"Great" is not an adjective to be invoked lightly. But once you hear mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton hold forth on her debut solo album, All Who Wander (Delos)available in 24/96 from HDTracks, which features songs by Mahler, Sibelius, and Dvorák, you will harbor no doubt that she is one of the great vocal artists of our era.
How to sum up the smallest high-end showing ever at a 21st Century CES? While it seems likely that CES trade-show attendance in general was down just a bit this year from the 2016 high of 177,393, the official estimate of "more than 175,000 industry professionals, including 55,000 from outside the US" stands in sharp contrast to the scene on the upper floors of the Venetian Tower, where some hallways that had formerly been packed with what CES calls "high performance" exhibits and industry people were now dominated by tech-company exhibits and visitors.
Since I focus on digital product introductions at CES, Crystal Cable wasn't on my radar until John Atkinson suggested checking them out last year when bringing Graham Nash to the show. Boy am I glad I did! Not only did Graham love his visit there in 2016 (and JA subsequently reviewed their speakers), Jake ended his CES 2017 tour on a high note in the room with an encore performance that brought tears to more than one visitor's eye.
Sometimes it's love at first sight. I know appearances can be deceiving, but I couldn't stop looking at Rogers High Fidelity's 114Wpc DHF-200 MK 2 amplifier ($15,900). The beautiful KT150 tubes, the glossy red front panel, and the thick plexiglass tube cover were eye candy.
What goes up, must go down. So we headed back to the stairs and then down five flights to the 30th floor where John DeVore was set up. We were now in the smallest size room you'll find at the Venetian, but still big enough to fit us all in, like a cozy, plush living room. John keeps his space dark and relaxing too, the emphasis clearly on our sense of hearing. So no flash, and I've tried to keep the brightness in the photos realistic to reflect how this room felt.
I was quite excited to see the original ELAC Discovery prototype exhibited last year at CES, and AudioStream's Michael Lavorgna favorably reviewed the production model late last year. The original Discovery includes Roon Essentials in the purchase price, which though having a cap of 30,000 tracks, gets you most of the way to a decent collection and streaming experience for a very reasonable $1,099.
Though the variations can get confusing, I love all of these compact music networking and streaming devices spawned by the original Sonos products over ten years ago. The rPlay is intended for those who want to add one or more points of audio around their lair, streamed from subscribed services such as Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Pandora, or Amazon Prime, or a NAS on the network.
Naim hit CES running with four new Uniti digital products, starting with the Nova (pictured below) at $6,995 and available in June. The Nova is the top dog of the three new all-in-one player/integrated amps and features a full slate of digital inputs (including SD card and USB on the front), a quartet of analog inputs (two sets RCA and two 5-pin DIN), and networking either via ethernet or WiFi. Streaming options include AirPlay, Tidal, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth AptXHD, and internet radio.
Available elevators at CES are usually scarce, so seasoned show-goers hit the stairs at the end of each floor to move up or down. Since the Simaudio room was right next to the stairs, we decided to head straight up five floors to the 35th where distributor Bluebird Music had their nest in one of the larger Venetian suites. Jake bounced up the stairs no problem carrying his ukulele, the rest of us maybe a tad more winded. But we made it and were greeted by the Bluebird and Chord crew as we entered.