The new Sonics Allegra speaker, shown here with Immedia's Allen Perkins (left) and designer Joachim Gerhardt (right in JA's pic), differs from the one I reviewed in January 2009, primarily in how the cabinets are attached. In the first series, the top, midrange and tweeter cabinet was solidly affixed to the top of the woofer box. Joachim Gerhardt decided to mechanically isolate the two cabinets to give the midrange and tweeter a cleaner environment in which to work, so they're now attached with an absorbent elastomer layer. To maintain the mass loading and resulting stability, however, there is now an approximately ½"-thick, stainless-steel plate attached to the bottom of the mid/tweeter cabinet. Simple, clever, and effective.
One of the companies I continue to enjoy seeing every CES is Sonneteer. Their proprietors are always amazingly perky a couple days into a grueling show, and their products are consistently interesting.
I always look forward to Peter Ledermann's analog demos, because the sound of his cartridges, electronics, and speakers is consistently delicious. While it certainly was this time around, some surprising booming in the basssomething I do not recall hearing at any previous SoundSmith demoalerted me to the fact that the small rooms at THE Show, situated on the fourth floor of the Flamingo Hotel, were a bitch to control.
I started my first day at CES at the Immedia room, where Allen Perkins had a typically (for Immedia) great-sounding system, chock full of new gearsome so new that it doesn't even exist yet, as a product anyway. Starting from the top, there was the second-generation Spiral Groove SG-1.1 turntable fitted with a "production" version of his new tonearm. In this case, "production" means either "honestly, truly the very last prototype before production" or "the genuine first production version...that only differs from what we'll be shipping in a couple of non-functional details" take your pick. Either way, Immedia will begin shipping the arm immediately after the show.
Amplification in the Signature system in the Lamm room featured the ML3 Signature power amplifiers ($139,290/pair). Like the LL1 preamplifier, the ML3 isalso a four-chassis system. These 32W, single-ended, pure class-A amp is based on a direct-heated GM-70 triode.
Known for some of the best loudspeaker demos at CES, TAD is now branching out into electronics. In addition to a new amplifier (which Erick Lichte will be covering) on hand is the company's new D600 disc player, which will retail for $26,500 and appear next month in the US. In typical TAD fashion, this is a tour de force design sporting Burr-Brown PCM1794 DACs, an external power supply and the ability to play both CD and SACD (2 channel only).
I felt as though I had entered sacred space. As I walked into the huge TAD suite, designer Andrew Jones was playing Aaron Neville's recording of "Amazing Grace." Everything about the sound, the speaker layout, and the rapt silence of the full house felt like a holy shrine.
Technical Audio Devices (TAD) was showing off new monoblock power amplifiers to attach to their well-known line of speakers. The M600 amplifiers ($26,500 each) feature a graphite cast iron monoque construction to help eliminate vibration. Though imposing in size (they weigh 198 lbs each!) the TAD amps feature only one stage of voltage gain. The M600 also features a 22lb transformer, custom-built 33,000µF capacitors, and can put out 600W into 4 ohms. They accept only balanced inputs and will be available in February 2010.
It was a case of Johnny Hartmann the third time over. In the room shared by Hansen and Tenor Audio, my third encounter with Hartmann's vocalism at CES 2010 came via a CD transfer of a 1964 recording. Happily, the CD retained much of the vocal richness of the two Hartmann LPs I had heard earlier in the show.
One of my last stops at THE Show at the Flamingo was the Teresonic room, where Mike Zivkovic demmed his 6'-tall single-driver Ingenium Silver Edition speaker using his own single-ended 2A3 tube amplifier. According to Mike, the amp uses interstage and output transformers from Lundahl and "there is not a capacitor in the circuit."
I have heard Acapella horn loudspeakers and Einstein electronics on other occasions, but they have never sounded as glorious as they did paired together in one of the Aaudio Imports room at CES 2010. I only wish Erick Lichte and John Atkinson had been present as I played John's 2008 recording of Cantus' While You Are Alive, which Erick produced. (Erick was also Cantus' Artistic Director at the time). The sound was bighuge, in factmaximally transparent, and thanks to the Einstein electronics' euphonic presentation, absolutely luscious.
"Have you heard the Devialet D-Premier amplifier?" asked UK high-end distributor Riccardo Franassovici when I bumped into him in the Magico room. (We were both there to check out the impressive new Q5 loudspeaker that Jason Serinus writes about elsewhere in this report.
I've now heard The Lotus Group Granada UB II Loudspeaker with an Active Crossover ($125,000/pair) twice. The first time was in Northern CA, where I joined Joseph Cohen of The Lotus Group and designer/engineer Manny La Carrubba for an extended listening session devoid of all the usual CES attractions. The second time was in the less-hospitable environment of the Venetian. (You have not lived until you try to focus on Fritz Wunderlich singing a transporting Mozart aria while the sounds of Maria Callas suffering through Verdi blast from the other room, and the person sitting behind you decides to discuss the stock market with his companion).
John Devore was using this diminutive integrated amplifier, the German-manufactured Acoustic Plan Mag Amp, to drive his new high-sensitivity loudspeakers. According to Jonathan Halpern, the US importer, the Mag Amp uses a tubed voltage-gain stage and an output stage comprised of two small transformers with dual primaries. He described it as the "world's first switching integrated amplifier, and added that it was designed by Lars Lundahl in the 1960s. The 19 kg stereo chassis offers 15Wpc into 8 ohms and will cost $18,500. It played both a 1980s recording of Ella Fitzgerald and one of Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite with great dynamics, speed, and detail. This is the kind of odd and fascinating gem one can uncover at the end of a day when one is too tired to rush out of an exhibit room, and instead collapses on the couch to listen.