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Sound and Vision: What we learned from CES 2023

OPINION: By the time you’ve read this, CES will be winding down for another year and the products and services announced at the event will continue to shuffle along as they head towards their release dates.

CES is always an interesting time as it gives a clue as to what companies will be focusing their time and resources on, as well as the key battlegrounds that will emerge over the course of the year.

With so many announcements issued, I’m not going to bombard you with tonnes of notices but rather the key AV highlights from CES 2023.

OLED TVs are curing one of their biggest weaknesses

Panasonic MZ2000 77-inch OLED

There have been two core issues that detractors of OLED technology have always pointed a disapproving finger at. One is image retention, an issue that’s still prevalent but now fairly manageable thanks to preventative technology within TVs. The other issue has been an overall lack of brightness.

Clearly, OLED TV manufacturers are aware of this, as recent years have seen TV brands go down the route of trying to increase the luminance output of OLED panels. LG’s OLED EX panels and OLED Evo software have helped, while Samsung’s QD-OLED screens have also assisted in boosting peak brightness to over 1000 nits.

The new technology designed to aid brightness is the Micro Lens Array screen that’s supported by the LG G3 and Panasonic’s flagship MZ2000 OLED. Micro Lens Array is said to boost brightness by 150%, which suggests somewhere in the region of 2000 nits for peak brightness, with the set’s average brightness also boosted.

This will help in a few ways, firstly in producing an even better wide-angle viewing experience in terms of retaining that high brightness, and secondly it will help make OLED screens more watchable in brighter environments (currently OLED works best in dimly lit rooms). Of course, this will come at greater expense and will initially be available on the flagship models, but it’s an encouraging sign of what’s to come.

DTS isn’t laying down in its fight with Dolby

IMAX Enhanced

In what feels like a long time ago, I wrote about how Dolby’s supremacy in the streaming market was pushing DTS towards the periphery. Dolby’s glossy and efficient streaming codecs are the choice of many video streaming services, and that’s had the knock-on effect of soundbars focusing on Dolby technology, shutting DTS out in the process.

Things look like they’re about to change however. I attended a virtual briefing for LG’s TV and audio range towards the end of 2022, and the company made mention of supporting DTS audio, specifically IMAX Enhanced audio for its 2023 soundbars. It was intriguing, since at that time no service had committed to offering IMAX Enhanced audio.

Now LG is bringing DTS:X support to its 2023 TVs later this year, and according to Xperi, the company that owns the DTS brand, it is expected that Disney+ will bring DTS:X support to its streaming platform this year; while the number of brands lining up to include IMAX Enhanced audio include Vestel, TCL, Sony, and Hisense. All it takes are a few dominoes to start falling for people to take notice, and it looks as if DTS is putting on its best “let’s go” face as it lines up for a fight with Dolby.

There’s a growing audience for wireless streaming record players

Victrola Stream Onyx Sonos speakers

CES and streaming turntables seem to dovetail nicely with each other. A few years ago, Cambridge Audio revealed the first wireless streaming turntable in the Alva TT (and if memory serves correctly, used the platform to announce the sequel in 2022). Victrola also used CES to announce its latest effort in the space with the Carbon Onyx.

A sequel to the Carbon Stream from 2022 and piggybacking on the vinyl revival that’s caused a surge of interest in the format, this wireless streaming turntable offers convenience and simplicity. Turn it on, fiddle with the settings, connect to your speakers and you’re almost there.

Increasingly I hear from speaker brands that while traditional hi-fi remains their bread and butter, they are looking to tap into the younger audience who aren’t au fait with the trappings of hi-fi and find it a little too complex to grasp with. There’s a growing number of people who want things simplified, and things don’t get much simpler than playing music to a speaker straight from a smartphone. The Carbon Onyx slides easily into this groove, as do speakers from the likes of Sonos and PSB, while the Bowers & Wilkins Formation series was intended to capitalize on wireless connectivity.

In fact, whichever area of the TV and audio market you’re fond of, expect the promise of wireless interconnectivity and streaming within the home to become an ongoing proposition.

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