Audio-Lineare hails from France, and although I haven't heard of the company before, they've been making speakers since 2001. The designer is Yves Poulichot, who has been devoted to this endeavour for 25 years. The Harmonie 16 ($6500/pair) on display uses an aluminum ribbon tweeter and two bass/midrange drivers in a "2.5-way" configuration. Nice sound with Viola electronics. The charming representatives are Alix Ribeault (Marketing Director, left) and Christelle Kabeya (International Sales Assistant, right).
I had planned to attend the press conferences by Panasonic, Samsung, and Sharp, all scheduled for Press Day, but it seems that every single person with a Press badge had exactly the same idea, and the resulting crowds were at least as big as at the CES Unveiled event. In fact, about an hour before the scheduled Samsung press conference, CES staff announced that the number of people in the line-up exceeded the capacity of the hall, and not everyone could be admitted. I gave up on both Samsung and Panasonic, but was Sharp was different. They had sent emails to a selected group of journalists, including yours truly, designating them as VIPs, and special tickets to be printed out, which would allow these individuals entry to the press conference before everyone else. Even if I had not been all that interested in whatever Sharp was going to announce, being called a VIP meant that I just had to attend. And, as I walked in, who do I see but my colleagues, Kal Rubinson (left) and Tom Norton (right)? We had our choice of seats, up front. It's good to be a VIP!
Pass Labs’ engineer Wayne Colburn insisted that the name of their latest amplifier, the Xs, was not a pun. He spent over an hour detailing the 3-year design project that culminated in the company's $85,000/pair, solid-state, two-chassis-per-channel, class-A amplifier. Leaning on the 4.5-foot stack of the amplifier's stereo configuration, Wayne spoke about how the design was based on the results of an examination of transfer characteristics of a diverse set of gain devices, including tubes and SITs (silicon-carbide devices that are exclusive, we believe, to Pass Labs for use in audio). The output stage was designed to reproduce the transfer characteristics preferred by a panel of listeners, who lived with a variety of different output stages for a lengthy period of time.
Each Xs channel has two chassis, one for the power supply and the other for signal amplification. The amplifier acts as a voltage source, and is rated at 300W into 8 ohms, 600W into 4 ohms, and 1200W into 2 ohms. It is biased to ensure make certain that the amplifier remains in class-A mode into all loads. Each channel has 122 output devices with a total rating of 10kW, and the extensive heatsinking allows the Xs 300 to deliver 2kW into a load "all day long." Though the Xs 300 stack was a silent exhibit, the company was using the more modest $65,000/pair Xs 150s to drive the Pass Lab RM2 loudspeakers, which showed a wide dynamic range and outstanding detailing.
Ypsilon Electronics’ Demetrius Baklavas designed the new $36,000/pair Aelius monoblock amplifier. The Aelius is rated at 220W into 8 ohms, 308W into 4 ohms, and 500W into 2 ohms. It is a hybrid design that features tube inputs, hand-wound interstage coupling transformers, and MOSFET output devices wired in the same type of push-pull Circlotron output configuration that was found in some Output-Transformer-Less tube (OTL) designs. The Circlotron configuration was developed years ago by Electro-Voice, and while the Aelius's output devices are all N-channel MOSFETs, the Circlotron approach is very different from conventional quasi-complementary approaches.
Ypsilon's Demetrius Baklavas (right in photo) and Ypsilon's US distributor, Brian Ackerman of AAImports, demonstrated the Aelius amplifier to John Atkinson (left) and myselfthe amplifiers were doing a fine job of producing dynamics and superb open highs from the plasma tweeters of the new, floorstanding Lansche 7 loudspeakers.
Audio Research's Chris Ossanna proudly shows off the company's new $25,000/pair, two-chassis Reference 250 monoblocks, which employ the new KT-120 output tube. This amplifier has 50% more power-supply capacitance than their previous flagship, the Reference Anniversary 110, and uses the same type of Teflon coupling capacitors they sourced for their Reference Anniversary preamplifier. The front panel metering allows the consumer to check the bias and to adjust the speed of their response to either fast or slow.
JL Audio's home high-end audio subwoofer engineer, Brett Hanes, proudly shows off the company's new $1700 ES-112 subwoofer (wood finish) that uses clever engineering principles to coax better performance and value from a less-expensive product. The ES-112's woofer features the company's only dual-spider driver construction, a smaller voice-coil, though the cone is designed for the same 3" peakpeak excursions found in the company's flagship f212 and Gotham models. Other construction simplificationsyou change line input voltage by changing fuses in external fuse holdermake the product more adaptable for international sales. It also has a high-pass output with variable frequency crossover, which will be appreciated by those of us using subwoofers in a two-channel home audio system.
UrbanEar's Andrea Miles models their new mustard-colored Platten headphones, which list at $65. This was part of the great upsurge in headphone exhibits found in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, or the "Zoo."
Traditionally, high-performance audio at CES has been on display away from the ginormous Las Vegas Convention Center, also traditionally but gently derided by audiophiles as the "Zoo." But there are still one or two high-end companies to be found and as you can see from the photo, the LVCC was packed with people checking out the new technologies on show.
Unlike consumer shows, live music at a CES is a rarity, so it was a treat to listen to the California Guitar Trio performing at the party Harman threw to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Mark Levinson brand. Sponsored by Guitar Aficionado magazine, the Trio ripped through a wide repertoire, including "Pipeline" from surf music pioneers The Chantays, which they were playing as I took the photo. Jon Iverson has already discussed some of the 40th Anniversary Mark Levinson products; for me the party was an opportunity to catch up with speaker engineer Mark Glazer, responsible for the system design of both Revel's new Performa speakers (report to come) and many other great Revel speakers over the years.
There were beautiful women. There were pink socks. There was loud music, expensive alcohol, shameless dancing. There might have been a tiger in the bathroom. It wasn’t like a party in the Music Hall suiteit was a party. The company’s energetic sales manager, Leland Leard, was too busy rocking out, so Roy Hall introduced me to his new A70.2 integrated amplifier ($1499). (Here we see Leland playing DJ; I will spare us the images of Leland on the dance floor.)