Review: High performance audio at CES 2016

posted on Friday, 22nd January 2016 by Geny Caloisi

SVS  GoldenEar  Velodyne  Hi-fi  High-end  home cinema 

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If you ever dreamt of being able to compare the audio quality of different Hi-Fi manufacturers side-by-side, this dream would have come true at the Venetian Hotel suites during CES 2016. All the brands worth knowing were showing their range of products and latest releases, you only had to hop room to room to get the full effect.

At the SVS suite, Nicholas Brown, SVS Director of Brand Management, introduced us to the company’s new home theatre speaker, the Prime Elevation. This versatile trapezoidal speaker can be installed on the ceiling, on the wall, it can stand on a shelf or be mounted in several arrays.

Expected to be out in April this year, the speaker will retail for $349. For an enclosure of its size the sound quality of the SVS Prime Elevation is very good, but the key feature is its flexibility, which is ideal for home theatres.

The SVS Prime Elevation can play several roles: as a height channel speaker either down-firing or up-firing; as a centre channel speaker with projector screens or where level placement at ear height is not possible; and also as a side or rear-firing surround speaker. A pair of Elevation speakers can be wall-mounted and wired to become a dipole surround speaker. The company even looked into the detail of making its logo magnetic, so it will not read upside down on any position.

“Today people have spectacular immersive audio formats at their fingertips, be it on movies or blu-ray performances,” commented Brown and added, “The adaptability of this speaker makes it unique. You could start with a smaller system and then grow it and the Prime Elevation can easily change its role within the installation. So far the speaker is proving so popular we are stepping up production.”

SVS Prime Elevation (1)

Featuring a rated bandwidth of 69 Hz - 25 kHz (+/- 3dB), the SVS Prime Elevation performance compares to that of high-end bookshelf speakers, but offers many more possibilities. Outstanding crossover design and lower midrange and upper bass output allow it to blend seamlessly with subwoofers and speakers from SVS and other brands. When used in a multi-channel set-up, the speakers deliver crystal clear dialogue and vocals, an enveloping soundstage and seamless sonic transitions from front to back, side to side and overhead. The SVS Prime Elevation is sonically voiced to match with any of the company's existing speakers and subwoofers.

Velodyne was showing its range of elegant subwoofers, but talking to old-timer consultant Fred Yando, we discover that David Hall, founder and CEO of Velodyne, extends his curiosity and research beyond the world of audio. The company has launched its LiDAR sensor, a Solid State Hybrid Ultra Puck, that can reproduce the world around on 3D in real time; ideal for self driving cars. In fact at CES 2016, Ford was showing its self-driving car that uses LiDAR.

When it comes to designing its subwoofers, Velodyne does look into every detail. The units have a smooth finish, that in some models comes in wood or white variation, but as Yando explained “For home theatres what you need is black. Anything on any other colour, would stick out like a sore thumb and distract you from having an immersive experience.” Even the LED volume indicators at the front of the speakers can be switched off to achieve a total black.

The company has developed it own wireless system, Velodyne’s WiConnect. Not having to depend on cables, Velodyne’s Wi-Q 10 and Wi-Q 12 can be placed anywhere you want, on view or concealed in a cabinet. Fitted with Class D amplifiers, the Wi-Qs come with one touch auto-EQ room bass correction and can be controlled from a remote control.

The company’s Digital Drive Plus range, which comes in four sizes: 10’, 12’, 15’ and 18’, offer extremely low-distortion (just 0.5%) at or bellow 20Hz. They also have Velodyne’s patented accelerometer based on High Gain Servo System. Velodyne’s founder, Hall, introduced the first High Gain Servo System in 1983, with the ULD-18 subwoofer. The 120lb speaker system went lower, played louder and produced distortion levels that were 20 to 30 times less than anything else on the market. The ULD-18 garnered dozens of international awards and acknowledgments, including the 1984 Special Engineering Award.

Micro Vee White _small

Velodyne also knows how to do small. Its Micro-Vee is just 9x9x9.6” (HWD), and comes in black or white ribbed aluminium cabinet. According to the company, this is ‘the smallest sub ever made.’ The new sub features the latest generation of Velodyne’s patented ERS (Energy Recovery System) Class-D digital amplifier. “It supplies 2000 watts of dynamic power and, with 1000 watts of continuous RMS power. The MicroVee reproduces bass with a level of detail and definition not found in any other subwoofer in its price range regardless of size,” explained Yando. Rated at over 95% efficiency, the ERS amp used in the MicroVee generates minimal heat, making it very reliable.

GoldenEar’s co-founder, Sandy Gross, introduced us to the company’s audio evolution on its Triton product series. The Triton One, Two and Three don’t follow a chronological order; the second and third came before the first. The Triton One tower speaker was introduced in 2014. 

GoldenEar’s second generation are the Triton Two+ and Triton Three+. The Plus series built from the development on the Triton One. 

Golden Ear _Showroom Triton Plus

Gross explained: “Some of the improvements include new upper bass/midrange drivers, which incorporate a new cone, surround, spider and voice coil.  They also have a completely new balanced crossover with polypropylene capacitors, similar to the one developed for the Triton One. Many listeners don’t realize just how critical the crossover is to the sound of a loudspeaker. They often think that the drivers create the sound, and that two speakers with the same drivers will sound basically alike. Not so. The crossover is like the conductor of an orchestra, telling each driver exactly when to come in and how loud to play. Our acoustic engineers spent countless hours trying subtle variations of crossover and DSP tuning in order to get the voicing exactly right.”

Sonically, both the Triton Three+ and Triton Two+ benefit from a significantly smoother, higher resolution, and more highly detailed sound. The Two+ will retail at US$1749 each and the Three+ $1249 each. 

 

Geny Caloisi

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

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