Harman Luxury Audio at CES: Kicking Off the New Decade in Style
by Jim Garrett
Senior Director, Product Strategy & Planning
January marks not only the end of the restful holiday season, but also the start of the New Year, and in this case a shiny new decade full of promise of the great things yet to come. What better way to kick things off than our annual industry gathering in Las Vegas? This year again saw Harman take over the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino with an amazing showcase of new products and technologies, and a host of activities focused around how we can grow our business together with our customers. It is a unique opportunity for us as in addition to our regular customers and audio press, we see a very high level of traffic from customers from other parts of the Harman enterprise. We love seeing their reactions as they get exposed to – often for the very first time – what is truly possible in the world of high-performance solutions. For those of you who made it out to see us – thank you. And for those who couldn’t be there, read on for a recap of what we had at the show and what made all of those CES attendees so enthused about our Luxury Audio brands.
Our new JBL Conceal Series invisible loudspeakers represent the ability to truly make an audio system disappear – and that is exactly what we did. Upon entering the very first demo room of our area, guests were treated to a clean interior devoid of any obvious audio or video equipment. What they heard was great sounding audio coming seemingly from the walls themselves.
With the amplification and source equipment hidden away in a cabinet, and the 65-inch Samsung “The Frame” television in “art mode”, there was nothing to detract from the white leather love seat and the images of the upscale interior and exterior views on the sides of the room. It’s a look that almost everyone desires – great sound that is heard and not seen. There were a number of comments along the lines of “I wish I had known about this before I remodeled my room”, and we even had one major home builder come through who has already committed to a roll out of the product in their new homes for 2020. We are excited about the new JBL Conceal Series and what it can do for you and your customers. Shipments are expected to begin in the second quarter of 2020.
The next stop on the tour was the JBL Synthesis immersive audio experience featuring 16-channels of high performance sound. Our new SDP-55 processor was the foundation of this room, with a full complement of SDA amplifiers, SCL loudspeakers, and SSW subwoofers. The 9.1.6-channel configuration showed off the capabilities of the latest Dolby and DTS audio formats and how the system can simply melt away, transporting you straight into the movie. The SDP-55 and its leading edge technology was bestowed the honor of a 2020 CES Innovations Award for the High Performance Audio category. And during the show, the SDP-55 processor along with its first-to-market sibling – the SDR-35 sixteen channel AVR – won a Best of CES award from Mark Henninger and the team at AVS Forum! The combination of these compelling new electronics packaged with our revolutionary SCL and SSW in-wall loudspeakers made for a fantastic sounding room that was big draw for attendees of the Harman exhibit. The SDP-55 and SDR-35 are on their way to the warehouse now and are products you will certainly want to have in your showroom for this year.
While our multi-channel audio systems are mighty impressive, it was the next room that really took things back to our roots as the makers of the finest hi-fi products. The focus of the room was on Mark Levinson electronics and the first public demonstrations of the new Revel Beryllium flagship model F328Be. Source players included a No.515MC turntable and the forthcoming No.5101 SACD streaming audio player. The No.5101 allowed us to demonstrate high-resolution streaming audio via the use of our MusicLife app. This is a great solution that aggregates your streaming and local content and delivers all of your favorite music in the highest quality possible, all controlled right from your mobile device. The No.5101 also won a 2020 CES Innovations Award for the High Performance Audio category – marking at least four straight years with a win for Mark Levinson. These two fantastic source players fed into a No.5805 being used as a preamplifier, itself driving a pair of No.536 monaural amplifiers.
The loudspeakers in this room were the new Revel F328Be – being shown in a future limited production Signature Edition with a unique high-gloss red painted finish. These speakers command attention visually and acoustically. The sound of this system was a treat for the ears whether it was listening to the Beatles on vinyl or streaming our favorite demo cuts in high-res audio from Qobuz. The effortless dynamics, truly full-range bass extension, and exacting details were breathtaking. The F328Be in a choice of the four standard finishes is on its way to the warehouse now, and the No.5101 will be available in second quarter.
As great as the sound was in the Mark Levinson / Revel room, we used the last room to prove that a great sounding system doesn’t have to break the bank. This room was home to two amazing new JBL loudspeakers: the flagship of the HDI Series HDI-3800 floorstander, and the all-new L82 Classic bookshelf making its world debut. These two products represent a bit of a yin and yang in the world of JBL loudspeakers.
The HDI-3800 is host to wealth of patented JBL technologies including a formidable new compression driver mated to a High-Definition Imaging horn and a sound quality that is simply extraordinary. The entire package is dressed in a modern design with a choice of three contemporary finishes.
The L82 Classic leans decidedly in the opposite direction with a retro-style directly taken from its big brother – the L100 Classic. It’s a timeless design that is instantly recognizable. The L82 Classic is everything you love about the L100 Classic, but in a smaller and more affordable package. Powering this room was the new Arcam SA30 integrated amplifier with a matching CDS50 SACD streaming audio player as its companion. The SA30 is a product without equal on the market. It combines our stunning Class G amplifier quality with high-res streaming capabilities, Dirac Live room correction, HDMI eARC audio, and plenty more. It is destined to become the best-selling Arcam integrated amplifier. The SA30 and the JBL HDI Series are both arriving at the warehouse now, while the L82 Classic will be available at the start of the second quarter.
Beyond the four main demo rooms, we had plenty more new products to show off in our Luxury Audio space including the world debut of the new Mark Levinson No.5105MC turntable. This was part of a selection of Mark Levinson 500 Series and 5000 Series components on display beneath a prestigious wall of awards these products have generated. The No.5105 turntable becomes the second source player for the 5000 Series and the fourth model overall. (We’re not done yet either…stay tuned for more at Munich!) The No.5105 is sure to be a hit with its standout design, precision craftsmanship, and remarkable performance. It will begin shipping in the second quarter of this year.
And let’s talk about even more awards. The Revel display wall was a trophy case for the Performa Beryllium Series with all five models in front of a backdrop of the key awards they have collectively garnered. Just as a reminder, the F228Be won seven Product of the Year honors in 2019 including Stereophile Loudspeaker of the Year and Joint Component of the Year! The M126Be has won back-to-back 2018 and 2019 loudspeaker of the year awards too. As we state in our ads, the Performa Beryllium models set a new standard for performance.
Our JBL L100 and L82 Classic loudspeakers were shown against a backdrop of the iconic Maxell “Blown Away” ad and flanked by recent testimonials from the likes of Lenny Kravitz and the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins. The L100 Classic continued to find itself on more “best of” lists as we closed out the end of 2019, and we fully expect that new L82 Classic will follow in those big footsteps. Last but certainly not least, the complete new JBL HDI Series was on display with each model shown in both the Walnut stain wood veneer and striking new Gray Oak stain wood veneer finishes. (It is unique and really attractive on these models!) Dollar for dollar, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything near this level of performance and design – a combination that is sure to land these babies on a number of recommended component lists for 2020. These HDI products are going to be hot this year and you will want to be a part of the action!
In all, we had a great show this year and have kicked off the decade in style with a wealth of new products and a refreshed energy! Be sure to connect with your sales representative and make sure you are in on the momentum that is going to propel us to even greater heights in 2020! And with that, it’s off to the next show. See you in Amsterdam for the Integrated Systems Europe 2020 show in just a few short weeks!