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IFA GPC 2019 highlights: Sennheiser’s superb soundbar, an AI razor and a new 8K TV

Providing something of an early teaser for the massive IFA tech expo in Berlin in September, the annual IFA Global Press Conference offers a first look at new gadgets set to be shown off at the show later in the year.

This year’s event took place in Huelva in Spain over the weekend, attracting over 300 media attendees from around the world and it didn’t disappoint – delivering a number of intriguing announcements and unveilings, including an AI-powered razor, an 8K screen and a number of neat new appliances.  

For those who weren't able to attend, we've rounded up all the big news from the show and have categorized it by manufacturer below.

Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar 

Sennheiser’s long awaited first foray in to the world of consumer speakers is edging closer. With its original prototype having wowed visitors at CES back in January, the final retail version of their 3D audio AMBEO soundbar was being demoed at IFA GPC ahead of its release next month. 

Packed with 13 separate drivers including two 3.5” top-firing speakers, the AMBEO delivers 5.1.4 immersive sound with compatibility with the three main 3D audio formats (Dolby Atmos, MPEG-H and DTS:X).

Using a combination of acoustic wave guides and digital processing, like most other soundbars, the AMBEO uses reflections off walls via its directional speakers to create a surround effect. On the evidence of our demo however, Sennheiser’s processing appears to be on another level to its rivals, with a real sense of height and separation of sounds delivered. This was particularly acute during a demo of a rainforest scene, with the sound of dripping water genuinely feeling like it was coming from a non-existent speaker behind us thanks to the convincing 360 degree soundstage.

Most impressive of all is its sheer power. With its bass response dropping to 30hz, while there’s the option of adding a separate third-party subwoofer, the amount of low-end the soundbar provides renders this option as all but unnecessary.

There’s no support for Apple Airplay 2 at this stage, but both Google Chromecast and Bluetooth (4.2) are integrated, as well as support for UPnP. On the physical input front, there’s three HDMI (v2.0a) inputs, one HDMI Out (eARC, v2.0a) as well as digital optical audio and aux-in.

The high-end performance will carry an unsurprisingly hefty asking price of €2,499  / £2,200, when it goes on sale on May 28 in Germany, UK, and Australia, while home cinema fans in the US will be able to pick one in early June for $2,499. 

A further barrier for some will be that in order to fit in all those drivers, the AMBEO has a fairly sizable footprint compared to other soundbars. As well as being almost 17 cm deep, its 13.44cm height will likely cause an issue when pairing it with TV’s that aren’t wall mounted. 

Nevertheless, on this showing the Ambeo soundbar is clearly set to be something of a game-changer for home cinema. With Sennheiser hinting at the show that they may be planning smaller speakers and systems in the future, the home audio market looks to have a new major player that’s set to shake things up. 

Philips S7000 Smart Shaver

Proving that beards can indeed be smart, Philips announced at the event that it will be releasing a new AI-powered razor. 

Nestling underneath its flagship S9000 shaver in its range, (thanks to boasting fancier finishing and housing), the new S7000 is nevertheless far more advanced, featuring its own dedicated app which helps to prevent skin irritation. The app works in conjunction with the S7000’s built-in Beard Adapt Sensor, which records dozens of measurements per second of hair density and direction and adjusts the blade accordingly to optimise shaving for each area of the face. 

Having transferred its TV business to a joint venture with TPV Technology, and spun off its lighting line, Philips now concerns itself primarily with matters of health. A big part of this focus is on those with sleep-related issues including insomnia and sleep apnoea. The big talking point of its new Smart Sleeping range however appears to be its new anti-snoring wearable which aims to tackle the problem which, according to Philips, affects around 40% of the world’s population.

The belt-like SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band works using “positional training”, with its built-in sensor first monitoring the user’s sleep positions over a period of a few nights. After learning your resting habits, it then delivers gentle vibrations when it detects that you’re lying on your back – the chief cause of snoring – prompting you to instead lay on your side. Philips claim the vibrations will be light enough not to break your sleep, unlike the sharp kick in the shins most suffers no doubt normally experience from their partners.

Hisense 74U9E 8K TV

Chinese manufacturer Hisense used the event to show off its new 8K TV, the 74U9E, due for release in Asia at the end of the year, with the US and Europe to follow early in 2020. The 75” LED display has an impressive 5,376 local dimming zones for improved contrast and it seemed to perform very well during an encouraging demo session with what appeared to be upscaled 4K content.  

It’s also set to boast a somewhat unique approach to sound: The prototype on show featured a subwoofer cleverly integrated into the set’s triangular rear stand. The 74U9E’s design is still yet to be finalised - there’s a fair amount of depth required to place the set on a table top thanks to the sub and it’s not yet clear if the speaker needs to be discarded completely in order to wall-mount the display.  

Nevertheless, while we weren’t able to hear the speaker in action, it certainly seems like an ingenious way of adding some decent low-end to the notoriously underpowered speakers commonly found on super-flat TVs. 

TCL's plan to take over TVs

While fellow Chinese rivals TCL didn’t have any products on show, a briefing delivered by Sales and Marketing Manager Frédéric Langin outlined the company’s hugely ambitious plans to become the world’s biggest TV manufacturer – with the company claiming it expects to increase sales in the UK by 50% in the coming year.

As well as revealing it would be joining Panasonic and Philips in supporting both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ with its 2019 TVs, the company also announced that their forthcoming ranges would feature printed OLED, QLED and Mini LED displays – with TCL’s next flagship TV set to use the latter technology, which will boast an astounding 20000 LEDs and 1000 zones.

Haier Candy Rapid'ò Washing Machines 

Having recently added white goods maker Candy to its stable alongside other big brands like Hoover and GE Electrical, Chinese firm Haier is fast on its way to becoming the world’s biggest home appliances manufacturer.

Judging by European CEO’s Yannick Fierling’s presentation, Haier looked to be making good on their aim of not just being the biggest, but the most innovative company in the market, after highlighting  some intriguing new solutions for everyday household chores from its upcoming ranges. 

Its new line of Candy Rapid'ò washing machines work in tandem with a dedicated app, which will feature a “Snap and Wash” option. Take a picture of your laundry pile and Haier claim the app’s sophisticated built-in algorithm will magically recognise the material of each item and then automatically set the appropriate program and maximum water temperature for the wash.

Arguably even more impressive was the new Hoover H-KEEPHEAT 700, which offers the tantalising prospect of being able to keep meals at the perfect serving temperature for up to two weeks - doing away with the need for freezing and re-heating dishes. 

Making use of its new Exever technology, the top-spec convection oven is able to keep its chamber at between 63 degrees Centigrade or 70 degrees Centigrade depending on what ingredients have been used, ensuring that the perfect temperature is used to preserve the food for a prolonged period.

Responding to questions on what sort of impact on energy consumption using the feature would have, a Haier rep claimed it would costs around 75p a day to run the oven in its  keep-warm mode. 

Safera Power Control Unit 

Among a number of kitchen appliances showcased at IFA CPC 2019, arguably the most important on display was that from Finish firm Safera, 

It’s new Sense smart cooking sensor aims to eradicate cooking-related fires – the current leading cause of domestic blazes. 

The simple, one primary button device is placed above the stove and can recognise different cooking events, set timers automatically and act as an alarm should it notices irregularities. 

As well as monitoring surface temperature and air quality when used with its corresponding app, the sensor can also be linked up to an optional smart plug called the Power Control Unit. This automatically shuts off electricity to the stove should the sensor detect dangerous heat levels. The sensor can also be linked to similar third-party options for gas stoves. 

Sense also offers support for voice control via Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, while Apple’s HomeKit digital assistant is also catered for. The sensor is available with a one price fits all fee of 149 pounds/euros/dollars depending on where you are in the world, with the Power Control Unitsold separately for the same price. The company is also working with cooker manufacturers to offer the sensor as an inbuilt feature, with several big name brands set to be named as partners in the coming months. 

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