Paul Stookey, now 74 years young, sounded optimistic, vibrant, and sweet, delivering a solo performance to the audiophile crowd at the Flamingo, as hosted by T.H.E. Show, Cary Audio, and PBN Audio. Somehow Paul has retained all the youthful energy and optimism that characterized his role when was a member of the Peter, Paul and Mary trio. Although I associate him more with the flower child, utopian, flower-child world of the 1960s, celebrating love, sex, freedom and occasionally drugs ("Puff the Magic Dragon"), he easily slipped into the role of audiophile troubador. Although his vocal range had narrowed with the years, his guitar accompaniment was superb.
Skullcandy, a manufacturer of trendy headphones, put up a huge multi-level exhibit in CES's Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall. In general, I was surprised at the large amount of exhibit area purchased at the Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall by headphone manufacturers this year at the CES. It dwarfed the spaced occupied by audio manufacturers of home quality equipment, taking many times the space occupied by home audio amplifiers and loudspeakers.
Not to be outdone by the audiophile crowd, an auto sound manufacturer displayed a huge metallic woofer that dangled from a crane. (The crane could be set to lift loads between 500 lbs and 3 tons.) I thought I had seen everything, but the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center never disappoints!
Last week, we learned that Gibson and Onkyo were negotiating a deal that would see the legendary guitar manufacturer purchase a stake in Onkyo Japan and acquire a majority interest in Onkyo USA to become the second largest shareholder in Onkyo Corporation. Near the end of show hours on a brisk Tuesday evening, a small group of reporters were invited aboard Gibson’s luxury bus for a bit of freedom from the Convention Center chaos and to learn more about the merger.
VTL presented two systems at the 2012 CESa larger, more expensive system comprising VTL’s S-400 Series II Reference stereo amplifier ($33,500), TL7.5 Series II Reference line preamplifier ($20,000), TP6.5 Signature phono preamplifier ($10,500), and Rockport Technologies Avior loudspeakers ($29,500/pair); and a second system made of VTL’s S-200 Signature stereo amplifier ($10,000), TL5.5 II preamplifier ($9500), and Avalon Acoustics Indra loudspeakers ($21,995/pair). The systems shared digital and analog sourcesdCS Paganini DAC, player, clock, and upsampler ($53,500) and Spiral Groove SG-1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm ($35,000)as well as Transparent cables and Nordost AC products.
On Tuesday morning, at a very well-attended press conference held at the Embassy Suites, members of the press learned more about Fang Bian, founder of HiFiMan, makers of personal audio products, and were introduced to HiFiMan’s new HE-400 planar magnetic headphone ($399), EF-6 headphone amplifier ($1499), and HiFiMan Express HM-601 Slim portable music player (4GB, $199; 8GB, $249).
It's no secret that I love the Meridian Sooloos touchscreen interface for handling a large music collection. But the Sooloos iPad app and desktop application left a little to be desired in the ease-of-use department compared to the Control 15 17" touchscreen sold by the company. Neither app included the album cover art grid that is essential to the Sooloos' ease of use, and other features were hit and miss.
Not any more. The new iPad app includes the album cover grid as well as almost all of the Focus and navigation features from the Control 15 touchscreen software. So all you need now is a Sooloos core somewhere in the network and an iPad or computer if you want the grid without Meridian's touchscreen. I couldn't see not having a Control 15 in the house, even though I use the iPad as a controller too, but I'm sure some folks would disagree.
Hand model Bob Stuart demonstrated the new cover grid, and it flowed rather smoothly as he browsed the collection. Should be available in the next month or so and is free (though only of use to Sooloos system users). I can't wait to get my hands on it and hope to do a follow-up to my original Sooloos review in the next few months.
When Bermester jumps into the music server market, they jump in with both feet. The new 111 Musiccenter, which is scheduled to ship in April, will include an Apple iPad controller with custom app in the box (a first for Apple says the company), six digital inputs, three analog inputs, streaming services, UPnP via either WiFi or Ethernet, etc. etc.
All this and a robustly built box with gorgeous and bright front panel display for $50k.
Also in the Burmester room is the new 113 DAC which retails for $6k and is available now. The DAC is rather modest-sized next to the rest of the Burmester line and includes Toslink, 24/96 USB (24/192 on Mac only) and Bluetooth (wireless!) inputs and both balanced and unbalanced outputs. The Bluetooth input means you can stream from any Bluetooth audio device like a Blackberry or iPhone in the vicinity.
There's nothing like a nice big touchscreen to browse a large music collection, and Pathos was showing a prototype of the largest touchscreen dedicated to a music server that I've seen to date. Called the Musiteca, the new product was up and running but clearly had some features to work out. As shown, the product has a built-in DAC, transport for loading discs, and 1TB drive for storage.
In addition to the above features, Pathos' Paolo Andriolo says there will be variable XLR outputs to feed the audio directly to your amp and a free iPad app. Price is predicted to be around $7k and should show up by April.
Easily winning the award for most outside-the-box chassis design, Light Harmonic's Da Vinci DAC is an amazing assembly of machined metal. In the photo is co-founder Henry Chew, which also gives you some perspective on how large this DAC is next to a smiling human.
Inputs include an asynch USB and SPDIF and the DAC can handle up to 32/384 at either input. Chew says that the DAC does not upsample and processes all streams at their native sampling rate. Chew feels that "the use of upsampling, oversampling, or any digital filters or signal-manipulations is ineffective". Available now for $20k
Bel Canto had several digital products on display including the CD3t CD Transport (pictured above) which includes both AES and SPDIF (via BNC connector) outputs at $1,495.
Playing in a side room was the C7R DAC Integrated Receiver with an amplifier section based on the companies REF150 and includes a built-in DAC, FM tuner, phono section and some pretty beefy speaker connectors on the back. This modest size box would make a great companion to the CD3t mentioned above. Retail is $2,995.
The company was also showing off a pair of product updates. The DAC3.5VB MK II includes an improved analog supply that Bel Canto claims better isolates the PCM1792 converter and a new, low-phase-noise main clock oscillator. Price is $5,895. The uLink USB-to-digital audio interface is now 24/192. Shipping next month for $795 MSRP
Most DACs are pretty straight forward and simply convert an digital signal to analog. But with the array of choices widening every few months, it might be handy to have a DAC that could do a bit more.
With this in mind, Simaudio is introducing the Moon 180 MiND Music Streamer (at top left in photo). MiND, which is short for Moon intelligent Network Device, allows the user to stream digitally stored music from a computer, NAS drive, the internet, subscriber-based music services or a UPnP enabled device to your DAC via either SPDIF, AES or Toslink outputs.
The MiND will available in April for $1,250 and Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield says that they will be releasing DACs with the MiND built in as an upgrade later this year.
Simaudio also revealed the 32-bit Moon 380D DAC designed around the M-AJiC32 circuitry (an asynchronous jitter elimination system) performing in true 32-bit fully asynchronous mode. There are eight digital inputs, all able to handle up to 24/192 sources. Available in April for $3,900.00 and you can add the MiND streamer for an additional $1,200.00.
Furutech had a new compact and beautifully constructed DAC/Pre on display called the Esprit. About the size of a small stack of CDs, the esprit handles 24/192 via SPDIF and Toslink and 24/96 via USB and also includes a couple of analog inputs. On the front is an input selector switch, headphone jack and volume control. All for $999.