Sony's pre-Show press conference made little reference to sound quality, and SACD did not get even a mention. However, Sony's display did show their latest SACD player and the new MDR-V900HD headphones ($249), which have claimed frequency response extending to 80kHz. These 'phones sounded exceptionally smooth and well-balanced. Comfortable, too.
It has been a while since we've seen a new electrostatic enter the fray, so we were surprised at the range of offerings from King's, which ran the gamut from tiny desktop models to a huge baby called the King ($6000). King's has a new angle on 'stats—DC input. The normal technique of using amplified AC voltage caused problems with vibration and interference, they found, so they came up with an efficient DC-driven panel that can be used with as little as 2W.
The CES's "Innovations" exhibit at the Sands Convention Center is intended to honor the most technologically advanced and ground-breaking consumer electronic products at the Show. Most of the display cases were still waiting to be populated on set-up day (though we spotted B&W's cute cylindrical subwoofer as well as Krell's Dean Roumanis wheeling in some big boxes). But some of the choices for an award raised our eyebrows, as with this robot intended to train boxers in the comfort of their own homes. Stereophile's Stephen Mejias strikes a suitably pugilistic pose.
Musical Fidelity's US distributor Signal Path invited John Atkinson and me to hear the American debut of the kW DM25 Transport ($3000) and kW DM25 DAC ($3500). I didn't know the prices of the separates, so when I saw how luxe they looked I added an extra zero to the prices. But no, they really do cost just $6500 together.
I always have time Hervé Delétraz, so we jumped into Blue Light's room, where Jonathan Tinn had assembled a system to show off darTZeel's new NHB-18Nspreamplifier ($23,250). It's battery powered, offering 15 hours of listening between charging sessions and includes a fairly sophisticated phono section. Hervé doesn't believe in contact switches, potentiometers, or stepped attenuators, so he came up with new solutions—including an analog passive signal attenuator, which, he claims, operates over 96dB in .5dB increments.
The Alexis Park Hotel, also known as the "AP," has been home to high-end audio exhibitors for the past decade. And by that we mean two-channel audio exhibitors. But the last couple of years has seen an increase in video and surround sound home theater demos on the grounds. And this year the hotel changed its name to Alexis Villas, or as we will now be calling it: The AV. Coincidence?
Whatever you say about David Wilson, you have to admit he gives great show. Wilson doesn't come to CES with just a new product, he constructs a narrative structure and puts on a show. This is a good thing, since Wilson thinks long and hard about the lesson he wants to teach. He plays fair, too.
Jonathan Tinn of Blue Light Audio came to the show equipped with his collection of classical composer action figures. Mozart is on his shoulder with Beethoven in the other hand. Wagner is still in the package. Collect them all.
We were on a mission, of sorts. A mission to find a pair of small loudspeakers, which, as it turns out, is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Especially around these parts, where, it seems, size and volume are set to impress.
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.