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Stories You Might Have Missed: CES 2023, Monoprice, Vinyl Prices & The Menu

The menu for 2023 includes a spike in vinyl prices, Hisense ascending, and a love for all things simple.

Outside Central Hall at CES 2023

CES 2023 is finally in the rearview mirror and our intrepid team spent 4 days at the LVCC and 5 different hotels looking for groundbreaking technology; the reality is that they didn’t find very much of it when it comes to high-end audio or home theater technology.

Naim and Focal introduced the New Classic and Vestia ranges and we did leave the show thinking that other high-end brands had missed the boat somewhat not having even static displays for the media to drool over. We do that a lot. Drool. It’s a tad unseemly sometimes — something I will get to further on.

Naim Audio New Classic Hi-Fi Components in Rack
Naim Audio New Classic Digital Music Streamer/Preamp, Power Supply and Power Amplifier

CES is a dead show for high-end audio and becoming one for home theater as well. Sony brought almost nothing worth writing about, Samsung and LG rebuffed our request to take photos in their respective suites, and we left Vegas feeling that something is amiss. Both brands announced a wide range of new models — they just didn’t have any on the show floor to show anyone.

Hisense and TCL came to Vegas with some swagger and the overall consensus from the media (aside from just our team) was that both brands smell blood in the staff urinal at Best Buy and have some excellent new TVs and projectors to sell in 2023.

Hisense L120X 8K UST Projector at CES 2023
Hisense 8K UST Projector at CES 2023

Hisense is going to be a problem for Samsung and LG; from a quality and pricing perspective and that doesn’t even include their new partnership with Leica who introduced the Cine 1 UST Projector at CES 2023. The $8,295 Cine 1 is the most expensive UST so far — a distinction they won’t hold for very long with two 8K UST models coming from Samsung and Hisense later this year.

The industrial design stands out, but none of that will mean anything unless the Cine 1 is the best-performing UST projector in the 4K category. We suspect it won’t disappoint.

Leica Cine 1 UST 4K Projector at CES 2023
Leica Cine 1 UST 4K Projector at CES 2023

Smaller regional shows are the future for high-end brands which is probably a better scenario for consumers who can actually attend without having to spend $350/night for a hotel room.

Monoprice

Do you know who had the most consistent lineup of affordable high-end audio and home theater products in 2022?

Monoprice.

Anyone who laughs at that needs to stop reading TAS and Stereophile. Who basically ignore this brand for some strange reason.

Sound & Vision gave the Monoprice Monolith M518HT THX Home Theater System a very solid review and after two months with it — I plan on buying it.

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Monoprice Monolith M518HT 5.1 THX Home Theater Speaker System
Monoprice Monolith M518HT 5.1 THX Home Theater Speaker System

The Monoprice Monolith Series has evolved over the past few years into something that consumers should be excited about. Not only do the products offer comparable (or superior) performance to other high-end brands in the same categories — but they are more affordable.

The build quality on the M518HT THX is more than acceptable at the price point of $799.99 USD.

I’m sure that some people are rolling their eyes at the mere mention of a HTiB (Home Theater in a Box) in 2023, but my experience so far has not made me long for any soundbar in its place; with the exception of the Theory Audio Design system that will run you an additional $14,000.

We know that soundbars provide a simple, no-hassle solution to improve TV sound, but there is another straightforward option that can provide a full surround sound experience without spending a lot of money. That option is a pre-packaged 5.1 channel surround sound speaker system, in combination with an affordable home theater receiver.  

Monoprice is offering one-half of this solution with the Monolith M518HT THX Certified 5.1 Home Theater System.

The M518HT comes with 5 satellite speakers and a subwoofer. However, unlike most all-in-one speaker packages, the M518HT doesn’t have a separately designed center channel speaker. Instead, you can use one of the five satellite speakers that are included. The remaining four satellite speakers are for the left front, right front, left surround, and right surround channels.

How To Complete Your System

Denon AVR-S660H 8K A/V Receiver with Remote Control and Mic
Denon AVR-S660H 5.2-channel A/V Receiver

You do need a home theater receiver to go along with it. If you already have a home theater receiver, the M518HT is a great complement. If you are starting from scratch, you will need to purchase one.

Unfortunately, Monoprice doesn’t offer a modest-priced home theater receiver to go along with this system, but there are several brands that offer 5.1 channel models that would be a good fit with the M518HT speaker system:

I will have a lot more to say about this surprising system next week, but it has already convinced me to dump the existing Polk Audio soundbar underneath my Panasonic Plasma HDTV and spring for five Monolith 24-inch speaker stands at $54.99 each.

Well done Monoprice.

Has Vinyl Peaked?

Record labels won’t like what I’m about to say, but it’s starting to feel as if the vinyl train is about to start losing its forward momentum.

Q4 was excellent for new record sales in N. America, but the overall data for 2022 paints a more problematic picture.

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Did new record sales only climb 4% in 2022?

Records Galore
Records Galore: A wall of records, and more stashed in every nook and cranny.

A post on LinkedIn by Vinyl, Me Please caught my attention last week followed by another news article in the Toronto Sun that most consumers probably did not read.

No matter how they try to spin it, VMP can’t blame a lack of pressing plants for the meager 4% increase in sales from 2021.

Inflation certainly played a big part in the slowdown because most people are spreading a lot more money on essential items such as food and gasoline, but perhaps pricing also has something to do with it?

If you thought new vinyl releases were expensive in 2022 — just wait until February 2023 when the prices take a significant jump. The Toronto Sun article makes it very clear that (for Canadian consumers) the prices will be climbing by almost 30% on February 16th for specific labels.

American consumers are likely to face the same hikes from the major labels. Will Blue Note, Acoustic Sounds, and Music Direct be impacted? Very likely and we’ll be watching to see how the prices change from the 15th to the 16th.

Will you spend $40 to $50 on a new record release? That’s a hard pass for me.

The Menu

Films with a strong satirical edge are often hard to swallow if you don’t truly understand the focus of the screenwriter’s angst. Having grown up in a food industry family where I worked in the kitchen for 4 years, attended cooking school, and honed my skills cooking and baking for thousands of customers over many summers — I fooled myself into believing that I was a “Chef.”

I might be handy with some dough, a pizza paddle, and know my way around a deck or wood fired oven — but that doesn’t make me a chef. A pizza maker with some talent on the best of days.

Kosher Ribeye Steaks? I’m more than handy with my Lodge pan or Weber grill.

Ramen or Pho? Absolutely. I’ve been taught by Japanese and Vietnamese chefs how to make both. Membership in the food world has its privileges.

None of that makes me a chef.

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Writing the occasional audio review or starting a YouTube channel doesn’t make you a journalist either.

After 23 years and 3,000 published articles in Gear Patrol, Digital Trends, eCoustics, SoundStage, and The New York Times, I feel comfortable calling myself a journalist.

Snack at Manny’s Delicatessen
Snack at Manny’s Delicatessen

There is nothing wrong with being an “enthusiast” because we all started that way, but let us not diminish the written word with fake titles or through the usage of AI to create thoughts that are not our own.

Now That is a Cheeseburger…

Another aspect of the film that resonated was the concept of doing something because it brings you joy; and not for fame or bootlicking sycophants.

The same should apply when listening to music or watching a film. You don’t need the most expensive system for it to be a source of joy.

If vintage audio or wireless speakers transport you to a place of sonic bliss — don’t let any hi-fi critic make you feel unworthy because you haven’t consumed the MQA or hi-res audio Kool-Aid.

The same theory applies to food and the army of Instagram and TikTok “chefs” who wouldn’t know a good cheeseburger, Bun Bo Hue, or deli sandwich if bit them in the ass.

Having had the opportunity to enjoy food in more than 50 countries, it is my greatest pleasure to enjoy the simplest of meals made in tiny cafes, parlors, and shacks on the side of the road or down very narrow alleyways.

And always served with bread.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mike Cornell

    January 17, 2023 at 1:52 pm

    “ The same should apply when listening to music or watching a film. You don’t need the most expensive system for it to be a source of joy.”
    Case in point: My son and I had fun playing DJ the other night on his hand-me-down system:
    A 50 year old Concord CR-250 receiver playing through a pair of 40 year old B&W DM330’s and a Polk sub…to that we connected 2 iPads playing Apple Music through their headphone outs into a 50 year old Radio Shack mixer. Well-recorded tracks like Popsicle Toes (Michael Franks) or BTO’s Blue Collar sounded surprisingly good and kind of made me wonder why I obsess about the sound of my own system so much.

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