Loudspeaker lore has it that a "good big'un will always beat a good small'un." But my experience has been that the traditional wisdom is often wrong. Price for price, large speakers often have larger errors compared with minimonitors, the smaller speakers offering more rigid cabinets, better-defined stereo imaging, and, because the owner can experiment with stand height, a better chance of being optimally sited in a room. So while I was as impressed as Stereophile reviewer Kalman Rubinson with what I heard from the floorstanding, $3500/pair Revel Performa F30 (footnote 1) when we visited the Revel facility in California's San Fernando Valley in spring 2000 (footnote 2), it was the big speaker's smaller sibling, the $2000/pair Performa M20, that caught my eye—and ear.
The last day at CES always feels like one of those half-days at school: you may be getting out only a couple of hours early, but everyone starts thinking about going home way before the bell rings. Nonetheless, the die-hard audiophile exhibitors were working up to the last minute and confirmed that show attendance increased steadily right up to the end.
If your audiophile habit goes back more than a couple of decades, you're probably doing a double take looking at the Smart Devices 2X150VT. Looks like a Hafler DH-200, doesn't it? That's because, at its core, a Hafler DH-200 is exactly what it is. Smart Devices doesn't name names in its brochure, but they do say that "You may recognize this amplifier as one of the dominant premium performers of the 1970s and '80s"—a reasonable enough description of the MOSFET-output DH-200, which combined outstanding sound with a very reasonable price—especially if you built the kit.
Exhibitors reported that traffic was improving Thursday, as the halls became more crowded and the music grew a bit louder. Plenty of new products are on hand and we're starting to realize that even four or five days may not be enough to see and hear everything the high-end has to offer.
There's no denying that traffic at the Alexis Park is down from last year. But in spite of this, high-end audio continues to evolve and impress. There were plenty of two-channel audio systems to go around, including vinyl front-ends, while multichannel and video made a modest showing. It's hard enough to get decent sound out of two speakers in a hotel demo room, let alone five or six.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) officially opened today, Tuesday, and the SACD press conference put together by Sony and Philips started the day. Sony's Shizuo Takashino opened the presentation by explaining the three-phase rollout for the high-resolution format. Phases one and two, represented by the release of high-end and multi-disc SACD players, are now complete he said, with phase three launching at the show. As Takashino said, "This year is the true beginning of the mass-marketing of SACD."
The audio tribe is converging once again in Las Vegas for one of its its three annual gatherings (the others being CEDIA-Expo and the Home Entertainment Show, of course), and so far so good. Although the show officially opens Tuesday this year, several of the major manufacturers took advantage of the calm before the storm to hold their press conferences on Monday.
Slow beginnings are sometimes the most successful. Months after its acquisition by Chicago-based Music Direct, legendary audiophile record label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab plans to release Super Audio Compact Discs this winter.
What initially took form in college dorm rooms and computer geeks' homes only a few short years back looks ready to break into the mainstream audio market this year. Hard-disk–based audio systems are becoming more common as both consumer electronics and computer manufacturers rush to bring products to market.