Frank Cheng's Acoustic System International now produces LiveLine cabling. Combining acoustic resonator technology with super thin, solid-core wire, the cabling is composed of different segments that contain wires made from different metals that are ultimately soldered together at 850 degrees. The RCA interconnect costs $995 (length not stipulated in the press materials), XLR interconnect $1450, 1.8m power cable $995, and 2.4m speaker cable $1750. One online publication gave each of these cables a product of the year award.
I walked into Balanced Audio Technology's room and almost couldn't leave. Geoff Poor was driving a pair of WATT/Puppy 8s wth an all BAT system consisting of a VK-D5SE/Superpack CD player ($9500), VK-32SE preamplifier ($8000), and the new 55Wpc VK-55SE amplifier ($5995).
Magico had two rooms at the Venetian, the first of which featured the Californian company's new 4-way M5 ($89.000/pair). Weighing in at 360 lbs, the M5 features a ring-radiator tweeter built into the baffle, two 6" Nano-Tec-coned midrange units, and two 9" Nano-Tec woofers, these featuring 5" voice-coils. The sealed enclosureno ports in Alon Wolf's designsis constructed, like other Magico speakers, from multiple layers of Baltic Birch plywood. The convex front baffle is machined from a 200lb slab of aircraft-grade aluminum.
Rives Audio's Richard Bird introduced me to Navison, a brand I was aware of but not familiar with. Navison products are aesthetic knock outsgorgeous wood (or black lacquer), etched gold faceplates (or chrome), and deep black transformer pots. They are audio confections.
Although it was shown in protype form at the 2008 CES, the Giya from South African manufacturer Vivid ($58,000/pair) is now in production and was being demmed in US distributor On A Higher Note's penthouse suite at the Mirage hotel with Luxman amplification, Nordost Odin cabling, Quantum power conditioning, and open-reel tapes from The Tape Project's second batch of releases played back on a Tim de Paravicini-modified Technics deck.
I was not previously aware of Vexo, a Milan-based manufacturer of tube amps, but I was very impressed by the 15Wpc VXSE-KT88/C ($3900). I asked Koetsu USA's Hiram Toro if that price meant the amps were designed in Milan but built in Asia. "Oh no," he said. "Vexo is designed and built in Italy and it is stuffed with European components.
The Wavemaster monoblock power amplifiers ($9000$10,000/pair) can put out 200W into 4 ohms. They employ an Audience discrete-component front end, switching power supply, and come with an Audience Power Chord. They accommodate single-ended and balanced inputs.
With a factory in Brooklyn's Navy Yard, John DeVore's DeVore Fidelity is almost a neighbor, and he is that rare bird, an American speaker manufacturer who makes his own cabinets. Or rather, he benefits from leasing space to a high-end wood-working company. New at CES was the Gibbon 3XL (around $3500/pair), an impressive sounding two-way standmount that, unusually, features a cabinet made from bamboo. Bamboo is "green," in that it is a fast-growing renewable material, yet its combination of stiffness and damping makes it very suitable for use in speaker cabinets.
Robert Baird got the scoop on this one in the February issue of Stereophile. Check his Aural Robert column for details about the Sonic Focus technology included in this iPod dock and its surprising heritage.
Whenever I think of Totem Acoustics, I tend to associate the Montreal-based company with relatively affordable high-performance speakers like the Model One and The Forest. But designer and founder Vince Bruzzese has attempted to reach for the stars with his floorstanding WInd design ($12,500/pair, according to the cryptic spider scratchings in my reporter's notebook) . Acquisition of a new CNC wood-working machine has allowed him to update the Wind, and at CES, Totem was showing the latest version, finished in high-gloss automotive paints. (The speaker shown with Vince is finished in "De Tomasso Blue.")