Not an audiophile product per se, SE2 Labs ITC One "Integrated Theater Console" takes all the components typical in a high-end audio/video rack, and strips away everything but the circuit boards and transports and puts them all in a single climate-controlled chassis.
Zu Audio goes its own way when it comes to speaker design goals, emphasizing sensitivity and dynamic range. The Utah company's new Essence ($5000/pair) covers almost the entire audioband with a single 10" drive-unit, augmenting this unit's output from the central "whizzer cone" in the top octave with a ribbon supertweeter. Sensitivity is claimed to be in the high 90s! The enclosure is constructed from Baltic birch ply with an outer MDF cladding, and the internal wiring is, of course, Zu's own cable, with cold-forged, solder-less connections to the Cardas binding posts.
"Now that can't work," I thought, as I went into the Crystal Cable room and saw the Dutch company's new Arabesque loudspeaker (45,000 Euros/pair, equivalent to around $60,000). A glass enclosure? But as I listened to a variety of recordings that I thought would expose cabinet problems, such as female vocals and solo cello, I didn't hear any flaws that I could lay at the feet of the enclosure.
I was not previously aware of Vexo, a Milan-based manufacturer of tube amps, but I was very impressed by the 15Wpc VXSE-KT88/C ($3900). I asked Koetsu USA's Hiram Toro if that price meant the amps were designed in Milan but built in Asia. "Oh no," he said. "Vexo is designed and built in Italy and it is stuffed with European components.
RBH Sound is best-known for its home-theater speakers, but CES saw the Utah-based company launch a "Signature" series of speakers that were demo'd in two-channel systems. I listened to a Telarc Aaron Copland recording on the three-way, sealed-box 8300-SE/R towers ($8449/pair), with a Boulder 1021 CD player and Boulder 860 power amplifier, and was impressed by the natural balance, extended low frequencies, and good dynamics.
Upon hearing that I was looking for relatively inexpensive electronics to feature in our blog, Parasound's Richard Schram and publicist extraordinaire Gordon Sell immediately pointed to a static display of Parasound's Halo P 7 multichannel analog preamp. Designed by Finland's Juha Kuusama, the Halo P 7's origins lie in Juha's design for Parasound's first surround processor, which was released late in the last century.
Wes Phillips gave me the tip. "You must check out the Sonicweld room. Their active Pulserod system uses the DEQX digital crossover." So I checked it out. Comprising two 4'-tall Pulserod towers and two Subpulse subwoofers, the system costs $110,000 but includes all amplificationthree 200W class-D ICE modules for the upper-range drivers in each tower and a1.1kW class-D amp for each 15" subwooferthe crossover module, cables, and even a remote control.
Kimber Kable was more than happy to show off the four latest additions to its very full line of cables. First came the 12TC Teflon-insulated speaker cables, which use 24 conductors. Terminated with WBT Nextgen, an 8' pair of 12TC costs $854. Next there's the Cadence Subwoofer cable, which costs $175 for 1 meter with the best terminations Kimber supplies. Finally, complementing Kimber's HD19 1.3 cable, which costs $239 for 4 meters are the new HD09 1.3 (5 meters for $159) and HD29 1.3 (5 meters for $557). Other lengths are, of course, available. The display in the Venetian may have been static, but the very live demo Kimber Kable was conducting simultaneously at The Alexis Park was reportedly producing great sound.
Immedia's Allen Perkins was showing his 60Wpc class-A Spiral Groove E60A stereo power amplifier ("around" $15,000). "That's 'e' for Equinox, which is what I call Sonic Groove's spiral logo, "said Perkins. "Sixty, of course, is its output, and A is for class-A." It's a slick unit, hewn from a solid block of aluminum and employing an extremely low-noise fan to keep operating temperatures low. "For a class-A design, it's pretty energy efficient," Perkins added.
E.A.R. USA took advantage of CES to announce the world premiere of the Origo cable line from Jorma Design of Sweden. Prices for loudspeaker cables start at $7000 for the first meter, while interconnects start at $5250 for a 1-meter pair. A cable that, I am told, counts Japan as its major market, two of Jorma's lines have been designated "Product of the Year" by a leading Japanese audiophile publication. Jorma's extensive line starts with Jorma No.3 ($1450 for a 1m pair of speaker cables), and proceeds to Jorma No.2 ($2860 for a 1m pair of speaker cables), Jorma No.1 ($5000 for that pair), the new Origo, and the top-of-the line Jorma Prime ($12,800 for a 1m pair of speaker cables). All lines include loudspeaker cables in both single and bi-wire terminations, RCA and XLR interconnects, and jumpers. An Origo power cable, aptly named Origo Power, is due out shortly.
Perhaps it was the ridiculously expensive 20Wpc Lars tube amplifiers that Wes Phillips blogged about yesterday, but the modest-looking Prio 620 speakers (price starting at $5750/pair) from Finnish manufacturer Amphion, sounded both sweet and powerful on a track from bassist Brian Bromberg. The titanium-dome tweeter is loaded with Amphion's proprietary waveguide, which matches its dispersion above the low 1.2kHz crossover frequency to that of the twin 6.5" paper-cone woofers.
Go forth and find ye cables, tweaks, power products, and low-cost amplification, saith the Lord of Atkinson. Little did I realize how much fun my assignment would be. While I didn't run across any low-cost amplification on my first day at CES, there were cables and tweaks galore.
Kerem Kücükaslan (pronounced something like "Kooshookasslan," shown standing in the center of the photo), former President of the Istanbul HiFi Club, is justifiably proud of his Echole Obsession cables. When I first encountered these cables, mated with Kaiser Kawero speakers from Germany at last year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I was mightily impressed with the huge, three-dimensional soundstage that the system achieved in a huge ballroom. Playing a portion of Ivan Fischer's R2D4 recording of Mahler's Symphony 2, this system spoke musical truth.