Spring ushers in a new wave of home theater gadgets, and we've rounded up the most interesting products slated for release.
The outlook: Sure, Polk Audio's Woodbourne is well-featured (with Bluetooth, AirPay and Wi-Fi), but that's beside the point. The real attraction is the beautiful design, with a mahogany wood veneer top that's far from the glossy black finish on most Bluetooth speakers. The Woodbourne is expensive at $600, though, so it will need some serious sonics to justify its price.
The outlook: Vizio's 5.1 sound bar doesn't do virtual surround because it doesn't have to -- it sports wireless rear speakers for a true surround sound experience. The S4251W also has Bluetooth and a neat remote with a built-in display, plus the system sounded pretty darn good when I heard it at CES 2013. And at $330, it's not priced much higher than other budget sound bars.
The outlook: Love it or hate it, the People People Transparent Speaker doesn't look like any other compact audio system on the market. Its glass cabinet and exposed drivers contribute to the unique look, and it's AirPlay-compatible by popping an AirPort Express in the back. But with a sky-high list price of $800, it will need to offer more than good looks; this thing had better sound great for that much.
Price: $600 list
The outlook: The TX-NR626 is Onkyo's first receiver with built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, letting you listen to your digital music with a minimum of wires. There are also six HDMI inputs, including an MHL-compatible input, plus projector-friendly dual-HDMI outputs, too. The list price is high at $600, but I'm betting the street price will be much lower.
The outlook: The Philips HTL5120 gets a lot right if you're looking for a no-hassle sound bar: built-in Bluetooth, an integrated subwoofer, and a low $250 list price. Its sleek "plane-wing" design also stands out and its low profile should fit under most TVs. The real question is how it sounds, although it has to be better than your TV's built-in speakers.
Availability: First half of 2013
The outlook: I'm plenty skeptical about the Samsung HW-F750, but I also have to admit I'm intrigued. For one, it's the first sound bar with vacuum tubes in it, which probably won't make it sound better, but hey, at least it looks cool. It also costs an astounding $800, which, as far as I know, is the most expensive sound bar Samsung has offered. This isn't likely to be the best sound bar value of 2013, but it may end up being an interesting player in the high-end space.
The outlook: It's hard to get excited about any Blu-ray player in 2013, but the LG BP530 has one neat feature going for it: private listening mode. Simply fire up LG's smartphone app, plug headphones into your smartphone, and you can listen to whatever's playing on your Blu-ray player without disturbing anyone else in the room. Sure, the BP530 had its thunder stolen a bit by the Roku 3, but it's still a nice option if you need a disc player.