Daniel J. Hodgson, Polk Audio's Senior Vice President, was very enthusiastic about the $3000/pair LSi25, a floor-standing, 3-way loudspeaker."It has a 1" VIFA ring-radiator, dual-pivot tweeter to increase dispersion," said Daniel. There are two midranges that surround the tweeter in D'Appolito configuration, and a powered 10" sidefiring subwoofer. The drivers have cast speaker baskets with aerated-polypropylene cones. He went on to point out the two small ports on the front baffle next to the midrange. "These two small ports are designed to eliminate resonance, which our company calls Acoustic Resonance Control," added Michael Cooper, Florida Regional Sales Manager for Polk.
If one were to judge by the new product introductions from Ayre and Jeff Rowland Design, $18k seems to be the price point for high-end solid-state preamplifiers. Rowland's new Criterion preamp uses NiMH batteries in the power supply; these are more easily available than the lead-zinc ones that were used in Rowland's previous top preamp—and, of course, the design of the Criterion features a number of improvements from its predecessor. Rowland also introduced the new Continuum integrated amp, available in two version: 350Wpc ($7200) or 500Wpc
($8800), the latter featuring power-factor correction.
Bryston's James Tanner surprised me by showing me a new direction for Canadian amplifier manufacturer Bryston: it has developed a series of class-D (switching) amplifiers. "You'll notice from the line's hybrid name that we combine the class-D output module with regular linear power supplies, not switching supplies," explained James. "The switching supplies are too noisy."
Music Culture Technology Corporation's Reference line has been designed and engineered by MBL's official engineers. Though not yet distributed in the US, the combination of MC's partnership with MBL and their components' arresting good looks drew me in for an extended listen. It was also a belated listen, but that had to do with the Hard Rock Café across the street from the St. Tropez, whose bass blasting from the rock video they project in their parking lot between 5pm and 10pm made listening to anything other than equally blaring rock music an absurdity. Call it high end trumped by high insult.
Naim has created a separate line of music server products that will be marketed independently of its component distribution system. On display at CES2008 was the DigiLinX compatible six-stream NaimNet NS01 Music Server ($6200), which has an internal ripping drive, a 400GB RAID 1 array, so data is secure.
In what has become a tradition, Anton Dotson (aka Buddha on the Stereophile forum) and Michael Alazard set up a room at T.H.E. Show as NFS Audio (Not For Sale), which they describe as "a chill out zone for people tired of the show's relentless grinding down of the human spirit."
Carat Audio's products are sufficiently new to North America that the only prices available are still in Euros. (They do have distribution.) Designed in France and made in China, the A57 integrated amp (80Wpc, 899 Euros), C57 CD player (649 Euros), and T57 tuner (349 Euros) look like anything but budget products, resembling products from Primare or YBA. An indication of the quality of the design is that the power output of the A57 nearly doubles into 4 ohms (80 into 8 ohms, 150 into 4 ohms)—very unusual at this price level.
The day before CES opens is designated Press Day, with press conferences scheduled every hour, including presentations by major consumer electronics manufacturers such as Pioneer, Toshiba, Philips, Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony. These are extremely well-attended, to the point that last year some of the press conferences were so full that members of the audio/video specialty press ended up being turned away. As Wes Phillips noted in a recent news story, for the 2008 Show CES announced that, to deal with this problem, it would be more stringent in determining who gets a Press badge. While they may indeed have done so, there were still huge crowds at all the press conferences I attended, although I think this time at least all my fellow audio/video writer colleagues managed to
get in. (That's www.ultimateavmag.com's Tom Norton in the foreground.)
Thiel's press conference at the Sands Convention Center on Day One of the 2008 CES opened with a detailed critique of the complexities and challenge of installing a home theater system. Ekin Binal, Vice President, Product Development, of BICOM, an IT company partnering with THIEL to address these issues, spoke in detail about the complex, labor intensive, time-intensive, cost-intensive installation of multiple speakers and channels. Furthermore, updating such a home theater system is never simple nor convenient, nor is moving a system from an old house to a new house either simple or inexpensive. Because installation is custom work, there is no universal package a single manufacturer can create that can fit most domestic locations.