products, but they sound more than a little like serious hi-fi systems.
Onkyo’s cool new RBX-500 iLunar system is a tabletop iPod dock speaker with several very unusual twists. First, the iLunar system is not a traditional stereo solution, but rather a six-channel system featuring six full-range drivers plus a downward firing subwoofer. Second, the iLunar features sophisticated “3D sound processing” from the Swiss firm Sonic Emotion. According to Onkyo, the Sonic Emotion processing system uses “wave field synthesis” and is “able to render a 3D audio image creating an impression for the listener of being on stage or in the studio with the musicians.” Finally, the iLunar rig not only allow iPod docking, but is also Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR compatible, giving it greater versatility.
While Onkyo’s “on stage or in the studio” description might be a bit of a stretch, a brief listen to the iLunar suggested to me that it could and did create a far more spacious and enveloping soundstage than is the norm for most iPod docking speaker (even very good ones). What is more, the 3D effect seemed to hold up pretty well, even when listening to the iLunar at quite close range (as would be the case when, say, using the iLunar on a desktop, but within arm’s reach of the listener).