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 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."
"Wow, that's great," I said, looking down at B&W's new $599 Zeppelin iPod player, the football-shaped Zeppelin, as it played a track from Tal Wilkenfeld's new Transformation album off of my Apple iPhone. Tal Wilkenfeld, a 21 year-old, very pretty, Australian girl, was all the buzz after she played bass with Jeff Beck at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival Concert in Chicago last summer.
One of the highlights of RMAF 2007 was encountering Lou Hinkley's Daedalus Audio Ulysses loudspeakers ($8800/pair) in the ART Audio room. Here, paired with Gill Audio Designs Alana preamp ($5000) and Elise DAC ($6000), an Ensemble transport, Clayton M-200 power amps ($9500/pair), and relatively inexpensive Empirical Design cabling, the system was arresting in its transparency and three-dimensionality.
Several rooms this year are sporting 1/4" reel to reel decks as source components. The Tape Project has caught on with exhibitors in the Venetian including Pioneer/TAD & Magico. Representatives from TTP were often spotted hauling reel to reel tapes, along with the machines that play them (such as this modified Technics 1600) up and down the halls.
The Lyngdorf Server 1 is a music and video server had us drooling. Lyngdorf, of course, loves to keep signals digital until the last millimeter, building DACs into their active DSP-driven loudspeakers. The Server 1 sounded great—there was just one problem: It isn't available. Yet.
Esoteric unveiled its new X-05 SACD/CD player ($5600), which employs a new VRDS-NEO "VMK-5" drive mechanism that includes a precision machined aluminum turntable and a polycarbonate clamping mechanism. The VMK-5 is said to be extremely rigid and optimized for SACD's high-rotation speeds.
Wes Phillips, Stephen Mejias, and Kal Rubinson join San Antonio, Texas retailer Galen Carol on the way to the Venetian. As Galen explained to us, high end retailing is a bit of a challenge, but still viable to dealers that take care of their customers and offer old fashioned service.