HD Guru’s Best of CES 2017 Awards Revealed!

January 13th, 2017 · No Comments · 2160p, 4K Flat Panel, 4K Front Projection, 4K LED LCD, Audio, Blu-ray Players, Connected TVs, Digital Cameras, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Front Projection, front projectors, Full Array LED Backlit with Local Dimming, HDMI, HDR, height channels, laser projectors, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, LG Electronics, News, object-based audio, OLED, short-throw projectors, Sound Bars, Sound Systems, Streaming Services, Surround Sound, Surround Sound Systems, UHDTV, Ultra HD Blu-ray Players, Virtual Reality

 

CES 2017 brought us the continued evolution of 4K Ultra HDTVs supporting both high dynamic range (HDR) and a wide color gamut, and this year top manufacturers made great strides in presenting not only brighter and more colorful pictures, but truly impressive looking television sets to boot.

We also saw more of the new generation of Ultra HD Blu-ray players, including more models with support for Dolby Vision as well as the mandatory HDR10 HDR formats.
This physical media delivers 4K Ultra HD resolution along with HDR and WCG enhancements at bit rates of up to 100 Mbps, well beyond the range of content delivered by cable and satellite TV services or over-the-top (OTT) streaming video providers. Last year, we saw some of the best images ever produced in the home using Ultra HD Blu-ray players, and based on the new wave of introductions we expect that to only get better in 2017 and beyond. These players also support output of object-based audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound, that bring movies to life with sounds that seem to follow on-screen objects all around the viewing room.

While we are on the subject of sound, CES offered a few impressive additions to the world of high-fidelity with new soundbars that produce deep low tones without the need for an out-boarded subwoofer. For more traditional speakers, the show saw a number of high-end models that reproduce music with new levels of authenticity, while on the lower end we witnessed a number of bright and lively wireless speakers that let you take your music listening from room to room, and even outdoors.

This year, HD Guru presented its coveted HD Guru Crystal Awards with the help of Las Vegas model Jamillette Gaxiola, who, among other accolades, was Miss Cuba Grand International 2013, and some of our favorite industry executives on the floor of CES.

On to our Top Picks.

Hit the jump to see all the winners:

Best in Show: Samsung’s Q9 Series 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TVs

Samsung’s 2017 Q9 televisions fit under the new “QLED” banner representing the top-of-the-line televisions in the company’s 2017 assortment. This comes in above the SUHD moniker in last year’s line. QLED, or Quantum LED, TVs use a new heavy metal formulation for quantum dot nano crystal material used to enhance image performance in LED LCD TVs. These microscopic quantum dots boost brightness and color volume in LED images after being excited by photons from the TVs’ LED edge lighting to produce a quantum effect. Different sized quantum dots produce different colors, while the precise shape of those dots affect color accuracy, range and brightness.

At CES 2017, Samsung introduced three series of QLED 4K Ultra HDTV models, also including the Q7 and Q8 series, but the Q9 models mark the best-of-breed in this new technology class. As Samsung’s 2017 flagship line, the Q9 TVs offer support for HDR10 high dynamic range from a 10-bit vertical alignment (VA) panel with edge-lit LED local dimming, a 120 Hz native refresh rate, a newly improved Smart Hub platform and a One Connect box with an improved cable management system that neatly hides the cable clutter around the screen.

Among the primary improvements in QLED displays is superior color volume and higher brightness. Color volume takes into account a color gamut that is three dimensional and provides a measurement for how well a display holds on to color saturation as brightness increases. This is crucial for HDR content. Here, the QLED technology provides a demonstrable advantage over today’s OLED TV displays that use an RGBW subpixel system which washes out colors – reds in particular – as peak luminance levels are raised. We don’t know yet how the Q9 models will handle black level, where OLED TVs and Sony’s flagship Z9D TVs held the advantage over Samsung’s top of the line SUHD models last year. But demonstration material demonstrated at CES presented realistic looking blacks with fine detail in dark areas of the image.

Samsung said its QLED televisions will deliver peak luminosity levels of 1,500 to 2,000 nits, which is double the minimum threshold for classification as an Ultra HD Premium 4K LED LCD TV as defined by the Ultra HD Alliance. Samsung didn’t say if any of the Q models would carry the Ultra HD Premium certification label, however. For comparison, last year’s flagship model measured over 1,200 nits and was Ultra HD Premium certified. It’s been our experience that the brighter the specular highlights are in an HDR image the more realistic the image appears to the eye. Objects like campfires or firey explosions standout on the screen in brightness intensity from the background, offering a 3D effect.

In addition, the technology allows the display to reach 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color space recommendation for professional digital cinemas. This is about as wide as the industry has seen so far, and should provide a pallette of natural hues and shades.

As for cosmetics, the Q9 won’t match some of 2017’s ultra-thin OLED TVs in panel depth, but it still offers an appealing sleek and trim appearance. The Q9 models have flat screens, unlike the Q8 which is curved. The Q7 series offers both flat and curved options. The flat-screens might not be as impressive looking on a table-top placement as curved models, but they are nicer hanging from a wall. The flat surface also seems to be more resistant to reflections. Importantly, this year’s technology significantly widens the off-angle viewing axis, giving viewers seated to the left and right of center screen a more richly colorful and contrasted image than last year’s models.

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The Q9 includes a “no gap” wall mount, which is optional for the Q7 and Q8 models. This makes for a tight fit against the wall and includes a special leveling system to aid in installation. Samsung also offers two optional stands including “The Studio Stand,” which is an easel design and “The Gravity Stand,” which has a rounded swivel base.

All of the Q sets use Samsung’s One Connect box to house inputs, which, new for 2017, connects to the TV via a discrete 5-meter fiber-optic tether that will aid in wall mounting and table-top placements alike.

Samsung also continued to fine tune its impressive Smart Hub over-the-top streaming services interface based on the Tizen operating system. This year the system has been upgraded to offer seamless set-up and control of more cable and satellite TV boxes and source devices. It also includes new iOS and Android mobile device remote control apps, called Smart View, that receive live notifications from the TV to aid in content selection.

If that’s not enough, this year the system has gotten smarter by learning the viewing habits of the user in order to proactively recommend programs, sporting events, etc. Smart Hub even offers some handy new capabilities, like the ability to identify for viewers a song played on a TV program in order to listen to it later over a favorite music streaming service.

Accepting the award from Jamillette (at top) is Brandt Varner, GM, Television Product Marketing at Samsung Electronics America.

Best 4K Ultra HD OLED TV: Sony’s Bravia 77-Inch A1 Series 4K Ultra HD OLED TV

This year, Sony re-entered the OLED category it began with a few small-screen TVs about a decade ago, by introducing a pair of full-fledged 4K Ultra HDTV models measuring 65 and 77 inches. The Bravia A1 Series sets incorporate panels using LG’s WRGB technology, which Sony improves with its advanced picture processing technologies that produced some of the best looking video we saw at the show. Colors were rich and full while black levels were deep and inky. Sony is using the X1 Extreme picture processing system from its flagship Sony Z9D 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TV series introduced last summer to make images really pop with bright highlights while reducing visual noise and smoothing fast-motion resolution for very natural-looking moving subjects. The OLED models also include support for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR and offer an impressive process of adding HDR-like effects to standard dynamic range (SDR) content.

What makes the TVs really standout is a new sound system that resonates the ultra-thin OLED panel to generate dynamic stereo sound that seems to follow objects around the screen. For deep bass, a specially developed subwoofer is built in to the TV stand. A touch of a finger to the screen lets you feel the sound as well as hear it. A Sony executive told us that the unusual sound system in the first-generation OLEDs will not be adaptable as a center channel in a surround sound setup, but it is in the works for future versions. Despite the satisfying black levels and rich saturated colors we saw on these new screens, Sony said its pricey Z9D models will remain the flagships of the 2016-2017 TV line due to its higher brightness range and OLED-like black levels.

But the OLED sets, pricing and availability for which will be announced later, are certain to have a strong appeal to those who appreciate their ultra-thin screens, deep blacks and, importantly, wide off-axis viewing angles that are perfect for wall-mounted applications. The jazzy screen-resonating sound system isn’t bad either.

Accepting the award from Jamillette (at top) is Mike Fasulo, President, Sony Electronics of America.

Most Innovative 4K Ultra HDTV: LG’s 77-Inch W7 Signature Series 4K Ultra HD OLED TV.

Dubbed “wallpaper TVs,” LG’s new flagship Signature Series OLED TVs take the inherent thin-panel attribute of the technology to a new level. At CES 2017, the company added the W7 series to the top of the 4K Ultra HD OLED TV class, emphasizing the the unique virtually paper-thin (0.10118 inches) panel that can be held virtually flat against the wall with magnets stuck to a unique ultra-slim bracket. LG keeps the panel dimensions thin in part by putting the circuitry and connections in a Dolby Atmos sound bar that also provides high-quality surround sound. The sound bar connects to the OLED panel by a thin proprietary ribbon cable that can snake behind the wall in a professional installation (CE Pro reported the cable is not certified by National Fire Prevention Association) or can be painted for over-the-wall installations.

The W series TVs, which will be offered in 65- and 77-inch screen sizes, are expected to see retail prices starting at around $8,000. All of LG’s 2017 OLED models will be 25 percent brighter than last year and will support HDR10, Dolby Vision, Technicolor/Philips and Hybrid Log-Gamma HDR formats, keeping them ready for most expected new standards. The color gamut has also increased from what LG said was 97 percent of the DCI-P3 color space last year to 99 percent in 2017.

Demo material presented at CES was noticably brighter without impacting the deep rich black levels that have distinguished OLED performance, although we did see some loss of detail in darker sections.

Like many LG TVs in 2017, the W7 4K Ultra HD OLED TVs incorporate the company’s latest webOS 3.5 smart TV platform. This year, webOS 3.5 has been enhanced to provide programming recommendations based on viewing patterns.

A MagicLink button on the remote now provides YouTube channels, other similar TV programs, and keyword-free information about the characters associated with shows without the need to input search terms. A Channel Plus feature added as an update to webOS 3.0 last September inserts programming information on free digital programs in the form of channels in the same list with other broadcast channels, all of which is controllable by one remote. LG is also working with new content providers to expand the assortment of programming options. What you won’t find in LG’s 2017 TVs are models supporting 3D and curved screens. LG had been one of the last flat-panel TV makers still supporting 3D capability.

Accepting the award from Jamillette (above) is Tim Alessi, director of home entertainment product marketing at LG Electronics.

Best 4K Ultra HDTV Value: Hisense 75-Inch 75R8 4K Ultra HD Roku TV With Dolby Vision

After seeing its H8C series 4K Ultra HDTVs sellout at leading retailers across the country in 2016, Hisense traveled to CES 2017 to maintain that momentum by offering a higher level of performance in an affordably priced big-screen display. The 2017 Hisense 75-inch 75R8 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Roku TV coming later this year will bring both HDR10 and Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) support. It will be one of the first HDR/Dolby Vision-supporting 4K TVs with the built-in Roku OS. Roku’s smart TVs, set-top media adapters and streaming sticks have been some of the most popular devices for finding and viewing over-the-top (OTT) streaming entertainment apps. The system also has one of the industry’s largest libraries of available services, movies and television programming selections.

When it gets here, the Hisense 75-inch 75R8D is scheduled to sell for a bargain-setting $1,999.99 suggested retail price and will also support a wide color gamut, although the exact coverage percentage of DCI-P3 wasn’t available at CES. The Roku OS incorporates the 4K Spotlight channel that aggregates available 4K and 4K HDR content from supporting streaming services in the library and app store to make the newer programming quick and easy to find.

Similar to last year’s H8C 4K Ultra HDTVs, the set uses direct LED back lighting with local dimming. It also offers DTS Studio Sound, a headphone jack and voice search via the Roku mobile app.

Accepting the award from Jamillette (above) is Jerry Liu, CEO of Hisense USA.

Best Ultra HD Projector: Sony VPL-VZ1000ES Short-Throw 4K UHD Laser Projector

Sony Electronics also introduced at CES 2017 a new 4K Ultra HD ultra-short-throw projector with high dynamic range (HDR) support and a compact design. Model VPL-VZ1000ES was designed to integrate into a home lifestyle, regardless of the room layout.

The projector uses a highly efficient Z-Phosphor-based laser light source that produces up to 2,500 lumens of light output. Using a laser source instead of a bulb allows quick start-up and maintenance-free operation with no need for lamp exchanges. Coupled with Sony’s acclaimed native 4K Ultra HD SXRD microdisplay panels, the light engine is said to present high dynamic contrast, enhancing “the highlights and low-lights of HDR content.” The VPL-VZ1000ES can be positioned as close as 6 inches from a wall or projection screen to produce up to a 100-inch image.

Demonstration clips were rich in color and clear, and the 100-inch screen is large enough to deliver the visible detail of the extra 4K Ultra HD pixels that are typically lost on smaller-screen flat-panel TVs. The HDR adds an extra layer of color and brightness, although specular highlights aren’t as pronounced as they look from a back-light screen.

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The projector measures 36x20x9 inches and weighs about 77 pounds. The projector’s lens-shift function and easily adjustable feet enable flexible set up, which is further simplified by the unit’s ventilation system.

The Sony VPL-VZ1000ES projector will be available in April at a $24,999 suggested retial price.

Accepting the award from Jamillette (above) is Ritsuko Suzuki, Sony Electronics VPL-VZ1000ES product planner.

Best Ultra HD Blu-ray player: LG UP970 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player With Dolby Vision

To support the LG’s 4K Ultra HD OLED and 2017 Super UHD TVs, LG introduced at CES 2017 its first Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player that will join Oppo and Philips as the first Ultra HD Blu-ray players to support Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR). The LG player, which will hit market in March at a price to be announced, will add Dolby Vision support through a firmware update coming later this year. The update should come close around the same time as the first Ultra HD Blu-ray disc titles carrying Dolby Vision metadata reach market. Those first discs are expected in the first half of the year from Warner Bros., Lions Gate and Universal, which all announced Dolby Vision Ultra HD Blu-ray support at CES 2017. No launch titles have been announced.

The LG UP970 will ship in early March at a price to be announced later. In addition to supporting Dolby Vision metadata the player will display HDR from the mandatory HDR10 format. The player will have both an Ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi network capability and will come with pre-installed 4K streaming video apps including Netflix and YouTube. Other features will include: dual HDMI outputs – one output for direct connection to a supporting TV and one HDMI 1.4 output intended to deliver audio to legacy audio home theater systems that lack support for the HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 connector with content management.

Receiving the award from Jamillette (above) is Tim Alessi, director of home entertainment product marketing, LG Electronics, U.S.

Best Sound Bar: Samsung’s MS750 Soundbar with Integrated Subwoofer

Samsung’s new MS750 soundbar is the company’s first to embed subwoofer performance directly into the primary unit. This reduces the clutter of a separate subwoofer enclosure, while the company’s UHQ 32-bit technology and Samsung proprietary algorithms ensure that the bass is equalized and clear. The MS750 soundbar creates a deeper sense of immersion using high-quality up-firing capabilities and overhead sound from vertically positioned tweeters.

Samsung’s Audio Lab has developed a technology that allows replacing a 7-inch subwoofer using six 2.4-inch woofers in the soundbar. The technology uses specially developed long-extrusion woofers all precisely synchronized to create a singular deep bass sound.

Samsung is also adding to its 5 Series and above soundbars in 2017 wide range tweeters, which were first introduced in Samsung Atlas products in 2016. This expands the overall sweet spot to give a similar listening experience to people seated off axis.

In 2017, Samsung soundbars will also be designed to recognize the type of content being listened to and adjust the settings to optimal levels for the type of programming.

Samsung’s Smart Remote Control makes it easy to distribute home audio around the room. The soundbar can be controlled by one of Samsung’s new TV Smart Remotes, further simplifying the experience in one-branded systems.

Another cool factor of the MS750 is its “one body” design that enables mounting to a TV with one simple connection that doesn’t require any extra space. The soundbar and TV can be turned on at the same time, simply by connecting the two units with a designated power cable connection. This eliminates the need of two separate power cables. Thus, cable clutter is reduced around the TV. The wall-mount solution on Samsung’s newest home audio systems has also been improved with an optional, easy to install I-shaped bracket connecting the TV directly to the soundbar. This requires only one power connection to the TV and soundbar and just one hole in the wall to secure the installation.

Accepting the award from Jamillette (above) is Jim Kiczek, AV Product Marketing VP, Samsung Electronics America.

Best 4K Ultra HD Camera: Panasonic Lumix GH5

The GH5, which will hit stores in March at a $1,999 suggested retail, is Panasonic’s most advance Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera release to date. A superb still camera, the GH5 really surprises with its incorporation of professional-level 4K Ultra HD video recording capabilities.

The camera adds a 20.3-megapixel sensor that removes the anti-aliasing filter for sharper images. Also added is the new Venus Engine image processor offering better detail handling and noise reduction.

Importantly, the GH5 has significantly improved its Depth from Defocus (DFD) AF system that expands to 225 area points from the previous 49 to cover a much wider portion of the frame. Focus is sampled at 480 fps for an advanced continuous autofocus capability, and motion blurring has improved using a combination 5-axis in-body stabilization system with sensor-shift/optical Dual IS.

The GH5 offers a pair of UHS-II SD card slots for high speed capture. It will record up to 10-bit 4:2:2 footage at DCI 4K 24p and UHD 30p resolutions internally. It can also capture up to 12 fps (or 9 fps with AF tracking) on the still image side.

The camera comes loaded with high-performance video enhancements, although a few of the newest features won’t be available immediately at launch. Instead, Panasonic will add them through a series of firmware updates slated for April and the second half of the year. The April update will bring HD 4:2:2 chroma sub sampling, while later-to-arrive updates will include: 4K/60p and 50p frame-rate options, all-intra 400Mbps (4K) and 200Mbps (HD) codecs, 4:2:2 10-bit internal or simultaneous internal/external recording for all but 4K/60p, high-resolution anamorphic mode and 4K Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) HDR support.

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At launch it will deliver variable frame rate and anamorphic recording, a waveform display and the ability to program two focus points via the touchscreen to automatically shift focus between each point.

The camera also captures 4K/60p at 8-bit 4:2:0 color at a 150 Mbps bit rate. The camera does not crop in 4K capture, taking the image from the full width of the sensor.

Panasonic includes style presets for Cinelike D and Cinelike V for flat gamma profiles, as well as a “Like 709” profile. Optional V-Log L activation will be available for about $100 extra to capture wider dynamic range up to 12-stops. The GH5 has no recording time limits.

Receiving the award from Jamillette (above) is Yosuke Yamane, Panasonic Imaging Network Business Division, AVC Networks Company, president.

Best High Fidelity Speaker: GoldenEar Triton Reference

GoldenEar Technology has long been know as manufacturer high-end loudspeakers offered at affordable prices, and the its latest offering unveiled at CES 2017 — the Triton Reference, is one of its best to date. The new top-of-the-line model measures 54-inches high and incorporates three 5 x 9-inch powered woofers, two pair of 7 x 10-inch passive radiators, a 1,600 watt Class-D subwoofer amplifier, two 5¼ inch multi-vaned phase plug mid-range drivers, and the company’s High Velocity Folded Ribbon tweeter. The company has positioned this speaker as “the best of the best” At a suggested retail of $4,249 each, the Triton Reference is a veritable bargain in the very high-end audio space. To do this, the company newly designed each driver in the Triton Reference, instead of borrowing elements from the previous Triton Ones.

Among the new developments is are 6-inch upper-bass/midrange drivers which are cast-basket units with a low-mass voice coil and a new cone design with special loss-mass bonding to the butyl rubber surround for improved transient response. A new Focus Field magnet structure was also added to better direct the magnet flux to the voicecoil gap.

Also added are new woofers in the act 6 x 10-inch active subwoofers that have a 40 percent larger surface area than the Triton One and Focus Field technology. The woofers also include a larger voicecoil and a larger magnet structure.

Inertially balanced 10.5 x 9.5-inch planar, infrasonic passive radiators are similar to those used in the GoldenEar SuperSub X subwoofer, but with a boost to excursion.

The High-Velocity Folded-Ribbon (HVFR) tweeter adds 50 percent more rare-earth neodymium magnet material delivering better transient response and higher efficiency.

The cabinet features a hand-rubbed piano gloss-black lacquer finish. A 3/32-inch-thick steel plate is added to the base of the cabinet for increased stiffness and stability. Speaker voicing presents what the company calls “world-class neutrality” and performs equally well playing music or movie sound tracks.

We were highly impressed with the authenticity of sound generated by the Triton Reference speaker system. The mid-range for vocals were neutral while the top-end made vibraphones and cymbals come alive through the HVFRs without a hint of shrillness. From our brief demo, these speakers captured all of the nuances of a jazz performance, right down to the slap of the strings against the frets of a bass. It sounded as if were seated stage left at the Village Vanguard.

Receiving the HD Guru Crystal Award from HD Guru publisher and editor-in-chief Gary Merson (left) is Sandy Gross, founder of GoldenEar Technology.

Best 4K Media Player: Roku Ultra

One of the more dynamic announcements of 2016 was Roku’s long-awaited introduction of a 4K Ultra HD media player supporting high dynamic range (HDR10) for streaming movies and television programs with added color and specular brightness highlights that make images come alive. The Roku Ultra, which has a $130 suggested retail, isn’t the only media adapter offering 4K Ultra HD and HDR streaming. In fact, its lower-priced sister model, the Roku Premiere+, does as well, but this model offers a few nice extras like USB storage so you can install many more apps from the thousands available through the Roku Store. It also adds an optical audio output, which is essential if you have a legacy AV receiver or a receiver with a limited number of HDMI inputs. The diminutive remote offers a few extra buttons that let you turn the handset sideways to use as a gaming controller for the streaming video games available on the platform. The remote also includes a mic that lets you verbally command the system to search for favorite movies and programs. If you like to watch TV in a room where others might be disturbed or sleeping, you will also appreciate the headphone jack on the side of the controller so you can listen to the TV audio with the speakers turned off.

There are a lot of other compelling media adapter choices out there for 4K HDR streaming this year, like the Chromecast Ultra and NVIDIA Shield, but we’ve yet to find a platform as simple or satisfying to use as you get through Roku. Hopefully, we’ll see a version with Dolby Vision HDR support as well, soon.

Receiving the HD Guru Crystal Award from Jamillette is Lloyd Klarke, director of product management, Roku.

Best Virtual Reality Headgear: LeEco LeVR MAX 1

Tucked away in back corner of LeEco’s CES 2017 booth in North Hall was a little gem, which should appeal to the growing ranks of Virtual Reality aficionados, if and when it comes to the U.S. market. Too bad it’s not here yet, because the LeEco LeVR MAX 1 VR system we saw offered one of the more compelling 360-degree demonstrations on the floor. The all-in-one system features a light weight ergonomic design that is comfortable to wear while swinging your head up, down, left and right trying to capture all of the 360-degree action going on around you. It’s even complete with 3D surround sound. LeEco billed the LeVR MAX 1 as its “newest all-in-one standalone VR product.” The system offers advanced features including a high-performance optical display, improved graphics reproduction and light weight.

4K UHD and HDTVs

Amazon’s Camera, Photo & Video Deals

Amazon Fire TV 4K Ultra HD Set-Top Media Adapter with Alexa

Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

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Amazon Echo Dot Voice Controlled Home System Interface

Panasonic  Deals

Best Selling Soundbars and 5.1 Surround Systems

Best Selling Blu-ray Players

The system is based on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820/821 processor and outputs Dolby Atmos surround sound that engulfs the viewer to accommodate the images on screen. The impressive graphics display is based on a Samsung 2K AMOLED screen.

As LeEco didn’t have any firm U.S. marketing plans to announce for the LeEco LeVR MAX 1 just yet, we weren’t given a price point — the company is a little busy right now launching its electric car, 4K Ultra HDTVs, Android smartphones and a few other things as it produces feature films for its OTT streaming services and finalizes its bid to acquire controlling interest in Vizio. Still, we thought this early effort in VR promises good things to come from the newest brand in the U.S. CE space.

Accepting the HD Guru Crystal Award from Jamillette is Jia Xu from LeEco’s VR Group in China.

Best Wireless Speaker: Mass Fidelity raD

Canadian audio technology company Mass Fidelity used CES 2017 to unveil the raD, weather-resistant wireless speaker as a follow-up to its popular Core Wireless Audio System, Core Wireless Subwoofer and Relay Bluetooth DAC.

Fresh off a successful IndieGogo crowd-funding campaign, the raD (short for Radial Dispersion technology) features a splash-resistant design that makes it ideal for outdoor and less-than-ideal listening environments such as kitchens and bathrooms. Equipped with a rugged, compact IPX5-rated water/shock-resistant design the speaker can be used anywhere from poolsides to camping trips. It’s not bad in the living room or den, either. Mass Fidelity’s chief revenue officer, Bob Perry, a long-and-successful marketing and sales executive with many of the industry’s largest CE companies, said the speaker was developed after users of the Core and Core Wireless Subwoofer systems asked for an outdoor speaker they could add to their Core wireless home music network. The raD connects to a private, uncompressed 5 Ghz adaptive whole-house network built into the Core and Core Wireless Sub. New listening zones can be easily added on with the touch of a button.

Mass Fidelity recommends up to eight devices be used for an optimal multi-room Core network listening experience. No Wi-Fi connection or mobile application is needed to configure the raD. The speaker can be easily paired to the Core Network via Bluetooth 4.1 with NFC or by wired connection through a 3.5mm jack on the back of the unit.

The raD features a five-speaker array, with four 1.5-inch drivers and a single 3-inch bass driver, each powered by a high-output amplifier with a frequency response of 75Hz to 20KHz. The raD measure 5 x 4.75 x 3 inches, and uses AAC and AptX codecs to produce high-quality sound which can be further enhanced with powerful bottom end through a connection to the Core Subwoofer.

A USB connector on the back of the speaker can be used for charging cell phones, tablets or other mobile devices. The rechargeable battery offers an average of 8 hours of operating time.

The raD is available at a $299.99 suggested retail price. with shipments expected in April.

The Mass Fideltity raD outdoor Core wireless speaker is pictured above.

By Greg Tarr

 

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