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Day 4 - Page 2

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Up until now, John Kotches has been uploading the CEDIA news that you have been reading.  I think he has done a great job covering the show.  This was his first trade-show for Secrets, and I look forward to working with him again and the rest of the Secrets staff at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show.

This year, at CEDIA, Meridian had two new products on display.  The DSP-8000s are not exactly new, they were introduced at the 2000 CES in January.  They are now shipping and have been since June.  Unlike CES, there were demonstrating multi-channel DVD-A.  They had 3 DSP-8000s up front and a pair of DSP-6000s in the rear.  During the film clips, they also had a pair of DSP-5500s on the sides.

Meridian chose two video clips, one standard CD being upsampled, and two DVD-A tracks.  The first clip they chose was not one that really shows off picture or sound, but it did poke fun at this industry.  I thought it was a great choice.  It was a scene from "Just the Ticket" staring Andy Garcia and Andie MacDowell.  It was a scene where Mr. Garcia was trying to get a date with Andie.  He bet her he could sell a big screen TV.  I won't spoil the rest.  The video was being fed into the S&W Interpolator via a DVI output card in the 800.  That card will be coming out in the future by S&W.

Something unique about the DSP-8000s is that they actually upsample the incoming signal to 88.2 or 96 kHz.  This means if you are watching a movie in DD or DTS that has been decoded by the 561, 565, 568, or 861, it will get upsampled in the speaker.

At the show, Meridian also had a pair of 8ks in red!  The image that I took does not do justice to the color, but it will give you an idea.  Meridian say's that they can provide them in virtually any color you want.  A price has not been set for these custom colors, but people were very interested.

The new announcement at Cedia was the introduction of the 596 DVD Video player.  While Meridian has had two prior 500 series DVD players, this is the first one built from the ground up (it inherits a lot from its bigger brother the 800). This new player will be shipping in November for $4,250.

The 596 is upgradeable to future technologies like DVD-A.  All of the outputs on the back panel are on a removable plate.  Meridian chose to release a DVD-V player first because they felt that not everyone may want to spend the extra money on DVD-A.  With the 596, you have the option to upgrading to DVD-A when it is ready.  DVD-A players and software (40 titles are out in Japan right now and there is no region coding on DVD-A) are now available. Meridian plans to have DVD-A early next year.

The 596 will player DVD-V, CD, VCD, CVCD (Chinese), and MP3s. (The MPs must be recorded on a CD-R so that means the 596 also handles CD-Rs.) The 596 uses 192/24 DACs on the 2-channel analog outputs.  It supports both DD and DTS and can play PAL and NTSC in their native format or even transcode between the two.  It also uses MHR on the digital outputs.  MHR allows Meridian to pass a 96/24 signal to their processor in a secure fashion. (Some DVD players today will output 96/24 if the disc allows it.)  It is possible for a disc to instruct the player to down covert the signal, in which case a player will output 48/24.  With MHR, they can still pass that 96/24 signal.  MHR will be in place until the industry can provide a standard method to transmit the audio.  A couple of large Japanese companies told me that they do not expect that anytime soon!  If their products do output a digital signal, you can bet it will be proprietary and will only work with their products.  Sharp, Meridian, and I believe Pioneer, have all developed their own secure methods.

The 596 is also using a new navigation manager inside of the player. It has been completely re-written from scratch compared to what is currently in the 800.  Don't fret, the 800 navigation manager can be upgraded with a simple flash upgrade.  It will be later this year or early next when the 800 gets the new software.  The new software offers a screen saver and you can customize when it activates.  The 596 is also built using 6-layer boards and has 9 separate power supplies.  The 596 will change its behavior (optimizes itself) depending on the type of source material (CD or DVD).

One of the most outrageous booths at the show belonged to Runco.  If you look in the photo above and to the left, just above the letters E and R in the word Diner, you will see four 3-Chip DLPS stacked.  They were used to display a VERY large image like that of a drive-in movie theater.  They had several old style cars sitting in front of the screen where you could kick back and enjoy the film.  Sam (Runco) even had the guts to project a B&W film, and it was great! (Way to go Sam!)

Runco also introduced a bunch of new products at their press conference.  Their new line of Ultra processors sound VERY promising, and I hope one day to get to look at the 4403 Ultra (please, please, please). They gave a quick demonstration of two CRTs with and without color filters (they were side by side using two screens).

Dwin had their new TransVision DLP projector on Display.  You can see it sitting on top of the TranScanner 2 (TS2) in the photo.  The photo does not really illustrate the new color that is being used for the DLP.  It comes off as beige in the photo, but it is more of an aqua or cyan.  The TransVision uses a 1024 x 768 TI DMD panel.  Unlike others, the Dwin is built from the ground up.  It retails for $12,995 and includes a custom version of the TS2.  It is only going to be sold as a package system.  This DLP did a very good job reproducing blacks (still not as good as CRT and D-ILA, but one of the best DLPs that I have seen yet).

The TransVision has settings for Gamma Correction, gray scale, brightness, and contrast for each source.  Finally someone realizes that the gray scale settings may be different for DVD than they are for LD, HD, or DSS.  The TS2 is equipped with two 15-pin VGA inputs (not an exact pass through, you get contrast and brightness adjustments), two composite, two S-Video , and three component inputs. The component can be either progressive or interlaced.  The TS2 also has a built-in transcoder.  One of the nicest features the TV offers is auto aspect ratio control.  It knows whether the source is 4:3, letterbox, or anamorphic, and will switch automatically.  You can always override the TV if it detects wrong.  This is a great improvement, if not an innovation, in the home theater market (a big usability issue).

There is also a stand alone TS2 which offers most of the above features (minus aspect ratio control and gamma/gray scale).  The TS2 will retail for the same price as the original TS1.

Martin Glasband was on hand showing off his new Equi=Tech balanced transformers.  The ETs are the only balanced products on the market that have real UL rating (approval).  The units shown in the picture have a brand new face plate for the consumer market.  The version I have is more industrial looking.  When I did my review of the ET, it was with the standard transformer.  They are now shipping with the Q transformer (I have since upgraded to the Q).  The Q offers more mass in the transformer.  This prevents any chance of saturation.  The 1.5 kVA Q vs. Non-Q is about a 12 pound transformer difference.  I have had the chance to try a few different balanced transformers, and the ETs are by far the best on the market.

JVC had a very impressive display with their new D-ILA projectors.  In fact, it was clear that the D-ILA that JVC had on hand was superior to all other DLPs on display at CEDIA in both resolution and ability to reproduce blacks.

One of the biggest buzzes on the Internet forums is the Cinematrix mod coming from MSB.  I got a chance to see this on display at CES and walked away less than impressed.  The version that they had running at CEDIA was a major improvement!  I still don't know how good it really is and will reserve judgment until I can do a full evaluation.  The cool thing about this mod is that it can be added to DVD, DSS, and digital VCRs.  There are two upgrades available, one for $899 and one for $1,395.  The larger package includes Windows software that will allow you to totally customize the Cinematrix.

The output of the Cinematrix is DVI.  That is fed into an external box that will output RGBHV on BNC or a 15-pin VGA jack.

Princeton had their new progressive/scaling DVD player at the show.  They had two players, one with the 16x9 TV and one on a 4:3 TV.  Only one was actually working.  I think a cable was bad on the other.  I made three visits to the booth and at no time could I get any information on the player.  It was sitting there by itself with no one around.  From what I could gather, it will not be out this year.  The disc in the player was super speedway, which is far from my favorite material.  Princeton did very little to promote the player.  There was not even any information on it in their press kit.

The new Princeton 16x9 30" monitor rocks!  They had a few of those on display, showing HDTV material.

Seleco showed their new DLP projector.  They demonstrated an 800x600 DMD panel version.  The first showed it with the built-in scaler, then they fed a Toshiba SD-5109 into the DLP using the progressive output on the 5109.  The scaler inside was OK, but the 5109 really did improve the performance.  I think the 800x600 retails for $8,999.  The chassis that the DLP is housed in is very sleek and is available in multiple colors.  It would be interesting to compare this one (actually the 1024x768 version) against the Dwin.  Neither the Dwin or Seleco exhibited any halation problems that I have seen with other DLPs.

Sencore had a couple of new products on display, the VP300 'Video Pro' and SP295 'Sound Pro'.  These retail for $2,000 each.  The Video Pro is their test pattern generator and can be seen in the photo above, right.  It is about the size of a remote control.  You can generate test patterns of any format including 1080i and 720p.  You can customize the rates on a PC and upload to the Video Pro.  That means you can create a specific memory for the non-HDTV standard output that the RCA DTC-100 has.

The Sound Pro is an SPL meter, Real Time Analyzer (1/12 octave!), Energy Time Graph (RT60), and Audio Signal Generator, all in one compact hand-held package.

Other news

The four most popular words that I heard this year at CEDIA were "Copy Protection" and "Real Progressive"  The first term deals with DVD-A and video, using digital outputs.  It sounds like there will be no digital output "standard" for a while on DVD-A players or SACD.  On the video side, some DVD players are offering an SDI output. Theta comes to mind.  The problem is it is not a secure method. Having now witnessed Universal win against MP3.com, manufactures are being very careful not to upset Hollywood.  It sounds like DVI may actually become the digital video standard.

The Real Progressive nonsense that most of the manufacturers were spewing really bugs me.  We will do our best to clear that up in part 5 of our DVD benchmark.  Three manufacturers are now known to be using the Genesis de-interlacing chip, namely Panasonic (H1000), Toshiba (6200 and 9200), and Sony (DVP-S9000ES).  Others are using the superior DVDO chip, such as Camelot, EAD, and Ayre.  I am unaware at this time what Pioneer and Onkyo are using.

I am really curious what how you all feel about DVD-A and SACD.  What I want to know is will you buy a stand alone DVD-A or SACD player that will not also do DVD-V?  All of the DVD-A players that I saw also supported DVD-V.  Most of the SACD players are standalone SACD players, which means you will need a separate player for DVD-V.  Personally I will not own a standalone player, but I would love to hear your feedback.

- Stacey Spears -

Balance Daniel-san balance!

Equi=tech is a new name to the home electronics business.  They are well known in the professional audio and broadcast industries as providers of balanced power.  With an impressive list of clients, they have credentials.  That's fine, that's good, but what is "balanced power".  Standard power provides a 120 v signal on pin one of your electrical system, neutral on pin two and ground on pin three.  Balanced power splits up the positive and negative halves of the AC power into +60 v on pin one and -60 v on pin two.  According to the people at Equitech, no rewiring is necessary to reap the benefits of balanced power.  A variety of models are available for the custom installation and home theater markets, but pricing and model number information weren't  available at this time.  I did manage to sneak in a picture or two of the home theater products.

 

Pioneer introduces numerous products.

Pioneer continues to aggressively revamp their DVD player line, with the announcement and introduction of DVD players across all market segments.  Most noteworthy is the first truly universal DVD transport, the DV-AX10 (US$4,500).  Availability was not announced, but is anticipated by year's end.  Below, left is a picture of the player, but I was not able to hear a demo of its sonic merits.

 

Pioneer also demonstrated a DVD-RW player (above, right), which creates discs compatible with all of the Pioneer DVD lineup on display at CEDIA.  The DVD-RW discs are supposed to be compatible with most players from other manufacturers as well. 

Also on display was an Elite line Progressive Scan DVD, the DV-37 (US$1,000).  Look for a DVD-Audio capable player to be introduced in the near future with otherwise similar specifications.  The DV-37 is pictured below.

And even more from Panasonic

Not to be outdone, Panasonic had yet another slew of products introduced, the most notable of which were the Technics DVD-A10 (US$1,200) which we reviewed recently.   This is a DVD-Video and DVD-Audio player.  At this writing, DVD-Audio and SACD players have no digital output, so decoding must occur within the player.  The Technics player has a digital output for low resolution formats AC-3 (Dolby Digital), DTS, and CD (16 bit/44.1 kHz).  DVD-Audio is transferred via six analog connections, so whatever this player is being connected to should have a set of 5.1 inputs.  The DVD-A10 is pictured below, left. 

 

The Panasonic DV-A7 (US$1,000) is a more "budget" oriented player pictured above right. The DV-A7 is available at Sears.

Panasonic also introduced their DVD-RAM drive, the DMR-E10 recorder.  Pricing and date availability are not specified, but based on competitors offerings, I anticipate the price to be somewhere around the US$2,000 mark.  The display was static, so no testing of recording portability could be done.  The DMR-E10 is shown below.

Last stop, JVC

JVC has one really interesting product introduction that was attracting quite a bit of attention.  Its combination of features and price were certainly turning a few heads at the show, even though it was only on static display.  The product is the DX-723GD (US$849).  For the price you get DVD-Video, progressive scan outputs, plus DVD-Audio.  The player is at the bottom of the stack in the picture below. When you can get a DVD player that has DD, DTS, DVD-Audio, and SACD capability, at CostCo, for $99, I guess it will be time for a new format.

 

- John Kotches -

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