Imagine how much prettier it would be if it were real. Imagine again how much prettier it would be if those bridges and roads and towers weren't there at all.
Every time I stepped from the slow elevator and onto the casino floor at Harrah's, where Stereophile's editors spent their sleepless nights, my hatred for Las Vegas was revitalized. This was like some kind of bad joke, some kind of post-modern torture. Oh, god, I am still here. I would turn right and see the same flashing lights, the same low ceilings, the same people who had been there the night before, still sitting, still smoking, still hoping, still staring blank-faced into spinning screens of cherries, spades, and jokers, and I would wonder why.
Why? Most people who visit Las Vegas seem to be looking for money, sex, drugs, or simple escape. Why are we here?
At the previous Shows where I had auditioned it, MBL's extravagantly excessive (or should that be excessively extravagant) X-Treme system had been set-up in inappropriate rooms, Finally, at the 2012 CES, this 4-enclosure system, which basically comprises two of the true omnidirectional upper-frequency modules of the Berlin-based company's 101E Mk.2 speaker (to be reviewed by Mikey Fremer in the April 2012 issue) with two man-sized powered subwoofers, each using six 12" drivers mounted three on each side to cancel mechanically induced vibrations, was set up in a room worthy of it. (The Venetian room was 31' by 22' with a 10' ceiling.) Bi-amped with four file-cabinetsized MBL 9011 monoblocksthe total system cost was $565,000!the X-Treme produced a big-bottomed sound that was indeed extreme when required but also delicate when appropriate. Oh my!
Source Interlink Media's Home-Tech Group's self-styled "Web Monkey" Jon Iverson (center) focuses his attention on the new Vivid G3Giya loudspeaker ($40,000/pair), which is scheduled to start shipping in April. Driven by a Luxman amplifier and hooked up with Kubala-Sosna Emotion cables, the G3Giya is a 2/3 scale version of the G1Giya that so impressed Wes Phillips in July 2010, with twin aluminum-cone 7.5" woofers loaded by the same proprietary ported transmission line, this time curled over more severely because of the speaker's reduced height. (The G1Giya used 11" woofers.)
Here's a closer "glamor shot" of the new G3Giya loudspeaker, though it doesn't do justice to the deep gloss maroon finish of the speaker. Note how the fact that the tweeter and upper-midrange unit have to be mounted higher up the curve of the "tail" means that the transmission lines loading these drive-units have become a styling feature rather than buried within the enclosure.
Costing $165,000/pair, Magico's new Q7shown here with AudioStream.com editor Michael Lavorgna for scaleembodies everything the Californian company knows about speaker design: a proprietary beryllium-dome tweeter, nano-fibersandwich-cone midrange unit and woofers, housed in a sealed all-aluminum enclosure weighing 750 lbs! With the prototype Audeeva music server, Pacific Microsonics DAC, a Spectral preamp, MIT cables, and unidentified amplifiers hidden behind a curtain, the Q7s threw an enormous soundstage on a 176.4kHz/24-bit file of a Reference Recordings orchestral recording, with bass-drum blows that pressurized the room without obscuring a low-level bassoon that was playing at the same timemacro and micro-dynamics.
While Magico's recent high-performance speakers are notable for their all-aluminum cabinet construction, including the Q5 that was our 2011 "Loudspeaker of the Year," the new S5 ($28,600/pair) uses a more conventional enclosure to bring its price within reach of more than just the 1%. While it still uses a beryllium-dome tweeter, this is not made in house.
The Diamond DAC shown here has now been upgraded with MSB's Pro I2S Network capability which the company claims is a faster, lower jitter version of MSB’s original network and retails between approximately $20-35k depending on included options. The entire line is also now available in this luscious, but hard to photograph, black finish and it's likely I'll be reviewing an MSB system for Stereophile in the next few months.
Below the DAC is the MSB Diamond Power Base power supply running at $4,495 and below that is the very thin WiFi System Interface which brings iPad app control to the entire MSB line for $1,950 and should be available shortly.
Perhaps the most interesting MSB announcement is the $9,950 FemtoSecond Galaxy Clock that the company is making available as a plug in module for all DAC IVs. The claim for the clock upgrade is less than .077 picoseconds of jitter (77 femtoseconds)--let's see if JA can measure that.
MSB has upgraded their Data CD IV disc player to the new Signature model with a machined metal disc drawer and updated networking. The Pro I2S digital output connects directly to the master clock in the DAC so the Data CD drive is controlled by the same clock that is running the DAC modules and motherboard for "hyper accurate data clocking when playing discs".
This is an interesting transport in that it plays CDs and also DVD data discs (such as Reference Recordings HRx discs) with .wav files up to 32/384! The transport sells for $7,995 and in this photo is paired with the Signature Transport Power Base at $3495.
Auriliti revealed their new 24/192 digital music file player, the L1000-USB which the company's Ray Burnham described it to me as "an all-out assault on the high end". Featuring an external power supply, SSD boot drive and AES output, the L1000-USB uses the NTFS file system to sort your networked NAS drive which is all controlled via an iPad running MPaD or any other MPD server compatible app. Available in March for $3,500.
I'm guessing this will be a hot product: asynch USB to stereo out for either headphone or audio feed. Handles up to 24/96 (sample rate indicated by LED), powered by your USB bus and is priced at $139.95. Designed and manufactured in California and available now. I'm really curious to hear how this one sounds.
Branching away from strictly audio products, the HDMI Streamer has two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output and a stereo audio output. The idea is to peel the audio off of an HDMI signal and send it to your analog stereo preamp while leaving the video intact for your TV. All perfectly legal says HRT. Available sometime around April for $229.95
An analog to digital converter intended for those digitizing their albums or any other analog source. It will send the digitally converted signal to your computer via asynch USB at up to 24/96 and should be available by the end of the month for $349.95. This is the thrifty mammals answer to the new Ayre QA-9.
My experience with the Thiel CS1.7 at CES is a story in three parts. Part I: Maybe. On the first day that I was at CES, which was the day before the Press Day, I visited the Thiel room while they were still setting up. I saw a prototype of the CS1.7, and asked if they were going to do a demo of these speakers. "We haven't decided yet. We're not sure if the crossover is finalized. But if the speaker sounds as good here as it did at the factory, we'll demonstrate it." Fair enough. I took some pictures and promised to return.
The New York debut of Sonus Faber's stunning-looking Aida ($120,000/pair) was compromised by sub-optimal room acoustics and too much noise from outside the dem area. But the speaker, powered by Audio Research's new Reference 250 monoblocks ($25,900/pair) lived up to the promise in Las Vegas. But as I had found in New York, the true magic of the Aida was only to be found if you sat exactly in the sweet spot, when the speakers disappeared and the end of the room dissolved into the recorded acoustic. Certainly the team from WhatsBestForum.com sitting in front of my cameraHi, Steve!were enjoying what the Aidas' were doing.
The rest of the system comprised an SME Model 20/3 turntable/tonearm ($17,000) with a Palos Presentation cartridge ($3995), an Audio Research CD8 ($9995) and DAC8 ($4995), Reference Phono 2SE ($12,995) and Reference 5SE linestage ($12,995), all connected with Shunyata cables. Racks were the ubiquitous Harmonic Resolution Systems SXRs and power conditioning was also by Shunyata.