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.
Microsoft wanted to talk to me about its Windows Home Server division—and I wanted to hear what they said because I was impressed last summer at the company's commitment to making its Home Server software as simple as pie.
Choose a door, any door. Confronted with three entirely different systems in the Norvinz room, for some reason I ignored my usual inclinations and moved to the far right. There I encountered veteran electrostatic guru Roger Sanders, formerly of Innersound, who now markets Sanders Sound Systems products online and through Norvinz.
The Replay Turntable ($3499) is Revolver's re-entry into the turntable market after a lengthy absence. It comes packaged with a Jelco tonearm although the company might eventually supply a top plate that can be drilled for any arm. It has a decoupled suspension—which is not sprung–and a large flat belt driven by an AC motor with an outboard power supply. At 50 lbs, it's no lightweight.
"You know," Alon Wolf told us. A lot of what you liked about the sound of my music server was the Pacific Microsonics Model Two DAC I was using. But that's no longer manufactured, this is even better and only $5000."
It's hardly the same as clicking your heels three times and finding yourself back in Kansas, but Stereophile's metaphoric Good Witch of the High End, John Atkinson, has granted me my big wish for CES. Instead of finding myself wandering around and around in circles, following my ears, I’ve been assigned specific turf: T.H.E. Show. And since T.H.E. Show’s two venues, the St. Tropez and adjacent Alexis Park, are literally across the street from our bloggers' home for four nights, the newly and quite tastefully refurbished, remarkably low-key Hyatt Place Las Vegas (formerly the AmeriSuites), yours truly could not be happier. The Sands/Venetian may have more–well-known, higher-profile players, and is certainly attracting more visitors, but I've entered a number of wonderful-sounding rooms on my first day at the St. Tropez to make me quite happy to be here.
The PS Audio Memory Link ($1695) is a CD/DVD/RAM drive. It's a mechanical player (ie, it still spins the discs), but it has an unusually large cache. Conventional players have caches of around 8–16MB, the Memory Link has a 64MB cache. Why is this better?
The Sony booth had a lot of interesting products on display, but hardly anything specifically dealing with audio. Last year, the only product I found I could find in the Sony booth that I could mention in my CES blog was a pair of headphones. This year, the product that I spotted that I thought would be interesting to Stereophile readers was "a pair of headphones!"
I was excited to see Cambridge Audio's TT50 turntable. On display with their small, S30 loudspeakers ($259/pair), the TT50 was looking pretty darn sexy in its high-gloss jet-black finish. If it reminds you of Pro-Ject's popular Debut III, that's probably because the TT50 was developed in partnership with that Austrian firm. It uses a proprietary tonearm, an Audio Technica AT95E moving magnet cartridge, and its elastomer-coated acrylic platter is said to "control resonance and provide matched acoustic impedance to the vinyl record for maximum detail retrieval."