Vizio and Sony Impress, Curved Screens Puzzle: Trends from CES 2014 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
AVS Forum Articles > Vizio and Sony Impress, Curved Screens Puzzle: Trends from CES 2014
Scott Wilkinson's Avatar Scott Wilkinson 11:46 AM 01-16-2014

A number of trends in video and audio quickly became apparent to anyone who attended CES 2014. What were they? Read on for our take-aways from the show, with Scott Wilkinson on video and Mark Henninger on audio.

Video Trends

Ubiquitous UHD

As expected, Ultra HDTVs were in just about every booth, almost to the exclusion of "standard" HD. Clearly, the UHD train has left the station, but it's not carrying a full load. The resolution of UHD is well-defined (3840x2160, or in the case of the 105" 21:9 models at the show, 5120x2160), but other elements, such as higher dynamic range, wider color gamut, and other parameters, have yet to be agreed upon in the content creation, delivery, and display sides of the industry.

Speaking of content, it seems likely that the first UHD delivery system will be online streaming and downloading. Many TV companies announced that their displays will accept UHD streaming from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, M-Go, YouTube, and others, which will probably require around 15 Mbps of sustained downstream bandwidth for a high-quality image. At that speed, most ISP data caps will be met and exceeded in a hurry!

Surrounded by Curved Screens

Samsung, LG, and the big Chinese companies highlighted UHDTVs with curved screens measuring from 55 to 105 inches. Samsung claims it did market research that indicated over 80 percent of respondents preferred curved screens, while we heard LG reps say they do it because the company execs really like them. However, the Japanese companies did not seem to buy into this trend, with no curved screens on display from Sharp, Sony, or Toshiba, which says its customers want flat screens. (Panasonic had no 2014 TVs on display, but it did show a bunch of curved OLEDs strung together in a "wave," which looked cool, but it wasn't a real product.)

If Samsung had conducted its survey on AVS, the results would have been exactly the opposite. It seems that no one here wants curved screens, at least with smaller sizes. In my view, it only makes sense with really large screens, such as the 105" 21:9 models at the show—and Toshiba's version is flat! Even more interestingly, Samsung's new 110" UHDTV is flat as well, even though some of its 55" models are curved.

Omnipresent OLED

2014 seems to be the year in which OLED TVs finally hit the big time. Many more were on display at the show than last year, though most were still 55" and curved. LG showed a 77-incher (curved, of course) that should be available later this year, but no pricing was revealed—no doubt OLED TVs will remain super-expensive due to low manufacturing yields.

Bigger Screens are Better

With UHD's greater resolution, bigger screens definitely have an advantage, a fact that was not lost on the TV manufacturers at CES. LG, Samsung, and Toshiba all showed a 105" 21:9 ultra-wide UHDTV, and Samsung added a 110" 16:9 model (seen here) to its S9 series. LG showed a 98" UHDTV, while Samsung upped the ante to 8K resolution with its prototype 98-incher. Vizio had the largest screen at the show with its 120" Reference Series. I guess bigger really is better!

High on High Dynamic Range

One of the most important trends this year was the emphasis on high dynamic range (HDR) in flat panels. Vizio and Sharp showed new models using Dolby Vision, which looked spectacular displaying content graded for the extra brightness they could produce. Toshiba and Sony also demonstrated their own HDR systems, but without content created specifically for them, they merely stretch—i.e., distort—the dynamic range of conventional images. Also, most TVs still use 8-bit panels, which isn't enough for HDR, though the Vizio Reference Series, Toshiba L9400U, and most Sharp panels are 10-bit. Dolby is working with the studios to standardize the HDR parameters for content in the future, which is good news.

Plasma No Show

What a difference a year makes—no plasma TVs were introduced at CES 2014. Of course, Panasonic is out of that business now, but Samsung and LG claimed continuing support, even though no new models were announced. Samsung said it will continue to make the F8500 well into 2014, so at least there's that.

Ride the Wide Color Gamut

Another important aspect of UHD is the color gamut—the range of colors encoded in the signal and reproducible on the TV. Vizio claimed its Reference Series can reproduce about 80 percent of the Rec.2020 gamut, which is the target many industry watchers are hoping for with UHD and far wider than the current gamut called Rec.709. Sony's Triluminous and Panasonic's Studio Master Color widen the gamut, but without the corresponding information in the signal, these systems only stretch the colors beyond what the content creator intended.

Glasses-Free 3D on the Rise, Glasses-Based 3D on the Wane

LG was the only company still touting its glasses-based 3D at CES, while Vizio has eliminated 3D from its entire 2014 lineup. Meanwhile, glasses-free 3D from Dolby and StreamTV Networks gained a lot of ground this year, and Samsung showed a prototype of its system (seen here) with 35 viewing zones. Everyone we spoke with about it preferred the Ultra-D system from StreamTV, which has signed up most of the Chinese companies and some Japanese manufacturers as well. Look for glasses-free 3D TVs in retailers very soon.

Chinese Companies Coming on Strong

Some of the biggest booths at CES were built by Chinese companies, such as Hisense, TCL, Haier, Changhong, and Konka, which are driving the price of UHDTVs and other electronics downward at an astonishing rate. Don't be surprised to see these brands in growing numbers at US retailers, with pricing that will blow the Japanese and Korean companies out of the water. In fact, I expect the Chinese to do to the Koreans what the Koreans did to the Japanese.

Best Picture at CES

Hands down, the best picture at CES 2014 was the Vizio Reference Series TVs showing UHD content graded by the studios for high dynamic range and wide color gamut. It used to be said that HDTV was like looking out a window, but this was far more realistic than any HDTV. I can't wait to spend some quality time with this puppy!

Audio Trends

High-Quality Wireless Audio is Here

Wires are the most annoying part of any audio system. But until now, even the best wireless system I've heard would never suffice for critical listening. However, the Bang & Olufsen WiSA-enabled 5.1 surround system I heard at CES was impeccable. It was difficult to establish any kind of reliable WiFi connection in that environment, yet the demo itself was flawless. WiSA works.

Lower Prices at the High End

There's a lot of competition in the audio arena. Unlike TVs, where a few manufacturers control most of the market, the world of audio is full of brands that perform well at every price point. In particular, high-quality speakers can be had for much less than in years past, as exemplified by Pioneer's low-cost offerings designed by Andrew Jones and GoldenEar's entire lineup, including the new Triton One towers, which I would have guessed cost two or three times as much as they do. This is a trend I can get behind!

The Rise of HD Audio

Vinyl continues to be a popular choice among audiophiles and music lovers, but a number of demos I heard at CES used a DAC and a high-resolution digital audio instead. This was in contrast to last spring's New York Audio Show, where vinyl seemed to be the only medium considered acceptable at the high end. In particular, I've noticed a revival in popularity of the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) audio format, the native format of SACD.

Headphones Everywhere

As I walked the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, I couldn't help noticing how many headphones there were. It's impossible to keep track of all the makes and models, but one trend is clear—large, expensive headphones are experiencing a golden era. Ultimately, Beats will be remembered, not for their sound quality, but rather for the market they opened up.

Bigger Soundbars

Soundbars are growing to match the ever-increasing size of modern TVs. With 70" flat panels now common, ultra-wide soundbars are starting to appear, and the added width has a positive effect on sound quality by increasing the distance between each channel. GoldenEar supersized its SuperCinema 3D Array for 70"+ TVs, and it won my vote for best-sounding soundbar in the process. Quite a year for GoldenEar.

Best Bang-for-the-Buck Audio

I admit to not having a clue how much GoldenEar speakers cost when I listened to the Triton Ones—if I had to guess, I would have pegged them at about $12,000 to $15,000/pair. If I had been keenly aware that GoldenEar is all about providing great value, I would have guessed maybe $10,000. As it stands, the $5000/pair Triton One speakers were the best bang-for-the-buck, no-holds-barred speakers I heard at CES 2014—and I can actually afford them! Consider me blown away.

Best Sound at CES

The best sound I heard at the show came from Sony's SS-AR1 speakers powered by two-of-a-kind amplifiers: the Pass Labs 40th Anniversary VFET amps, built by Nelson Pass. Beck's "Already Dead" was entirely enveloping, and the illusion of having a singer in the room was quite tangible—I got goose bumps almost immediately. A switch to opera provided one of the best demonstrations of effortless high-fidelity I've ever heard. The soundstage dropped back 60 feet or so, and I could suddenly visualize the entire stage and orchestra, with every single element in precisely the right place. It was the embodiment of hi-fi.

My experience with the Sony and Pass Labs system was even more surprising considering where I had just come from—listening to Andrew Jones' TAD Reference One speakers as well as a demo of a Krell/YG Acoustics Sonja 1.2 system. Both demos were profoundly great, yet the Sony/Pass Labs system sounded even better. Too bad you can't buy the Pass amps, since the transistors on which they're based are not available at any price. Oh well, at least I was able to spend a few minutes in audio nirvana.

p5browne's Avatar p5browne 12:40 PM 01-16-2014
Just when I'm getting ready to take the wallet out, two things happened. #1 - Local municipality upped my real estate taxes to almost equal the mortgage payments #2 - Wife said `NO MORE Technology!' Oh, well, maybe 2015!
KidHorn's Avatar KidHorn 01:38 PM 01-16-2014
All the great stuff is either not currently available or insanely expensive. Or both.
blastermaster's Avatar blastermaster 02:08 PM 01-16-2014
55" curved TV + 105" 21:9 flat TV = mind blown. Are they really that clueless?
Scott Wilkinson's Avatar Scott Wilkinson 02:11 PM 01-16-2014
Well, very little of what we see at CES is available as of the show; much of it will be available early to late this year (except the so-called "technology demos" and prototypes). And not all of it is insanely expensive, as demonstrated by the GoldenEar Triton One. Granted, $5000/pair for speakers isn't exactly bargain basement, but it's really good for speakers of this quality. And I bet the Vizio TVs won't be insanely expensive, except possibly the 120-incher. The Chinese TVs will certainly be much less expensive than the Korean and Japanese brands; as for whether or not they will be great remains to be seen.<br>
ls35a's Avatar ls35a 02:30 PM 01-16-2014
Methinks it might be as long as ten years until OLED manufacturing yields are decent. I'm not holding my breath for an affordable OLED any time soon.
generic916's Avatar generic916 03:23 PM 01-16-2014
What are you supposed to do with a 105" TV? I find my 70" is a little big. Knock out some walls and put it down the hall???<br>
theEXTREMEone's Avatar theEXTREMEone 04:35 PM 01-16-2014
All I want is a 90" LED Sharp.<br>I am hoping that with all these new larger entries that maybe the price on the 90" will drop.<br>In fact nothing has been mentioned about what Sharp is doing.<br>Man what a difference a year makes.<br>Oh well I can still hope...............
bullpuss's Avatar bullpuss 04:52 PM 01-16-2014
I wont be getting any of these new gear until its cheap....maybe 2016
generic916's Avatar generic916 05:02 PM 01-16-2014
I took 10 years to jump on the HDTV bandwagon (2 years ago). Guessing it will be 2022 before I buy one of these????<br>
sourbeef's Avatar sourbeef 06:03 PM 01-16-2014
I just want my Panasonic plasma back.
Randomcreek's Avatar Randomcreek 06:46 PM 01-16-2014
Really good stuff. Bravo to the manufacturers. the stuff you guys are showing here at this show was spectacular. Can I afford it?
Wouter73's Avatar Wouter73 01:47 AM 01-17-2014
Isn't there a risk that uhd might go the 3d route? Sure it's nice, but for most tv sizes bought the increase in pixels cannot be seen at normal viewing distance, and a lot of the masses have already bought a new tv that is flat that needs to last 5 to 8 years. NIce for the fans and early adopters, I fear the companies might be in for a financial letdown.
imagic's Avatar imagic 07:04 AM 01-17-2014
There is zero chance resolutions will go backwards. 4K UHD is the new standard. The existence of sub-$1000 Chineses UHDTVs is a strong hint—the technology itself is not expensive. Implementing it in high-quality TV sets is what costs a lot, but that's true at any resolution.<br>
JWhip's Avatar JWhip 07:16 AM 01-17-2014
It seems to me that the CE companies have decided that all we will get is 4k and they will simply no longer make 1080p sets. They will try to bring it out in increments too with the first not supporting anything over 8 bit color, or rec 709. Then they will add things over the next 2 or 3 years such as 10 and 12 bit color, support for 4;4:4m rec 2020 and the like in an effort to get you to buy yet another TV. Of course, then it will be time for 8k. I for one am not buying into this. I will keep my current set, a 141, until it breaks, then I will upgrade to a 4k set, which hopefully will be an OLED that has all the 4k bells and whistles already built in.
KingLeerUK's Avatar KingLeerUK 09:17 AM 01-17-2014
My take on the presentations from CES 2014:<br><br>- The whole concept of curved display screens is being pushed WAY too hard by manufacturers and as has been demonstrated by the AVS poll; the larger segment of consumers don't want them. I personally despise the curved screen concept and the FACT that dollars applied towards their research and development will inevitably hike prices for "conventional" displays.<br><br>- UHD/4K display technologies are definitely the future, but every single manufacturer is putting the cart before the horse due to there not being an agreed upon standard for content delivery (HDMI 2.0 still pending) or the actual hard specifications for the spec like colour gamut, etc.<br><br>- Display manufacturers seem to have taken a page from the Golden Corral buffet playbook; size over quality. Perhaps I am in the minority here, but I still prefer to have the best image quality available (Pioneer Kuro @ 60") vs 105" of possibly questionable quality.
rogo's Avatar rogo 01:18 PM 01-17-2014
The report is excellent. That said, I think the guys are way too optimistic about when and where glasses-free 3D is coming.<br><br>Also, the discussion of color gamut seems to give Vizio credit and then bash Sony and Panasonic. All have the same problem: Without a Rec.2020 source, it's all just attempts at finding color information that isn't explicitly there. With one, we can debate who reproduces more of it. Rec.2020 sources are likely to be rarer than 4K sources....
imagic's Avatar imagic 01:34 PM 01-17-2014
Hey Rogo,<br> <br>It was great to meet you in person at the show.<br> <br>I've spent the last year in close contact with Stream TV Networks. My optimism is based on what I've seen progress-wise, correlated to what I have been told about upcoming plans—not wishful thinking. I'm not saying saying a 2014 product rollout is guaranteed—things happen—but for now, pessimism is not warranted. I've done my legwork.<br><br>My understanding of the Vizio demo was that the material shown at the show was graded for Dolby Vision and therefor genuinely took advantage of the improved gamut of the Reference Series, which Vizio pegged at 80% of rec 2020. The "other guys" basically stretched the colors of existing video. That's my understanding of what I saw, which is why Vizio gets the credit and the other guys do not.<br>
Scott Wilkinson's Avatar Scott Wilkinson 03:42 PM 01-17-2014
Mark is correct; Vizio was showing content graded for the expanded color gamut, while Sony and Panasonic were not. Their story was, "We're involved in the capture of content, so we know where the expanded colors should be, and our system expands Rec.709 back to where the colors were in the first place." I don't see how this can be anything but an approximation, since the original color data is lost when the content is graded to Rec.709. By contrast, Vizio was showing content with the expanded color info in it, which is far better than any approximation as far as I'm concerned.<br>
tenthplanet's Avatar tenthplanet 10:27 PM 01-17-2014
The big Chinese companies are more apt to drive each other out of the TV market as they battle for the value segment. The Koreans will see the TV market more like the car market. Prices for technology will come down but the jury is out as to picture quality.
wse's Avatar wse 08:52 AM 01-20-2014
It will be interesting to see if the average consumer will buy many of these curved screens, I would not unless they are 105"<br>
Bukley's Avatar Bukley 08:06 PM 01-20-2014
Everything that was only a dream a few years ago seems closer than ever. HDR, UHD, expanded color gamut, OLED. Things are getting exciting again! UHD needs HDR and expanded color gamut, because the one's I've seen at Best Buy just aren't that different enough from HD to warrant an upgrade. The colors look washed out a bit on the Panasonic UHD, the Sony one looks a little too much like a lower end LCD, and the Samsung didn't look much sharper than a regular flat panel.