This is the most exciting time of the year in the Audio/Video industry …. the silly season in fact. The time when the great Consumer Electronics Show (CES) touts the wave of the future, along with tasty morsels that may be revolutionary, or if not, the answer to a trivial pursuit question 5 years from now.
We enlisted the help of three of the industry’s top movers and shakers to give us their unbiased take on what they think are the most interesting developments coming out of CES ’97. Their names have been withheld to protect the innocent!
MOVER & SHAKER # 1
Rated as most interesting, is a new technology called NXT. Essentially, it is a loonie sized driver that can excite almost any material to create sound. Based on something called the Bending Wave Theory, it is a completely different way of creating sound. These drivers, when attached to your TV screen, artwork, posters, exit sign, car roof liner, the soles of your shoes etc., will reproduce the sound of your choice. The inventors were on hand after the demonstration, to deal with those lined up with suit cases full of money wanting to get licensing and distribution rights for the technology. This could be very big in a few years time.
The new Micro Mirror projectors, the next generation of overhead projector style TVs were great. Forget LCD or 3 guns, these are much brighter and sharper, can be viewed with normal room lighting and have none of the set-up hassles common with a 3 gun system, or the grainy appearance and pixel loss associated with LCD. They will be expensive, but the best always is, right? We expect to be getting one in for our upstairs home theatre room within the next 6 weeks or so.
Bazooka tubes for the home were given a big thumbs down. Big ugly tubes with car audio type bass seem to answer a question no one asked. Just say No!
An Amplifier manufacturer from California called ATI, showed some very impressive, quality stereo and multi-channel Amplifiers. Big heat sinks and wattage capability, in a case that is 50% black and 50% silver. They are the first notables from this 30 year old manufacturer. Keep your eye out for this company.
MOVER & SHAKER # 2
During a great seminar on the 18″ DSS revolution, a noted pollster cited an interesting fact, derived from the US market, but no doubt with some relevance north of the boarder. In a national poll, the most hated companies are number 1 – the Cable Company and number 2 – the Telephone Company. If you experienced that marketing wonder called negative billing, you may agree with number 1. If you haven’t been called by some phone company trying to switch you in the last week, maybe your phone is disconnected, and you may also agree with number 2.
The makers of the little dishes intend to go after both number I & 2 in the near future with something other than satellite phones and more channels for less. They intend to use a new marketing approach called Common Courtesy, meaning that they intend to bend over backwards to help their customers, offer after sales support and simply put the customers needs first – a novel approach! As well, they are talking about providing “Convergence” for your CPU, Audio/Video and communication systems. This means they will be the frame for providing all these technologies in the future and this is to take place in the near, not distant time frame.
Plasma TV is getting ever closer. This is the long awaited TV that hangs on your wall. It was shown in a glass block, to prove that there was not a room full of mice running on treadmills behind it. The picture looked great, even when viewed off axis, with price being the main stumbling block at first – $25,000 US for a forty incher, of course, that will change.
DVD, truly the next big trend, is slated for a March/97 release now that all the copyright squabbles are supposedly settled. It was too bad that this bickering held up the targeted Christmas/96 introduction – but better late than never.
Yamaha showed an add-on AC-3 processor, which will work with an existing Dolby Pro-Logic processor. So, no worries about having to get rid of your old Pro-Logic Receiver to get the AC-3 technology. Thank you Yamaha!
MOVER & SHAKER # 3
DTS is the latest acronym we have to learn. This is the result of a small but concerted effort on the part of inventor Terry Beird to improve on the resolution of AC-3. If you watch the credits at the end of a movie you will notice that many movies are now recorded in DTS, which gives higher resolution than the already spectacular AC-3. DTS should be compared with THX, as it does not compete directly against AC-3, but rather, complements it, although it does have a distinctly different encode/decode system.
DTS will also be aimed at 6 channel audio, which will allow people with non AC-3 compatible laser disk players or CD players with digital outputs to get AC-3 quality sound from their existing system. A company known as Millennium will offer Canada’s first glimpse of this technology, and we will have it, very soon. Watch for the very high end manufacturers to incorporate DTS and AC-3 in their new Processors. Also, the audiophile world is releasing DTS audio discs, mastered (or remastered) in 5.1 channel digital surround sound.
The coming year promises many new surprises and treats. Things move inexorably forward and we are always the beneficiary. So, as we look into our murky crystal ball, we can only tell you one thing with certainty regarding what is upcoming in the next year… lots of neat stuff. Good hunting.