It was late. I was exhausted. After a delicious dinner, I stopped at the Venetian with the intention of picking up my laptop, camera, and other heavy things before returning to my hotel room and passing out. When I reached the 29th floor, however, I ran into Richard Vandersteen and his family. They were also coming from a dinner, also looking exhausted.
I corresponded briefly a while back with Gary Koh, CEO of Genesis. Gary has owned the company for the past five years, and moved it from its original home in Colorado to Seattle, Washington. When he took over the company, he was aware that his background was in computer software, not electronics. He decided that this could be an advantage. "Not being an engineer, I didn't know what was impossible. This explains to some degree the types of projects I've decided to take on, and those that have been achieved."
It was midday at the Venetian and show traffic was intense when I squeezed into the Hansen Audio suite. Despite noise from the outer hall and chatter in the back of the room, the several listeners seemed swept away by Natalie Merchant's voice. Her warm wishes were followed by Aaron Neville's "Goodnight," a blanket of voices with impressive clarity seeming to wrap around the entire room.
The prototype speaker I shamelessly coveted at the 2007 RMAF, the Harbeth 40.1, resurfaced in final form at THE Show’s Alexis Park location. Paired with Resolution Audio’s exceptional-sounding components, it again made my mouth water. Now positioned on new, lower stands (which, in my not-so-humble opinion, look far more attractive, and far less like a funeral casket, when not draped in black cloth), the full-range 40.1 monitors have an immensely detailed, beautifully layered, extremely controlled midrange whose harmonic richness is hard to resist. Toed-in toward the listener, the speakers' high end was equally compelling.
Herman van den Dungen and Marcel Croese, the duo responsible for the Prima Luna line of tube electronics, have introduced a new line of "Good Looking and Good Sounding" solid-state equipment under the HeDo moniker. As with the Prima Luna gear, the prices are very reasonable: $1395 for the HeDo One 80Wpc integrated amplifier, $1795 for the HeDo Two $200Wpc integrated, $1245 for the HeDo Three preamp, and $1495 for the HeDo Four power amp (the power is not listed on the preliminary literature sheet; I assume it's 200Wpc or a bit more). The four components are pictured here in distributor Kevin Deal's room at the Venetian. The frog is an optional extra.
McIntosh had what was, for a high-end specialty audio company, a huge assortment of products on display at the Mandalay Bay, including several new models. The most interesting of these for me was the MC 2301 power amplifier. With price listed only as TBD ($24k–$30k being an educated guess), the MC 2301 is a 300Wpc monoblock, and, a first for McIntosh, fully balanced. Oh, and did I mention that this is a tube amplifier, using KT88s? Talk about returning to your roots.
So why is Amanda Sweet from Telarc smiling? Well, in addition to being a wonderful person, she's happy that the Concord Music Group chose to sell its wares in The Venetian. Rather than the nightmare everyone predicted, customers only had to walk 20 steps to the official CES cashiers to purchase their SACDs and CDs from Telarc, Heads Up, Concord, Prestige and the like. With only one other CD vendor—5.1—in the area, Telarc did a booming business.
Hovland introduced a new preamp; in fact it was so new that it hasn't been named yet, and the price hasn't been determined ($16k–$18k range). The only thing known for sure is that it's a solid-state design, with balanced inputs and outputs, and has the blue back-lighting that Hovland is known for. It's another contender for the “Most Beautiful $18k Preamp” title.
In a room dominated by imposing Antique Sound Labs tube electronics and Reference 3A Grand Veena loudspeakers, the Chang folks were demonstrating their new Hyper Drive "hyper noise shunting mechanism." Designed to bring AC noise down further than conventional Chang Lightspeed power conditioners, the Hyper Drive will be incorporated into 2008 Reference models such as the Chang Mk III ($3500).