Chord demonstrated the absolutely stunning Indigo Advanced D to A ($15,000). Yes, that's an iPod dock on top, but the Indigo isn't just another iPod dock. For one thing, you can only dock Chord modified iPods directly into it, allowing Chord to access the digital data in the iPod. The Indigo also has a A2DP radio "dongle" that can seamlessly stream digital radio ir music from anywhere in the room. Another dongle is supplied to stream analog output from unmodified iPods.
Lamm was driving the new Wilson Maxx series 3 with its 32Wpc ML3 Signature SE triode monoblocks ($139,290/pair). It was my first chance to hear either, so I can't tell you if it was the speakers or the amps that were making the magic happen, but happen it did.
Tenor's promised Tenor Pre preamplifier ($40,000) is a hybrid, using tubes for the input stage and MOSFETs for the output. It should be available in two months. As a whole, the Tenor system (fleshed out with Hansen Emperors and Kubala-Sosna cables) was outstanding.
Jim Aud of Purist Audio Design has released several new products. The diminutive Digital Isolation Adapter ($300) plugs into the S/PDIF output of a CD transport or music server with then the RCA digital cable that connects the transport and DAC plugged into it. The Adapter is claimed to electrically isolate the transport to the DAC, reduce jitter via control of the 75 ohm impedances, and reduce EMI/RF noise.
CES presented me with my first opportunity to make the acquaintance of Stephen Hill and Straight Wire. The Florida company has just released a "push prong" re-usable, solderless RCA plug that makes Straight Wire cable termination a snap. Especially appealing to custom installers, the termination actually leads to a higher level of performance by enabling quick silver-plated termination without piercing cable insulation.
Visiting Kara Chafee of de Havilland, whose amplifiers invariably grace music with a wonderful sense of air, enabled me to take a first listen to Cable Research Lab (CRL) cables. CRL's mid-level "Silver" line is a very recent recipient of a "Product of the Year Award" from a certain publication known for its absolutism. Another very positive publication fed CRL an award in 2007.
Tara Labs has so many levels of cables that factory manager Matthew Sellars, who assists designer Matthew Bond with cable design and oversees implementation, had to draw a four-tiered chart just to explain where the company's newest offerings fall in the Tara Labs hierarchy. That may be an exceedingly long opening sentence. But so is Tara Labs' product list.
Stillpoints, a vibration-control company that has been making equipment support racks since 2003, has just introduced a 40"-wide, low mass, open-air rack that allows you to stack two components side by side on each support shelf. Each ultra long support shelf holds two 20"x16" equipment shelves, each of which can hold a separate component on the appropriate support technology. Each equipment shelf also contains six pockets of Stillpoints' multi-patented vibration damping technology, making for 12 pockets of vibration control per large support shelf. Stillpoints' Paul Wakeen claims that each time you add another layer of Stillpoint isolation, the sound of your system improves.
RBH Sound is best-known for its home-theater speakers, but CES saw the Utah-based company launch a "Signature" series of speakers that were demo'd in two-channel systems. I listened to a Telarc Aaron Copland recording on the three-way, sealed-box 8300-SE/R towers ($8449/pair), with a Boulder 1021 CD player and Boulder 860 power amplifier, and was impressed by the natural balance, extended low frequencies, and good dynamics.
Ypsilon was showing a monster of an amplifierthe 120W SE-100 Mk. II($70,000/each). A single-ended hybrid, it uses a 5842 input tube and a row of MOSFET output devices. It's entirely wired point-to-point and sports custom power transformers. Of course, it's stuffed with boutique components.
Nagra's new 60Wpc MSA stereo power amp ($8000) is loosely based on its older "pyramid" PSA amp. This MOSFET stereo amplifier (geddit?) sounds far better than the older one, IMHO. Verity's John Quick played some tracks from Manu Katches stunning Neighborhood and the new guy had better pacing and, more importantly, far better timbre. I heard deeper into the soundstage, especially hearing more of Katche's superlative stick work.
Due to a horrible traffic jam in the bowels of the Sands/Venetian Show venue, I was only able to catch the tail end of Greenpeace's January 9 press conference. The good news is that the greenest consumer electronics products on the market today have a smaller environmental footprint than those sold a year ago. The sad news is that there is considerable room for improvement.
There are always live concerts at CES and the 2009 Show was no exception. Cable manufacturer Ultralink/XLO brought Showgoers virtuoso bass guitarist Dean Peer Friday evening. Dean, whose audiophile sound-quality CDs Ucross and Travelogue are being reissued by Ultralink/XLO, used artificial harmonics, flamenco right-hand techniques, and a battery of effects pedals to create complex yet funky soundscapes. Thanks for the sonic treat, Ultralink/XLO.JA