CES 2009

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 11, 2009 2 comments
The name "Loiminchay" comes from a line of high-end pens, I am told, and the prices of the superbly finished Loiminchay speakers are also high-end, the three-way Chagall pictured here coming in at $48,500/pair. But combining a 30mm diamond tweeter with ceramic-cone midrange and LF units in two multi-layer Birch-ply enclosures with a concrete plinth, the Chagall produced smooth, extended sound driven by a Bel Canto class-D power amp and a Nagra CD player.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 11, 2009 3 comments
Zu Audio goes its own way when it comes to speaker design goals, emphasizing sensitivity and dynamic range. The Utah company's new Essence ($5000/pair) covers almost the entire audioband with a single 10" drive-unit, augmenting this unit's output from the central "whizzer cone" in the top octave with a ribbon supertweeter. Sensitivity is claimed to be in the high 90s! The enclosure is constructed from Baltic birch ply with an outer MDF cladding, and the internal wiring is, of course, Zu's own cable, with cold-forged, solder-less connections to the Cardas binding posts.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2009 1 comments
Soundstring designer Leonard Miller, whose eight years in business has garnered a host of positive reviews and product awards, manufactures reasonably priced cables that boast a progressive geometric, multi-gauge/multi-conductor design. Rather than 75 models at 95 different price points, the company has one line, of cables, all of comparable quality, all manufactured in Connecticut. The power cables and speaker cables have three conductors each, the equivalent of 10.5 gauge copper. Interconnects have eight individual conductors, the equivalent of composite 22 gauge. A specific geometric progression promotes signal transmission in the fastest way possible, creating the fastest path for each frequency, thereby allowing components to function optimally with less effort. Soundstring's Tricor Maxial Speaker cables cost $425 for a 6' pair, and the power cord costs $450. Soundstring's HDMI, DVI, and USB cables were used to record Jim Merod's jazz albums, one of which I will soon sample. (Thanks, Jim. The proof is in the pudding, so they say). A line of digital cables is in development.
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John Atkinson & Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2009 0 comments
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
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2009 7 comments
When John Atkinson requested that I check out the new state-of-the-art Sennheiser HD 800 headphones ($1399.95), which will debut next month, I dreaded descending into the madness of the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Little did I know that instead of encountering an impossible throng of tech-crazed computer geeks, I would have my peak sonic experience of CES 2009.
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Wes Phillips Posted: Jan 11, 2009 12 comments
Ypsilon was showing a monster of an amplifier—the 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.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2009 14 comments
Somewhere in the maze of air-walled convention cells in the Sands, I stumbled upon PSC Audio's Pure Silver Connection cable. Handmade in Perth, Australia using the finest, purest Australian silver one can find—6Ns, or 99.99997% pure—each cable receives three to six annealing heating and cooling treatments (without cryogenically freezing) to increase the length of silver crystals, thereby increasing conductivity by 20% over untreated silver.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 11, 2009 0 comments
Wes Phillips gave me the tip. "You must check out the Sonicweld room. Their active Pulserod system uses the DEQX digital crossover." So I checked it out. Comprising two 4'-tall Pulserod towers and two Subpulse subwoofers, the system costs $110,000 but includes all amplification—three 200W class-D ICE modules for the upper-range drivers in each tower and a1.1kW class-D amp for each 15" subwoofer—the crossover module, cables, and even a remote control.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 11, 2009 0 comments
CES is traditionally where new brands come to find US distribution, and the room next to Stereophile's at the Venetian featured some well-finished and good-sounding speakers from Croatian company Audio Epilog, which they shared with Czech tube amp manufacturer KR. (Dig those humongous tubes!) The two-way Cocoa2 should sell for between $7000/pair and $8000/pair when it reaches these shores.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2009 2 comments
"Do you have a low-cost amplifier that Stereophile hasn't reviewed that you'd like people to know about?" I asked VTL's glamorous Bea Lam. With a grace and surety usually reserved for Vannah White, the incomparable Ms. Lam glided over to the diminutive VTL ST-85 Performance Amplifier ($2750).
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2009 3 comments
Want to hear silver turn to platinum? Check out Wireworld's new line of Platinum Eclipse Reference audio cables, whose interconnects are composed of four flat conductors made of Ohno continuous cast solid silver of 99.99997% purity.
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Wes Phillips Posted: Jan 11, 2009 17 comments
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.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2009 3 comments
"We are your one-stop shop for cables and tweaks," proclaimed Joseph Cohen of The Lotus Group, while leading me through two rooms filled products. Even the new products took up two pages of notes. Through it all, I remained extremely jealous of legendary mastering engineer Steve Hoffman, who had settled onto a couch in front of the fabulous Feastrex $55,000/pair speakers, and was blissfully tapping his foot to the extremely realistic, full-range sound of a jazz combo playing back on a A Feastrex modified EMT studio type CD player with outboard line transformer.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 11, 2009 1 comments
I had been impressed by the Prince V2 speakers from Hansen Audio, when Wes Phillips reviewed it for Stereophile a few months back. (Mikey Fremer has written a follow-up for our forthcoming March 2009 issue.) But the 2009 CES was my first chance to hear the Canadian manufacturer's top-line King V2 speaker ($89,000/pair). Powered by CAT amplification, with Stealth cables, the LP of Louis Armstrong's classic performance of "St. James Infirmary" produced a big sweep of sound, with superbly natural tonalities and extended lows, though you could also hear that Hansen's Wes Bender had played this LP a few too many times over the decades!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 11, 2009 1 comments
Perhaps it was the ridiculously expensive 20Wpc Lars tube amplifiers that Wes Phillips blogged about yesterday, but the modest-looking Prio 620 speakers (price starting at $5750/pair) from Finnish manufacturer Amphion, sounded both sweet and powerful on a track from bassist Brian Bromberg. The titanium-dome tweeter is loaded with Amphion's proprietary waveguide, which matches its dispersion above the low 1.2kHz crossover frequency to that of the twin 6.5" paper-cone woofers.

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