"So what you think our new AT1 loudspeaker will cost?" Atlantic Technology's Peter Tribeman had just finished his dem of a fairly small two-way tower that, driven by Parasound Halo JC 2 preamplifier and Halo A21 power amplifier, was producing prodigious amounts of low frequencies in a fairly large room.
I was aware of CEntrance from the code they supply for the Texas Instruments USB receiver chip used by Benchmark , Bel Canto and others to allow USB connection without there having to be a driver program on the host PC. But the Chicago-based company also makes USB-based hardware, and at THE Show, Jason Serinus and I bumped into their Managing Director, Michael Goodman (left) who is showing Jason the cute DACport USB Headphone Amplifier ($500). This 24/96-capable, bus-powered, cigarette lighter-sized product has a miniature USB port on one end and a ¼" headphone jack on the other, with a small volume pot on top. CEntrance also makes similar bus-powered products with an A/D converter to connect microphones and electric guitars to a PC via USB.
Friday was the busiest day I and other Stereophile writers found at the CES venues. Pictured here is a lull in the traffic taken from a window at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) near the press room, where the line for the free press lunch stretched hundreds of feet. Later that day, the bus and cab lines at the LVCC stretched half a mile as evening approached and the temperature outside dropped from mid 60s to temperatures in the 40s (Fahrenheit). Little evidence of a recession was visible in pure crowd count, but I ran into many more Asian and European attendees, while missing some friends in the audio high end community who skipped CES this year.
The outboarding THE Show, run by the affable Richard Beers, was held for the first time at the Flamingo Hotel on the Strip, two Las Vegas blocks from CES’s “High-Performance” venue, the Venetian. In previous years, THE Show had been held at the St. Tropez Resort, then the Alexis Park, but Richard now has a multi-year contract with the Flamingo. I estimated THE Show had representation from a good 110 manufacturers. One of the big draws was actually outside the Flamingo's back door, where Panasonic was demming HD-3D TV in a huge trailer. It's rumored that some die-hard two-channel audiophiles snuck into the trailer trying to mask the same guilty expressions that they carried to the porno exhibit in the Sands Convention Center.
The vendor display at THE Show was up and going strong throughout the four days. Classic Records, who clearly didn't want to attract any attention, joined Acoustic Sounds, Chesky, Elusive Disc, HDtracks.com, MA Recordings, Music Direct, Reference Recordings, themusic.com, Ultra Systems, Truextent, Quality Rare Records, and Parts Express.
Stereophile editor John Atkinson served as the opening act for the Grand Giveaway on the final day of THE Show 2010. In his short talk, John reflected on the losses of the past year. He first honored two of his departed mentors, John Crabbe and J. Gordon Holt, both of whom were central to the development of high-end audio. He also honored the memory of Al Stiefel, who co-founded the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest with his wife, Marjorie Baumert.
The first night of CES saw a memorial reception held in honor of loudspeaker designer Jim Thiel, who passed away last September. A succession of high-end audio's greatest offered thoughts and reflections on a talented, well-respected, and universally liked man whom everyone agreed was taken from us too soon. Shown in my photo is erstwhile Stereophile publisher Larry Archibald, whose comments were deeply felt and moving. I paid my own tribute to Jim in my November 2009 "As We See It" essay, which I reprised in my closing day's speech at THE Show, discussed above by Jason Serinus..
I have come to expect innovative engineering from Rockport's Andy Payor, and was not disappointed by his new Alya loudspeaker. The two-way Alya costs $29,500/pair and marries Scanspeak's new beryllium-dome tweeter with a custom Audio-Technology woofer with a 6.5" carbon-fiber cone and a 2" voice-coil. The front baffle is aluminum and internal horizontal rods connect it to the rear of the cabinet, holding the HDF enclosure in a rigid grip. A rear port is tuned to a respectable 35Hz.
The Rockport Alya's 1.25"-thick front baffle is cast from aluminum, then machined to accommodate the drive-units. The tweeter's usual front-plate is discarded and replaced by the baffle, which has the necessary opening and locating pins. This gives a very clean acoustic environment for the dome. Andy Payor's hand is shown here locking the tweeter into place with a ring that screws into a thread tapped into the rear of the baffle.
Ensemble has taken the position that with all the formats flying around, the biggest library of decent-sounding music remains the CD, so they might as well perfect it. Their Dirondo Player and Drive is a straightforward top-loading CD-only machine based on a Philips pro mechanism that allows the user to select the upsampling rate up to 24 bit/192kHz. Price is $12,000 and the Dirondo is available now.
San-Diego-based PBN is best-known for its heroically proportioned loudspeakers, but PBN's Peter Noerbaek introduced his new Sammy loudspeaker at THE Show, which, as you can see from the photo, is a little more manageable in size. The 55"-tall Sammy uses premium Scanspeak drive-units in an unusually constructed cabinet (see next photo): a new, long-travel 10” Revelator woofer, a wide-range, 4” Illuminator midrange unit, and the Danish company's new pressure-formed beryllium-dome tweeter. Price will be $29,500/pair.