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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Siltech Importer Ethan Wood, who claims to be the biggest man in the high-end industry, gave me low-down on the family affair known as Siltech and Crystal Cable. (Note: Crystal Cable is in the process of choosing a new importer for its cable and speaker line). Siltech was founded by Edwin Van der Kleig, while Crystal is property of his wife Gabi. Both companies use highly pure silver and 24K gold in the majority of their products.
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.
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.
I love this stuff. Ultra System's Robert Stein (pictured right with Bernd Alne of HiFi-Tuning left) greeted me with an entire array of 12 audio enhancement products, a host of which are just entering the US market. One that will surely attract Michael Fremer's attention is the Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner. This German wonder, which retails for $3495, delivers the world's first, fully automatic ultrasonic as well as mechanical LP cleaning bath. The baby treats both sides of an LP to an ultrasonic cleaning, then to a liquid bath, and finally to a blow dry. The only services it doesn't offer are tints and highlights.
Sam Laufer of Laufer Teknik has become the US manufacturer and distributor of Bybee Wire and the distributor of the Bybee Power Purifier ($4500) that is manufactured by Transparent. Here he's pictured holding the new Bybee wire, which contains the equivalent of three Bybee Golden Goddess Speaker Bullets. While I haven't tried the wire, I have two sets of Bullets on each of my reference speaker inputs, and am continually startled by their ability to clarify and refine low-level bass detail. I never, ever thought I could get this much bass clarity from my speakers, especially from closely spaced, multiple parallel lines of double basses and cellos.
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.
Montreal-based company Verity has been slowly building a reputation for sound quality with its unique speakers, which combine a conventional head-unit on-top a woofer module that, unusually, mounts the drivers on its rear. CES saw the launch of two new models, the Leonore ($15,995/pair) and Finn ($5995/pair). Both speakers offer high sensitivities in the low 90s, and while the Leonore produced an impressive sound from Keith Jarrett's Live at Carnegie Hall CD powered by Nagra's forthcoming MSA stereo amp that Wes Phillips blogged about earlier, I was also impressed by the more affordable, one-box Finn, which was demmed with Nagra's PMA "pyramid" amps. The rest of the system included a Basis Debut turntable and Vector 4 tonearm, Nagra PLL preamp and Nagra's new battery-powered BPS phono stage, which I am sure Mikey Fremer will be reviewing in the near future.