Mini Systems Get Big at CES 2014
Back in the 1980s, there were two things about the music that were big: the hair, and the boomboxes. Thankfully, both style and technology evolved, and the D-Battery-powered, shoulder-mounted cassette stereo went the way of the teased, crimped, bleach-blonde mane. Those looking for a portable, all-in-one music system were presented with numerous options of stereo mini systems. These classy, compact stereo systems were designed to fit in with either the boardroom or dorm room crowd, saving space yet still putting out respectable sounds. And for a while, the boombox languished in obscurity, a relic of times past. A few quick stops at CES 2014, though, and it looks like these sonic beasts have not yet given up fighting.
At the LG exhibit, our man on the ground demoed the new LG X Boom CM9730 boom box, which features a face-melting 25,000 watts of power. I don’t know how much power that is, but I’m pretty sure you can jump start a dump truck with this thing. The X Boom is not for the weak of heart, or those short on space for that matter. Each of the two speaker units is roughly the size of a shetland pony, and LG’s specs show that the entire package tips the scales at over 350 lbs! LG bills the X Boom as sort of party-in-a-box, putting out the kind of power needed to replicate the dance club atmosphere in your home, backyard or hopefully-neighborless apartment. Further bolstering its party cred are an auto equalizer that adapts to musical genre; the Smart DJ system, which gives users the ability to add samples and other sound effects to music; and integrated LED lighting that changes to the beat of the music.
Inputs include standard CD tray and dual USB inputs. The USB inputs give the X Boom a couple neat tricks, including the Jukebox function, letting users create custom folders and playlists from a flash drive, while USB-to-USB recording lets users swap music with their friends. Twin jog-dials make navigating external files a breeze, and act as DJ mixers when the music’s bumping. And one feature we always love: the LG X Boom supports wireless streaming from any Bluetooth device, so you can go deaf to any song available via streaming services.
Not to be outdone, Panasonic showed off an equally impressive eardrum buster, the PowerLive SC-MAX700. Panasonic touts this 2300W system as “An explosion of Sound Unlike Anything Ever Heard Before,” though we didn’t get to test that because there’s still 2 days of CES left and we didn’t want to get kicked out. Each of the 31-inch tall speaker units features 4-way construction, with the tweeter, woofer and super woofer all dwarfed by the 38 cm (!) Ultra Super Woofer which should put out a frequency lower than that of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series wins. For all us non-metric users, 38 cm equals nearly 15 inches, or roughly the size of the average XL pizza. Keep that in mind before you crank the volume knob. Lest you think the speaker construction is just for show, Panasonic outfitted the SC-MAX700 with a fully-digital triple amplifier, so mids, lows and ultra low sounds are all handled by a separate amp. That should lead to improved sound clarity with less of the muddle and muffle that cheap boom boxes tend to produce.
Like the LG X Boom, the Panasonic features integrated DJ Sound Effects, so you can lay down some sick phaser or electro-echo effects over Skrillex’s bass drops. Equalizer presets optimize the system for a range of different music styles, letting you put a little less boom in your tunes. Prism Color Illumination provides programmable multicolor, dancing LED effects. Also present are an AM/FM tuner, CD deck and USB slot. A brilliant feature is the 4GB of built-in memory, ensuring you’re never without your favorite tracks.
Audiophiles may scoff at systems like these, arguing that a buyer can get much better sound for the same amount of money by piecing together components from various manufacturers. But these systems aren’t made for enjoying the soothing timbre of Sweet Baby James over charcuterie and a glass of shiraz. The Panasonic MAX and LG X Boom are made for one thing: Partying. And in the words of one of the great philosophers of our times, “When it’s time to party, we will party hard.”
No word yet on availability or pricing, but if we get our hands on one we’ll be sure to do a video review.