Peachtree was showing off its new iNova integrated DAC/preamp/amplifier, the replacement for their best-selling Nova. The iNova upgrades some parts from its predecessor including better capacitors, a 24-bit/96kHz USB input and an upgraded iPod dock. The amp is rated at 80Wpc and will sell for $1799.
The iNova was hooked up to the brand new Aerial 7T speakers, which employ some major cosmetic, and structural changes from previous Aerial speakers. The 7T ($9850/pair) is a three-way loudspeaker, nominally rated at 4 ohms and 89dB sensitivity. The finish on the cabinet, made from MDF bent to shape, was excellent. (Though the enclosures are made in China, the speakers are manufactured in Aerial’s Massachussetts facility.) Playing files from a server to the iNova, Aerial 7T sounded huge and clear with fantastic bass extension and articulation.
I was impressed by the fact that the Peachtree was able to drive these speakers with such scale and authority.
As a former owner of KLH Nines and original Quads, I have a fondness for electrostatics. MartinLogan has taken the hybrid approach, using electrostatic mid/tweeters and powered dynamic woofers, and this has worked well for them. The latest feature of their approach is the use of DSP equalization, used in the Ethos. This is now being applied upmarket, and the speaker incorporating this approach, now in advanced prototype form (“two or three months from being ready for production”), on demo at CES was a speaker that is expected to sell for $9000$10,000/pair. The sign said Summit X Jr., but I was told that was just an interim name. The speakers certainly sounded most promising.
I took this picture of a room at T.H.E. Show just because I thought it looked cool. The system featured old Apogees, long out of production. The music playing was pleasant. But what were these people selling? Maybe cables. Everyone sells cables. And then I looked at the sign on the door: N.F.S. Audio. N.F.S. Not For Sale. Here’s what a Google search turned up:
“We are a couple of Las Vegas audiophiles who love good music and wine. This will be our sixth year at T.H.E. Show. We hope to provide a fun and relaxing listening experience for show exhibitors and patrons alike. We'll have plenty of music and libations. Every year we bring an excitingly different stereo system with interesting visual effects. Come visit! . . . we'll pour you a glass. . ."
The first speaker I reviewed for Stereophile was the Alon IV by Acarian Systems, designed by Carl Marchisotto . I remember it as being a very good-sounding speaker, with outstanding bass, and the dipole midrange giving it an “open” sound. Through the years, for business reasons, the speaker brandname has changed (Nola is Alon spelled backwards), and the company is now called Accent Speaker Technology, but the speakers are still designed by Carl, and his wife, Marilyn, is the company’s wife president. Carl’s more expensive speakers still use the dipole midrange arrangement, but in the more affordable line he has turned to the more common unipolar approach, albeit with his own variations, like separate porting of bass drivers. The latest such speaker, introduced at the 2011 CES, is the Contender ($3400/pair), and it sound like. . .well. . .a real contender.
Made in Germany, available in 12 color combinations, the Lindemann Birdland series of loudspeakers is intended to appeal to the consumer who appreciates not only great sound but also stylish industrial design and German craftsmanship. Components include German-made ceramic drivers, German copper-foil inductors, cryogenically treated Swiss-made copper terminals, and various other audiophile goodies. The demo system featured the Dixie!, the smallest speaker in the series, with Lindemann digital source and electronics. The speakers had a sound that was notably free of cabinet resonances, and had much greater dynamic freedom than I would expect from a speaker of such relatively modest size. The speakers were not fazed even by Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man: the lowest octave was missing, but the sound did not otherwise lack in body or dynamic punch. At $9900/pair, the Birdland Dixie! cannot be considered a bargain, but it’s one of the best-sounding small speakers that I’ve heard.
To celebrate its 20th Anniversary in the cable business, Nordost has just introduced its new Leif Series. The series consists of four levels:
White Lightning ($179.99/1m pair interconnects, $359.99/2m pair speaker cable);
Purple Flare ($249.99/1m pair interconnects, $499.99/2m pair speaker cable);
LS Blue Heaven ($349.99/1m pair interconnects, $699.99/2m pair speaker cable); and
Red Dawn ($499.99/1m pair interconnects, $999.99/2m pair speaker cable).
Of special interest is the change to Nordost’s old standby, the now-discontinued Blue Heaven. “I still remember when we introduced our Blue Heaven cabling 18 years ago,” Lars Christensen (seen here in the photo) recalled at the beginning of the demo in the Venetian. “We thought it was so expensive that we wouldn’t be able to sell it. Now, for much less money, we’ve got Nordost’s new 20th anniversary cable, White Lightning.”
Looking at the ginormous horn speakers in the Silbatone room, all I could think was "how did they get them through the door?" The speakers were a hybrid, the lower half being vintage Western Electric with field-coilenergized 18" woofers, and the midrange and highs being modern recreations from GIP in Japan.
I hadn't been aware of the Silbatone brand before this CES. Their website says that "The goal of Silbatone Acoustics is to recreate the musical enjoyment of the great theater systems in the home, creating practical realizations for today's serious music listeners." Okay. It turns out that their beautifully constructed power amplifiers ($150,000, depending on tube choice) are vehicles for unusual and rare tubes. The amplifier seen in front of the speakers, for example, used square-base Marconi DA100 broadcast modulation tubes (around $5000 each) for the outputs, with pre-WWII Siemens ED red-base tubes as the drivers. The audiophile air in this room was rarefied, indeed.
NuForce’s Jason Lim explained that the people behind NuForce and Oppo have been friends for a long time, and now that friendship has produced the NuForce Edition Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player ($899), scheduled to be available by the end of this month. The NuForce user-upgradeable output board, seen here, will add $400 to the cost of existing Oppo BDP-93 players. “It sounds as good as our CDP-8,” Lim smiled.
An “Extreme” version, featuring synchronous re-clocking of all eight channels, will be available in March for around $1300.
With the show spread out between a half dozen hotels, and Las Vegas one of the most inefficient cities to move around in, it's tough to see everything. I simply ran out of time before getting over to the Bellagio to see Olive, but Kal Rubinson was able to make it one morning.
His photo above shows the company's new O6HD which is described as a "music server for audiophiles". On top is a modest 10.1" touch screen and inside is a fully balanced differential DAC design that can run at 24bit/192kHz. There is also a headphone jack and slot for ripping discs under the lip on the front. Internal storage is 2TB and it has both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs in addition to HDMI, USB, Ethernet and WiFi which supports the free iPad/iPhone apps. Price is $4,999.
Onkyo showed a nice new set of high-quality, two-channel separates, including the M-5000R Power Amplifier ($2499). This amp puts out 80Wpc into an 8 ohm load but can also deliver dynamic power of 450W into 1 ohm. The products begin shipping this January. It was great to see a mainstream company like Onkyo keeping up a commitment to two-channel music!
A sister company of Argento Audio of Denmark, Organic Audio now launched a complete line of copper cables. These include Organic Audio interconnects ($995/1m pair RCA, $1075/1m pair XLR), speaker cable ($1950/2m pair), and power cords ($995/2m). By contrast, interconnects in the all-silver Argento range from $2000$9500/1m pair. All products are distributed by Ricardo Reyes (left) of Musical Artisans in Skokie, IL.
Ulrik Madsen (right), who designs the cables and owns the company, was on hand to discuss his products. All Organic Audio cables are derived from Argento Audio’s entry-level Argento Serenity. “I wanted to take advantage of the connectors I developed for Argento,” Madsen explain. “We make all our Organic Audio connectors ourselves from the same metal as the conductors in the cables, which is OFC 99.997% copper. (The more expensive Argento cabling uses silver). There are no solder points; all attachments are made by applying set-screws to accomplish compression.
The v.6 ($358/pair) is the latest iteration of Paradigm’s classic Atom monitor, a loudspeaker I’ve been attracted to for a long time but have never actually heard. With its 1” high-purity titanium-dome tweeter and 5.5” carbon-infused mid-woofer, the speaker is optimized for high sensitivity (90dB) with high output and low distortion. Impressively finished, the Atom v.6 is available in cherry, rosewood, wenge, white, and black ash veneers. I will have to listen to this speaker at some point in the future.
Paradigm’s SE-1 ($698/pair) is marketed as “the stepping stone to the world of true high-end audio for the cost-conscious buyer.” Combining Paradigm and Paradigm Reference technologies, the SE-1 uses a 1” gold-anodized, pure aluminum-dome (G-PAL) tweeter and a 5.5” satin-anodized (S-PAL) mid-woofer. The SE-1 is beautifully finished and comes in rosewood and black ash real-wood veneers.
In Paradigm’s Signature S-1 ($1798/pair) a 1” pure-beryllium (P-Be) tweeter and 6” cobalt-infused anodized pure-aluminum (CO-PAL) mid-woofer are housed in a die-cast aluminum cabinet, said to work as an effective heatsink. Extensive internal bracing and constrained layer damping are employed to minimize vibrational energy. Cherry, natural maple, and black ash wood veneers are available.