What is luxury? Well, how about a $10,000 iPhone? Or maybe a $60,000 sound system? Last week, High-Def Digest was invited to attend the New York Luxury Technology Show, where brands like Panasonic, Geneva, Harman Kardon, and even Lamborghini all highlighted their latest high-end gadgets and devices.
With a big emphasis on home automation and wireless connectivity, the show demoed the best (and most expensive) innovations in luxury tech, revealing that while money still can't quite buy happiness, it can buy an extremely large pair of speakers and a totally badass car. I mean, look at how shiny that thing is!
Though home theater gear wasn't the main attraction (soundbars can only get so much attention next to a $136,000 BMW), several companies did have lots of cool audio products on display, and a few premium TVs and projectors all made notable appearances as well. Below, we've broken down the main gear brands in attendance, along with an overview of some of the manufacturer's most impressive and undeniably luxurious items.
For the Luxury Technology Show, Panasonic brought out its big home audio guns, spotlighting the upcoming return of its high-end Technics brand. Geared toward delivering high-res sound, the Technics line emphasizes premium music reproduction over a traditional home theater experience. Two series of products were on display: the Premium Class C-700 Series and the Reference Class R1 Series.
The Premium Series is made up of a Stereo Integrated Amplifier (SU-C700), Network Audio Player (ST-C700), Compact Disc Player (SL-C700), and Speaker System (SB-C700). The bookshelf speakers feature a Coaxial 6.5- inch Flat type/.75-inch Dome type Woofer/Tweeter. With all the components accounted for, the collection is expected to cost around $6,000, offering a comparatively affordable introduction to the brand.
For those looking for something a bit more luxurious, Panasonic also demoed its Reference Series. This line includes a Stereo Power Amplifier (SE-R1), Network Audio Control Player (SU-R1), and a Speaker System (SB-R1). The floorstanding speakers feature four 6.5-inch Cone type woofers, one 6.5-inch Flat type mid-range drive unit, and one 1-inch Dome type tweeter. This mightily impressive collection is expected to set one back around $60,000.
In addition to audio units, Panasonic did have one of their 2014 4K Ultra HD TVs on display, but alas their recently announced 2015 lineup was nowhere to be seen. Still, while I couldn't get any pricing information, a helpful Panasonic representative did reveal an April launch for the highly anticipated TC-65CX850U 4K display. Likewise, an 85-inch model is also being considered for a retail release. We're hoping to get some demo time with the new lineup soon, so stay tuned to High-Def Digest for more Panasonic Ultra HD updates!
To promote their fancy Madison Avenue retail store, Harman Kardon brought a tantalizing sample of their audio gear lineup. The products on display included the Omni 10 and Omni 20 wireless HD audio system, the JBL Authentics L16 speaker system, the Revel Performa F206 floortstanding loudspeakers, and more.
The Omni wireless HD audio systems offer true wireless HD audio with support for high resolution lossless music (up to 24-bit/96kHz) over Wi-Fi, including FLAC and WAV file formats. Likewise, the speakers include Bluetooth support and can be paired together to create stereo and multichannel sound systems. The $300 Omni 20 models features 2 x 75mm woofers and 2 x 19mm tweeters. Meanwhile, the $200 Omni 10 features a 90mm woofer and a 35mm tweeter.
Also of interest is the JBL Authentics L16 speaker. The 300 watt three-way speaker system features two 25mm tweeters, two 2-inch mid-range transducers, and two 5.25-inch woofers. Likewise, the speaker offers Bluetooth, DLNA, and Airplay connectivity. Suggested retail price is $1,000.
Finally, no visit to Harman's booth could go by without noticing the Revel Performa F206 floorstanding loudspeakers. The handsome 41.4-inch tall speakers use a 1-inch aluminum tweeter, 5.25-inch aluminum cone midrange, and dual 6.5-inch aluminum cone cast-frame woofers. Models come in piano black, high-gloss walnut, and piano white for around $3,500 per pair.
Not content to let all the traditional high-end and wireless speakers have all the fun, ClearView brought its refreshingly unique "invisible" Clio speaker to the show. Rather than using a standard cone design, the Clio creates sound through an ultra-thin, transparent, curved acrylic glass stereo transducer, giving the device a singular and rather attractive minimalist design that suits almost any decor. Through ClearView's Edge Motion technology, piezo-electric actuators stimulate the glass to create a piston-like motion that produces sound from both sides.
The speaker features Bluetooth streaming support and includes a hidden woofer that is housed below the base for low frequencies. A noisy tech show isn't exactly the best place to hear a product like this, but the speaker does indeed create sound -- that much I know. And did I mention that it's really pretty? For those interested in the innovative design, the ClearView Clio currently retails for around $349.
Fusing cool style with high performance, Geneva aims to deliver single box audio solutions. The company's beautiful designs are certainly aesthetically pleasing and the manufacturer promises the specs to back them up. Several models were on display at the show, including the Model S, M, L, XL, and XXL sound systems, and the Model Cinema speaker-base.
The Model S ($300), Model M ($599), Model L ($1,199), and Model XL ($2,299) feature attractive rectangular shapes that offer stereo sound systems of increasing size along with FM radios and Bluetooth connectivity. Likewise, the larger models include Apt-X support and integrated CD players.
Meanwhile, the premium Model XXL ($3,499) serves as a full-fledged wood-cabinet stand with a built-in speaker system for TVs up to 65-inches. The cabinet houses seven individually powered speakers, including an 8-inch subwoofer, along with Bluetooth, Airplay, radio, and HDMI connectivity, providing a full home theater experience.
Finally, the company also highlighted its Model Cinema ($600) speaker-base system. The speaker is designed to sit right under a small to medium size TV, offering 4 x 2-inch woofers and a 5.25-inch subwoofer with five digital amplifiers and 120 Watt output. Bluetooth support is included as well, along with RCA, digital optical, and coax connections.
Joining the bevy of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speakers on display, GGMM brought their own M3 Plug & Play and M4 Play & Go models to the show. The M3 retails for around $300 while the M4 can be purchased for around $350 - $400. Both offer stereo sound, wireless music streaming, and support for up to 16 audio sources. Each model also includes lossless Wi-Fi music playback, and the M4 adds Bluetooth Apt-X connectivity. Likewise, stylish leather bound designs bring an extra dash of luxury to the speakers, helping them to fit right at home among the show's other more extravagant products.
Moving away from the world of audio, SIM2 was on hand to demo their latest premium 1080p projectors. In the spotlight (or should I say, shining the spotlight) were the Grand Cinema Superlumis ($50,000) and the Nero 3 ($14,000) projectors. The Superlumis is a DLP 3 chip model with a contrast ratio up to 30,000:1, a 350W lamp, and active 3D support. In addition, the projector offers two lens options: a High Brightness lens for up to 5,000 ANSI lumens or an Extended Contrast lens for up to 3,800 ANSI lumens. The step-up SIS version also adds HDR support.
Meanwhile, the (comparatively) more affordable Nero 3 projector is a DLP 1 chip model that uses a PureLED light source (that never needs to be switched out) to deliver up to 1,400 lumens and a contrast ratio of up to 30,000:1. With that said, a separate SIM2 3D emitter is needed to enable 3D support. I also asked about possible 4K models, but the company is still waiting on Texas Instruments to release 4K DLP projector tech. On that note, however, SIM2 remains confident that their 1080p projector models are capable of besting many higher resolution options thanks to their superior technology. Sadly, like the audio demos, the conditions at the show were not ideal for demonstrating projectors, but the picture quality certainly looked good -- even with ambient light in the room. Of course, for $50,000 it damn well better.
Odds and Ends
Truly high-end audio offerings from brands like McIntosh and Sonus Faber were also on display to salivating guests, including a pair of $89,999 Lilium speakers. Outside of the traditional A/V market, the show was also home to many other luxurious and lavishly frivolous gadgets and tech oddities, ranging from a $6,000 Lamborghini branded smartphone (I wonder if that's the on-contract price) to a luggage tracking system and a brain sensing headband. Also, there was a $280,000 Lamborghini Huracan... because, why not?
Though my small taste of luxury is now over, it was certainly fun to step into the (very expensive) shoes of the rich and famous. For now, though, what do you think about the show's audio and video 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!