Loudspeaker manufacturer VMPS ran a series of live-vsrecorded dems throughout the four days of CES, at the Zeus Ballroom in T.H.E. Show's Alexis Park venue. In dems organized by VMPS's Brian Cheney, groups of musicians and singers first performed live while being recorded by some of Ray Kimber's staff in DSD, using crossed figure-8 mikes, Millennia Media mike preamps, and Meitner converters. The recording was then played back on VMPS speakers and subwoofers, driven by Ampzilla amplification, with Audience Adept Response power conditioning and Audience Au24 e cables. The playback level was matched to that of the original, allowing legitimate comparisons. (The mikes were close enough in the solo singer dem I witnessed to minimize the double contribution of the room acoustic.)
Music Hall was showing a new USB DAC wit a tube output stage. The Music Hall dac25.5 ($600) uses an Electro-Harmonix 6922 tube, a Texas Instruments PCM1796 24-bi/192kHz DAC chip, a TI SRC4192 Asynchronous sample-rate converter (with a high-precision active crystal oscillator master clock), and four digital inputs (S/PDIF, TOSLINK, XLR, and USB). It sports re-clocking and user-adjustable upsampling (96kHz or 192kHz). It outputs analog via XLR or RCA.
Vincent was showing a room full of well-built, good-sounding, surprisingly affordable tube gear.The first thing that caught my eye (ear) was the 60Wpc V-60 ($3995). The V-60 sports four EL-34s per channel for that classic themionic caramel color (but just the teensiest bit). Pairs of 69273 and 6FQ7s complete the complement. Another sweet spot I never wanted to leave.
Scaena is a modular speaker design that combines multiple small midrange drivers, each mounted in a pod affixed to a rigid stand, with subwoofers placed elsewhere.The speakers come with digital crossover and high-current amplification for the subs. The speakers come as 24, 30, or 36 pod units and you can add as many subs as you require.
Lamm was driving the new Wilson Maxx series 3 with its 32Wpc ML3 Signature SE triode monoblocks ($139,290/pair). It was my first chance to hear either, so I can't tell you if it was the speakers or the amps that were making the magic happen, but happen it did.
JA caught up with me at the Blue Light Audio room and suggested we saunter down to hear the 25Wpc Audio Note Ongaku integrated amplifier ($95,000) featured in his photograph above. Yes that's a jaw-dropping price, even after four days of CES. The Ongaku has five line level inputs. It employs two NOS VT4-C (211) tubes, an original NOS Telefunken 6463, and two NOS 5R4WGB rectifiers. Audio Note builds it own silver-wired driver transformer on a double AN-Perma nickel C-core. AN tantalum resistors, Black Gate electrolytics, and another silver wired transformer (output this time) complete the innards.
After years of attending shows where Nordost cabling was successfully paired with Raidho Acoustics speakers, I was surprised to learn that the Raidho Acoustics Ayra C-2 ($24,000) speakers are internally wired with Nordost Valhalla. No wonder the combination is so synergistic. Frankly, even a boom box would sound like a breakthrough product if it were wired with the Nordost Odin I heard in this room. Odin ain't cheapOdin power cables cost $11,000 for a decent length, interconnects $16,000 for 1m, and speaker wire starts at $20,000 for 1m, with the best sound said to come from 4 meter lengths of speaker cable and an investment of $38,000but the sound is as full, complete, neutral, and satisfying as anything I've yet heard. My own experience confirms that single Odin power cable can transform the sound of a system.
In addition to Sooloos and Blue Smoke, Qsonix was also demonstrating the latest iteration of their touchscreen music server system. The fully self-contained Q110 package is comprised of the single DAC/HD drive/software box and up to four touchscreens.
At the end of every CES, we struggle to find the underlying themes that bind the show to the industry and the world at large. The overwhelming theme this year was the economy. Attendance was downthe official estimate was 10% off of last year's, but everyone I spoke with snorted in derision at that figure.
There are always live concerts at CES and the 2009 Show was no exception. Cable manufacturer Ultralink/XLO brought Showgoers virtuoso bass guitarist Dean Peer Friday evening. Dean, whose audiophile sound-quality CDs Ucross and Travelogue are being reissued by Ultralink/XLO, used artificial harmonics, flamenco right-hand techniques, and a battery of effects pedals to create complex yet funky soundscapes. Thanks for the sonic treat, Ultralink/XLO.JA
Ypsilon was showing a monster of an amplifierthe 120W SE-100 Mk. II($70,000/each). A single-ended hybrid, it uses a 5842 input tube and a row of MOSFET output devices. It's entirely wired point-to-point and sports custom power transformers. Of course, it's stuffed with boutique components.
Due to a horrible traffic jam in the bowels of the Sands/Venetian Show venue, I was only able to catch the tail end of Greenpeace's January 9 press conference. The good news is that the greenest consumer electronics products on the market today have a smaller environmental footprint than those sold a year ago. The sad news is that there is considerable room for improvement.