Sifting through hundreds of gadgets and audio video peripherals during CES has always been a daunting task. Luckily for me, this year is not too bad as the top 10 products of this year were easy to pick. Coincidentally, this list is pretty much going to be my 2017 electronics shopping list.
Sony A1E-series OLED TV
You can’t talk about CES without talking about at least one thing that is revolutionary. For me, it’s the Sony A1E series OLED TV. This series combines an OLED panel with the X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor used in Sony’s flagship Z series. From my experience, the X1 Extreme can draw out the full potential of OLED panels, image upscaling using dual-database system. One for image upscaling the other for noise reduction. It also offers HDR remastering so SDR content can be uspcaled to near HDR quality.
As for sound, these TV sets get Sony’s Acoustic Surface technology that vibrates the display and enables the sound to be output directly from the TV screen. They also include a subwoofer and a passive radiator concealed within the TV stand to create the best sound I’ve ever heard from a TV. At US$4,000 projected MSRP for the 65” version, it is actually quite a steal and it is definitely a part of my shopping list for 2017.
Sony UBP-X800 UHD Universal Player (update: purchased!!)
If you’re looking for a player that can play it all, do 4K streaming such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, plus audio up-scaling, the Sony UBP-X800 is the answer. This player is estimated price for this player is $800 but things can change between now until April 2017.
On the audio side the player can handle high-resolution files up to 24-bit/192kHz, and supports all popular formats and even some rarer ones, such as DSD 11.2MHz files. Sony’s own DSEE HX up-scaling engine can also bump up the frequency and bit-depth of any low-res files for a perceivably better sound performance. On the video side the player can handle a whole gamut of video files including HDR10 from UHD discs and streaming services. No word on Dolby Vision HDR, however.
Pioneer SX-S30 two-channel Receiver (update: purchased!!)
For the budding audiophiles, Pioneer Elite SX-S30. This is a 2-channel receiver geared towards audiophiles who also want to enjoy movies every now and then. It comes with 4 HDMI 2.0a inputs (with HDCP 2.2, of course), Class D3 amplifier which produces a warm, clear analogue sound, Phono pre-amp, Networking, Pandora, Spotify and TuneIn clients just to name a few. At $700, I’d buy one as soon as it is become available in Canada.
NAD C338 Integrated Amplifier
When it comes time to create a product, NAD usually do everything they can to get these things exactly right. The C338 includes MM Phono stage, a separate headphone amplifier with low output impedance and very high output voltage capability – enough to drive even high impedance studio monitor headphones. Low impedance line outputs that can connect to subwoofers are also included. Unheard of in an audiophile-class integrated amp before.
If wireless is more of your bag, the C338 includes Bluetooth aptX two-way connection which means you can send music to the C338 or listen to your Bluetooth speakers/headphones. While on the subject of wireless connectivity, you can also control the C338 using the free NAD app.
As for the power amplification section, using a customized version of the proven Hypex UcD output stage, the C338 is capable of 160 watts continuously and over 300 watts instantaneously to allow for short-term musical transients.
At merely $900, this integrated amplifier is yet another one that goes onto my shopping list.
Aftershokz Titanium (update: purchased!!)
The lightweight and comfortable Trekz Titanium wireless headphones are the safest alternative to traditional sport headphones and earbuds. Bone conduction technology, an open ear design and a suite of convenient features including PremiumPitch+ audio technology, EQ boost and LeakSlayer anti sound-leak technology deliver premium music play and crystal clear calling without too much compromise. The Trekz Titanium headphones are sweat-proof (IP5 rated), secure, and will allow you to hear your surroundings. A huge improvement in sound quality from last year’s (and discontinued) model; at $149.99 it’s a must buy for any active individual. These headphones are not on my shopping list mainly because I have purchased two of them, one for my daughter and another for myself, prior to writing this list.
Looking for a media player that is built like a tank, blazing fast startup, with amazing sound and easy to use user interface? Look no further. The $1,999 player is built from machined aluminum with a user interface that is so easy to use I can use it easily from the very first moment…which is only 3 seconds from complete off to completely ready to play. The ESS Sabre DAC, headphone outputs for both regular and balanced version are included in this amazing looking, amazing feeling (in my hands, at least) and amazing sounding machine. If only I didn’t just buy the Hifiman Supermini last month.
Samsung M9500 UHD Blu-ray Player
Releasing the successor, and a more advanced version of the already well performing K8500 UHD BD player, Samsung announced the M9500 which boasts features such as Bluetooth wireless audio streaming, which when used with a new Private Cinema mode, will send TV audio to Bluetooth headphones. It also claims to have the capability to analyze the content of the pictures it’s playing and use its findings to automatically adjust your TV’s picture and sound settings to the optimal levels. How well the feature will work remains to be seen.
The M9500 also introduces improved mobile integration versus Samsung’s 2016 UHD BD debut player. Intriguingly this new feature claims to let you watch Blu-rays on your tablets and phones, as well as enabling you to use the M9500 as a portal for watching on your TV 360-degree photos and videos you may have recorded on your mobile device.
Regardless, at the projected price of $499, it will be a perfect fit with many UHD 4K viewers out there.
TomTom Adventurer (update: purchased!!)
Admittedly, this is not an audio video related item. However, my fascination over this watch’s capabilities makes it one of the #CES2017 Top 10 Products. This do-all watch have the capabilities of being, well, a watch, a heart-rate monitor, a GPS and barometer, integrated music player with 3GB of space. You can even download a walking (or skiing, if you want) trail from various compatible websites to this watch and just follow the trail even if it is off the beaten path. Of course, it then can be connected to your smartphone.
As an avid walker and explorer, especially the “off the beaten path” variety, there is one important feature which can track where I started and even if I got lost, all I need to do is to follow the watch GPS feature to trek back to where I started. It is a tad on the high side at $499.99 but it is truly fun to use. I should know, I’ve used it extensively during my 5 day walkaround at CES2017 and the following trip to Indonesia afterwards.
Audio Technica Quietpoint 33 (update: purchased!!)
Quite honestly I would have never tried these earphones if I didn’t win it at a raffle at Audio Technica booth during CES. During my flight back from Las Vegas back to Toronto I packed my trusty PSB earphones in my luggage so I had to try these earphones right away. Surprisingly, at $139.99, these earphones are quite a performer. First, it comes with the required battery for the Active Noise Cancelling circuitry to work. Second, it uses Comply foam as earbuds tips so passively the foam works as a highly effective noise barrier yet breathable at the same time. Third, these earphones work with and without battery – of course, without the battery they turn into regular earphones although the Comply foams mentioned above work as a passive noise isolator.
Although the box claims 90% noise cancellation, I can’t vouch for that number. What I can vouch for is, however, the noise cancellation and isolation combined together work so effectively I slept like a baby during that flight. Something that never happened before.
SleepPhones TellyPhones (update: purchased!!)
I need a very comfortable wireless earphones that can receive the sound from my TV. This is because I use the sound of my TV to help me fall asleep. Believe it or not, I’ve been searching high and low for this type of product for the past two years. The solutions have always been either having a bulky pair of headphones, or require me to buy a new TV with Bluetooth transmitter. Imagine my delight when SleepPhones showed me Tellyphone. A headband Bluetooth headphones that I can just wear around my head without having the feeling of any electronics on me and it comes with a Bluetooth transmitter that can easily be connected to my TV! While the sound quality can’t be considered as audiophile, it’s never intended as such. For a scant US$149.99 I can now clearly listen to my TV before I fall asleep and I can stay asleep because it is so comfortable to wear.