If anyone was even in danger of presuming vinyl was passé at CES, all they had to do was come within earshot of the energetic DJ manning dual Stanton turntables at Intel's Las Vegas Convention Center booth. The DJ, Vince Pistricola, aka DJ Shortround, emerged from the Detroit music scene as a DJ and magazine publisher covering the latest in hip-hop with his Detroit Equipment Quarterly. As I took some time out to listen, DJ Shortround blasted through the din from thousands of rushing conventiongoers with a steady diet of techno. Although you'd think DJ Shortround's frantic scratching would wear out 10 phono cartridges an hour, he says that he has a "light" touch. And no he doesn’t have green skin—that was the effect of the lights!
I've always thought of Fujitsu-Ten as a company that manufactures car stereos. However, it turns out that they have a special division producing a line of home-audio speakers using single drivers of their own design. That's right: no woofer, no tweeter, no coaxially mounted woofer and tweeter—just a single cone driver, claimed to cover the range from 40Hz to 20kHz. In the top model, the TD712z ($7000/pair), this drive-unit is mounted in a rigid, egg-shaped enclosure. The sound of these speakers, driven by an Audion Sterling Plus Mk.II tube integrated amplifier ($2950), was simply stunning in its clarity and focus.
It has been a while since we saw a new design from Egglestonworks, so we were happy to see the Fontaine II ($5500/pair.) The Fontaine has a small footprint and looks even smaller than its 41" height would suggest. the driver complement is a 1" fabric dome tweeter and two 6" midrange/woofers. Like the other EW designs, the Fontaine II utilizes a transmission line.
Final Sound, the Dutch maker of electrostatic speakers, has been revamping their entire line, with increased sensitivity and reliability being among the claimed results. I was quite taken with sound of the top-of-the-line Model 1000i ($10,000/pair).
You may not know the name Furutech, but you've almost certainly heard some of its products—the Japanese manufacturer's high-purity copper has been used in many well known audiophile cables and components. Now Furutech is offering cables, connectors, AC accessories, and other products under its own name.
Also stunning were Furutech's impeccably machined, silver over rhodium AC plugs, which incorporate solid brass ground jumpers. What does that do? "You have to hear it to believe it," said Furutech's PR guy, Jonathan Scull. Okay, we're willing to go that far.
In our forthcoming February issue, I review the 5.2 loudspeaker from Genesis Technologies. Like many Arnie Nudell designs, the 5.2 demands a lot of current from the partnering amplifier. (See, for example, my 1989 measurements of Arnie's classic IRS Beta design.) I was impressed, therefore, to hear the 5.2s being driven to great effect on a track from singer Jacintha by Genesis' new i60 60Wpc integrated tube amplifier. Made in China, with design input from veteran amplifier maven Bascom King, the i60 uses KT88s and will cost $3495. Rather than show the normal frontal shot of the amp, I photographed the hard-wired circuit, which impressed the heck out of me with its superb craftsmanship.
Gingko Audio is a manufacturer I'm familiar with as a maker of component supports, but they also make a loudspeaker: the unusually named and unusual-looking Tubulous ($2450/pair). The enclosure consists of a pressed-paper tube, and there are three midrange/woofers inside, with a tweeter mounted on top. Very clean, transparent sound.
During CES, I kept hearing about GamuT's luxury digs offsite way out in the suburbs beyond McCarran International Airport. "It's incredible," Stephen Mejias assured me. "It has a pool, a pool table, beautiful kitchen, and a Danish chef who will make anything you want." That sounded nice, but Stereophile's busy show-blogging schedule prevented me from partaking of that particular pleasure dome. "No problem," Lars Goller assured me. "We keep the house until Tuesday. Come by on Monday after the show and we'll spend as much time as you want bringing you up to speed."
Hansen is a new line of ultra high-end speakers from Canada, using proprietary drivers and said to feature extremely dense, non-resonant enclosures. The company is headed by Lars Hansen, who, as former president of the Dahlquist Corporation, is no stranger to the world of high-end speakers. The sound of the Prince ($27,000/pair, third model from the top) was simply excellent—an auspicious debut, I felt.
Continuing our mission to find some good-sounding, small loudspeakers, we wandered on over to the Margules Audio room, where I spotted some cute, little guys hanging out in the corner. Unfortunately, they weren't hooked up to anything that actually plays music. Only the larger speakers were prepared to rock, and after my time with the Piazettas, I really wasn't interested.