From 8k and 360 Reality Audio to multi-HDR OLED, we name the seven big winners of CES 2019

posted on Monday, 21st January 2019 by Steve May

8K  IMAX  Dolby Vision  CES 2019 

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Transformative was the byword for this year’s CES. From innovative designs to groundbreaking new ideas, this year’s Las Vegas extravaganza gave the technology landscape a seismic shake-down.

It looks like everything we know about consumer technology is about to change...again.

But with over 4,000 exhibiting companies, and more than 20,000 products launched, who won this year’s show? Inside CI walked the halls to find out. Read on the discover our Top Seven Big Winners of CES 2019...

8K Konka

ZG9

8k - UHD gets real, and Sony scales the heights
CES has long had a romance with big screen televisions. Over the decades it’s been the launchpad for some of the biggest, brightest and most exciting screen technologies on the planet, including Trinitron CRT, Kuro Plasma, Aquos LCD and UHD. TV technology has always been the key water cooler technology here. This year it was the turn of 8k to dominate the show. Wherever you looked there were fabulous ultra-ultra high resolution displays.

Of course, with no native 8k content available, the success of any 8k TV roll-out relies heavily on the quality of available upscaling. All the main players, Sony Samsung and LG, impress in this regard but the best we saw at CES came from Sony, on its ZG9 Master Series flagship 85- and 98-inch LED LCD screens. What sets their upscaling apart is the sheer naturalism of their pictures. There is no sense of artificial enhancement; fine detail doesn't appear to have an unnatural snap. Sony's 8k upscaling looks sublime.

Micro 75

OLED R

Format factors - reinvented, the shape of TVs to come
New TV form factors inspired at CES 2019. Samsung surprised many by going big (literally) with its modular Micro LED technology, unveiling a 75 inch Micro LED screen, in addition to a gigantic 219-inch Wall. Seemingly, display size is now limited only by the imagination of the industry and the installer. Provided the technology does indeed come to market.

That said, biggest wows were reserved for LG’s remarkable OLED R. TV The ingenuity of the engineering in this screen is jaw-dropping. At the touch of a button, a 65-inch panel rolls up from a Dolby Atmos sound cabinet. Alternatively it rolls down, to show just a quarter of the screen, which can then be used for music playback disc, news, weather and mood-setting graphics.

There’s little doubt the LG OLED 65 R will become a status symbol when it launches later this year, but with an as yet undisclosed price tag, we’ll wager it’ll not be too common a sight, even in high-end installs.

IMG_8128

Immersive audio - A new champion in Sony 360 Reality Audio?
Audio got a welcome refresh at CES 2019. Sony took the wraps off its 360 Reality Audio format, effectively heralding a return to high-resolution multi-channel audio, an area thought abandoned after the commercial failure of Super Audio CD and DVD-A.

360 Reality Audio is ostensibly a technology for streaming services and headphones. Using standard stereo headphones, with a new 360 Reality Audio app, encoded music tracks allow listeners to hear genuine surround sound. It's a remarkable listening experience. We enjoyed demonstrations using both headphones, and a prototype single all-in-one unit (pictured above).

The headphone demonstration required bespoke HRTF (head-related transfer function) calibration, using microphones in each ear. Subsequent comparisons with a multi-channel speaker system proved remarkably similar.

360 Reality Audio is an object based sound system, much like Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. However while Dolby Atmos has made inroads into movie mastering, it has failed to gain traction with the music industry.

Sony's proposal is for an open immersive audio standard to fill the gap. Sony believes this approach will encourage the tech to be adopted as an industry standard. But while it plans on launching 360 Reality Audio as a headphone technology, the long-term roadmap is far more intriguing.

The decoding technology will debut in an app, but there's no reason why it couldn't also be baked into to AV receivers and games consoles.

SL1200 Mk3

Hi-Fi - Old school still generates a buzz, as Technics unveils the SL-1200 Mark 7 DJ deck
Audio excitement didn’t just revolve around cutting edge 3D sound. Technics generates a big buzz by returning to its club roots, with the new direct drive SL-1200 Mark 7 DJ turntable.

This long-awaited vinyl spinner plays homage to a long legacy of Technics DJ decks in terms of design and cosmetics, however it boasts components developed for its audiophile record players, including a precision coreless motor.

The brand also showed a new SACD and Network Audio player, the SL-G700, first seen in prototype form at IFA in 2018. Utilizing dual Asahi Kasei Microdevices AK4497 DACs and boasting superb build quality, this audiophile grade component looks to be something rather special.

IMAX Enh

Home theatre - redefined with IMAX Enhanced
Perhaps the most intriguing new addition to the home cinema lexicon is IMAX Enhanced. There were several demonstrations of it at CES, thankfully with real Hollywood movies rather than vintage IMAX-made documentaries. We sat in on demonstrations featuring IMAX Enhanced clips from Venom, Alpha and Spider-Man Homecoming. Offering superb image quality, and superb wideband multi-channel sound, this quality certification iniative seems to offer a genuine step-up in AV performance.

Will IMAX Enhanced become the new high end in home theatres? It's possible, particularly if Dolby Atmos becomes just a generic label, rather than a mark of genuine high-end performance.

It's worth noting that the format is backwards compatible, so if you buy an IMAX Enhanced Blu-ray disc it will play on any DTS-X enabled AV receiver. It's not just a technology for physical media though, IMAX Enhanced as signed a partnership deal with Rakuten TV for streaming in the UK. We can't wait to see what that brings.

QLED

HDR10+ - Open standard finally steps up to challenge Dolby Vision
At CES 2019 it seemed like Dolby found itself under fire from every corner. While there is growing ubiquity for Dolby Vision and Dolby Audio, there was no shortage of rivals for its throne. Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is a clear open standard challenger to Dolby Atmos for Music, while HDR10+ became considerably more credible with the news of the first Blu-ray discs to support the open metadata standard, and continuing support from the likes of Panasonic and Samsung.

Behind the scenes, we were treated to a preview of new QLED TV technology coming from Samsung. Amongst these is an on-screen indicator for HDR10+ encoded content. Given that it's been nigh on impossible to tell if content from format backer Amazon has been encoded in HDR10+ or regular HDR10, this onscreen confirmation can only be a welcome development.

GZ2000

OLED - Panasonic shuns 8k, delivers the best 4k OLED on the planet...maybe
Given that 8k hasn’t yet really really earnt an audience, many enthusiasts will be on the look out for a high performance 4K screen instead. And when it comes to UHD, the standout telly of CES 2019 came from the Panasonic. It's upcoming GZ2000 OLED flagship, available in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes, combines a sensational cinematic picture with innovative Dolby Atmos audio.

The GZ2000 is the first OLED TV to offer genuine multi-HDR support. Panasonic is bundling Dolby Vision compatibility, with HLG, HDR10 and HDR10+ for the first time. The set also has upfiring Dolby Atmos speakers on the rear panel, something we’ve never seen before. Demonstrations of this configuration were extremely impressive. Those integrated upfiring speakers adding height and ambience to the TV’s soundstage straight from the box. There’s certainly no need for an Atmos soundbar with this TV!

Atmos Speakers

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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