Review: Big audio solutions at ISE 2016

posted on Wednesday, 2nd March 2016 by Geny Caloisi

Karma-av  Monitor Audio  ISE 2016  Meridian Audio 

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When it comes to audio for custom installs, the trend at ISE 2016 was either to have premium luxury speakers, such as Bowers and Wilkins iconic Nautilus (pictured above); especial edition colour finishes like the one introduced by Meridian Audio; or go discreet becoming almost invisible to the naked eye. Whatever style you want to choose for a project, what's important is the technology updates that make these sonic solutions outstanding. Here's our top six audio picks from this year's ISE...

Now you see me...
Days are becoming longer and the UK is keenly awaiting some summer days… maybe I’m being optimistic - but if you're an outdoors lover you can now combine it with top entertainment day or night. Stealth Acoustics’s sales manager Brian Azzano, introduced us to the company’s giant Stealth Patio Theater (SPT).

The SPT is a fully integrated entertainment system, combining motorised, large format, ultra-bright 16:9 format hi-resolution LED screens with Stealth Acoustics’ IP-68 outdoor speaker and amplifier technologies. Each system includes stereo or multichannel speakers and subwoofers built into a monolithic weatherised containment enclosure. This can be camouflaged to look like its environment through adhesive digital photos, or painted to taste. The style of the units is quite American, but Azzano says it’s been welcomed in the EU and they already have some orders for UK showrooms. We would like to see it installed, although perhaps they should include a patio heater for the UK?

Audio _Stealth Patio Theater Movie

Now you don't...
From Stealth's large and very visual SPT, we go to the other end of the spectrum, the discreet or ‘invisible’. Stealth Acoustics is improving the technology on its invisible offerings. Its waterproof super slim speakers are making waves in the superyacht and maritime market. The StingRay outdoor high fidelity speakers family, consisting of both 6 and 8 woofer models, are constructed using high strength UV protected fibreglass and marine grade, fibre-infused ASA plastics, meaning the speaker is completely sealed against intrusion from any outside elements. This has earned StingRay a rating of IP-68.

For the residential market, the speaker manufacturer is offering its Stealth’s LR4G invisible speaker; ideal for Dolby Atmos. These speakers use a patented combination of directly coupled mid/high tweeters and real cone woofer bass stage, leading to smooth and articulate response from 45Hz-18kHz all from a totally invisible speaker solution. “Add in the near hemispherical coverage of Stealth speakers and you have a system that sounds spectacular from the front and rear “X”axis, side“Y” axisand the ceiling“Z” axis,” pointed out Azzano.

Monitor Audio was showing another type of invisible speakers, its range of in wall and in ceiling Controlled Performance (CP) Series of architectural speakers. With ten across four performance levels, all models in the CP Series feature integrated, sealed back boxes and optimised drivers for each enclosure to deliver reliable and consistent audio, regardless of where they are being installed.

Monitor Audio 2

Worth keeping an eye out for, is Monitor Audio’s Platinum In-Wall II. This reference speaker system has been designed for discreet custom installation featuring the latest RDT II bass and mid-range driver’s coupled with the new MPD High frequency driver, developed specifically for the new Platinum home audio speakers. The enclosure is constructed from materials with differing properties, which ensure resonant modes are defeated throughout the whole mechanical structure. Material properties are designed to damp and shift the frequency of any resonance to ensure sound is delivered with a natural character.

The mid-range/ high frequency assembly can be rotated to provide the best directivity pattern for horizontal or vertical installation. Because of this, a theatre can be designed with three Platinum In-Wall II, across the front to create a consistency of image and sound characteristics.

Monitor Audio was also introducing two new compact subwoofers at ISE 2016: the CW8 and CW10. These feature long throw 8-inch and 10-inch drivers, driven by a powerful Class D amplifier delivering over 400w continuously. RS232 allows full control of features and switching using a system controller. Alternatively an IR sensor provides conventional remote control. 

High Res Audio at ISE 2016
Meridian Audio is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and at ISE it was showcasing its beautiful special edition DSP5200 Purple McLaren high-resolution speaker. Rayner Sheidan, Meridian Director of Marketing, explained that it is all about high-resolution audio and that this speaker is able to render MQA (Master Quality Authenticated).. “Unlike ‘lossy’ conventional formats, MQA goes all the way back to the original master recording and captures the missing timing detail,” he explained.

Meridian’s MQA-compatible products include: Explorer2, Prime Headphone Amplifier, 808v6 Reference CD Player, 818v3 Reference Audio Core, of course the Special Edition Loudspeakers.

Also of interest at the stand was the neatly designed Meridian rack. In it, you could mount up to four of the company’s oval shaped Media Source 200, a 818v3 Reference Audio Controller, or a Distributor3.

Harman brand JBL held an immersive 9.4.6-channel home theatre demo at the show. The company was introducing its new SDP-75 Processor to the EU market, which it had previously showed at Inside Out's TT Expo. The SDP-75 is a result of a strategic global partnership between JBL Synthesis and Trinnov Audio and supports Dolby Atmos, DTS-X and Auro3D codecs.

The demo system will also included the JBL Synthesis SCL-3 and SCL-4 in-wall and in-ceiling loudspeakers for LCR and height channels and the companion JBL Synthesis SDEC5500 digital equalizer .

Audio _Harman JBL

Being cornered and liking it
Danish speaker brand Cornered Audio, was showing its range of ‘corner speakers’. From the compact and very loud C5TRM, to the new LS1 Line Source that allows installers to throw Hi-Fi quality sound out to 40 meters to the new Processor CPX24. The triangular speakers fit snugly in the corners of any room, be it between walls or the ceiling and the wall.

Audio _cornered Audio (1)

Providing clean lines, the 90 degrees angle speakers perform the same as a conventional rectangular box speaker. This is because the Cornered Audio design uses high quality drivers and has been cleverly EQ'd to eliminate the usual bass boom of corner installations.

The cherry on the cake is the cabling solution. The cable runs in a groove to recessed terminals at the back of the speaker and then to the floor or ceiling in the corner apex where it's easily disguised. Karma-AV distributes these speakers, worth taking a look if you want to add a bit of FengShui to a room.

Finally, bringing fine interior design to the outdoors are the products from Architettura Sonora (pictured below). The Italian company is pushing the boundaries between sculpture and speaker design...

Audio _architetura Sonora (1)

Also read: 
Review: Bristol Hi-Fi show 2016
Review: ISE 2016 the biggest and best yet
Debate: learning to ride the new audio wave

Geny Caloisi

Geny Caloisi is an accomplished technology journalist who has worked in a variety of AV industry publications. 

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