The Best Home Theater Products Exhibited at CES 2014

01
of 20

The Latest Home Theater Tech Spotlighted at CES 2014

CES Logo Sign and LG Cinema 3D Video Wall - CES 2014
Photo of CES Logo Sign and the LG Cinema 3D Video Wall at the 2014 CES. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The 2014 International CES is now history. Although final numbers aren't in yet, it appears that this year's show may be a record-breaking event in both number of exhibitors (3,250), exhibit space (over 2 million square feet), as well as attendees (over 150,000).

There were also a host of celebrities featured from the world of entertainment to add even more excitement to the massive gadget show.

Once again, CES presented the latest consumer electronics products and innovations that will be available in the coming year, as well as many prototypes of future products.

There was so much to see and do, even though I was in Las Vegas for an entire week, there was no way to see everything, and with so much material there is no way to include everything in my wrap-up report. However, I picked out some of the more newsworthy highlights from this year's CES in home theater-related product categories, to share with you.

The big attractions this year: 4K Ultra HD (UHD), OLED, Curved, and Flexible/Bendable TVs. However, Plasma TVs were noticeably absent. Also, although there was less emphasis on 3D (some press would lead you to believe it wasn't there at all), it was indeed there as one of the included features on many TVs, as well as in the form of glass-free 3D technology demonstrations presented by several exhibitors.

It was also ironic that the one exhibit that drew the largest crowds during the show's run was LG's Cinema 3D video wall (shown above), which literally blocked one of the main entrances to the central exhibit hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center during most hours every day of the show. Many would just put on the provided 3D glasses, and actually sit on the carpeted floor in front of the wall to watch the presentation several times before getting up and moving on.

In audio, the explosion of headphones and compact wireless bluetooth speakers for portable devices continues, but the big news for home theater fans were products that showed the advancement of wireless audio and speaker technology, courtesy of new standards developed and coordinated by the Wireless Audio and Speaker Association (WiSA). Another trend, the ever-growing selection of Sound Bars - with an emphasis on the under-TV form factor.

As you go through this report, I present more detail on these, and some of the other home theater products and trends I saw at the 2014 CES. Additional product follow-up details via reviews, profiles, and other articles, will follow throughout the coming weeks and months.

02
of 20

LG Flexible and Samsung Bendable OLED TVs - CES 2014

LG Flexible and Samsung Bendable OLED TVs at CES 2014
Photo of the LG Flexible and Samsung Bendable OLED TVs at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Undoubtedly, TVs were the big news at the 2014 CES. With that in mind, the first several pages of this report show some of the TV technology and products that were on display. It is also interesting to note that the 4K Ultra HD moniker has been abbreviated by several manufacturers to UHD - which I will use in this report.

One of major TV innovations emphasized at the 2014 CES was the Curved Screen concept, which was shown in both LED/LCD and OLED TV displays, mostly from LG and Samsung, but what was unexpected is that both companies also showed off OLED TVs with "bendable" or "flexible" screens.

Yes, you got that right, these TVs, at the touch of a button on their remote controls, can actually morph their traditional flat screen viewing surface into a slightly curved viewing surface.

LG's "flexible" set featured a 77-inch OLED screen (photo on left), while Samsung's "bendable" version were shown in 55-inch OLED (photo on right) and 85-inch LED/LCD (not shown) versions. All the sets incorporate 4K UHD resolution panels.

No model numbers, prices, or availability information was available, but both companies indicated that these were real products intended for the consumer market - perhaps becoming available later in 2014 or 2015.

For more on the "flexible" or "bendable" TV concept, refer to the Official Announcements issued by LG and Samsung.

I also wanted to point out, in addition to "flexible" and "bendable" OLED TVs, there were a large number of both curved and flat OLED TVs shown on the convention floor that may be coming to market later this year from Haier, Hisense, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Skyworth, and TCL.

03
of 20

LG and Samsung 105-inch 21x9 Aspect Ratio Ultra HD TVs - CES 2014

LG and Samsung 105-inch 21x9 Aspect Ratio Ultra HD TVs at CES 2014
Photo of the LG and Samsung 105-inch 21x9 Aspect Ratio Ultra HD TVs - CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Of course, OLED wasn't the only thing that garnered the TV spotlight at the 2014 CES. What was even bigger (physically that is) were the two 105-inch 21x9 Aspect Ratio Curved Screen LED/LCD 5K UHD TVs shown by LG and Samsung that I previewed in one of my pre-CES reports.

Shown above is how they actually looked on display and running at CES. The photo on top is is the LG 105UB9, which not only features that wide screen, but also incorporates full-array LED backlighting with local dimming, and a built-in 7.2 channel virtual surround sound Harman Kardon audio system. The Samsung U9500 (bottom photo), reportedly features LED edge-lighting, but I was not able to confirm this.

Both TVs are expected to be available for sale either later in 2014 or early 2015...However, you are going to need a really big piggy bank for all those pennies you will need to save.

04
of 20

Samsung Panorama and Toshiba Flat 21x9 UHD TV Prototypes at CES 2014

Samsung Panorama and Toshiba Flat 21x9 UHD TV Prototypes at CES
Photo of Samsung's Panorama and Toshiba's Flat 21x9 Aspect Ratio TV Prototypes at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

It turns out that Samsung was not only hand with one 105-inch 21x9 curved LED/LCD TV, but two! On the section of this page is a photo of Samsung's prototype "Panorama" TV,  in which the screen is housed within a lean-back frame that tilts the screen up slightly (which means the set needs to sit slightly below eye level for the best viewing angle). The set looked great, but no additional information was provided on whether this is actually a product destined for eventual availability or just a product design show piece.

Also, in a similar vein, Toshiba (bottom photo) showed off its own 105-inch 21x9 5K UHD prototype (once again no additional info), but the big difference here is that it was the only such TV shown that featured a flat, rather than curved screen surface.

05
of 20

Vizio 120-inch and P-Series 4K Ultra HD TV Product Line at CES 2014

Vizio 120-inch and P-Series 4K Ultra HD TV Product Line at CES 2014
Photo fo the Vizio 120-inch Ultra HD TV Prototype and Pre-Production Examples of the P-Series 4K Ultra HD TV Product Line at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

In addition to all the OLED and Curved TVs, there was a lot of 4K UHD 16x9 flat screen LED/LCD aspect ratio TVs that weren't curved or bendable.

Vizio was one company that had an impressive exhibit. The centerpiece was their 120-inch 4K UHD Reference Series TV which both looked and sounded impressive. The main feature of this set was the incorporation of Dolby Vision HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology (refer to my previous report for more details), which delivers a stunning image that produces whites and color as bright as what you might experience when seeing in real daylight. The reference set also includes a 5.1 channel audio system with external rear speakers and wireless subwoofer.

Vizio claimed that this massive set will be available for sale at a future date (even at a Vizio price, this will surely be expensive).

On the other hand, Vizio also showed off their new line of affordable forthcoming P-Series 4K UHD LED/LCD TVs that will come in 50 , 55, 60, 65, 70-inch screen sizes. All the sets in the reference and P-series lines will feature full array backlighting with local dimming, as well as HDMI 2.0, HEVC decoding (for 4K internet streaming support), WiFi with an enhanced Vizio Internet Apps platform, and 120fps 1080p input signal compatibility that may be required for some gaming applications.

Here is the expected suggested pricing for each set:

P502ui-B1 - $999.99
P552ui-B2 - $1,399.99
P602ui-B3 - $1,799.99
P652ui-B2 - $2,199.99
P702ui-B3 - $2,599.99

One interesting thing to note is that I reported in one my CES preview articles is that Vizio has discontinued its 3D TV product line for 2014. However, they were one of several exhibitors that featured glasses-free 3D TV prototypes, which I will discuss later in this CES Wrap-up report.

06
of 20

Seiki U-Vision 4K Upscaling Demo at CES 2014

Seiki U-Vision 4K Upscaling Demo at CES 2014
Photo of the Seiki U-Vision 4K Upscaling Demo at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Seiki created quite a stir when it became the first TV manufacturer to offer a 50-inch 4K UHD TV for less than $1,500 (now dropped to $899), but they haven't stopped there. Sekei is now stepping it up by offering a new higher-end Pro Line, as well as two unique accessories, the U-Vision HDMI Cable and U-Vision HDMI-Adapter, all of which were shown at the 2014 CES.

The U-vision accessories incorporate a built-in Technicolor-certified Upscaler/Processor that can be used with any HDMI source device and 4K UHD TV. The U-Vision products provide a compact, no-hassle, way to provide an upscaled 4K signal from the source (whether it be Blu-ray, DVD, Cable, Satellite, or Network Media Player/Streamer) to any 4K UHD TV.

These accessories designed for those that want to watch non-4K sources on a 4K UHD TV, but the built-in scaler in the TV is not quite up to the task.

The best part, the cable and adapter are expected to be priced at $39.99 and should be available by the end of 2014.

For more details, read the Official Seiki U-Vision Announcement.

07
of 20

Sharp Quattron+ Video Processing Demo at CES 2014

Sharp Quattron+ Video Processing Demo at CES 2014
Photo of the Sharp Quattron+ Video Processing Demo at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Yes, there were lots of splashy curved, flat, and even some flexible/bendable 4K UHD TVs, but the one TV that I had to see was Sharp's Aquos Quattron+ (also referred to as Aquos Q+).

What makes the Quattron+ technology so interesting is that it enables you to see 4K content on a 1080p screen. In other words, 4K without 4K.

At its foundation, the TV employs Sharp's 4-Color Quattron technology to produce the displayed color gamut. To accommodate 4K inputs signals, Sharp also employs its new Revelation technology. When viewing a 4K image, this technology splits the pixels in half vertically, effectively doubling the display resolution from 1080p to 2160p. On the other hand, horizontal pixel resolution is still, technically, 1920, so the TV is not a true 4K Ultra HD TV.

However, even though Q+ is still classified as a 1080p TV, the extra processing produces a displayed result that is perceived as being higher-than 1080p resolution, and in fact, depending screen size and seating distance, indistinguishable from a true 4K Ultra HD image.

Of course, I had my doubts going in, but as you can see in the above photo, the added image processing technology actually works.

The way a Sharp representative explained the benefits of the Q+ to me, is that in addition to the image quality, it is actually less expensive to make and sell a 1080p Quattron LCD TV with equipped with additional Revelation processing technology, than to make and sell a native Quattron 4K Ultra HD TV. The way Sharp is approaching it from a marketing standpoint is that it is price-positioning their Q+ line in between their standard 1080p Quattron sets and their full 4K Ultra HD TV line.

So there you have it - you can watch 4K on a 1080p screen, or as Sharp puts it "the highest resolution full HD available". In terms of the ability to display 4K images, instead of upscaling, think downscaling, but with a twist. However, that isn't all. In addition of allowing users to view 4K sources, the Q+ revelation pixel splitting technology also upscales 1080p or lower resolution source signals as well - providing a "better than 1080p" viewing experience on a 1080p TV.

It will be interesting to see how these sets really fare in the crowded marketplace, especially with 4K Ultra HD TV prices continuing to go down. Will the Q+ sets follow the same downward trend as times goes on? If not, then in the long term, as good as the Q+ looks now, what's the point if the price difference with true 4K Ultra HD becomes minimal or non-existent.

Stay tuned for more details as these sets become available.

08
of 20

Sharp 8K Prototype LED/LCD TV with Glasses Free 3D Viewing at CES 2014

Sharp 8K Prototype LED/LCD TV with Glasses Free 3D Viewing at CES 2014
Photo of the Sharp Glasses Free 3D 8K Prototype LED/LCD TV at CES 2014.

For the past few years, Sharp has been showing its 85-inch 8K resolution LED/LCD TV prototypes to CES, and this year was no exception. However, in addition, it also brought a second 8K resolution prototype that it produced in conjunction with Philips, that also incorporates Dolby 3D which provides 3D viewing without the need for glasses.

Obviously, the photo shown here, which was upscaled from 1080p to 8K, cannot be viewed in 3D, but the image was in fact being displayed in glasses free 3D and looked OK, but not as good as 3D when viewed through active or passive glasses, but I will have more on that in the following two pages.

09
of 20

StreamTV Networks Ultra-D Glasses Free 3D TV Demonstrations at CES 2014

StreamTV Networks Ultra-D Glasses Free 3D TV Demonstrations at CES 2014
Photo of Dolby Labs and StreamTV Networks Ultra-D Glasses Free 3D TV Demonstrations at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Speaking of Glasses-Free 3D, not only Sharp and Vizio, but several other TV makers and other exhibitors were showing variations on this technology including Dolby, Hisense, IZON, and Samsung.

However, the best Glasses-Free 3D examples I saw at the show was the Ultra-D system exhibited by Stream TV Networks, shown in the above photo. It wasn't perfect, but the viewing angles weren't bad, and both depth-in and pop-out effects were effective.

Also, Stream TV also showed how their Ultra-D system can be used for not only home TV viewing or video game play, but for digital signage (such as pop-out video ads at places like hotels, airports, shopping malls, and more), education, medical, research applications.

10
of 20

Sensio 3D Exhibit at CES 2014

Sensio Exhibit at CES 2014
Photo of the Sensio 3DGO and 4K 3D Demo at the 2014 CES. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

In order to watch 3D at home you have to have 3D content, and, contrary to those that say there is little content, there is, in fact, quite a bit. There are over 300 3D Blu-ray Disc titles available in the U.S., as well as both streaming, cable, and satellite 3D content sources.

In the streaming landscape, one of the prime 3D players is Sensio Technologies, which was onhand demonstrating the quality of their 3D streaming service 3DGO! In the demonstration I saw, 3D content was smoothly streamed to a 3D TV with as little as 6mbps bandwidth, which is available to most broadband subscribers in the U.S.

3D Go! provides 24 hour rental windows, and content is generally priced between $5.99 and $7.99. Studios currently supplying content include Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks Animation, National Geographic, Paramount, Starz, and Universal, with more to come in 2014. Also, the 3DGO! app will be added to more TV brands and models.

Also, another impressive demonstration provided by Sensio, included a side-by-side comparison of the passive glasses 3D on both a 4K UHD TV (on left in the above photo), and a 1080p passive glasses 3D on the right.

Although you can't tell from photo (you need to see the demo at their actual screen sizes - however, you may be able to see a slight difference by clicking on the image to get a larger view), 3D looked much more detailed and clean on the larger 4K UHD TV than on the smaller 1080p TV.

Also, if both TVs were 1080p sets, the larger TV would not have displayed 3D as well as the pixels would be larger and you would be more apt to see the horizontal line structure associated with TVs using the passive glasses system.  So, even though the screen on the left is larger, with 4K there is four times as many pixels on the screen (and they are smaller), so the detail is better and the line artifacts are not visible. This is especially noticeable on text and both horizontal and vertical edges.

In reality, since both TV are using passive 3D, the 4K UHD TV on the left is actually displaying 3D at 1080p resolution, while the 1080p TV on the right, when showing 3D images, displays them at closer to 540p resolution.

3DGO! is available on currently available Vizio 3D TVs, and is expected to be available through other brands in 2014.

11
of 20

Hisense and TCL Roku TVs at CES 2014

Hisense and TCL Roku TVs at CES 2014
Photos of the Hisense and TCL Roku-equipped TVs at the 2014 CES. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

TVs with built-in network and internet streaming are quite common now, and there was definitely no shortage of them at the 2014 CES. In fact, the major Smart TV trend this year was the refining of Smart TV interfaces that make it easier to access and navigate content, such as LG's WebOS, Panasonic's Life+Screen, and Sharp's updated SharpCentral Smart TV interface.

However, what really caught my attention was something just as practical, the Hisense and TCL TVs that actually had Roku Built-in. So, instead of having to connect a separate Roku Box or Roku Streaming Stick to the TV, you simply connect the TV to your internet router, turn it on and voila, you have a complete Roku Box at your fingertips. That includes all 1,000+ channels of available content (keep in mind that some is free and some require additional paid subscription).

In other words, you don't have to connect your TV to antenna, cable, or satellite, to get access to a comprehensive selection of the content.

The Hisense models (H4 Series) are expected to be available by the Fall of 2014 in screen sizes ranging from 32 to 55-inches), and the TCL version I saw featured a 48-inch screen size and carried a 48FS4610R model number. Pricing to revealed at a later date.

Whether you refer to these TVs as having Roku built-in or a Roku box with a built-in TV screen, the cord-cutting consumer wins.

UPDATE 8/20/14: Roku, Hisense, and TCL Provide More Details and Product Availability Information For First Batch of Roku TVs.

12
of 20

Darbee Visual Presence Demonstrations at CES 2014

Darbee Visual Presence 4K Demonstration and Products at CES 2014
Photo of the Darbee Visual Presence 4K Demonstration and Products at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Video processing is more that just upscaling, other factors, such as color, contrast, and brightness come into play. Darbee Visual Presence is a company that has come with a video processing system that literally makes existing detail in your TV image "pop" with added realism. In fact, I included OPPO Digital's Darbee Equipped Blu-ray Disc player on 2013 Products of the Year list.

With that in mind, I had to check out the DarbeeVision exhibit at CES 2014 to find out what was coming next, and I wasn't disappointed.

First up, Darbee has just announced a new processor more appropriate for home theater use, the DVP-5100CIE. This new processor adds PhaseHD technology which compensates for any HDMI connection difficulties, such as long cable runs.

Also on display (shown in the above photo) was a demonstration on how Darbee Visual Presence can even improve 4K Ultra HD displayed content. Although hard to see in the photo (you need to see it in person in real display size to appreciate it), the Darbee-enhanced images (on the left of the thin black vertical black line on the screen shown in the photo) added more depth can contrast to the already detailed displayed 4K images displayed.

In addition, Darbee also showed additional applications of their technology for improving detail in video surveillance images (watch out if you plan to do something sneaky - Darbee may be watching!) as well as medical applications in which more detail can be extracted from X-ray images.

Darbee Visual Presence is definitely a company to follow.

13
of 20

Channel Master DVR+ at CES 2014

Channel Master DVR+ at CES 2014
Photo of the Channel Master DVR+ at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

In a previous report I presented an overview of Channel Master's innovative DVR+ that is designed to receive and record over-the-air TV programming, without the need to pay a subscription fee.

Shown in the above photo is Channel Master's DVR+ exhibit at the 2014 CES, which showcased the DVR+, it features, and additional accessories, including a companion antenna, and an additional external hard drive.

The actual DVR+ is the small flat square in the front of the display and the antenna is actually the larger square located towards the back of the table.

However, don't let the physical appearance of the DVR+ full you. Inside its very thin casing are dual HD tuners, two hours of built-in storage capacity (two USB ports are provided for connection of additional hard drives of your choice). In addition, as stated in my previous report, the Channel Master has internet streaming capability which currently provides Vudu, with other content services forthcoming.

14
of 20

Kaleidescape Cinema One Blu-ray Movie Server at CES 2014

Kaleidescepe Cinema One Blu-ray Movie Server at CES 2014
Photo of the Kaleidescepe Cinema One Blu-ray Movie Server at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

If you are a Blu-ray Disc fan, you probably find that although internet streaming and downloading is convenient, the quality just doesn't stack up to that shiny physical disc.

However, you can have the best of both worlds with the Kaleidescape Cinema One, which was on display at the 2014 CES, and shown in the above photo.

What makes the Cinema One interesting is that is a fully functional Blu-ray Disc player that is also a movie server. In addition to being able to play physical Blu-ray Discs, DVDs, and CD, the Cinema One also allows users to download and store up to 100 Blu-ray quality movies (or more if downloading a combination of Blu-ray, DVD, and CD content) for later playback.

This is not only convenient, but for those that are quality conscious, have no fear - the downloads are exact copies of their physical Blu-ray Disc release counterparts (including all special bonus features) and also feature 1080p resolution and Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks (if available on the original source).

For more details on the Kaleidescape Cinema One, read my previous overview. Also, for a limited time, all Cinema One's purchased will come with 50 pre-loaded Blu-ray quality movie titles

15
of 20

BenQ GP20 Ultra-Lite and Sekonix LED/DLP Projectors at CES 2014

BenQ GP20 Ultra-Lite and Sekonix LED/DLP Projectors at CES 2014
Photos of the BenQ GP20 Ultra-Lite and Sekonix LED/DLP Projectors at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

If you want the best big screen home theater viewing experience, a video projector is the way to go. However, since most consumers do not have large rooms, or don't want large screens taking up wall space, there is a growing trend toward compact video projectors that not only attempt to provide a cost-effective large screen experience, but are compact, portable, and easy to setup and use.

Although these small projectors can't put out the light need to project a pleasing image on a large screen, they are slowy making progress - primarily by combining DLP imaging chips with lampless LED light source technology.

One of most impressive in this category I saw at CES 2014 was the BenQ GP20, shown on left side of the above photo. The GP20 actually puts out up to 700 lumens of light output, which, in my opinion, is the point at which you can begin to think of it as acceptable for large screen viewing in a light controlled room. Also, the GP20 also has an MHL-HDMI input, which means that you can connect either a compatible smartphone or tablet, or the Roku Streaming Stick, essentially turning the projector into a streaming media player. For more details, check out the Official BenQ GP20 Announcement.

Now, for a projector that is totally weird and wonderful at the same time. On the right side of the above photo is a Sekonix micro-sized LED/DLP projector that is not much bigger than a thumb. Of course its small size limits its light out to about 20 lumens, but its DLP chip contains 1 million mirrors (pixels) which would provide an acceptable image resolution, and conveniently connects to your PC or Laptop via USB (for both video signal and power). No word on pricing, availability, or whether this is a technology statement, but I sure would like to have one - might be a great way to view photos and videos in my hotel room while traveling - if they can get that lumens output up to about 100.

16
of 20

Elite Screens Yard Master Series Outdoor Projection Screens - CES 2014

Elite Screens Yard Master Series Outdoor Projection Screens at CES 2014
Photo the Elite Screens Yard Master Series Outdoor Projection Screens at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

One home entertainment activity that is getting more popular, mostly in the Summertime, is Backyard or Outdoor Home Theater.

As a result, there have been more video projection screens made for outdoor use. However, many of these screens are cumbersome to set up, take down, and store, and the inflatable ones take up a lot of real estate when fully inflated.

To address these issues, Elite Screens was onhand at the 2014 CES with their line of easy-to-setup and repack Yard Master Series Outdoor Screens.

The Yard Master screens feature durable material that combines the durability needed for outdoor use with the ability reflect accurate color and brightness, whether viewing head-on or an angle (DynaWhite 1.1 gain for front projector use - WraithVeil 2.2 gain for rear projector use). Also, all tools and accessories are provided for setup and keeping the screens wind stable. The screens are also very affordable.

Shown in the photo above are the 100 (Compare Prices), 120 (Compare Prices), 150 (Compare Prices), and 180 ( Compare Prices ) inch screen sizes.

17
of 20

WiSA Exhibit at CES 2014

WiSA Exhibit at CES 2014
WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio Association Exhibit at the CES 2014 - featuring the Sharp SD-WH1000U Universal Blu-ray Disc Player. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Although the big spotlight at CES was on TVs, there were plenty of audio products shown at the 2014 CES, including one that caught me completely by surprise, the Sharp SD-WH1000U Universal Wireless Blu-ray Disc player. Yes, I said wireless.

OK, let's back up a bit. In late 2011, the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association was formed to develop and coordinate standards, development, sales training, and promotion for wireless home audio products, such as speakers, A/V receivers, and source devices.

Up until this time, there was a hodge-podge of wireless audio and speaker technologies and products that did not deliver great performance and were not cross-brand compatible. However, products that carry the WiSA certification label are required to meet cross-brand compatibility, and although actual audio quality of the products involved is left up the manufacturer, the incentive is there to provide products that can be integrated into high-quality home use, from standard two-channel stereo to up to 8-channel surround sound applications (uncompressed PCM format up to 24bit/96kHz) that may be required for serious music listening and home theater applications.

Three of the major so that have embraced the WiSA standards are Bang and Olufsen, Klipsch, and Sharp.

In a previous report, I presented an overview of Bang and Olufsen's Wireless Speaker line, but at CES I had a chance to hear both the B&O and Klipsch Wireless Speakers (in two-channel configurations and a B&O 5.1 channel setup) in combination with the Sharp SD-WH1000U Blu-ray Disc player.

What makes the Sharp player so important, is that in addition to all of the traditional features and connections you would find on a high-end Blu-ray Disc player (including two-channel balanced audio outputs), the SD-WH1000U also comes with built-in wireless transmitters for both audio and video. Wireless video is implemented using the WiHD standard, while wireless audio is supported by the WiSA standard.

The result is wireless compatibility with full HD 1080p video, in either 2D or 3D, and the audio compatibility I outlined above. The SD-WH1000U in combination with an HDTV and high-end wireless speakers looked and sounded great.

The downside right now is that the Sharp player and both the B&O and Klipsch speakers I saw at CES carry pretty hefty price tags (the SD-WH1000U is about $4,000). However, this is only the first go-around - expect more product variety and affordability by the end of 2014, and going into 2015, as WiSA gains more manufacturing partners and certifies more products.

For more details on the Sharp SD-WH1000U, check out the Official Product Pages.

Also, for further understanding of wireless speakers and wireless home theater applications, read my articles: The Truth About Wireless Speakers and What is Wireless Home Theater.

18
of 20

Auro 3D Sound Demo at CES 2014

Auro 3D Sound Demo at CES 2014
Photo of the Auro 3D Sound Demo booth at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The next great audio demos I experienced at CES were the Auro 3D and DTS Headphone:X demos.

Auro 3D Audio

I actually stumbled across the Auro 3D Audio Booth as was making my way from one appoint to another, and since I had some extra time, I decided to check it out - and, boy, I am glad I did!

The way the booth was constructed didn't seem to lend itself to an audio demo - after all, it was not only open (no walls), but was smack-dab in the middle of a noisy convention hall.

However, once I sat down and the demo started to run, I was amazed. Not only could I hear sound clearly, but I was surrounded by a truly immersive soundfield.

Auro 3D Audio is actually a consumer version of the Barco Auro 11.1 channel surround sound playback system used in some commercial cinemas. What was being demonstrated at the Auro 3D Sound booth was an 9.1 channel version intended for home theater application.

The main way to describe the experience is that when listening, the speakers essentially disappear and sound appears to emanate from specific locations in space. Also, you also get a more precise perception of size of the environment you are listening too. For example, if you are listening to a jazz club performance, you think you are in the jazz club, which the stage just a view feet away. When you listening to church performance, you can not only perceive the distance between you and the performers, but you can also perceive the distance between you and the ambient sound reflections bouncing off the rear wall where the performance took place.

Of course, Auro 3D is not the only surround sound system in use that can accomplish this (Dolby Atmos, MDA), but it is the first time I have heard such an impressive demo in an wall-less open air environment.

The goal for Auro 3D is to incorporate it in home theater receivers, and other related audio products. This is one to watch...

For more details, Check out the Official Auro Technologies Website.

UPDATE 10/18/14: Denon and Marantz Add Auro3D Audio To Select Home Theater Receivers.

DTS Headphone:X Returns

Moving to a slightly different application, DTS was again at CES  with the DTS Headphone:X technology that they demonstrated last year (read my previous report).

However, this year, I actually heard it on a smartphone (currently only available on the Vivo Xplay3s smartphone in China), but it is anticipated that it will be available on selected smartphones and tablets in the U.S. soon. Also, to make DTS Headphone:X even more practical, DTS demonstrated the Headphone:X personalization feature. Using built-in test tones and on-screen prompts, the Headphone:X app can equalize the sound playback profile to match your ear's hearing capabilities.

What it boils down to is that you can listen to an 11.1 channel soundfield in a headphone environment, and it can be applied easily to portable devices and it can be personalized to your own hearing capabilities. However, what I would like to see is a home theater receiver that incorporates this technology via its headphone output so I can blast way my home theater in full 11.1 channel surround sound without disturbing the rest of the family or the neighbors.

For more details on this innovative technology, check out the Official DTS Headphone:X Page.

19
of 20

LG, Samsung, and Energy Under TV Audio Systems at CES 2014

LG SoundPlate - Samsung Sound Stand - Energy Power Base at CES 2014
Photo of LG SoundPlate - Samsung Sound Stand - Energy Power Base at the 2014 CES. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Today's thin frame flat panel TVs, whether LCD, Plasma, and OLED, look great - but they all have one inherent problem - not so good sound quality.

Of course, if you have large screen HD or 4K Ultra HD TV, the idea is that you would complement it with a multi-speaker surround sound audio system. However, what do you if you still want better sound for watching TV and movies, but don't want all that speaker clutter?

Well, a practical solution is to use a sound bar, which is a signal unit that contains the amplifier, connections, and speakers you need encased in one cabinet. However, you need to place the sound bar either above or below (often in front of the TV) - which means that it still takes up some extra space.

However, a variation of the sound bar concept is beginning to become very popular - the Under TV Audio System.

These devices essentially incorporate all of the connections, features, and audio capabilities of a sound bar, but in a cabinet that can be placed under the TV - in other words, it serves as both an audio system and stand or platform to set your TV on top of. Depending on the exact brand and model, TVs of just about any size and weight can be accommodated.

Shown in the above photo are four new models shown at CES, spread across three brands, that execute this concept.

Starting on the left side are two "SoundPlates" being offered up by LG. The unit on the middle shelf is the LAP340 which was first shown at the 2013 CEDIA Expo, which I reported on, and is currently available. To summarize, the LAP340 features a 4.1 channels of amplification, dual built-in subwoofers, and is also compatible with wireless Bluetooth source devices. Official Product Page - Compare Prices.

However, the SoundPlate on the top shelf was the big reveal at the 2014. This unit (LAB540W) takes LG SoundPlate concept up a notch by not only adding a more powerful external wireless subwoofer (shown on the bottom shelf), but also incorporating a slot-loading 3D-capable Blu-ray Disc player and internet streaming capability (supported by both Ethernet and Wifi connectivity) to the mix, all while still maintaining the thin, stylish profile (price and availability forthcoming).

Next, on the top right is the new HW-H600 "SoundStand" that Samsung showed at the 2014 CES, which I mentioned briefly in one of my pre-CES 2014 reports. As you can see, the unit is very thin, and can support most TVs from 32 to 55-inches in screen size. Not a lot has been revealed in terms of features, but it does include a built-in 4.2 channel audio system and Bluetooth connectivity for accessing content from compatible portable devices and Samsung Sound Connect-capable TVs. No pricing or available was mentioned.

Last, on the bottom right is the "Power Base" from Energy Speakers. The Energy unit doesn't quite have the thin, stylist flair of either the LG or Samsung units.

The system incorporates a two channel 3-way speakers, supported by a built-in subwoofer. Frequency response is stated as 65Hz to 20KHz (- or + 3dB). Inputs include one digital optical and one RCA analog stereo input, as well as wireless Bluetooth connectivity for compatible portable devices. The Power Base is available now (Compare Prices). For more details, also check out the Energy Power Base Product Page.

In addition to LG, Samsung, and Energy units shown and outlined on this page, Vizio also announced a similar under TV audio system (along with two sound bars) at the 2014 CES as well, read my supplementary report for preliminary details and a photo.

20
of 20

Cambridge Audio Minx C46 Mini In-Wall Speakers at CES 2014

Cambridge Audio Minx C46 Mini In-Wall Speakers at CES 2014
Photo of the Cambridge Audio Minx C46 Mini In-Wall Speakers at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

CES is always the place to see the "big stuff", but sometimes it is the small things that are really fun to check out.

In audio, the small thing that attracted by attention were the Cambridge Audio C46 Mini In-Wall Speakers.

Flowing in the Minx-speaker tradition (read my previous review of the Minx S215 compact speaker system. What Cambridge Audio has done is take the Minx speaker concept and placed in an in-wall compatible configuration.

The speaker dimensions are 3.6 x 3.4-inches and require a 3-inch inside diameter mounting hole for installation. White speaker grills are included. For more details on features and specs, Refer to the Official Cambridge Audio C46 Mini In-Wall Speaker Page.

Final Take

This concludes my main wrap-up report for photo look at CES 2014. However, I will have additional articles as a result of what I saw at CES 2014 (what I discussed in this report is only a sample)  and will be reviewing many of the home theater-related products that were shown at CES, so stay tuned throughout the year for exciting info from our Home Theater Site.

Also, be sure to check out additional CES 2014 coverage from our other Experts:

Stereos: The 10 Best Audio Products of the 2014 CES and More

Digital Cameras: Various Articles.

Google: Various Articles