CES 2017: Voice control and High-End Audio solutions crank up the volume

posted on Tuesday, 17th January 2017 by Steve May

High-end  High Res Audio  VR  CES 2017 

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There was something for everyone at CES 2017. Connected ecosystems went from concept to intelligent ubiquity, high-end AV hit Hi-Res heights. It was a great show for new technologies. But there are post show caveats. According to Futuresource, attendance was flat and the number of exhibitors was down.

Big trends included voice interaction and virtual assistants. The impact of Amazon Alexa and Google’s Assistant look to be potentially huge, across CI and CE. Could 2017 herald the dawn of genuinely intelligent electronics?

Smart hardware was booming. More than 190 exhibitors had smart home offerings at CES 2017. According to IHS Markit, 2016 saw more than 80 million shipments of smart home devices, with an installed global base that exceeded 190 million devices. 

Environmental sensors are gaining traction, with air quality joining temperature and humidity monitoring. Trends in security include facial recognition, motion detection and 360 degree viewing.

The smart home is clearly moving toward voice control as a defacto interface. American specialist ADT, which provides both residential and small business security, has partnered with Amazon to arm and disarm security systems through voice control. Rather than use a keypad, Alexa manages the interface, providing another level of security.

Smart toasters, smart frying pans? They’re coming if you want them. Bosch declared that its entire appliance line-up would be connected by 2020.

There was no shortage of VR either, but there wasn’t much new of note that caught my attention beyond untethered VR solutions from Intel and AMD. Microsoft also talked up (low cost) Holographic PC VR headsets, but products could be a year away.

Hires Pavillion

Audio Technica (1)

CES 2017 was a good one for music systems. All the CE majors upped their game with High-Res Audio soundbars and single box solutions. There was plenty of support for MQA forthcoming, with Technics, AudioQuest, Pioneer and NAD signed up.

Standout products abounded. High-Res soundbars were unveiled by LG and Sony; KEF introduced its LS50 Bluetooth Wi-Fi speaker, while B&O offered the Play M5 with Chromecast built-in. Samsung unveiled its UHQ 32-bit super upsampling audio system (pictured). Audio Technica had the ATH-DSR9BT, the first wireless headphones to use Pure Digital Drive technology, built around the Trigence Semiconductor Dnote chipset (above)

High-end hi-fi was, as usual, ensconced in the VenetianTower. Here there was all manner of interest and intrigue. UK upstart Damson showed off a micro soundbar and multuichannel system, bolstered by a partnership with THX, while SVS laid on a thumping home theatre demo, inexplicably using Avengers Age of Ultron as a source, certainly one of the worst blockbuster movie soundtracks you’ll find on disc.

Arguably the best sonic demo was laid on by Arcam (pictured below). It used its AV850 Atmos AV receiver to demonstrate the power of Dirac Live room correction, to stunning effect. Hotel rooms rarely sound good, but Dirac processing did a brilliant job disguising Arcam’s suite.

Arcam Demo Ces

Moon Monoblocs

Hires Pavillion (1)

Elsewhere, Canadian specialist Moon unveiled its monumental 888 monoblocs. Weighing 113.4kg apiece, with huge aluminium heatsinks, these monsters are rated at 888W.  Demos of the amplification, driving Rockport Cynus speakers, were gorgeous. But then they do sell for $118,888 a pair.

                     Also read
                     CES 2017: 4K HDR UHD screens come of age
                     CES 2017: Evolving IoT and Artifical Intelligence
                     Interview: From Smart Home to Smart Cities

And there was also light to be found amongst the music. JVC held demos its native 4K DLA-RS5400 projector (aka the DLA-Z1 in Europe), just days before it finally shipped to US installers. The laser light behemoth was running a selection of travelogue vistas, as well as the 4K UHD Blu-ray of WarCraft, and it looked sensational. With HLG support promised, alongside HDR10, its performance was fittingly epic. 

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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