Joe Skubinski of JPS Labs introduced its first two USB cables, the Superconductor Q USB (approximately $399/1m) and Superconductor 3 USB (approximately $799/1m). The cables are so new that Skubinski had to guess at the prices. Both boast a precision twisted-quad design with dual shields and gold-plated connectors.
Skubinski’s design goals were to transfer the digital signal as flawlessly as possible without radiating noise into adjacent cables. As I left the room, he and the folks from Usher loudspeakers were about to conduct an experiment to see if the Superconductor 3 could successfully transmit music recorded at 352.8kHz.
Allen Sung, owner of XLO (left), introduced the Purple Rush power cord ($7000/6ft). The first product in the company’s new Purple Reigns series, this substantial baby is heavy enough to easily yank a poorly positioned component off the shelf. IMHO, the cable’s oversized proprietary connectors are as impressive as its girth.
XLO’s designer, Jay Victor (right), explained that he wanted to design a power cable that he could use on high-current power amps in his own system. “I started dabbling in cable design when I was in charge of product development at Monster Cable with Demian Martin,” he said. “We were marveling at how much of a difference different power cables made to a system’s sound. I kept refining my ideas of power cable design, until I came up with idea of mixing different conductor shapes to best convey the whole range of bass sound.”
Victor believes that a large solid conductor is great for low bass, a flat conductor is best for mid bass, and a polymer coated Litz works best for highs and transients. He has combined all three in the Purple Rush power cord. The cord also employs an exotic field-balanced winding technique to lower the noise floor and cancel magnetic effects. All in all, five patents are associated with the Purple Rush power cord, which took eight years to develop and refine.
Listening to UNLV’s radio station KUNV playing Jazz, I notice the glowing digits on the Droid’s GPS indicating two minutes to turn 1.2 miles away. Riiiight. Notice the speedo pegged hard at zero. This Montana boy has spent the last 20 years regularly attending CES in Vegas. . .ugh. Too many people for me; too much glitz; too many lights. Fortunately, however, patient and persistent digging through the mountains of garish purple plastic gadgets will almost always reveal a modest handful of personal audio riches. That’s why I’m at the 2011 CES: digging for gold.
George Cardas stands darped in the new Cardas cables whie the company's Operations Manager Josh Meredith was happy to show off Cardas’ Clear Light Speaker cable ($1048/2m pair). Now the lower end of the Clear speaker cable line, it will soon move up a notch to middle position as another model of speaker cable comes out.
A simplified version of Clear speaker cable ($3726/2m pair), its ability to be produced more rapidly results in its considerably lower price.
Also on hand was the Clear Light Rev 1 interconnect ($856/1.5m pair). Now with a larger diameter, improved shield, and nicer RCA connector, it is still substantially lower in price that the Clear interconnect ($2360/1.5m pair). Next on the horizon is a Clear power cable.
Audiophile sensibilities have long found a comfortable home inside George Cardas’ head. Also in George’s head for the past two years has been the design of a single-driver, dynamic in-ear monitor that would fulfill his desire for a non-fatiguing portable listening experience. The as yet unnamed little gems are just entering production, and are expected to retail in the $300$500 range. A quick listen confirms that George has indeed managed to do something quite special: glorious midrange. I gladly accepted a sample pair for review; I reckon I’ll be spending a good chunk of time with George’s thoughts and sound in my head very soon.
Though not strictly a digital audio product, I'm not sure that anyone else will cover this, so wanted to include it here. In addition to the Blu-ray player and amplification features, the $9,500 T+A K8 sports a full complement of digital inputs including USB, as well as an audio streaming client for most formats.
Mach2 Music offers two services: they will sell you an upgraded Apple Mac Mini computer optimized for digital audio music serving, or take your already purchased 2010 or later Mac Mini and perform their upgrades on it.
They had the first option on hand, which includes a 40GB solid state OCZ Vertex drive to replace the factory drive, Amarra 2.1.1 installed and set up, 8GB RAM installed, cables from Most Beautiful Sound (they cut the power lead in the Firewire 800 cable) and a power cable from PI Audio Group.
Also included, but missing from the photo above due to shipping issues, is a PI Audio Mac Sandwich clamp system. Dayton Audio Brass Speaker Spikes (shown in black) complete the package which retails for $2,995 through the end of this month. All you need to add are external hard drives, a monitor (or iPad/iPod control device) and music.
Hegel Music Systems was on hand to show off their ever-expanding range of DACs. The smallest sitting at the top right is the $350 HD2 USB "music streamer" that can handle 24bit/96kHz USB data and output it either as analog audio or digital data over SPDIF.
Under the HD2 is the $1,200 HD10 which offers USB, coax and optical digital inputs as well as both balanced and unbalanced outputs. To the left of the HD10 is the newest DAC from Hegel, the HD20, which in addition to the inputs and 24/192 conversion found on the HD10, offers remote control and display for $2,000.
Meridian keeps slimming down the original Sooloos system not only reducing the price but also its footprint. The Media Core 200 looks like a slightly puffed Mac Mini sat on its side, and requires only an iPad to complete the system, though it can also be connected to the company's Control 10 or 15 touchscreens.
The MC 600 contains a 500GB hard drive, analog, SPDIF and Meridian SpeakerLink outputs and has a retail price of $4,000. Available within the month.
For those looking to set up the full-featured Sooloos system, Meridian will be releasing the Media Core 600 sometime in the near future for a price still to be determined.
What we do know, however, is that it will have 6 zone outputs each with S/PDIF, SpeakerLink, and fixed and variable analog outputs. Each zone also has an independent clock which means different sample rates are possible at the various outputs. The multiple zone clocks are also slaved to a central clock, keeping the multiple zones in synch in case sound bleeds from one to another.
Here is the back panel view of the Media Source 600 which acts as a network endpoint and DAC for your most critical listening zone in a Meridian Sooloos system. It can be combined with the Media Core 600 in an elaborate multi-room network.
It has both balanced and unbalanced outputs in addition to Meridian SpeakerLink.
It was a pleasure to finally meet Audience’s John McDonald, who beamed with energy, pride, and happiness over his new Audience The One ClairAudient loudspeaker ($995/pair), seen here alongside Audience’s own A3 drive unit, which uses a relatively large neodymium motor structure and voice coil, suspension venting, and is said to provide 12mm of usable excursion with less than 1dB compression.
Displaying near the registration booth at T.H.E. Show, CEntrance, makers of the excellent DACport USB-input headphone amplifier, introduced their new DACMini PX (price hasn’t been determined, but CEntrance’s Michael Goodman noted the company is looking to keep it “aggressively under $1500”), which combines the same array of inputs (USB, coaxial, optical, line) and line outputs found on the company’s DACMini CX ($795, now in final production) while adding speaker connectors and a 25Wpc Class-D amplifier section.
T.H.E. Show was held at the famous Flamingo Hotel and Casino, the oldest resort on The Vegas Strip, opened by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel on the day after Christmas in 1946. On the site’s 15 acres, you can find lots of glitter, gold, and rich history, in addition to a wildlife habitat with an exhibit of flamingos!
I’m sure I’ve never said to myself, “I want a combination USB DAC/phono stage/headphone amp,” but as soon as I saw one I sure did. Furutech’s Alpha Design Labs GT40, see in preproduction form at the 2010 CES, will rip your vinyl or play your computer files at up to 24bit/96kHz with USB convenience, and includes a headphone amp with volume control making for a dandy little LP transcription system.