In search of new or recently released home theater audio components, I attended CEDIA Expo 2012, which was held in Indianapolis, IN from September 6-8, and will be preparing a multi-part show report.
Note: To make things easier for online readers, I’m covering manufacturers in alphabetical order. As always, my apologies to any manufacturers whose worthy products I fail to mention here. Enjoy.
Home theater enthusiasts of a certain age will recall that not so very long ago audio electronics from a firm known as Mondial Designs were very well regarded and coveted by many. Mondial products were sold under two related brands: Aragon and Acurus, companies whose products are still widely discussed online to this day. In 2001, however, Mondial was sold to Klipsch Group where, for a variety reasons, both the Aragon and Acurus brands languished. Now, I’m pleased to report Rick Santiago and Indy Audio Labs (a spin-off from Klipsch) have brought both Aragon and Acurus back in a big way.
At CEDIA, Acurus showed a range of components, but the one that caught my eye was the potent 5 x 200-watt A2005 amp ($3499). Santiago says that the amp preserves many of the same circuit topologies that made Acurus amps so desirable in the first place, but with contemporary parts upgrades and a handful of convenience features (such as remote performance monitoring and 12V controls) that should make the amps more appealing for custom installers. Stereo enthusiasts will want to note, though, that beautifully made and sensibly priced 2-channel Acurus models will be entering the market very soon. A good case in point would be the 2 x 200-watt Acurus A2002 power amp, which will sell for $2499.
At CEDIA the German firm ADAM Audio GmbH showed an exotic new two-channel oriented speaker called the Tensor II Gamma ($22,000/pair), but home theater enthusiasts would surely have been drawn to a separate corner of the ADAM display where the firm showed a completely self-powered surround sound system comprised of various models from ADAM’s popular new line of ARTist “prosumer grade” self-powered speakers. The 5.1-channel system on display was comprised of a pair of ADAM ARTist5 stand-mount monitors used as surrounds ($1200/pair), a pair of ARTist6 mini-floorstanders as LR main speakers ($2000/pair), an ARTist 6 Center as the center channel ($1100), and an ARTist SUB as the subwoofer ($800)—bringing the system price to $5100. Whether you choose to use the self-amplified ARTist speakers as the centerpiece of a minimalist desktop system or as elements in a larger in-room system, the have the freedom to go directly from control components to the speakers, with no need for outboard amplifiers of any kind.
To learn more about the ARTist5 and ARTist SUB, check out the Playback review written by my colleague Steven Stone (click here to read the review).
At last year’s CEDIA event Atlantic showed a proof-of-concept prototype for an adventurous new self-powered home theater soundbar that promised wide-range frequency response sufficient to allow the compact surround soundbar to be used without a companion subwoofer. Now, after several beneficial evolutionary changes, that soundbar, which is known as the H-PAS Powerbar 235 ($899), is ready for production and will enter the market soon.
Words cannot easily convey just how compact the Powerbar 235 is and when you see the unit with its grille removed you will immediately notice that it is configured as a two-channel system fitted with two 4-inch woofers and two ¾-inch tweeters. Despite this fact, however, the Powerbar 235 uses sophisticated DSP algorithms to offer four different modes of operation: 2-channel, 3-channel, 5-channel, and 5-channel “enhanced” (hence the “235” moniker). DSP also allows the Powerbar 235 to provide a cool “speech intelligibility enhancement” feature that specifically improves perceived movie soundtrack dialog clarity, yet without changing the overall character of other soundtrack elements.
H-PAS speaker enclosure technology, as licensed by Atlantic Technology from loudspeaker manufacturer Solus/Clements, enables the small system to produce surprisingly deep bass, with a very respectable -3dB point of 47 Hz. The unit supports two stereo analog inputs (via a 3.5mm mini-jack and a pair of RCA jacks) and three digital inputs (two optical, one coax), and provides built-in Dolby Digital and DTS support. The H-PAS Powerbar 235 represents a compact, cost effective add-on for those who wish to give their flat panel TVs a high-quality “voice”.