One of the many delights of CES was running into Neil Sinclair, former owner of Theta Digital, in the hallways of the Venetian. In answer to my question, "What would you recommend I check out?" Neil led me to the King's Audio suite.
One of the great things about coming to CES is getting the opportunity to hear gear that’s rarely near. I was really happy as I strolled down the 35th floor to walk into the Lamm room. I don’t have a Lamm dealer in Minneapolis so I haven’t ever had the chance to hear this lauded and expensive tube gear.
As I wandered the halls looking for the next audio fix, a friendly voice with a thick Swedish accent called out to me. Since I'm pretty new at the magazine, I wondered who might be calling out my name let alone who might be calling out name that's from Scandinavia. It turned out it was Timo Engstrom, the maker of The Lars two-chassis, tube integrated amplifier that Art Dudley wrote about in June 2009. Somehow Timo read my badge and knew I was covering amplification at CES for Stereophilehe must have good eyes. He invited me in to have a listen to the Lars.
Speaking of handy little devices, the new Lindemann USB-DDC 24/96 converts USB to SPDIF for the simple reason that some folks who want to use their computer as a source already have a classic DAC that they love, but it lacks a USB input. It's available now for $650.
Every time I see a Nagra piece I get lust in my heart, Jimmy Swaggart style. I think it all goes back to the old days when I produced CDs with JA and he used his Nagra D digital tape recorder. It was a great -sounding and awesome-looking recorder. Of course these days when we record, that old Nagra has, for better or worse, been replaced with a laptop or Mac mini or something else nowhere near as sexy.
Ever since blogging about the Magico V3 loudspeaker a few years back, and then interviewing Magico's Alon Wolf for a Stereophile feature, I've been eager to hear every sonic and technological advance that Alon and his team have come up with. Thus I made my way to the huge Magico suite on the Venetian's 35th floorwhose exquisite lighting and overall aesthetic were on another plane from most of the exhibits below itwhere Magico was unveiling the much-anticipated Magico Q5 ($54,000/pair), which has a heroically constructed all-aluminum enclosure.
I finished my first day at THE Show, at the Flamingo hotel. (It's wonderful that CES and THE Show are now within easy walking distance.) Over the years, Magnepan has built some of the best-sounding speakers I've heard, and most often ones that perform at the level of speakers several times their price. The MG 1.6 is one of the High End's true classics and has always been one of its most spectacular bargains. One of Magnepan's demo systems was the brand-new MG 1.7. It's physically identical to the 1.6 but rather than planar-magnetic drivers for the bass and tweeter, the 1.7 use Magnepan's "Quasi-Ribbon." Both planar-magnetic and quasi-ribbon drivers are lightweight diaphragms onto which a conducting element is attached, but in the case of the planar-magnetic, the element is wire. In the quasi-ribbon, it's a very fine ribbon, or foil. The latter is lighter and covers more area, so the performance approaches that of a ribbon, where the conducting elementis the diaphragm. The 1.7s sounded truly spectacular and at just $2000/pair, destined to be another winner for Magnepan.
I recently spent the past few months listening to and reviewing the new Manley Stingray iTube integrated amplifier (the review will appear the March issue of Stereophile). So when I stepped into the Manley room at CES, it felt a bit like I was back at my own listening room at home. The Stingray iTube is based on four EL84 tubes per channel and puts out 32Wpc in Ultralinear mode and 18Wpc in Triode mode. It features an Apple certified iPod dock in addition to its regular single-ended inputs.
God, how I love mbl's demos. Their rooms at RMAF have been major highpoints of the last two shows for me, and their exhibit at CES 2010 is just as fine. There was an incredible warmth and inner glow to the midrange, a tremendous presence and clarity to the sound of cymbals, just the right weight to an electric bass, and a wonderful transparency throughout the range that made me want to stay forever.
CES also sees the announcement of the new control app. Though Sooloos currently has a browser-based controller for the iPhone and Touch, the new software is a true iTunes downloadable free app that adds piles of new features and, if the demo I saw is any indication, runs way faster.
MSB is not messing around at this CES. The company has announced a stack of new products, including the DAC IV variations seen here (from the top): Signature Platinum DAC IV starting at $13,995, the Diamond DAC IV starting at $25,995, the Platinum DAC IV starting at $5,995, and the Platinum Power Base to keep them running.