In two short years the Luxury Technology Show has expanded from its New York roots to include Miami and Los Angeles. It’s a highly condensed retail therapy experience for well-heeled consumers as well as a chance for the press to come out and play. While the show itself covers a fairly wide range of interests that range from beer brewing to motorsports, a sizeable chunk of what qualifies as luxury technology falls under the AV umbrella.
Check out this video report from the show.
Samsung, Sony, LG and Hisense were all there with HDR-capable UHD TVs. One thing I truly appreciated was how the Samsung, Sony and LG TVs were side-by-side playing HDR demo footage. It’s something you don’t get to see at CES. It would have been even better if all three TVs ran the same demo footage, but I enjoyed the opportunity to compare the three.
Samsung, Sony, and LG had their latest 65" HDR UHDTVs on display.
LG’s 65” flat-screen G6 OLED ($8000) looked gorgeous with its signature ultra-deep blacks and rich luscious colors. A Dolby Vision demo loop provided the eye candy for what is perhaps the most lustworthy of all 65” TVs. Samsung’s curved-screen KS9500 ($3600) may be the best-performing 65” LED edge-lit LCD I’ve seen. It touted 1000 nits peak brightness and possessed the most pop of the three TVs, in addition to costing substantially less than the other two. Meanwhile, Sony’s 65" flat-screen X930D ($5000) HDR-capable LED edge-lit LCD UHDTV was no slouch when it came to rendering rich colors.
Hisense was right around the corner from the three mainstream brands showing its curved flagship LCD, the H10. The rep was getting excited about the panel’s 240 FALD zones, and street pricing as low as $2000—which he noted was thousands less than what competing brands like Sony, Samsung, and Vizio charge for a similar feature set. I mentioned that Vizio’s 2016 P series had launched earlier that week and that its 128-zone HDR-capable FALD 65” was retailing for $2000, which was news to him. Hisense plans to follow the H10 with a H10B that will cost a few hundred dollars more, but will carry a UHD Alliance Ultra HD Premium certification, thanks to improvements in its HDR capabilities.
The Hisense 65" H10 FALD-LED curved-screen LCD offers lots of bang for the buck at its street price of $2000.
On the audio front I checked out a pair of lifestyle audio systems, each priced at $1000. The first was a JBL Authentics L16 ($1000) that touted 300 total watts of power, Airplay support, Bluetooth, plus analog (including phono), and optical connections. The 3-way stereo speakers had enough output to overcome the background noise at the show, and frequency response is rated at 40 Hz to 35 kHz. It’s not how I’d spend my AV allowance but it’s also clearly a cut above something like a soundbar for use as a music system.
JBL's Authentics L16 is a self-contained stereo system that's equally adept at handling digital and analog audio.
Naim showed its take on a compact lifestyle audio device, the brand-new Mu-so Qb ($1000). It’s a compact cube designed to deliver stereo sound with serious fidelity and flexible connectivity. You can hook it up to a PC or Mac with USB, use it with Airplay devices, Bluetooth, digital optical, and guess what... it includes a built-in alarm function. This may be the world's highest-fidelity clock radio! Removing the colorful grill revealed a fairly serious compliment of drivers. It’s worth noting that unlike many other wireless speaker solutions, you cannot use two Qbs to create a stereo pair. The company insists that this is because it is designed for peak performance in its role as a stand-alone player plus up to five devices can be used as a multi-room audio system.
Gamut, a Danish speaker and electronics manufacturer, also presented high-end audio at the show. Its system centered around a pair of RS3 bookshelf speakers ($19,500/pair) that were working hard to counter the din of the show. I love how Gamut speakers sound, but the price-performance ratio is something I cannot wrap my head around—20 grand for a pair of 2-way bookshelf speakers is undeniably high-end luxury pricing. I also had a chance to try the company’s cool-looking "audiophile" chair that promises to provide listeners a headrest without degrading the perceived sound quality of a stereo system.
On the headphones front I checked out some cool cans from Meze, a brand whose ads have been popping up in magazines like Stereophile and The Absolute Sound. The company says it puts twice as much money's worth of parts into its 99 Classics ($309) versus its competitors do at that price point. The CNC carved wooden enclosures were the primary feature of these Romanian headphones. All-screw assembly means the headphones are user-serviceable and any part is easily replaceable. I tried on a pair and found them both comfortable and good-sounding with lots of passive noise reduction.
Astell and Kern brought its AK T1 ($3700) all-in-one sound system to the show. Frankly, I don’t understand the appeal of this device which looks a bit like a futuristic piece of exercise equipment. A slender, angular slanted aluminum tower houses offset dual-opposed 6.5” woofers. Meanwhile, a solid flat bar that attaches to the top of the tower houses a pair of midranges and tweeters.
To my ears, the AK T1 struggled to be heard over the background noise at the show, and I found nothing in its performance that would lead me choose it over many other less-expensive systems I’ve heard. In this case, beauty must be in the eye of the beholder because I could not see its appeal.
I didn't dig the aesthetics or the audio performance of the Astell & Kern AK T1.
The Luxury Technology Show remains focused on the needs of the few who can afford the cutting-edge technological toys. It’s nice to see that TVs and sound systems still make the cut and I wish it continued success.