Day Two of CEDIA 2016 is in the books. It was another day of sensory overload, with cutting edge tech, tantalizing demos, and media reveals exploding across the show floor. We also received definitive information about OPPO's previously top secrete 4K player and had a sneak peak look at a Monoprice prototype subwoofer that might prove to be an industry disrupter. Here's a quick rundown of several show highlights.
OPPO wasn’t officially on the show floor at CEDIA, but a prototype version of its new 4K UHD BD player made the rounds through a series of informal reveals conducted by OPPO staff. This kicked the show floor and internet rumor mill into high gear, as images surfaced along with details about pricing, specs, and potential release dates.
Here’s the quick and dirty. OPPO is currently planning on releasing two versions of a 4K UHD BD player: The UDP-203 and UDP-205. The primary difference between the two is quality of the analog outputs, with the 205 relying on a high-end EES DAC to output sound through stereo outputs (multichannel is nixed on this model). Think of the 205 as the must have model for two-channel enthusiasts concerned about audio fidelity. The 203 will have a lesser DAC that feeds multi-channel outputs (which OPPO is kindly including for customers with older systems).
OPPO doesn't plan to ship the players with streaming capability. That might be added later, but (unlike Sony’s announced player) neither the 203 or 205 are projected to ship with 4K or 4K HDR streaming capability. This might be a minor omission for the disc-concerned purist. However, it's certainly a negative for enthusiasts hoping to feed a shiny new 4K television with other forms of 4K content.
As for pricing, the 203 will likely land in the $499-$599 range, while the 205 should find its way to $1199 or $1299.
OPPO has yet to establish a definitive ship date. It might be late 2016, but OPPO made it very clear they aren’t interested in rushing a half-baked product to market. Integrity is the company's best marketing tool and they want to make sure the new players are working 100-percent (as intended) prior to release. I was told that OPPO's engineers are still sorting out HDMI handshake issues, in addition to onscreen banding produced when discs encoded with HDR are fed to non-HDR televisions. I have heard, however, that prototype players are likely to begin beta field testing by the end of the month. That information came from a non-OPPO source, so time will best validate that claim.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Auro-3D’s founder and CEO (Wilfried Van Baelen) at length during the event’s Saturday session. Stay tuned for an HTS exclusive born from the interview. He’s a fascinating and infectious proponent of audio with the zest and heart of a true audio enthusiast.
Auro was not short on news at CEDIA. In fact, late Saturday afternoon, Auro announced a landmark deal with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment that will integrate native Auro-3D (either 13.1 or 11.1) encodes into select future physical and digital movie releases. Auro also revealed that it’s strengthening its US presence by introducing new post-production facilities in the United States. This is huge news for both companies and enthusiasts alike, and will hopefully help Auro penetrate the Dolby and DTS dominated US market sooner than later.
Last week the gaming world was rocked when Sony revealed that its new PlayStation would not ship with 4K UHD Blu-ray capability. Fast forward to yesterday and Sony shocked us again by revealing its UBP-X1000ES 4K UHD Blu-ray disc player. This particular model is set to ship early 2017 and should be priced at a lofty $900. It’s a full functioning player that offers Hi-Res Audio, SACD playback, and 4K HDR streaming. In fact, at this time, it’s poised to be the only player with 4K HDR streaming capability. It’s an attractive standard-sized design that can be rack mounted (making it appealing to custom installers). Overall fit and finish (despite being a prototype) is impressive.
So, why the delay on Sony’s part? According to company representatives, Sony’s delay was purely fueled by a desire to see the market’s reaction to 4K Blu-ray discs. It turns out that 4K Blu-ray sales have been stellar, in fact I was told they’ve far exceed expectations.
Sony also unveiled a new $16,000 projector (VPL-675ES). The 675ES ships with support for HDR10 (used by Ultra HD Blu-ray and several streaming services), HDMI 2.0a, and HDCP 2.2. It also supports Hybrid Log-Gamma (HyLG), which is a new standard in the world of HDR broadcasting. Sony says a firmware upgrade will unlock this functionality at a later date. The projector’s lamp is rated at 6,000 hours (low mode) and delivers 1,800 lumens. It’s replacing last year’s VW66ES (which will eventually gain HDR functionality via a future firmware update).
Finally, Sony's semi-new Z Series of televisions were on full display. Images produced by its 100-in model (XBR-100Z9D; $60,000) were stunning. Sony has pushed LCD technology to an entirely new level of performance with its proprietary Backlight Master Drive technology (which essentially narrows the breadth of backlight dispersion, allowing blacks to remain blacker even when challenged by lighter portions of an image). The company was also running HDR demos using its killer flagship VPL-VW5000ES laser projector. Part of the demo showed clips from the new Ghostbusters film, and the HDR-laced image was flat-out stunning. Honestly, it’s something you need to see to believe and further fueled my desire to see true HDR material saturate the home market.
GoldenEar’s CEDIA demo room dropped the sonic hammer with a configuration of one SuperSat 60 (center), four Invisa MPX in-walls (front/surround), four HTR 7000s (presence), and a single SuperSub X. It also featured a pair of Triton 2+ towers for two-channel demo duty.
The SuperSub X is GoldenEar’s latest sub offering. It was initially shown at CES 2016, but is finally ready to begin shipping (soon). According to Sandy Gross, its design is completely born from last year’s SuperSub XXL; the XXL was the company’s first attempt at shrinking a sub while maintaining killer performance. The new “X” model is basically a 12-1/2-inch cube that uses opposed dual plane passive radiators and active 8-inch drivers to deliver crazy deep bass. I was shocked at its overall output, which sounded effortless (never strained or stressed). This could definitely be an industry game changer and certainly qualifies as a sub that enthusiasts can hide in a living room setting while reaping the benefits of reference-deep bass.
GoldenEar’s room, itself, sounded phenomenal. The company's choice to feature in-wall and in-ceiling channels is proof positive that its unapologetically confident in its products’ ability to perform to extraordinarily high levels. A-plus stuff.
Take any assumptions about Monoprice’s market space and kick them to the curb. The Internet Direct retailer arrived at CEDIA with all-new audiophile grade speakers, a legitimate large subwoofer prototype, new planar magnetic headphones, and new standalone power amps. Notice served to the rest of the ID industry, as pricing on this new gear is going to capture a lot of attention.
Perhaps the most enticing Monoprice reveal was a massive 200-pound ported sub sporting a 15-inch LMS-R TC Sounds driver, 1200 Watts of power, extension down to 18Hz, a magnetic grill cover, and robust large cabinet construction. This is an early prototype model that may or may not see the light of day on the consumer market. I was told that it will certainly be reskinned with a different exterior finish if it reaches production. David LaVine (Product Manager – Pro Audio) told me that early pricing considerations would land it close to $1,500 (shipped), a shockingly low price. I heard the sub in action and (even in the cavernous convention center) it delivered a deep impactful sound that could be felt and heard. The Monoprice show staff drove it hard and the sub performed flawlessly.
Monoprice also revealed its new Monolith Air Motion Speaker Series, comprised of a two-way bookshelf speaker ($199 each) and a three-way center channel with offset drivers ($299). Build quality looked excellent, the cabinets felt solid, and the speaker’s air motion transformer drivers sounded excellent. The company does not plan on adding tower speakers to the series.
Last May, Monoprice began shipping a 7-channel Monolith amplifier priced at an incredible $1,499. At CEDIA it unveiled three more Monolith offerings, including a gorgeous 5-channel version ($1,299). Two and Three channel versions will also be available (priced at $999 and $1099, respectively).
On the headphone front, Monoprice is releasing two different headphones that feature planar magnetic drivers. Owners of the M560 ($199) can reconfigure the headphone to operate as an open or closed back design. The more expensive M1060 ($299) features an open back design, only. I wasn’t able to handle either model, but both carry nice eye appeal. Either can be paired with one of several new stereo tube amps (priced between $99 and $199).
Monoprice’s gear looks primed to play tough with pricier market options. Look for most of it to begin shipping this fall.
Image Credits: Todd Anderson / Home Theater Shack