Quick Look: CES Unveiled, London 2013

ces-unveiled-london

The Consumer Electronics Show every year in glamorous Las Vegas is one of the highlights of the tech calendar. We went to CES Unveiled, a preview of next year’s show at the slightly less glamorous South Bank of London to see what techs finest had to offer.

Roku 3

Roku have been locked in an arms race with the Apple TV to provide amazing puck-sized boxes that stream hi-def content to your TVs. The Roku 3 packs a lot in a little package, with Spotify, Netflix, Plex and services like iPlayer and Now5 built in. The motion-sensitive remote also works like a Wii controller so you can play Angry Birds. The remote also has a headphone jack so you can listen to TV without disturbing your flat mates. Sadly (and like all Roku boxes) there’s still no official streaming support for YouTube or Vimeo, which is a little like an Italian restaurant that has taken pizza and pasta off the menu.

Fitbug

Fitness trackers are all the rage, with great devices on offer from Fitbit and Jawbone (and potentially Apple if the 5S co-processor takes off). However, new kid on the block Fitbug were showing off their Orb activity tracker, which logs exercise,monitors sleep and doesn’t need recharging – all for the low, low price of £45. The a Orb can be worn as a watch, clipped on a belt or discretely attached to your underwear. Much like the latest Fitbits, data can be streamed wirelessly to an app. And to keep you motivated to actually use the thing, Orb comes with Kik – a digital coach.

Sunnycam

Google Glasses may have a powerful amount of mindshare, but they aren’t the only horse in the wearable camera market. Sunnycam have been producing video recording glasses for a while and their latest range both look and ‘see’ better, with improved optics recording up to 1080p and a refined design, prescription lenses and shatterproof glass. They can also ‘hear’ better with improved audio recording capabilities. All this and more can be on your face from Q1 2014.

Arcam AV950 AV Receiver

Arcam have always treated audio with gravitas and their top of the line AV950 combines reference-grade audio quality with an iPad app – so despite the extreme power at your fingertips, it remains easy to install and use. Even on a crowded conference floor the precision and power of the sound was abundantly clear.

OnBeat Solar Headphones

Want high-quality sound on the go? The over-ear headphone market is pretty crowded but OnBeat have figured out a way to stand out – helping out smartphone users’ perennial plight – running out of battery. The solar panel built into the top of the OnBeat Solar Headphones generates enough power to be able to constantly recharge smartphones and tablets whilst they are playing music. The integrated flexible solar cell has a power output of approximately 0.55W. The energy is stored in two light-weight Lithium Ion batteries held within the two ear cups for a balanced weight and fit on the head. Definitely my favourite thing.

Arcam rPAC packs a powerful punch

Coming hot on the heels of Arcam’s recent drDock which brought a smile to any Apple device owner seeking an audio boost, this is another shot in the arm for audiophiles everywhere.

Arcam-rPac

Having said that, you would need to be a significant audiophile to want to shell out £150 on what is effectively a USB powered DAC. Nevertheless, there is no getting around the fact that Arcam know what it takes in the audio department, having spent the last thirty years producing hi fi at the very top end of the industry.

The rPAC is, on the face of it, a very simple device; taking audio files on a Mac or PC and converting them into powerful digital audio heaven via headphones or line output. But be warned, the simple black cast aluminium box is deceiving, as underneath the sleek lines lies a complex nest of circuitry in order to make this transformation happen. Like any audio converter tool, it’s the DAC quality that lies at the heart of it all and  the rPAC is driven by a TI Burr-Brown PCM5102 chipset and powered by asynchronous  USB technology, which bypasses the internal audio processing and consequently eliminates all the electronic timing jitter.

Having mentioned the simplicity of the cast aluminium box, it is just that, simple. There are only two buttons on the rPAC for volume up or down, other than that, an LED light indicates red for on or green when processing audio and there are  two 3.5mm phono connectors at the rear for connecting to an external AV source. The even better news is the build quality is up to the usual Arcam high standards with a solid feel to it and a damped rubber base to make it sit snugly on a table.

I suppose the beauty of the rPAC is there are no gimmicks here, it simply does what it says it does on the tin.

Arcam rPAC £150.

Arcam drDock iPod/iPhone docking station

arcam-dr-Dock

Here’s the thing about Apple products, you begin collecting them and before you know it, all your music, photos, films and emails are stored on them and your whole life has become inexorably Apple dependant. Savvy manufacturers like Arcam, British Hi-Fi pioneers  and one of the world’s leading experts in digital audio and video have of course realised this and thankfully made our lives just that bit more manageable in the process.

The drDock is just one of those gadgets, a docking system compatible with the complete Apple family including IPads that will connect perfectly easily to a digital TV or any AV receiver via HDMI, to a PC or digital device via USB and all the other bases are covered too with analogue and SPDIF connectors. The even better news is the  drDock doesn’t use the inferior Apple internal audio, as the built in DAC takes care of all that, so running video or music through a home cinema system or a high end receiver will sound very impressive.

The drDock syncs all your devices and, with the exception of the IPad, charges them too, whilst the handy remote controller will give you all the control you need without getting off the couch with full support for iOS devices including power, volume, play, pause, skip/seek, repeat and shuffle functions.

The drDock won’t look out of place in your living space either encased as it is in matt black  high-quality cast aluminium with gold connectors and a solid rubber base.

This is a sensible and highly affordable addition to your digital home set up and one that will keep all the members of your Apple family very happy indeed.

Arcam drDock  £200.

www.arcam.co.uk

Arcam FMJ D33 SuperDAC: Underneath the glam

Some stellar news for you music lovin’ gadget fiends here, Arcam (who really, really enjoy the fact they are based in Cambridge) has introduced its latest and highest performing Digital to Analog Converter to date; the Arcam FMJ D33 SuperDAC at a cost of er…just £2000. Don’t worry, it’s awesome, and it can certainly work out the way you’ll want it to.

Arcam-FMJ-D33

Totally compatible, The 6.2kg, 433 x 370 x 110 (W x D x H) D33 looks to transform sound on the Mac, PC, iTunes, alongside hi-res files, CD, DVD, Blu-ray, set-top boxes and more, giving each source a level of performance that is engaging. These are bold, yet do-able ideas.

What’s the crack? Well, this new model uses the latest high-end dual Burr Brown PCM1792, 24bit / 192kHz converters (one per channel), twin toroidal (circular) transformers in the power supply and state-of-the-art 4-layer printed circuit boards. Sexy stuff, eh?

The D33 features an asynchronous USB input offering the convenience of computer-based music (PC or MAC) and the ability to enjoy the very latest 192kHz ultra high-resolution recordings with decent quality. Two coaxial and two optical inputs plus a professional-grade AES/EBU connection complete the line-up so everyone can take advantage of the D33’s clear performance upgrade. Worth the dosh, innit?!

What’s really cool here is that, underneath the glam, you can certainly see that Arcam’s thirty five years’ worth of audio engineering experience has really been focused in on the D33, and they should most certainly be proud of how it’s come out. Users are without question going to see the benefit of the 0.5w standby power consumption and duplex RS232 control interface (which is suitable for custom installation).

Wait… hang fire, there’s some more… phew; the filter position with both LEDs off is a “bypass” mode that misses both the FPGA filters and instead uses the stock filter in the Burr Brown DACs according to the user’s choice. For the other two, they are handled in a FPGA and are minimum-phase digital filters with a fast, slow and roll-off. Both of these filters seek to remove the pre-ringing on transients found in normal digital filters – smoothly does it Arcam, smoothly does it. Indeed, the fast roll off filter redistributes the energy from any pre-ringing until after the transient. Although this causes greater post-ringing than the standard digital filter, it results in a much more natural sound as there is no pre-ringing in live music; and we can definitely dig that.

To conclude, and leave you to get reasonably excited… this grand piece of kit (complete with a sizeable multi-stage regulated power supply, stealth mat and sound dead steel construction as well as the full IR and RS232 remote control), is available and on demonstration at Arcam Concert Dealers right now. ‘Av a gander.

For more information visit the official Arcam website: http://www.arcam.co.uk