At the end of every CES, we struggle to find the underlying themes that bind the show to the industry and the world at large. The overwhelming theme this year was the economy. Attendance was downthe official estimate was 10% off of last year's, but everyone I spoke with snorted in derision at that figure.
Over at the Boing Boing blog, it is customary to run a "unicorn chaser," an overly cute picture of a unicorn after posting a post that makes you go "eeeew." German Physiks Unicorn mk II ($21,500/pair) were sort of like that, only for show sound. Ahh, that's better.
Scaena is a modular speaker design that combines multiple small midrange drivers, each mounted in a pod affixed to a rigid stand, with subwoofers placed elsewhere.The speakers come with digital crossover and high-current amplification for the subs. The speakers come as 24, 30, or 36 pod units and you can add as many subs as you require.
A new speaker from Vandersteen Audio doesn't happen very oftenRichard Vandersteen introduced his Model 2 in 1977 and the 2009 CES witnessed the debut of the Model 7, which, at $45,000/pair is the most expensive speaker ever from the frugal Mr. V.
Ron Sutherland had a new battery powered phono section, the Hubble ($3800). The batteries come in a special battery compartment, so that there is only a single point of contact at each pole. He reckons the batteries are good for 800 hours of use and he has incorporated at clock in the unit so you can keep track. Each time you fire it up, program in you anticipated listening session and it will count it down and turn off the power at the assigned timethe same LEDs that serve as the timer also indicate battery strength as well.
While bunches 'o companies were hopping on the USB DAC bandwagon, Weiss quietly goes their own way, focusing on getting the audio out of your computer via FireWire. The company also sells professional audio equipment.
Music Hall was showing a new USB DAC wit a tube output stage. The Music Hall dac25.5 ($600) uses an Electro-Harmonix 6922 tube, a Texas Instruments PCM1796 24-bi/192kHz DAC chip, a TI SRC4192 Asynchronous sample-rate converter (with a high-precision active crystal oscillator master clock), and four digital inputs (S/PDIF, TOSLINK, XLR, and USB). It sports re-clocking and user-adjustable upsampling (96kHz or 192kHz). It outputs analog via XLR or RCA.
The Pass SCPI phono section ("under $4000") was an awfully slick looking piece of kit. "Basically, we took everything we learned in the Aleph Ono and improved upon it," said Pass engineer Wayne Colburn. The SCPI accommodates multiple inputs and has improved circuit traces, capacitors, and toroidal power supply.
While I was cruising NAD's booth, I noticed the M2 Direct Digital amplifierobviously part of NAD's Masters Series. I asked one Nad rep to tell me about it. "Oh, we didn't bring itit's not going to be released until spring."
All the wire used in DH Labs's products is manufactured in the USA; cables are manufactured in the same facility that manufactures for NASA. At least 11 major recording studios use the company's cables, and others will soon join the list. This, along with the nice sound albeit not ultimately detailed sound they were getting from their modest display system certainly suggests that they're doing something right.
Relatively affordable at $30,000/pair, that is, given the cost-no-object construction featured by TAD's new CR-1 "Compact Reference Monitor," seen here with its designer Andrew Jones and compared with the company's original floorstanding and superb-sounding Reference One from 2006. (Across the corridor from TAD, Ray Kimber was using four Reference Ones to demo his new IsoMike recordings in surround.)
Not an audiophile product per se, SE2 Labs ITC One "Integrated Theater Console" takes all the components typical in a high-end audio/video rack, and strips away everything but the circuit boards and transports and puts them all in a single climate-controlled chassis.