The vendor display at THE Show was up and going strong throughout the four days. Classic Records, who clearly didn't want to attract any attention, joined Acoustic Sounds, Chesky, Elusive Disc, HDtracks.com, MA Recordings, Music Direct, Reference Recordings, themusic.com, Ultra Systems, Truextent, Quality Rare Records, and Parts Express.
Musical Fidelity picked a suite near the top of the Mirage hotel to introduce two new CD players, both available now. Top-of-the-line honors goes to the $9,000 AMS CD player and DAC built around a custom-made Philips CD pro mechanism and 12 internal power supplies.
Also in the Musical Fidelity suite were the new M6 Series components which include the M6i integrated amp and the matching M6 CD-DAC. Priced at $2500, the M6 CD-DAC includes SPDIF, Toslink and USB inputs on the back for external digital sources which feed into the 24 bit/192kHz upsampling DAC.
One of my favorite things I experienced at CES this year was encountering new audio companies I'd never heard of, especially the ones that seem to be making high-quality components at real-world prices. One of these new surprises was Mystère Audio, distributed in the US by Kevin Deal. Made, like PrimaLuna, in China for Durob Audio, a Dutch company who has been making gear for over 30 years, Mystère showed a full line of amplification components but were playing their pa21 stereo power amplifier ($2995) and ca21 preamplifier ($2195).
Because of the Stereophile writers' need to share a cab (and keep costs down) I visited the Nagra suite at the Mirage hotel with JA, JI, KR, and LG. As we walked through the Mirage I felt like we weren't a group of audio writers, we were a posse. I kept humming the music Quintin Tarantino used in Kill Bill for the Crazy 88's whenever we walked around. All right, we weren't that bad ass.
Naim Audio's all-in-one NaimUniti (Art Dudley's review will be in the March issue) has officially spawned a little cutie, er, qute. Dubbed the UnitiQute, the new product includes most of the features of the Uniti, with a more modestly powered amp at 30W per channel into 8 ohms.
I was real excited to hear the advanced prototype of the new the SMC-1, a fully balanced linestage preamp collaboration between Steve McCormack and Gary Koh of Genesis. The preamp will come in two versions, the higher-priced of the two probably coming in around $8000. For the extra money, you get higher quality parts and a different sonic signature, which amounts to quite a lot.
I reviewed the Pass Labs XA 30.5 a few months back for Stereophile . I loved it. Now Nelson Pass, known for his impulsive but inspired ideas, has taken the same class-A solid-state power amplifier and transformed it into an integrated amp. Though the new INT-30A ($7150) was only on silent display (the unit seen here didn't even have any guts inside!) I hope to hear it in my own system soon.
When I entered the Nordost room, Roy Gregory and Lars Kristensen of Nordost were in the midst of preparing a demo of their Foundation Theory. Although the literature on the theory, which should be available on Nordost's website, consumes five small-print pages, the basic theory boils down to this: consistency in your brand of cabling, whatever the brand may be, produces greater rewards than mixing different lines of cabling.
CES is where you can see the new but it is also where you can catch up with old acquaintances. Caught here in the CES Press Room in Jon Iverson's photo, I'm standing on the left with my partner in Stereophile Inc. for 12 years, Larry Archibald, who is both enjoying his retirement from the high-end audio industry and missing it, and Larry's wife, Laura Chancellor. It was on the 700-mile drive back to Santa Fe, New Mexico, from the CES in January 1986 that Larry, Laura, and I mapped out the future of Stereophile.
Olive and Thiel have teamed up with the help of zöet networking technology from a company called Bicom, and have created a complete media server/powered speaker system. Included in the system is a 2TB Olive 4HD music server which has been specially outfitted with an audio networking system using ethernet cables for connecting to the speakers.
Though my photo shows the Canadian company's Director of Marketing Mark Aling with the top-of-the-line Paradigm Reference Signature S8 tower, my interest was piqued by Paradigm's new SE speakers. The Special Edition series combines elements of the more expensive Paradigm models, such as the tweeter from the Monitor series with the mineral-filled polypropylene-cone bass/midrange drivers from the Reference Studio series. The two-way SE1 bookshelf will sell for a very affordable $598/pair and the three-way floorstanding SE3 for $1398/pair.
There were a few companies showing products on the 2nd floor of the Venetian, adjacent to the Sands Convention Center, where the Adult Show was being held. After John Atkinson and I grabbed a well-needed afternoon cup of coffee we checked out a few of the spaces on these lower floors. JA and I quickly found the Parasound/Atlantic Technology rooma pairing of companies I would not have come up with myself. On silent display was the brand new JC3 phono preamplifier ($2000). Those who know about Parasound equipment will already know that the JC moniker for this phono stage indicates that it was designed by John Curl, an engineer that many audiophiles (and reviewers) speak of only in hushed tones. As you can see from JA's photo, the preamp is divided up into shielded sections within the chassis to keep the dirty signals dirty and the clean signals clean. Each channel's circuitry is encased in a metal sub-enclosure, that also shields the input and output jacks, and is supplied super-regulated DC from the power supply.
San-Diego-based PBN is best-known for its heroically proportioned loudspeakers, but PBN's Peter Noerbaek introduced his new Sammy loudspeaker at THE Show, which, as you can see from the photo, is a little more manageable in size. The 55"-tall Sammy uses premium Scanspeak drive-units in an unusually constructed cabinet (see next photo): a new, long-travel 10” Revelator woofer, a wide-range, 4” Illuminator midrange unit, and the Danish company's new pressure-formed beryllium-dome tweeter. Price will be $29,500/pair.