SoundStage!’s CES 2016 coverage has already begun on SoundStage! Global, our site specifically designed for show reporting, company tours, product debuts, and blogging. The main CES 2016 event runs from January 6 to 9 and is held in Las Vegas, but CES Unveiled, held on January 4, officially kicked it off. SoundStage! writer Brent Butterworth was there to cover it for us. In addition to Brent, SoundStage! writers Jeff Fritz, Roger Kanno, and Doug Schneider are also in Las Vegas to report on the event. Coverage during the official show days will include features on new products, extensive photo galleries, and the presentations for our annual Products of the Year awards. Visit SoundStage! Global now to learn the latest!
The SoundStage! Network is proud to announce our newest video series: SoundStage! Shorts. The SoundStage! Shorts series was conceived after finding success with SoundStage! InSight, our first video series, and realizing that we could produce topic-specific videos in a slightly different way.
With the SoundStage! InSight series, the goal with each episode is to tell a company’s story through a product, product line, or proprietary technology. Each InSight video is about five to seven minutes long. We have produced 11 so far. In contrast, the Shorts videos run about two minutes in length, with the purpose being to tell the story of just one product.
The first SoundStage! Shorts episode focuses on the Pryma, a new headphone brand designed and built by Italian speaker-maker Sonus Faber. It was filmed in New York City in November 2015. In it, industrial designer Livio Cucuzza talks about the design details for the 0|1, the company’s first headphone model.
The newest SoundStage! InSight episode, which debuted on YouTube today, explores KEF’s Blade Two loudspeaker. This is the 11th InSight episode and the second to feature KEF -- KEF’s history and Uni-Q driver technology were the subjects of the previous episode, which was released on YouTube last month.
This new episode features KEF’s Johan Coorg, the company’s head of brand development; Jack O’Clee-Brown, leader of the acoustics division; and Phil Gidley, one of the main design engineers on the Blade Two project. Both KEF episodes were filmed in July 2015, at the company’s headquarters in Maidstone, Kent, UK.
Audio Research’s Reference series began in 1995, with the release of the Reference 1 preamplifier. The company has now announced the newest addition: the all-tube Reference 6 preamplifier. According to Audio Research’s October 16 press release: “The Reference 6 line stage preamplifier is housed in a single chassis paneled in custom-machined aluminum. The vacuum tube audio stage utilizes six 6H30 vacuum tubes (three per channel), and one 6H30 and a 6550WE provide regulation in the power supply. The large, vacuum fluorescent display on the front panel shows all functions and volume. Two rotary encoders provide input selection and volume control, and a row of five buttons control power, mute, invert, mono and menu controls. Menu functions include: input labeling, display brightness, processor input setup and tube hour reset. Four balanced and four single-ended inputs provide system connectivity. There are two main outputs providing both balanced and single-ended, as well as a record out. RS-232, IR input, and 12V trigger allow for additional control options. The Reference 6 ships with a full-function metal remote.”
The Reference 6’s world premiere was at the Son et Image show, held October 17-18 in Paris. It will carry a retail price of $14,000 in the United States when it begins shipping next month
Anthem Electronics has just released the next generation of the company’s popular home-theater-electronics lineup, including their newest high-end preamplifier-processor, the AVM 60. According to the company's October 14 press release: "added features for the AVM 60 include Dolby Atmos immersive audio decoding and future upgrade for DTS:X immersive audio decoding, support for UHD Blu-ray and 4K60 through HDMI 2.0a with HDR, HDCP 2.2 and 18.2Gbps switching. Other AVM 60 improvements include any source downmix to Zone 2 and the fixed-level line outputs, as well as expanded menu options for convenience and ease of setup. The AVM 60 includes two subwoofer jacks and a front USB port for software updates. The front HDMI input supports MHL, as does one of the seven HDMI inputs on the back."
The natural partnering electronics for the AVM 60 are the new MCA-series amplifiers. The new models are the MCA 525, MCA 325, and MCA 225, in five-, three-, and two-channel configurations, respectively. The new MCAs have been "completely redesigned for improved audio performance and reliability, and cosmetic matching. Careful attention was paid to every area for the new series resulting in upgrades such as using eight bipolar output devices for less stress on each device, no relays in signal path to reduce the number of moving parts which can fail, much reduced in-rush current on power-up with less line disturbance and reduced stress on internal components, and higher-quality connectors. For audio quality improvements, damping factor is considerably higher to eliminate the effect of speaker impedance variations on frequency response, and distortion is lower thanks to many improvements throughout including higher current output which is suitable for demanding low-impedance speakers."
If separates aren't your thing, Anthem has also released brand-new versions of their MRX-series home-theater receivers. According to Anthem: "the new generation of MRX A/V receivers feature many improvements over previous generations, such as Dolby Atmos immersive audio decoding, DTS Play-Fi and readiness for DTS:X immersive audio decoding. Additional channels of processing and amplification are also supplementary as you move up the line. Just as the model names suggest, MRX 520 includes five channels of amplification, MRX 720 includes seven channels of amplification and MRX 1120 includes eleven channels of amplification."
Estimated availability for all seven products is January 2016. The prices are as follows:
AVM 60: $2999 USD
MCA 525: $3499
MCA 325: $2499
MCA 225: $1999
MRX 1120: $3499
MRX 720: $2499
MRX 520: $1399
Well-known British loudspeaker maker Bowers & Wilkins released the newest iteration of their flagship 800 line, comprised of the floorstanding 802 D3 ($22,000 USD/pair), 803 D3 ($17,000/pair), and 804 D3 ($9000/pair); stand-mounted 805 D3 ($6000/pair); and HTM1 D3 ($6000) and HTM2 D3 ($4000) center-channels. All six speakers will be available in October. One additional model, the 800 D3, is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2016 at a price that’s yet to be announced.
According to the company’s press release, the previous line’s Diamond tweeter has been retained, but its motor system has been improved. The rest of the drive units are brand new: “Most striking is the transformation of the midrange drive units. A new Continuum cone, developed in-house by Bowers & Wilkins engineers, replaces the Kevlar cones that have long been a major factor of the 800 Series’ famously realistic midrange performance. The Continuum cone takes the best acoustic aspects of Kevlar further, providing a level of clarity that simply must be heard to be appreciated. Bass performance has also been dramatically improved by the introduction of the Aerofoil cone, which considerably reduces distortion thanks to a new variable profile cone geometry more advanced sandwich construction.”
The cabinet is also said to be improved by using a more robust Matrix bracing system, a solid-body tweeter assembly, and a better-quality Turbine head midrange enclosure. Purportedly, these improvements reduce distortion significantly. Finishes for all models include Rosenut, Gloss Black, and Satin White.
NAD Electronics, which is based in Pickering, Ontario, Canada, announced the Viso HP30 headphones, the company’s first on-ear model. According to NAD’s press release on August 16: “With memory foam ear pads for both comfort and noise isolation, the Viso HP30 includes innovative RoomFeel ™ technology for deep bass and an immersive, lifelike sonic experience. The HP30 also features a convenient Apple 3-button multi-click remote with microphone so it can be enjoyed hands-free while multi-tasking or simply on-the-go. An extra stereo cord is included at no charge. Both cables are tangle-free, ribbon-style and detachable for quick changes and/or replacement.”
The HP30 headphones have a retail price of $229 USD and are available in three colors: black, red, or white. The black-colored HP30s are shipping now, while the red and white versions will be available in September.
In late July, the SoundStage! InSight production team traveled to the UK to visit Monitor Audio, which was originally founded in Cambridge in 1972. Today, the company is located in the town of Raleigh in a 43,000-square-foot facility, which houses all key operations, including product design work.
For this new video, the ninth in the SoundStage! InSight series, the team focused on how new products get created at Monitor Audio; in particular, the unique working relationship between the company’s in-house acoustics and industrial design teams.