Orb's Curt Van Inwegen explains how his company's software allows you to access your music collection on your home PC from anywhere in the world. All that's required is a connected web browser or a connected device that plays audio and Orb's service. What this means is that instead of having to carry your collection of tunes on an iPod or as a batch of CDs, you store them all on your home music server and leave them there. If you are at a pal's house and want them to hear that tune you are describing, you can use your pal's computer to call it up and play it on his system. Seems like the obvious step beyond using an iPod to carry your collection around.
Tucked within the madness of the "Zoo," as the Las Vegas Convention Center is called by its inmates, Krell assembled a temple of high-end heavy metal. Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and I steered Primedia's Greg Nevins over to the monoblock Evolution One 450W power amplifiers ($50,000/pair) and Evolution Two preamplifiers ($40,000/pair), assuming they were Krell's newest additions. Au contraire, Todd Eichenbaum assured us, Krell was introducing 10 (!) new models at the show—a new line called EVO, which replaces the CAST line with components containing trickle-down technology from the Evolution flagship products.
The Krell EVO 505 SACD/CD player ($10,000), features matched 24-bit /192 kHz DACs and separate power supplies for the drive mechanism, digital, and analog circuitry as well as CAST and Current Mode. The EVO 525 ($13,500) adds a dual-channel video format converter, so it can output 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p via HDMI. There were also two multichannel preamp processors introduced, but I'll leave those to Kal Rubinson to report.
Dieter Burmester, president of Berlin-based Burmester Electronics, beamed as we listened to Madeleine Peyroux's Billy-Holiday-like rendition of "Dance
Me to the End of Love" (CD, Careless Love, Rounder, 1161-3192-2) being played over his new full-range loudspeaker, the B-100. I felt that it was the most holographic, three-dimensional reproduction of this song (a personal favorite of both mine and Dieter B.'s) that I have yet heard. Although the price has not been announced, the B-100 is taller and 40kg heavier than its predecessor, the B-99 and should exceed, by a proportional amount, that speaker's $49k/pair price. The B-100 features a new double-ribbon tweeter/horn arrangement that I feel accounts at least in part for the new speaker's jaw-dropping transparency and effortless highs.
Final Sound, the Dutch maker of electrostatic speakers, has been revamping their entire line, with increased sensitivity and reliability being among the claimed results. I was quite taken with sound of the top-of-the-line Model 1000i ($10,000/pair).
Prima Luna, Dutch maker of affordable tube electronics, had two new monoblock amplifiers: the EL34-equipped Model 6 and the KT88'd Model 7. What's particularly interesting is that the Model 7 can also be used with EL34s, so the indecisive audiophile can get a Model 7 with an extra set of EL34s, and, voilà! For the tube cost of $160 you effectively have a different amplifier.
Gingko Audio is a manufacturer I'm familiar with as a maker of component supports, but they also make a loudspeaker: the unusually named and unusual-looking Tubulous ($2450/pair). The enclosure consists of a pressed-paper tube, and there are three midrange/woofers inside, with a tweeter mounted on top. Very clean, transparent sound.
McIntosh demonstrated a vacuum-tube version of its C1000 preamplifier in its two-channel audio room at the Alexis Villas. Retailing for $9000 and weighing in at 54 lbs, the C-1000T has fully balanced, dual-mono, MC and MM phono stages, balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs, and a front-panel window to show off four of the eight 12AX7 tubes. Mirrors create a barbershop effect of endless reflections, suggesting the presence of many more tubes than are actually there. Even so, I found the effect pleasing.
Soundsmith introduced a strain-gauge cartridge system in the Joseph Audio room at the Alexis Villas. The output of the dedicated battery-powered preamplifier can be fed to a preamp's line input as it does not require any equalization.
Day Sequerra presented its newest FM/AM/HD Radio tuner, the Model M1 HD Broadcast Reference tuner in the Alexis Park. The basic chassis includes the option to receive High Definition (HD) FM digital radio and HD/AM radio in a modular package ($4995) with single-ended analog, balanced analog, and digital outputs. "We have begun to refer to this model as 'tuners," said David Day, seen in the photo with his new baby, "because it can be configured to accommodate 10 different audio and video receive modules, including: FM HD, a class-M output option that features current-feedback amplifiers), cable TV, an ultra high-end FM Reference Module front-end option, or HD TV." Two common options will be the M1 configured with a 2.75" oscilloscope
($6995), or the price-not-determined "Panalyzer" option, which provides a 5–500MHz spectrum display.
Whatever you say about David Wilson, you have to admit he gives great show. Wilson doesn't come to CES with just a new product, he constructs a narrative structure and puts on a show. This is a good thing, since Wilson thinks long and hard about the lesson he wants to teach. He plays fair, too.
Continuing our mission to find some good-sounding, small loudspeakers, we wandered on over to the Margules Audio room, where I spotted some cute, little guys hanging out in the corner. Unfortunately, they weren't hooked up to anything that actually plays music. Only the larger speakers were prepared to rock, and after my time with the Piazettas, I really wasn't interested.
We were on a mission, of sorts. A mission to find a pair of small loudspeakers, which, as it turns out, is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Especially around these parts, where, it seems, size and volume are set to impress.
Musical Fidelity's US distributor Signal Path invited John Atkinson and me to hear the American debut of the kW DM25 Transport ($3000) and kW DM25 DAC ($3500). I didn't know the prices of the separates, so when I saw how luxe they looked I added an extra zero to the prices. But no, they really do cost just $6500 together.