Posted Thu Mar 31, 2016 at 07:00 AM PDT by Steven Cohen
Yes, it's that time of year again. The time to bask in the glittering glow of all the latest and greatest premium tech products. Last week, High-Def Digest was invited to attend the 2016 Luxury Technology Show. Held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City, the event spotlighted high-end electronics, gadgets, and other decidedly expensive toys from a variety of brands like Sony, LG, Samsung, BMW, Gamut, and NVIDIA.
Showcasing all of the newest innovations in indulgent tech, this year's show did not disappoint, offering a varied assortment of luxurious products ranging from virtual reality headsets and OLED Ultra HD TVs to $20,000 speakers and… a brand new car!
While it's unlikely that I'll be driving that fancy BMW off the lot any time soon (unless I turn to a life of crime), my brief dalliance among the ritzy tech market did leave a strong impression. Here's a rundown of some of the show's top home theater products and consumer electronics!
For the Luxury Tech show, LG brought out its latest, greatest, and priciest Premium Signature Series 4K OLED Ultra TV. The OLED65G6P is the company's flagship high-end display model for 2016, offering perfect blacks, wide viewing angles, an integrated soundbar speaker system, and an incredibly thin Picture-on-Glass design. In addition, the TV has been certified as "Ultra HD Premium" and includes full HDR compatibility, making it one of the only TVs currently on the market to come with support for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Likewise, the display uses LG's webOS 3.0 smart TV platform, giving users seamless access to a growing collection of apps.
I've been dying to see this bad boy in action since it was first announced at CES back in January, and in person the OLED65G6P lives up to the hype and then some. The set is absolutely beautiful, both in design and picture quality, and the demo reel of HDR content at the show perfectly highlighted the model's sumptuous contrast and colors. In fact, though the other TVs in attendance were mighty fine (more on them below) this was overall the most impressive TV at the show -- which is good, because at a suggested retail price of $7,999, it was also the most expensive. Thankfully, for customers with slightly less luxurious lifestyles, LG is also offering more affordable 2016 OLED models later this year, including the B6 and C6 series. Likewise, the company's 2015 65EG9600, 65EF9500, 55EG9600, and 55EF9500 OLED Ultra HD TVs are on sale now with prices starting at a more moderately opulent $2,997.
Proving that there is still plenty of life left in LCD tech, Sony highlighted its 2016 XBR65X930D Ultra HD TV. The eye-catching Android powered display uses TRILUMINOS tech with HDR10 support, offering expanded contrast, brightness, and colors. Likewise, the model comes branded with the company's "4K HDR Ultra HD" logo ensuring compliance with the Consumer Technology Association's (CTA) HDR definition. In addition, the XBR-X930D features new Slim Backlight Drive technology which uses a unique grid array, local dimming, and boosting backlighting structure to achieve better zone control for an edge-lit model.
A demo reel of cityscapes and requisite nature footage with a handy split-screen comparison between HDR and SDR content played at the show, and the set really looked quite striking. Footage of the Las Vegas Strip was especially memorable, as detail in each individual light on the flashing Casino signs was clearly visible with bright contrast, vivid colors, and deep blacks. The XBR65X930D is currently on sale for $3,498.
Not willing to be outdone by rivals Sony and LG, Samsung also brought out one of its top-of-the-line 2016 Ultra HD TVs. The 65-inch KS9500 series SUHD TV is a curved screen edge-lit LED display with 1000 nits of brightness and Quantum Dot technology, offering support for HDR10 and 96% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. Sadly, however, like all of Samsung's new displays, the TV does not include 3D support.
Though there were some minor backlight uniformity issues visible and the display did wash out a bit from the side, the KS9500 was actually the most eye-catching of all three 4K sets from a direct viewing angle, providing the brightest, boldest, and seemingly sharpest image with its beautiful demo reel of nature images. The display retails for a rather luxurious $4,699 (on sale now for $3,699), but if that's not quite extravagant enough for you, Samsung also has the step-up full-array local dimming KS9800 series on deck for release this year as well.
Also making a big push for the premium TV market this year is Chinese manufacturer Hisense. Though the brand did not have its newest 2016 flagship model on hand, the company did demo its 2015 premium 65-inch curved screen H10B Ultra HD TV. Powered by Hisense's ULED technology, the display combines dynamic backlight control, full array local dimming, and quantum dots to offer HDR and wide color gamut support. With that said, this model does not quite reach the requirements for the Ultra HD Premium spec. The 65-inch H10B is on sale now for $1,999.
Thankfully, if you're determined to flaunt that coveted "Ultra HD Premium" label, Hisense still has you covered. To achieve those luxurious specs, the company will be releasing the new 2016 H10C series later this year. That model will offer an improved design with more dimming zones and 1,000 nits of brightness. The 65-inch model is set to retail for $2,799.
If you're like my Dad, then straining to hear dialogue through your TV or surround sound speakers has become a constant problem. And if you're like me, then having to deal with an ear-piercingly boosted volume while watching TV with your Dad has become a constant problem. Well, thanks to Turtle Beach there's finally a solution that suits everyone's needs. Geared toward customers with hearing loss, the HyperSound Clear 500P is a personal sound system designed to work with existing speakers and setups. The system uses two specially designed ultrasonic speaker emitters to directionally beam higher frequency audio to a specific sweet spot. In other words, the emitters can be positioned toward a designated user, greatly enhancing the clarity of the audio specifically in their listening area without the need to toggle subtitles or boost the volume up for everyone else in the room.
For demo purposes, I sampled the tech in a rather noisy tradeshow environment -- and though not exactly ideal, this loud atmosphere actually proved to be a pretty good way to sample just how well the HyperSound system works. First, I sat down on a couch and listened to a music track playing normally through integrated TV speakers. Given the noise in the room, the music was barely audible. Next, the HyperSound emitters were turned on in conjunction with the TV speakers. Immediately, the music became much more pronounced and clear, creating an almost night and day difference. And to test the highly directional nature of the tech, all I had to do was stand up, instantly allowing me to exit the sweet spot, negating the HyperSound audio's benefits.
With early hearing loss becoming more and more prevalent, and dramatically whispered dialogue becoming more and more popular, the Turtle Beach HyperSound Clear 500P is poised to become a rather handy supplement to many home theater sound systems. Though currently only available through audiologists for their patients (at $1,600), Turtle Beach is working on a retail version which is expected to hit the market later this year. For more information on the technology, check out Brian Hoss' detailed feature article.
As I stated above, a noisy tech show really isn't the best place to sample audio gear, but the Gamut RS3 speakers somehow managed to break through all the auditory chaos. Even in the loud environment, with their volume pumped up, these relatively small standmount speakers still offered rather impressive audio quality, bringing a clean, full-bodied sound to the listening area. For playback purposes, the speakers were plugged into the Gamut CD3 Redbook CD Player and Di50 Dual Mono Integrated Amplifier. Jazz selections and tracks from Louis Armstrong carried gorgeous fidelity and warm vocal tones, and the speakers' solid wood design added an extra level to the aesthetic. And if the whole audio package wasn't enough, the company even sells their own luxurious (and comfy) chairs! (You can see my feet resting up as I relax in one and take a listen in the pic below). Of course, given their striking quality, the RS3 speakers do come with a fairly high-end price tag -- about $20,000 for the pair. And sadly, the chair is not included.
Rounding out the impressive trio of audio demos I got to experience, was the Meze 99 Classics Headphones. With their maple wood earcups, soft earpads, and spring steel headband, the headphones offer a unique look -- and while the style might not be everyone's cup of tea I'm rather fond of it. Of course, aesthetics can only get you so far when it comes to an audio product, and thankfully the Meze 99 Classics sound even better than they look. Even in the loud show environment, the headphones offered solid noise isolation and provided a rather striking audio profile with impressive dimension, range, and texture as I listened to a sample FLAC track from Sting. Specs include a transducer size of 40mm, a frequency response of 15Hz - 25KHz, and sensitivity rated at 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW. The Meze 99 Classics Headphones are now available for a pre-order price of $309 with shipments expected to go out in April.
With an assortment of high-end VR headsets now hitting the market, Virtual Reality just might be the next big thing in gaming and immersive entertainment. With that said, prior to attending the Luxury Technology Show, my only actual experience with the format involved me playing a highly pixelated first person shooter on a highly outdated VR system back in the mid-nineties at the now long since defunct "Blockbuster Golf and Games" arcade where I grew up in South Florida. And even as a kid, I couldn't help but find the burgeoning tech to be rather lame. Well, despite that less than memorable first impression, I'm happy to report that things have certainly changed in the last two decades since I put on a pair of VR goggles. Actually, they've changed A LOT.
NVIDIA was on-hand at the show to highlight their graphical prowess along with the HTC Vive Virtual Reality Headset -- and though my time with the unit was disappointingly brief, and I ran into some fleeting focus issues early on, the overall experience was downright amazing. Two demos were offered. The first placed me on the deck of an underwater sunken ship as fish, whales, and other sea life swam around me. I could walk around the environment (a grid would show up warning me if I wandered too far) and use the motion controllers to interact with the fish. Though there technically wasn't much to do but simply take in the environment, the sense of immersion was amazing, truly making it feel as if I was somewhere else. The second demo offered a bit more activity, allowing me to paint within a 3D environment using the controllers. And while my resulting "painting" amounted to little more than a mess of abstract swirls (I'm sure my Mom would still put it on the fridge!), the experience was a lot of fun.
The HTC Vive is now available for pre-order for $800. The package includes the Vive headset, two wireless controllers, two base stations, link box, earbuds, Vive accessories, safety guide and warranty card. Units are expected to start shipping in. Recommended PC specs are:
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 970 / AMD Radeon™ R9 290 equivalent or greater
CPU: Intel® i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater
Video Output: HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
USB Port: 1x USB 2.0 or greater port
Operating System: Windows 7 SP1 or newer
Beyond home theater gear, the Luxury Tech Show also highlighted many other products across the entire electronics spectrum, from the home automation market to some decidedly more "unique" offerings -- including a laser hair growth band and wearable tech designed to help women, ahem, get in the "mood." And of course, no truly fancy tech show could be complete without another... brand new car!
Expensive Bimmers notwithstanding, for my personal tastes (literally), the most intriguing item outside of our usual HD gear coverage was the Pico from PicoBrew. As the name implies, this convenient appliance allows customers to easily brew their own craft beer -- similar to how one might use a coffee machine. Users simply need to purchase pre-packaged ingredient modules called PicoPaks from a growing online BrewMarketplace featuring more than 80 craft breweries. Likewise, users can even create their own FreeStyle PicoPaks. The Pico can brew five liter mini kegs in about two hours, and if the sample IPA I got to taste at the show is any indication... then the device spits out a damn fine glass of beer. Damn fine. The product originally launched on Kickstarter and pre-orders are now available for $699.
And with one last sip of a cold brewski, my time at the Luxury Tech Show came to a close, forcing me to leave all of the glitz, glamour, fancy tech, and swanky celebrities (RJ Mitte AKA Walter Jr. AKA "Flynn" from 'Breaking Bad!') behind. Though I had to exit the show empty handed, I'm thankful I at least managed to get through without breaking anything. Tech shows are all fun and games until you accidently spill beer on the interior of a 140,000 BMW i8. But I wouldn't know anything about that... I swear!
For now, what do you think about the show's luxurious gear? Could these high-end products really be worth their equally high-end price tags? Will you be saving up for any of the items on display? Let us know your thoughts in the forum!
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