Soundsmith introduced a strain-gauge cartridge system in the Joseph Audio room at the Alexis Villas. The output of the dedicated battery-powered preamplifier can be fed to a preamp's line input as it does not require any equalization.
Walking through the Las Vegas Convention Center, Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and I were stopped in our tracks by a set of sleek, colorful, sexy loudspeakers, Jamo's new dipole Reference R909s ($14,999/pair). I was struck by how nicely Jamo has covered the backs of the speakers with a handsome grille-cloth shroud, only to have Chris Otte tell me that "of course, very few customers will want to cover them up." I'm not so sure—I suspect most folks can do without the sight of the two woofers' nether regions.
It was nice to see Audiolab products again—simple components with simple livery, not the stylish, but incomprehensible faceplates of the products manufactured after TAG Mclaren acquired the firm. Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and I didn't get a chance to hear the new 8000Q preamplifier, 8000M 125W mono amplifier, 8000P 100Wpc stereo amplifier, 8000CD CD player, or 8000S 60Wps integrated amplifier ("all priced under $1000, we hope"), but we wanna. They ship in March. We can't wait.
Shure's Christian Potts entertained Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and me with his description of the company's high-end E4 ($299) ear buds, which utilize a two transducer system, but he really tantalized us with preliminary information about the E500 ($499), a three transducer in-ear monitor. I shamelessly begged for a demo pair, but Potts told me that John Atkinson had scheduled a session for tomorrow, so I probably won't get no satisfaction—but I'm (ahem) shure we'll enjoying reading about his adventures with them.
Tucked within the madness of the "Zoo," as the Las Vegas Convention Center is called by its inmates, Krell assembled a temple of high-end heavy metal. Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and I steered Primedia's Greg Nevins over to the monoblock Evolution One 450W power amplifiers ($50,000/pair) and Evolution Two preamplifiers ($40,000/pair), assuming they were Krell's newest additions. Au contraire, Todd Eichenbaum assured us, Krell was introducing 10 (!) new models at the show—a new line called EVO, which replaces the CAST line with components containing trickle-down technology from the Evolution flagship products.
Final Sound, the Dutch maker of electrostatic speakers, has been revamping their entire line, with increased sensitivity and reliability being among the claimed results. I was quite taken with sound of the top-of-the-line Model 1000i ($10,000/pair).
McIntosh demonstrated a vacuum-tube version of its C1000 preamplifier in its two-channel audio room at the Alexis Villas. Retailing for $9000 and weighing in at 54 lbs, the C-1000T has fully balanced, dual-mono, MC and MM phono stages, balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs, and a front-panel window to show off four of the eight 12AX7 tubes. Mirrors create a barbershop effect of endless reflections, suggesting the presence of many more tubes than are actually there. Even so, I found the effect pleasing.
Orb's Curt Van Inwegen explains how his company's software allows you to access your music collection on your home PC from anywhere in the world. All that's required is a connected web browser or a connected device that plays audio and Orb's service. What this means is that instead of having to carry your collection of tunes on an iPod or as a batch of CDs, you store them all on your home music server and leave them there. If you are at a pal's house and want them to hear that tune you are describing, you can use your pal's computer to call it up and play it on his system. Seems like the obvious step beyond using an iPod to carry your collection around.
Telarc/Heads Up's Amanda Sweet displays the label's latest three discs: Ladysmith Black Mambazo's Long Walk to Freedom, Hiromi's Spiral, and Vilvaldi's Gloria paired with Bach's Magnificat. The Vivaldi/Handel disc is one of Wes' show demo discs, boasting extremely natural DSD surround.
This is the second year I was impressed by the sound of the YG Acoustics modular loudspeaker. As configured, this one runs $90,000/pair, although, as Yoav Gonczarowski, the company sells more of the configuration that eschews the second bass module. That version sells for $60,000, and is the most popular loudspeaker in its price class in Japan, selling four pair each month.
Continuing our mission to find some good-sounding, small loudspeakers, we wandered on over to the Margules Audio room, where I spotted some cute, little guys hanging out in the corner. Unfortunately, they weren't hooked up to anything that actually plays music. Only the larger speakers were prepared to rock, and after my time with the Piazettas, I really wasn't interested.
Wes Phillips listens to the Usher CP 8571 ($7700/pair), a new speaker with a Beryllium tweeter, which sounded refined and dynamic through Usher's own line of electronics: CD1 ($800) CD player, P307 preamp ($2400), and R1.5 power amp ($2500), which puts out 150Wpc in class-A.