1 PercentersCNET 100: The 1 percenters
In the market for high-end luxury tech? These products spare no expense.
These Swiss-made earphones from Phonak and the engineers behind the company's highly regarded hearing aids offer incredibly rich, detailed sound with deep bass and a comfortable fit--for a mere $599.
The Audeo PFE 232 earphones feature a two-driver system (dual-balanced armature) that splits the high and low frequencies. Along with the usual assortment of foam and silicon ear tips in various sizes, the earphones come with a set of three tiny acoustic filters for tweaking the sound to your personal preference. The black filter is for enhanced perception of bass and treble, the gray for stronger midrange, and the green for extra bass. The filters also keep dirt out of the sound tube.
A carrying case and tools for changing the filters are included along with a set of hooked cable guides for securing the earphones during sporting activities (not sure you'd really want to use $600 earphones at the gym, but that won't stop some people).
Another nice feature is that the cords detach from the earphones and Audeo throws in an extra microphone-free cable for those who don't want to use the included cord, which features an inline remote for recent iPhone and iPod models and built-in microphone for making calls. The microphone works with Android and other smartphones but not all the remote's features do.
Last but not least, it's also worth mentioning that at the time of this writing Audeo is bundling the PFE 232s with a pair of its entry-level $119 PFE 022 earphones.
1 PercentersCNET contributor and audiophile Steve Guttenberg raved about Audeze's $945 LCD-2 headphones, saying they produce extraordinary clarity, openness, and articulation, but without exaggerated detail or annoyingly overdone treble.
He's even more impressed with the LCD-3 headphones ($1,945).
"Audeze has advanced the state of the art of planar magnetic headphone design yet again with the LCD-3," he said in a blog post earlier this year. "I thought their recently revised LCD-2 was the best-sounding full-size headphone on the planet, but the LCD-3 is even better. It looks a lot like a LCD-2, but the new one uses a completely different driver. The supersoft lambskin leather pads felt great on my ears. The new headphone is 'faster' and sounds clearer and cleaner."
1 PercentersNow here's a luxury product that won't break the bank. At $350 with a leather cover, the Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile is the best portable Bluetooth speaker on the market and it plays a lot bigger than it looks.
1 PercentersCNET Asia's Philip Wong writes: "There aren't many big speakers with a high wife acceptance factor (WAF in hi-fi forum lingo), but the Davone Ray may be an exception. Its boom boxes have a distinctive retro appeal in what the Danish maker calls a fluid design offering an attractive patterned walnut veneer handcrafted into a 730x580x470mm oval shell. For technically inclined users, the Ray features a coaxially arranged 1-inch tweeter and a studio-grade 8-inch woofer to faithfully reproduce music from 20KHz to a deep bass as low as 38Hz."
1 PercentersIf you're looking for the fastest gaming performance we've ever seen, look no further. The Falcon Northwest Mach V features Intel's Sandy Bridge Core i7 chip and set records in our gaming-related tests. We have a few nits to pick over the updated case design, and though we'd rather have no reservations about a $4,800 PC, on balance the new Mach V ranks among the best desktops available.
1 PercentersIt may not have the exorbitant price tag of some of the other items on this list, but the Fujifilm FinePix X100 is still quite the luxury for many a photog. The X100 delivers better photo quality than all of its less-expensive competitors, generally comparable to or better than the midrange dSLRs in its price range.
1 PercentersConsidered by many to be the best high-end projector for the money ($11,999), the DLA-X90R is JVC's new flagship "4K" projector with 3D.
JVC says that using e-Shift technology, 2D HD content is upconverted and scaled to a 4K signal (3,840x2,160 pixels) and the e-Shift technology displays it at full 4K precision. Compared with a Full HD (1,920x1,080) image, that's twice the horizontal and vertical resolution and four times the number of pixels, or more than 8 megapixels. "The result is a stunningly detailed image with minimal aliasing artifacts found in standard HD displays."
For 3D viewing, the DLA-X90R comes with two pairs of 3D glasses and a PK-EM1 3D Signal Emitter.
You can find full specs and a full rundown of JVC's projector lineup (yes, there are other, more affordable models that are also excellent) here.
1 PercentersMost speakers--from affordable models to state-of-the-art contenders--are box designs. Some are tall, slender boxes, and some are tiny cubes or spheres, but they all have some type of cabinet. Unless you're an audiophile, just about every speaker you've ever heard has dome tweeters and cone drivers, so you might conclude that all speakers are made that way.
Standing apart from the crowd, Magnepan speakers are slender, flat-panel designs, less than a couple of inches thick. The speakers don't rely on conventional tweeters and woofers; Magnepan speakers' sound-producing elements are proprietary thin-film drivers.
As CNET contributor and audiophile Steve Guttenberg noted in his blog post about the product, "Magnepan's Jim Winey started developing the technology in 1969; it has been incorporated into more than 200,000 pairs of his speakers. The company is based in Minnesota, and uses American-made parts. Prices start at $600 per pair of speakers" but the Magnepan 3.7 speakers pictured here are $5,500. They're 6 feet tall and less than 2 inches thick.
1 PercentersIn case you missed it, Sharp licensed the Elite brand to Pioneer, gaining at least the title of one the most highly respected line of HDTVs ever to be produced. In fact, even though Pioneer stopped making TVs in 2009, its Kuro panels are still regarded as the best-performing TVs and all new sets are compared against them.
Now we have a rebirth of the Elite brand with two high-end LED-based LCD panels, a 60-inch and a 70-inch model. The two TVs carry enormous price tags: $6,000 for the 60-inch PRO-60X5FD and $8,500 for the 70-inch PRO-70X5FD. To put those prices in perspective, our current best-performing HDTV of 2011 is the Panasonic TC-PVT30 series and the 65-inch model can be had for $3,800. But hey, that's a plasma, not an LCD.
Both Elite PRO sets use full-array local dimming, which means the LEDs behind the screen can be dimmed or brightened in different areas to correspond to darker or brighter areas of the picture. Full-array local dimming is relatively uncommon these days, but the result is excellent contrast that no other LCD-based TV can muster. Sony's full-array local dimmer, the XBR-HX929 series, is the best LCD we've tested in 2011.
Sharp is also trumpeting a technology called Intelligent Variable Contrast, which is designed to automatically control the brightness and backlight depending on the image being displaying on the TV. That may sound like a good idea on paper, but we generally turn off dynamically adjusting picture modes, as they often do more harm than good.
Like other high-end TVs, the Sharp Elites have built-in Wi-Fi and a full suite of streaming media services, including Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, and Pandora. They're also 3D-compatible and include two sets of active shutter glasses. For what it's worth, the TVs are also certified by both THX and ISF.
1 PercentersSony has a reputation for building excellent high-end laptops (and even the company's less-expensive models usually have a snazzy feel), but the Vaio Z is truly the top of the Vaio line, starting at $2,000 for a thin 13-incher with decent specs and going all the way up to the fully loaded VPCZ21SHX/X for $4,500.