The business card of Eventus Audio's designer, Domenico Fiorentino, says "Fine Italian Products." But even if it didn't say that, even a casual look at the curved lines and impeccable finish of the Eventus speakers will immediately make you think that the speakers must be made in Italy. Their latest iO line is designed to bring the quality of their cost-no-object offerings to a more affordable level. North American prices are yet to be determined, but the stand-mounted two-way iO is 2500Euros/pair and the iO.f three-way floorstander is 5500Euros/pair. Fiorentino is pictured here with Angie Lisi of Audio Pathways, the North American distributor of Eventus.
If there is one thing audio reviewers like (other than wine, women, and song, of course), it is recommendable products that stay in production for years. And years. I reviewed the original Confidence C4 in 2003, with a follow-up by Wes Phillips in 2007, so it was with some surprise that I encountered the speaker at the 2012 CES. Except that this was the new Signature edition ($22,000/pair), which has a revised crossover, a high gloss finish (that is difficult to photograph :-), and a new coating on the Esotar2 tweeter's soft dome that is said to give a smoother, more open sound. With a standard finish, the C4 costs $20,000/pair; the C1 stand-mount has been similarly improved, with the standard version costing $7700/pair, the high-gloss Signature $8500/pair. Dynaudio is now offering its speakers with a 10 year warranty!
Not strictly a digital product, the ECI-6 DS from Norwegian manufacturer Electrocompaniet is a 125 watt per channel integrated amp that also incorporates a DAC and streaming and runs $5995 for the "basic version". DAC inputs include SPDIF, Toslink and USB and the ECI-6 DS can stream internet radio, DNLA devices, iPods, etc.
Company COO Peder Beckman provided an interesting demo where he was able to move the music stream from the integrated amp to a handheld device (in this case an Android phone), which started playing the music though its tiny speaker instead of the main system.
Electrocompaniet was also showing the new EMP-2 Disc Player based on the Oppo 93. They have added their own 24/192 DAC, analog board and balanced outputs. All for $3995.
Episode Audio, exhibiting at T.H.E. Show, had some unusual-looking speakers, with the tweeter set well back from the front of the speaker, presumably to effect time alignment. They also claim wide dispersion horizontally and vertically over a wide range. The Episode-V ($12,500/pair) sounded good despite having a less-than-audiophile-quality Sony DVD/CD player as the source, and modestly-priced Onkyo electronics.
Esoteric displayed the new K-05 SACD/CD player scheduled for release sometime in 2012 at a retail price of approximately $9,900. It will be a dual-mono design and feature 32-bit AKM4399 DACs, 24/192 digital inputs including asynch USB. CDs are upsampled to 24/176.
Demonstrated with Concert Fidelity amps and preamp, the Bricasti M1 D/A processor that I review in the February 2012 issue fed by a Loit CD player, and, like many rooms at CES, wired with Kubala-Sosna Elation and Emotion cables, the Estelon XA Diamond ($64,000/pair) produced sound to match the elegance of its styling. Improvements over the standard XA that I auditioned at the 2011 CES include a diamond tweeter, improved midrange unit and woofer, and changes to the constrained-layer cabinet construction.
Furutech had a new compact and beautifully constructed DAC/Pre on display called the Esprit. About the size of a small stack of CDs, the esprit handles 24/192 via SPDIF and Toslink and 24/96 via USB and also includes a couple of analog inputs. On the front is an input selector switch, headphone jack and volume control. All for $999.
"These speakers get the scale of the sound right," I scribbled in my notebook as I was listening to the Hansen Emperor E speakers ($68,000 Canadian) playing a big band recording. The leather-covered, 61" tall speakers were being driven by Tenor 350M monoblocks, a Tenor Line 1/Power 1 preamplifier, and Phono 1 phono stage, hooked up with Kubala-Sosna Elation series cables. The front-end components were supported on a Critical Mass Systems Maxxum integrated rack and filter system.
Jon Iverson already wrote about the Viola Crescendo D/A preamplifier in the Wes Bender Studio room. The New York retailer was also showing the new, leather-covered Hansen Prince E loudspeakers ($30,000/pair), which were making their world debut at CES. This was another room playing the QRP pressing of Shelby Lynne singing Dusty Springfield's "Just a Little Loving," this time on a Redpoint turntable fitted with a Tri-Planar arm and Dynavector XV-1t cartridge. While I felt the earlier Prince V2, which Wes Phillips reviewed a few years back promised more than it delivered in the bass, the bass guitar on the Lynne album positively growled on the Prince Es driven by Viola Forte monoblocks ($19,000/pair), with terrific power.
On Tuesday morning, at a very well-attended press conference held at the Embassy Suites, members of the press learned more about Fang Bian, founder of HiFiMan, makers of personal audio products, and were introduced to HiFiMan’s new HE-400 planar magnetic headphone ($399), EF-6 headphone amplifier ($1499), and HiFiMan Express HM-601 Slim portable music player (4GB, $199; 8GB, $249).
When I gave my Richard Heyser Memorial Lecture at last October's AES Convention, THX's Laurie Fincham was sitting in the audience. Afterwards, Laurie whetted my appetite for what the company would be presenting at CES: a patented non-switching power amplifier topology that would be as efficient as a class-D amplifier but without the side-effects that afflict such designs, high levels of radiated RF, for example. In the photo, Laurie is pointing to the power supply of the amplifier. DC is fed to two oscillators running at 25kHz, one generating a sinewave, the other a cosinewave, ie 90° out of phase with the sinewave. Each wave feeds a transconductance amplifier in the primary pf a small transformer; the output of each secondary is rectified and summed to produce a high DC voltage which is then used to power the amplifier circuit. There are no storage capacitors in the circuitit looks as if almost all the energy entering the supply is available as the final DC voltage! The new topology was developed by Fincham, Owen Jones (the twin brother of TAD's Andrew Jones) and Andrew Mason.
Branching away from strictly audio products, the HDMI Streamer has two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output and a stereo audio output. The idea is to peel the audio off of an HDMI signal and send it to your analog stereo preamp while leaving the video intact for your TV. All perfectly legal says HRT. Available sometime around April for $229.95
I'm guessing this will be a hot product: asynch USB to stereo out for either headphone or audio feed. Handles up to 24/96 (sample rate indicated by LED), powered by your USB bus and is priced at $139.95. Designed and manufactured in California and available now. I'm really curious to hear how this one sounds.
An analog to digital converter intended for those digitizing their albums or any other analog source. It will send the digitally converted signal to your computer via asynch USB at up to 24/96 and should be available by the end of the month for $349.95. This is the thrifty mammals answer to the new Ayre QA-9.