“CES Unveiled” is the name of an event that’s presents a sort of preview of CES itself, featuring products that had been given awards for innovation. It takes place on the day before the CES Press Day, two days before CES is open. I normally don’t get to Las Vegas early enough to attend, but I did this time, so I thought I would check it out.
I got there nearly an hour before the four o’clock opening of CES Unveiled, and there were already hundreds of peopleall accredited members of print or internet media or bloggerswaiting to get in. Were they expecting to get some valuable swag (promotional item), like an iPad? I checked at the entrance, and, indeed, there was some swag that was to be given to each person attending: not quite an iPad, but an external battery for an iPhone/iPod. Hmm. . .I recently bought an iPhone 4. I could use a battery for it. But there was no way I would wait that long. I wandered away, and came back at about a quarter to four. The line was then much longer, and I still ended up waiting about three-quarters of an hour before I got in. Andguess whatall the iPhone batteries were gone. I’m told they had 800 of them. Total attendance of the "CES Unveiled" event must have been over a thousand. It’s going to be a busy CES. . .
But I did get a little gift: an iPhone 4 case in shocking pink. Now I just have to find someone I can give it to.
CES Unveiled turned out to have little of interest to Stereophile readersexcept those who are general technical geeks. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Most of the products on display involved mobile computing, computer peripherals, etc., and the exhibits were simple table-top setups. Major CES exhibitors like Sony and Panasonic were conspicuous by their absence. Samsung just had some of their small digicams. I guess the high performance audio community decided to pass on this event, and it makes sense: what makes these products special can’t be evaluated by just looking at them.
PSB’s new Imagine mini ($700/pair) is available in five attractive finishes and uses a 1” tweeter and 4” clay/ceramic-filled polypropylene cone mid-woofer. The speaker measures approximately 5.75” x 9.5” x 8.3”, has high-quality, gold-plated five-way binding posts, and can be mounted on any hard surface or used on traditional speaker stands. Playing with NAD’s C565BEE CD player ($799), C165BEE preamp ($899), and C275BEE amplifier ($1199), the sound of acoustic guitars was enchanting and commanding, with fine detail, impact, and emotion. Very impressive.
Polk’s Blackstone TL3 ($300/pair) marks the eight-generation of Polk’s satellite speaker systems, and combines prior Polk technologies with new industrial design and improved time-aligned drive units, including a ring-radiator tweeter. The system we heard included a Marantz receiver and Samsung Blu-ray player, and I was very impressed by the small speakers’ ability to throw a wide soundstage with solid center-fill and fine detail.
The T+A Caruso ($3000) is a complete 2.1 system with iPod dock, FM tuner, alarm clock, USB input, and CD/DVD player, but is also compatible with external speakers, thus turning its onboard drive units into a center channel. It employs DSP processing for its admirable bass quality and wide dispersion, and seemed to have a very relaxed, enjoyable sound.
Dynaudio’s DM2/6 ($800/pair) is a bass-reflex design with a 5.5” mid-woofer and a coated soft-dome tweeter. Said to be easy to drive for any amplifier, the DM2/6 has a rated sensitivity of 86dB with a 6 ohm impedance. The DM2/6 is available in very attractive black ash and rosewood vinyl veneers, and is engineered and built in Denmark.
Wadia’s new 171iTransport digital iPod dock ($599) is now also compatible with Apple’s iPad. Other changes include an improved circuit board, new clock chip, higher grade connectors, and a better internal power supply. The remote control has also been redesigned for better ease of use.
MSB is offering a new universal transport based on Oppo's BDP-93, which plays practically anything on disc including DVD-Audio, SACD, Blu-ray, CD etc. The player also sports a USB input allowing it to stream from a USB memory stick player, external hard drive or computer.
The MSB Universal Media Transport will be available in about six weeks, with a multichannel option available six weeks after that. Price starts at $3,995.
MSB was also showing their new "high res" USB DAC that the company claims can play a 384kHz stream over USB or SPDIF "bit perfect". Depending on options, the Platinum DAC IV starts at $6,500 and tops out at $27k.
Constellation's Peter Madnick and Dr. Murali Murugasu return with a new digital source component which, at the moment I had walked in the room, had not yet received a name. But by the time I left was dubbed the Cygnus.
Projected price is somewhere between $15-20k with availability in May. Conceived as a do-everything stereo digital source, the Cygnus will play CDs and SACDs as well as files served from connected drives, computers, etc. and also function as a 24/384 DAC.
My beat is digital, but I'm particularly on the lookout for music server products. So I was pleased to see that Cary had their MS-1 server on display and fully loaded.
The spartan front panel has a single power indicator and disc drawer for ripping CDs directly to the internal 1 Terabyte SATA drive. On the rear are two USB connectors and an ethernet port to connect to your network. One USB jack operates as the digital out sending the data stream to your DAC and the other is for an external mirror drive or for sourcing files from USB sticks or other drives connected to the MS-1.
Cary has created apps (available for free in Apple's App Store) specific for your iPad or iPhone/Touch to control the system and music library.
The MS-1 is available now for $2,495 with a power supply upgrade to be released shortly for an additional $450. Cary says it is also looking to increase future storage capacity (the current drive can hold about 2,600-2,800 albums as FLAC files).
Stacked on top is the company's new $1,495 Xciter DAC which can handle anything up to 32bit/192kHz with 4 selectable inputs and a complete bevy of connectors on back.
HRT's latest DAC, the $199 iStreamer, sports a connector to take the digital signal directly from your iPod/iPhone/iPad device and convert it to analog. Power supply is included and the DAC will handle 32, 44, or 48kHz data rates at 16 bits.
Simple and to the point, this may be the perfect starter product for the budding audiophile.
Company Technical Director Andy McHarg shows off the dCS Debussy DAC with the new 24bit/192kHz asynchronous USB upgrade card, available in April. Current owners who'd like to upgrade can do so for $250 and folks who purchase the DAC from now until April will get the upgrade for the cost of shipping. The fully upgraded product will be available March or April for $11,499.