CES 2016: Day One

CES2016_Day1_Photo_SecuritySignTurns out the new security system was a breeze...for me. The press and exhibitors had their own entrance and by the time I got there just after the 10AM opening bell, all the exhibitors were inside, and the above photo was my line to get in. Woot!

The second blessing of this whole curfuffle was, for the first time in years and years, I didn't walk around the show sweating from carrying a heavy backpack. The new security regs (seen at right) have very specific sizing requirements regarding backpacks. I didn't have a tape measure with me, but size estimations using a sheet of paper had me believing my pack might have been just over-sized. Rather than risk being shut out with no place to stash my pack, I went without. Each of my jeans pockets was carefully packed with necessities and my DSLR was slung over my shoulder. Truth is, this was one of the most comfortable days I've spent at CES. So far, so good.

Traditionally, I visit Sennheiser's booth first. If you've had the chance to read my 2015 Year in Review you'll know I really had no idea what Sennheiser would be doing this year. Since the introduction of the Momentum line they've refreshed just about their whole line-up. What would, or even could, it be?

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3D audio! Don't get too excited, it was mostly a technology demo and an open invitation to start the dialog of where headphones will be heading in the future, but it was damned cool. I'll have more with my official Sennheiser post next week.

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Zound Industries is the home of Urbanears, Marshall Headphones, Coloud Headphones and Molami. These are all fashion brands that I've found severely wanting in the audio quality department in the past. This year I got to hear the Marshal Major II, which sounded much better than it's predecessor, and the Urbanears ADV Platten Wireless, and the Coloud No.16 were pretty darned good for inexpensive fashion cans. No full report coming, but I will be trying to get some of these cans in for measurements and possible review. This booth was the beginning of a theme for me this year: This stuff's getting better!

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I wasn't a big fan of Blue Microphone's Mo-Fi active headphone—too heavy, too cumbersome, too colored sonically—but the new passive Lola headphone with much the same look but lower weight and sans electronics was a clear step up in the sound and comfort department. No show report, but Lola is on the way to Bozeman for a longer listen and measurements.

CES2016_Day1_Photo_AudezeSine A closed planar magnetic headphone with all leather and aluminum build at $499 from Audeze!? Color me interested. Full report with Sankar introducing these new cans next week. I'll shut up for now. Don't miss it!

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When 50 Cent celebrity doesn't do the trick, how do you market your headphones? Find another niche, of course. Looks like SMS inked a deal with Disney and Marvel comics to sell their latest line-up. Too bad they were only just okay sounding. My daughter would kill me if she knew I passed on the opportunity to ask for a sample one of their new Star Wars cans—Kill. Me. Ah well, the price of being on the up-and-up.

CES2016_Day1_Photo_Beyerdynamic Nothing particularly new from Beyer, but I did reiterate (for the I don't know how manyith time) that I need a T 51 i, DTX 350 m, and one of the new T1 headphones because I think they're good enough to get a review. I think they heard me this time...heck, I think everyone in the booth heard me. They're coming folks, they're coming.

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Stax was inside the Edifier booth this year, and their set-up was very nice. I'll have pix and more details of their new cans in my full report next week, but I just can't resist pimping some pix of the vintage SR-1 they were showing in the booth. What's that you say Takato, not a close enough pic? Okay, here you go buddy.

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Speaking of Edifier...

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Elsewhere in the booth I found this small display of headphones and amps. Didn't have time to pry into the details here, but will as I can. Don't think the sound was quite up to snuff, but was pleased to see this Chinese powerhouse brand making their way into the world of headphones. Should be interesting to see them move along.

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Always wanted to build one of these for trade shows; the noise is relentless, and this Audio Technica listening booth did seem to work quite well.

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But the thing in the Audio Technica booth that caught my attention was their new budget priced noise canceling headphones. The weird thing was in passive mode, the sound of these headphones were kind of all over the map. But once in active, noise canceling mode, they all sounded quite similar...and surprisingly good. Once you've got DSP running in the headphones, you might as well put it to good use to whip the sound into shape. Please note the $99 price of the ATH-ANC50iS, I think that's the lowest priced ANC headphone I've seen, and despite the noise canceling not being as good as Bose (and no one's is) the sound quality was quite good. No full show report, but I will be getting samples as introductory schedules permit. These might get a recommendation from me.

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This is cool: Comply's new one-size-fits-(almost)all ear tips. The core is a more supple silicon rubber that allows it to fit more tips; and the conical entryway permits better ease of insertion. This will allow Comply to narrow the confusing number of tips, more easily sell replacement tips at retail. Full report next week, but I'm digging this idea.

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Here's a company that I really never though about too much until discovering how amazingly well they do as I researched my 2015 Year in Review story. I dug into it a little further; full story next week.

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MEE was there with the very dandy and low cost Matrix 2 wireless headphone that made it onto InnerFidelity's Wall of Fame. This year saw them introducing a new premium IEM that sounded quite promising to me. Don't know how I managed not to snap a pic, but one will be making its way to Bozeman soon. Measurements for sure; review...well see.

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Klipsch had a very retro booth...very. It was almost like stepping into Beaver Cleaver's house.

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Surprisingly hard to capture it in photos though; more here. On the other hand, they've done a refresh on their entire IEM line. Full report next week.

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It's a terrible pic, but I had the pleasure of going off-topic in the Klipsch booth in a long chat with Brent Butterworth. Just a heck of a fine journalist, with a solid attitude, and an all-around good guy. Wish there were more like him. We spent quite a bit of time comparing notes about headphone measurements—he does them too.

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Hey! What's up with that!? Plastic House of Marley headphones? They're all about natural materials and recycling, I thought. Well, there's more than meets the eye. I will be doing a full report next week, but suffice it to say the $39 Rebel headphones ($69 for BT wireless) were quite good.

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Definitive Technology (sister brand to Polk) has made their first entry into headphones. The $399 Symphony 1 noise canceler sounded pretty good and felt like a mature offering. No full report, but cans will be sent for measurements. Nicely done.

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Sony's $199 h.ear on headphones were even sexier in person than in the pix I'd seen. The comfort and sound easily surpassed expectations. Yes sir, Imma get me some. No sir, sorry, no full report. Just too much mayhem in their booth—but I will get some in. I think these may be a solid $200 headphone.

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The new Christiano Ronaldo Roc headphone from Monster. Ugh. Brighter sound inside than the bling on the outside. Just painful to hear for me at the end of the day. No thanks.

Speaking of the end of the day, its past 10PM now. I gotta go beddy bye. Here's the remainder pic dump. See you tomorrow!

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We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

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Whoa! Wait a minute...can I change jobs and become a drone reviewer? I'd like one of these, please. It would be way better than the shuttle bus back to the hotel.

COMMENTS
tony's picture

I'd rather the Approved size of 1,200 cu.in. and just one for Nalgene bottles.
Nice snaps, nice work. Looks mentally exhausting. I'd be in the Tuscany's Pool & Hot Tub by 4:30 PM.
Seeing thru your lens saves me a lot of work, I owe you.

Tony in Michigan

halcyon's picture

I'm fed up with DTS Headphone:X and Dolby Atmos for headphone 3D sound. Nothing but promises and cheesy gaming cans and Android software.

We need full X.Y (say 7.1.4) -> stereo headphone mapping virtualization software.

In production/mixing, in PC/console/mobile games and some requirements for headphones.

Dolby and DTS blew it. They don't know how to license it.

The whole 3D headphone virtual sound gaming is pretty much kept alive now by Creative (with E5/G5/X7) and some odd offerings from Logitech/Turtle Beach.

We need major muscle behind Ambeo 3D, for it to succeed. Sennheiser alone can't do it. They need to have headphone amp, dac, processor, sound card, software and encoder makers in on the thing.

I hope something comes out of it, because it's sad to note that the 3D sound is WORSE OFF now than it was 16 years ago when Aureal 3D (A3D) was still around.

And like Sennheiser and so many have stated. Virtual reality with echoey/reverby stereo sound ain't worth it. We need 3D headphone virtualization.

woundup's picture

You're not kidding. With the oncoming push for VR head mounted displays , both Dolby and DTS seem to have really dropped the ball.

I don't know if is is on the licensing side or the marketing side, but if either of them could have gotten out front in the market for VR at least so that the industry knew they were the go to solution for mapping 3D audio I think it could have really paved the way for really good adoption.

Even if it only meant that game developers had more options to target it would be better.

It just seems wrong that with how trendy high end headphones are becoming, along with gaming and VR that the push to have 3D positional object based standards pushed everywhere plugging in headphones is a option is a big missed opportunity.

I know I wouldn't consider buying a new AVR that didn't have Dolby Atmos. Seems like having the equivalent headphone tech as a checklist feature would be a no brainer.

Darin Fong Audio's picture

Sorry about the shameless self-promotion but...
I'd be interested to see what you think of our software:
http://fongaudio.com/demo

wiinippongamer's picture

lol, gooby pls

zobel's picture

horrorshow groodies!

zobel's picture

how do you like your O2? I like mine.

halcyon's picture

Darin,

You're efforts are great, I apploud them.

The needs of GAMING/VR are this:

- take discrete multichannel input (not stereo)
- process it to headphone 3D virtualization withOUT adding lots of space effects (echo, reverb, reflections)
- do this without distorting/totally destroying the sound quality of the original discrete audio streams
- work with most stereo headphones very well
- work with most ears very well
- do this in real-time (near zero latency)
- do this in low cpu time (pref hw accelerated)
- Encoding software offered as full fledged SDK, middleware, stand-alone and embedded hw versions (with reference implementations easily available)
- decoders are free
- Plenty of licensing options, price points and models
- Fully IP cleared (patents/trademarks)
- Works/plays well with other audio standards/interfaces/codecs/systems

Now, this requires MAJOR muscle from a consortium of players.

It'd be totally silly to think that even Sennheiser alone could to this.

The best they can do is get a demo, produce a product in their own line and perhaps get a couple of licensees to try out their tech, before it fizzles out.

Ideal would of course be totally patent-free and FOSS implementation already battle-tested that everybody could just plug-in to their SDKs, dev environments, libraries, devices, programs, players, games.

I don't see that happening any time soon.

Think the 3D rendering + stereoscopic 3D VR headmount revolution AGAIN from scratch, but for audio.

That's what is needed.

HammerSandwich's picture
Quote:

Rather than risk being shut out with no place to stash my pack, I went without.

Did you read the bottom part of the sign?

maelob's picture

Audeze's new offering sounds promising looks like competition for OPPO PM-3s.

AllanMarcus's picture

Is it a drone if you are inside of it?

Also, "nothing particularly new from beyer". Er, how about the T5p Gen 2?

GNagus's picture

I do.

Seth195208's picture

It is just to easy to delaminate the foam while removing the tips(when it's too tight a fit) for cleaning purposes.

veggieboy2001's picture

It's always a pleasure to hear your musings... Sometimes I wish I was there, but the sheer size...whoa. It's obviously a labor of love for you, and it shows. It's also great to see a pic of my 2 absolute favorite reviewers together...I think Brent makes a heck of a lot of sense (and is very clear why he thinks what he does) 99% of the time. Looking forward to the Lola & Audeze (and Mee, Sony...)

jewbear's picture

Hope you get the chance to try out the new Moon Audio Neo230HAD. Really eager to here impressions relative to the 430HAD.

Beagle's picture

It was like actually attending. Thanks!

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