Not a classic year but still plenty of exciting products
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4,209This year’s IFA kicked off in a sunny Berlin with the promise of some exciting new technologies and products.LG got the show going in some style with an open house event to promote their Signature Gallery. This actually started in the gardens of the convention centre before moving into a specially created art installation that used the 'art of essence' as its inspiration. The omni-directional art installation was called ‘Pixel Constellation’ and included simple images of LG’s various Signature products. After the art installation there was the Signature Gallery itself, which included all of LG’s current Signature products including their flagship G6 OLED TV.
Connecting the Gallery with LG’s actual stand was the largest OLED tunnel in the world. The tunnel was 15 metres long and consisted of 216 55” OLED panels that together created a total of half a billion pixels. The footage being shown in the OLED tunnel had been captured on 14 8K cameras and completely immersed the viewer. Although LG didn’t have had any new products at IFA, they certainly knew how to put on a show and there was plenty of cutting-edge technology to demonstrate why the company is one of the largest in the world.Unlike LG, Yamaha had plenty of new products at their stand and naturally MusicCast remains an important development for Yamaha. The company had three key new models that feature their multiroom system, the first of which was the WX-010. This is a wireless speaker that is available in black or white and is designed to be a micro version of the larger WX-030. It is small enough to be used anywhere and can even be wall mounted thanks to fittings at the rear.
Another product that is a smaller version of an existing model is the ISX-18D. This uses the same picture frame design as it’s larger sibling the ISX-80 but adds a DAB tuner to its alarm clock and MusicCast capabilities, making it ideal for your bedside table. The third of these key new products is the YAS-306 soundbar. This elegantly designed entry-level model will replace the YAS-105 but will allow you to not only improve the audio performance of your TV but add MusicCast to your lounge as well.
Yamaha is major player in the soundbar market and the company also had the new YSP-2700 which replaces the YSP-2500. This mid-range soundbar not only includes HDMI inputs and MusicCast but also uses sound projection technology to create a surround sound experience. It also uses a new cube shaped rather than slimline subwoofer for improved bass performance.Yamaha has a long pedigree in surround sound and their new flagship AV receiver was also on show. The RX-A3060 replaces last year’s A3050 and includes both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, along with 9-channels of amplification. The inclusion of MusicCast makes it the ideal audio hub and the sound has been tuned by Yamaha especially for the UK market.
In terms of other new products there is Yamaha’s new WXA-50 wireless streamer, This model not only includes MusicCast but also has two channels of built-in amplification with 90W of power. The product is small enough to fit just about anywhere but has an excellent level of build quality. It can be installed vertically or horizontally and could even be used as additional amplification if you wanted to turn your A3060 into a full 7.1.4 immersive audio system. Alternatively there is is the WXC-50 that is very similar to the WXA-50 but drops the amplification, making it an easy way to add MusicCast to an existing system.
If two-channel is your thing then Yamaha also have the new R-N402D stereo HiFi receiver which naturally includes MusicCast, as well as their latest NS5000 speakers. These beauties will set you back €15,000 including the stands but offer the promise of superior stereo performance. Technically they are classed as book shelf speakers but we’d like to see the bookshelf that could fit these big boys.Loewe has been busy rebuilding their business after changing ownership two years ago and are one of the latest manufacturers to join the growing OLED market. The Bild 7 uses an LG panel just like the Philips 901F and in case you’re wondering ‘bild’ means image in German. The new TV includes all of Loewe’s classic styling and superior build quality, as well as all their usual special features such as 1TB of built-in storage, expandable to 2TB. The Bild 7 has a motorised stand so you can change the viewing angle without getting out of your chair and it also has a built-in soundbar with 120W of amplification, that the TV hides when not in use thanks to a motorised mechanism. There is a smart TV platform that includes the lossless subscription service Tidal for high quality music.
This makes the Bild 7 much more elegant when wall mounted, especially compared to LG’s G6, which Loewe consider their main competitor. The Bild 7 will be available in late September in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes, which is interesting because there isn't a 55-inch G6, at a price of £4,490 for the Bild 7.55 and £6,490 for the Bild 7.65. The company supports HDR10 but is also embracing Dolby Vision, just like LG, which will no doubt make fan’s of the format happy. However if you want a TV to really catch people’s attention then the Bild 9 is just the ticket. This model uses the same panel as the Bild 7 but also has a very distinctive stand and wall mount thanks to German designer Bodo Sperlein.Panasonic didn’t have any new TVs at the show but they did have some older models on display under the title ‘Triple Reference’. The ZT65 plasma, CZ952 OLED and DX902 LED LCD are certainly all great TVs and it was good to see their AVForums badges on the wall, even if the DX902 didn’t actually get a reference status badge.
Panasonic were showing a prototype flat OLED TV that will replace the CZ952. The new TV looked impressive but it’s easy to make a prototype look good at a show, what we want to see is a real production sample. Panasonic have said there will be more details released by the end of the winter, which would suggest that a new model might make an appearance in time for their European Convention in February. Panasonic have promised to take OLED to the next level but let’s just hope they don’t take too long.
Panasonic also had their new DMP-UB700 Ultra HD Blu-ray player on show. It looks identical to the previously released DMP-UB900 but drops the 7.1-channel analogue outputs that most people were never likely to use anyway. Panasonic have also dropped the price, no doubt due to competition from the Samsung UBD-K8500 and the Xbox One S, and the UB8700 should retail for a tempting £399.Sony may have lost their monopoly on native 4K projectors thanks to the arrival of the JVC DLA-Z1 but they still dominate with four current models. At IFA the company launched the VPL-VW550ES which is virtually identical to last year’s VW520. The new model has an improved contrast performance that is 20% better than last year, with a contrast ratio of 350,000:1 using a dynamic iris. It also adds a new HDR Contrast mode that is designed to improve the performance by allowing consumers to adjust the brightness from 0 to 100. However since this HDR Contrast upgrade will also be available for the VW320 and the VW520 via a firmware update in October there really doesn’t seem any reason to buy the new projector. The VW550 will be available in October in either black or white at a cost of around £8,500.
Sony were also showing their prototype Ultra HD Blu-ray player, which was good to see. We were disappointed that the company that originally developed Blu-ray didn’t have an Ultra HD Blu-ray player available when the format launched, especially as Sony Pictures were such big supporters. It also became a source of embarrassment for Sony when the new Ultra HD format became so popular and the launch of the Xbox One S was probably the last straw. Although Sony were officially saying that the new player will be available at some point before the company’s financial year end in March, the rumour is that they will announce two Ultra HD Blu-ray players at CEDIA this month.Finally Epson were showing their latest range of projectors at IFA. They had both the TW6700 and TW7300 in operation on the stand, showing how good they could look even in less than ideal conditions. The TW6700W was showing the effectiveness of its Full HD wireless transmitter, whilst the TW7300 was demonstrating its 4K enhancement feature and High Dynamic Range (HDR). Also on show was the flagship TW9300 which comes in a black version with 4K enhancement and HDR and a white version that adds a 4K wireless transmitter. All of Epson’s projectors will be available in mid September at competitive prices. Since Epson said that the TW9300 is essentially the LS10000 without the laser light source, we remain hopeful that Epson might release an updated version with HDMI 2.0a and HDR.
So that’s it for another year and whilst IFA 2016 might not have been a classic there were still plenty of interesting products on show and there was certainly enough new technology to get us really excited for CES in January.
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