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.
VTL's room is always an oasis at shows, playing music at levels that actually match rather than trying to impress the listener with mere volume, the system
meticulously set up. The same was true at CES 2008, a pair of Wilson WATT/Puppy 8s being driven by the new MB450 Series II tubed monoblocks ($9500/pair), the
"budget-priced" (a mere $50k) Continuum Criterion turntable, and VTL's new TP6.5 phono section ($8500) as the source. The MB450 and other VTL components are
pictured here with the company's co-owner, the ever-gracious Bea Lam.
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.
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.
"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."
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!"