“Home theater is making a comeback.”
That was the perspective of Hegel Music Systems’ Anders Ertzeid, who offered a peek at Hegel’s five-channel amplifier prototype, codenamed Galaxy, at the company’s booth at CEDIA 2017, in San Diego in early September. Such a statement might seem odd at an event that’s long been a showcase for home theater and the video, audio, and control systems that drive it, not to mention such things as projection screens, window shades, lighting systems, furniture, etc. But Ertzeid seemed to mean that the success of video streaming has reignited interest in watching movies -- and not necessarily among early adopters who were quick to upgrade their A/V receivers to process Dolby Atmos sound, and their Blu-ray players to play Ultra HD discs with high-dynamic-range video. Instead, it’s the general public who are becoming more interested in higher-quality audio for video, mainly due to the wide availability of movies and TV shows with multichannel soundtracks from services such as Netflix and Amazon Video.
Maybe the resurrection of home theater is why I found it more difficult to dig out components designed for stereo listening at CEDIA 2017 than at CEDIA 2016. But dig I did, and here’s what I discovered. All prices in USD.
Elac Adante ASW-121 subwoofer
Recent SoundStage! Global show reports have extensively covered Elac’s Adante series, a line of affordable, high-performance speakers created by veteran speaker designer Andrew Jones. At CEDIA 2017, Elac showed a new powered subwoofer to accompany its floorstanding, stand-mounted, and center-channel Adante speakers.
The Adante ASW-121 packs two opposed woofers with 12” aluminum cones, powered by a 1200W BASH amplifier. Its sealed cabinet comes in finishes of Gloss Black, Gloss White, or Rosewood veneer, to match those of the other Adante models. The sub is supported on an 8mm-thick steel base, and taps low-energy, wireless Bluetooth tech for setup and auto EQ using an iOS/Android app. The ASW-121 will be available in November for $2800.
GoldenEar Technology Invisa Signature Point Source LCR speaker
At a show that leaned heavily on demos driven by bombastic Atmos film soundtracks -- if I’m forced to sit through one more minute of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, my head may explode -- GoldenEar Technology’s booth was a bit of an oasis. Sure, they were doing Atmos movie demos, but they changed things up with selections of Atmos music recordings, as well as two-channel music recordings upmixed for Atmos -- a process called, strangely enough if you’re familiar with the history of home-theater sound, Dolby Surround.
The speaker GoldenEar showcased in its CEDIA demo was their new Invisa Signature Point Source LCR. This in-wall model combines dual 5.25” cast-basket midrange and dual 5.25” cast-basket midbass drivers with a full-size High Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter similar to those used in GoldenEar’s tower speakers. The tweeter’s orientation in the cabinet can be switched from vertical to horizontal, while an optional back box with internal and external damping foam can be used to keep sound from bleeding into adjacent rooms. GoldenEar’s Sandy Gross was playing solo Brian Wilson and Beach Boys tracks, along with fusion and choral works. In Dolby Surround, it all sounded wonderfully smooth and spacious through the new Invisas.
Invisa Signature Point Source LCRs will be available this winter for $999 each, and $149 for the optional back box.
Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series 2 speakers
Bowers & Wilkins holed up in an offsite hotel suite for CEDIA 2017, and invited dealers and press to drop by and experience its new 700 Series 2 speakers. The line consists of three floorstanders, the 702 S2 ($2250), 703 S2 ($1750), and 704 S2 ($1250); two stand-mounted models, the 705 S2 ($1250) and 706 S2 ($900); two center-channel speakers, the HTM71 S2 ($1350) and HTM72 S2 ($800); and the DB4S subwoofer ($1600). All B&W prices are for single speakers, not pairs.
The 700 2s feature several enhancements trickled down from B&W’s high-end 800 Series Diamond models, including the Continuum-cone midrange driver and Aerofoil-cone bass driver. The entire 700 Series 2 also features a new carbon-dome tweeter with a higher breakup point than the Double Dome tweeter used in previous 700 models, along with a solid-body, tweeter-on-top design in the 705 S2 and 702 S2.
B&W demoed the 705 S2 in a quiet room (exhibiting offsite means no booming bass from the next room) that let visitors hear what these speakers could do. I was particularly impressed by the smooth continuity of sound between the 705 S2s and the DB4S subwoofer. The bass of an EDM track was seamless and reached deep -- not bad for a compact, sealed-box subwoofer with a single 10” driver, though the sub’s 1000W Hypex amp and app-based room EQ surely helped out in that regard. The 700 Series will be available beginning in late September.
Definitive Technology Demand Series speakers
Two features of Definitive Technology’s new Demand Series of bookshelf speakers stand out: gleaming, black-gloss cabinets fronted by aluminum baffles; and a laterally offset, 1” aluminum-dome tweeter. A contemporary look is shared by all three Demand models -- the D11, D9, and D7 -- which respectively feature 6.25”, 5.25”, and 4.5” midrange-woofers.
The two larger Demands, the D11 and D9, include top-mounted passive radiators to augment their bass output. The low-end output of the little guy, the D7, is helped by a rear port. According to Definitive Technology, the offset tweeters “allow for more precise center stereo imaging by eliminating undesirable symmetric diffraction from the corners of the front baffle.” In a thoughtful gesture, the company labels the speakers Left and Right to ensure correct setup.
Prices: Demand D11, $999/pair; Demand D9, $749/pair; Demand D7, $499/pair; matching stands, $399/pair.
Anthem STR preamplifier and power amplifier
With its large front-panel display and built-in Anthem Room Correction (ARC) processing, Anthem’s STR integrated amplifier was one of the standout products of CEDIA 2016. For the 2017 event, Anthem followed up with a combo of separate preamp and amp, both featuring a similar front-panel display.
Many of the same features found in the STR integrated have been carried over to the preamp, including ARC, bass management for two subs, upsampling of lower-resolution sources to 32-bit/192kHz, and a moving-magnet/moving-coil phono stage. An asynchronous USB audio input handles up to 32/384 PCM and DSD 2.8 and 5.6MHz signals. Other inputs include analog RCA, optical and coaxial digital, and balanced AES/EBU. A home-theater bypass mode lets you pair the STR combo with an outboard surround-sound processor.
At 400Wpc into 8 ohms, Anthem’s STR amp provides twice the power output of the STR integrated. A “multi-mono” design, it comprises two independent class-AB monoblock amps, each with its own toroidal power transformer, and the amp’s graphic display can be switched among power metering, status, and setup modes. The STR preamp and power amp will be available in November for $3999 and $5999, respectively.
. . . Al Griffin