KEF’s Q300 ($600/pair) is a 2-way, bass-reflex design with a 6.5” Uni-Q driver and 1” vented-aluminum tweeter utilizing KEF’s tangerine waveguide, said to reduce the acoustic resonances created by normal direct-radiating tweeters, improving the coupling between the tweeter dome and air. The speaker that was actually playing in the room, however, was the larger Q900 floorstander ($1600/pair), a 2.5-way, bass-reflex design with an 8” Uni-Q driver and 1.5” vented-aluminum tweeter and tangerine waveguide. Partnered with an inexpensive Denon player and Integra receiver, the sound was marked by quick, extended highs and controlled lows.
Got turntables? Pro-Ject’s got turntables. From left: Debut III, Xpression III, RM-1.3, Experience Classic… With each ‘table, the user gains increased adjustability of tonearm parameters and cartridge options, along with increased mass, speed stability, and vibration control.
Pro-Ject celebrated their 20th anniversary at the 2011 CES, hosting a party for “friends of analog in general and Pro-Ject in particular.” Product literature advised, “Go Analogue! in the third millennium.” Stereophile’s Michael Fremer gave a speech, detailing Pro-Ject’s history and accomplishments. We’ll read more about that, and other analog gear at this year’s CES, in the April 2011 installment of Mikey’s “Analog Corner” column.
Made in Germany, Sumiko’s Okki Nokki record-cleaning machine ($549, with dustcover) looks good, runs quiet, provides forward and reverse operation, has an internal reservoir for collecting used fluid, and comes with its own record-cleaning concentrate and goat-hair brush. My review will appear in the March 2011 issue of Stereophile.
One of my favorite systems at CES 2011: A Pro-Ject Perspex turntable ($2000) featuring magnetic isolation to prevent acoustic feedback, a carbon fiber tonearm, and Sumiko Blackbird cartridge ($899), CD Box SE CD player ($799), Tune Box SE II MM/MC phono preamp ($749), Pre Box SE with four inputs ($499), Amp Box SE mono ($1098/pair), and matching Speaker Box 5 loudspeakers in high-gloss white ($399/pair). Speaker cable was Pro-Ject’s own, and a REL T5 subwoofer was supporting the low-end. Even at low volumes in a busy room, the music was marked by fine detail, clarity, and speed. Joe Pass sounded as remarkable and unignorable as ever.
Reserving desktop space for work is just the responsible thing to do. Sumiko wants to make it easy for you to act responsibly and produces a complete line of very small stackable components that will allow you to assemble a complete audio system on your desktop with room to spare. The line includes a: CD player, iPod dock, FM tuner, USB DAC, switch box, preamp, headphone amp, class-D power amps, and, of course, numerous phono stages. Check out their Box-Design website to see the line.
With only four years since their first headphone product introduction, Klipsch's Regional VP Johnny Williams says recent market data shows the company now ranks among the top ten headphone brands in monthly sales; and their Image S4 in-ear monitor ranks as the fourth most popular in-ear monitor sold. Pretty impressive. . .and warranted. Balancing broad consumer appeal and audio performance is an act all too often not pulled off in the headphone world now seemingly filled with rapper-endorsed products and monster bass.
With significant success entering the market now under their belt, Klipsch has refreshed their IEM line with upgrades and new introductions, including the S5i Ruggedwhich sports a rubberized look and a sweet hard-shell carry case with built in LED flashlight/runner safety blinker. The big surprise, however, is a new traditional on-ear headphone: the Image One. Not everyone wants to stick things in their ears, after all. Nice to see a maker that knows how to play well.
Monster Cable press conferences are always fun to attend, Noel Lee (left) demonstrating the enthusiasm that I’m sure has been a major contributor to his company’s success in the business. His son, Elbert, who did some of the presentations, looks like a chip of the old block. Sure, Monster's press conferences have a strong blow-your-own-horn element, but that’s true for all press conferences.
And they had a lot of new products to introduce. I’ll leave the description of these products to my colleague, Jason Victor Serinus, whose show report assignment is accessories, but I’ll note that Monster is introducing a line of car-care products.
For the record: the swag from Monster was a Micro HDMI-to-HDMI cable. I don’t have anything that can use this, so I passed on it.
To celebrate its 20th Anniversary in the cable business, Nordost has just introduced its new Leif Series. The series consists of four levels:
White Lightning ($179.99/1m pair interconnects, $359.99/2m pair speaker cable);
Purple Flare ($249.99/1m pair interconnects, $499.99/2m pair speaker cable);
LS Blue Heaven ($349.99/1m pair interconnects, $699.99/2m pair speaker cable); and
Red Dawn ($499.99/1m pair interconnects, $999.99/2m pair speaker cable).
Of special interest is the change to Nordost’s old standby, the now-discontinued Blue Heaven. “I still remember when we introduced our Blue Heaven cabling 18 years ago,” Lars Christensen (seen here in the photo) recalled at the beginning of the demo in the Venetian. “We thought it was so expensive that we wouldn’t be able to sell it. Now, for much less money, we’ve got Nordost’s new 20th anniversary cable, White Lightning.”
In Paradigm’s Signature S-1 ($1798/pair) a 1” pure-beryllium (P-Be) tweeter and 6” cobalt-infused anodized pure-aluminum (CO-PAL) mid-woofer are housed in a die-cast aluminum cabinet, said to work as an effective heatsink. Extensive internal bracing and constrained layer damping are employed to minimize vibrational energy. Cherry, natural maple, and black ash wood veneers are available.
Paradigm’s SE-1 ($698/pair) is marketed as “the stepping stone to the world of true high-end audio for the cost-conscious buyer.” Combining Paradigm and Paradigm Reference technologies, the SE-1 uses a 1” gold-anodized, pure aluminum-dome (G-PAL) tweeter and a 5.5” satin-anodized (S-PAL) mid-woofer. The SE-1 is beautifully finished and comes in rosewood and black ash real-wood veneers.
The v.6 ($358/pair) is the latest iteration of Paradigm’s classic Atom monitor, a loudspeaker I’ve been attracted to for a long time but have never actually heard. With its 1” high-purity titanium-dome tweeter and 5.5” carbon-infused mid-woofer, the speaker is optimized for high sensitivity (90dB) with high output and low distortion. Impressively finished, the Atom v.6 is available in cherry, rosewood, wenge, white, and black ash veneers. I will have to listen to this speaker at some point in the future.
Arcam's John Dawson is seen holding the company's latest cost effective DACs. Featuring asynchronous USB technology licensed from dCS, the rDAC retails for $479 while the rDACkw (on the left) employs Kleer wireless transmitter technology and retails for $599.
Both DACs include one optical and one coax SPDIF connector in addition to USB. For the wireless option, the company has two dongles that connect to the source: the rWave for USB connections and the rWand for iPods. They cost $50 each if purchased with the DAC, $99 each purchased seperately.
New products from Esoteric this year include the flagship K-01 "Digital Source Device" (pictured above) available now and retailing for $22,000. The K-01 features an asynchronous USB input that Esoteric claims will handle 24bit/192kHz sources due to a proprietary software driver the company has developed.
Other features include the VRDS-NEO transport that spins both SACD and CD discs as well as dual mono DACs.
Esoteric has also released the K-03 at $13,000 which also employs the 24/192 USB input and most of the features of the K-01. While it also plays SACDs and CDs, it includes a less expensive transport design.