Unlike consumer shows, live music at a CES is a rarity, so it was a treat to listen to the California Guitar Trio performing at the party Harman threw to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Mark Levinson brand. Sponsored by Guitar Aficionado magazine, the Trio ripped through a wide repertoire, including "Pipeline" from surf music pioneers The Chantays, which they were playing as I took the photo. Jon Iverson has already discussed some of the 40th Anniversary Mark Levinson products; for me the party was an opportunity to catch up with speaker engineer Mark Glazer, responsible for the system design of both Revel's new Performa speakers (report to come) and many other great Revel speakers over the years.
A combination digital preamp, streamer and DAC, Cambridge Audio's Stream Magic 6 also has twin Wolfson WM8740 DACs that upsample to 24/384 and a 24/192 USB input. All for $1,149 and available sometime this month.
Skullcandy, a manufacturer of trendy headphones, put up a huge multi-level exhibit in CES's Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall. In general, I was surprised at the large amount of exhibit area purchased at the Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall by headphone manufacturers this year at the CES. It dwarfed the spaced occupied by audio manufacturers of home quality equipment, taking many times the space occupied by home audio amplifiers and loudspeakers.
This photo should give you an idea of what it was like once inside. And, yes, camera fans, that's a Canon DSLR with what looks like a big L-series lens, being held up above the crowd. Which brings up another point about why there were more people at this year's CES Unveiled: this year, PMA, the photoimaging manufacturers' association, has joined CESthey call it PMA@CESso in addition to the consumer electronics press there are also the photo equipment journalists.
Constellation brought their new Jetsons inspired Cygnus DAC to CES, shown here in the hands of VP of Engineering Peter Madnick. The DAC contains four 32/192 DACs in a stereo balanced configuration, with separate DACs used for the positive- and negative-going signals of the left and right channels.
Inputs include USB, SPDIF, AES and Toslink and it looks like they've dropped the CD transport that was included in the demo at last year's CES. Price should be around $20k.
Crystal Cable's first loudspeaker, the Arabesque, used a complex-shaped enclosure fabricated from glass panels. Three years later, the Dutch company showed the new Arabesque Mini ($25,000/pair plus $1000/pair for matching stands), which uses a small aluminum cabinet with the same "comma" cross-section as the glass speaker, a shape that confers advantages when it comes to controlling the inevitable air-space resonances. A beryllium-dome tweeter is coupled to a long-throw, 1" maximum excursion (presumably peakpeak) 6" woofer. Crystal specifies distortion as being <0.5% from 120Hz to 20kHz, though no spl is given for this specification.
This Kim Kristiansen slide illustrates the effectiveness of Dali's SMC/linear drive magnetic system in reducing distortion. I believe the lowest curve shows the distortion levels of this the wooferbuilt completely in-housethat uses the linear drive magnetic system with SMC.
dCS had no new products, but announced several updates at CES. The Debussy DAC now allows DSD to be passed over its asynchronous USB input. The USB update will also be applied to the Paganini and Scarlatti products this year.
dCS also revealed a new web site that it will be developing in the coming months at www.onlythemusic.com. "The idea behind the 'Only The Music' project is that great music playback is a combination of talented people, great music and cutting edge technology. The OTM site aims to highlight some of these people, wonderful pieces of music, and the bits of gear that help to create such great sound."
John Atkinson and Kal Rubinson became familiar with DEQX, an Australian company specializing in digital loudspeaker correction and room compensation, during their review of NHT’s Xd active loudspeaker system; I had the opportunity to become acquainted with DEQX at last year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.
Then, the company gave an impressive demo of their HDP-3 standalone processor mated to a pair of Gallo Reference loudspeakers and Parasound amplification, showing room interaction and examining how the sound of the system could be optimized in the frequency, phase, and, most important to DEQX, time domains.
This year, the company gave a similarly impressive demonstration of their new HDP-4 processor ($4995), which should be available in about two months.
The 2012 Best of Innovations award in the High Performance Home Audio category went to the Devialet D-Premier DAC/preamp/amp. It also got the award for Most Difficult to Photograph Audio Product. Note the reflection of my badge, intended to show that this is not just a manufacturer-provided photograph. Devialet is distributed in North America by Audio Plus Services and Stereophile has just received a sample for review.
I visited Burmester's President, Dieter Burmester, in the German company's Venetian Hotel Suite. As well as high-end audio products Burmester also manufactures high-perfomance music systems for the Bugatti Veyron and Porsche sports cars. I mentioned that I saw Dieter's likeness in a sketch for an interview with him and Richard Chailly that appears in the latest Christophorus, the Porsche's owner's magazine. That led to chat about our favorite automobiles, and from there to high-end audio. Dieter hopes putting high-end audio in the Porsche Panamera and 911 automobiles will introduce high-end audio to a younger but affluent generation now focused on limited-fidelity MP3 on their iPods.