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.
The touchscreen music server market has picked up a new face with the official release of Blue Smoke's "The Black Box". Demonstrated in prototype form at last year's CES, the final version is a sleek, um, black box with a single disc slot on the front and an array of connectors on the back. Retail is $6995 and should be hitting dealer shelves Q1 2009.
Esoteric has upgraded the wiring and parts inside the flagship P-01 and D-01 SACD/CD transport and DAC and has renamed them the P01-VU and D01-VU respectively. Each DAC is a single channel and retails for $16k and the transport will run you $32k. These are superbly built and incredible sounding digital products. Even if you can't afford them, just be glad they exist in our world.
Innovation comes from surprising places. Esoteric has always focused on pushing the state of the art with their flagship and pricey digital players (the financially squeemish can skip to another post now), but they've also begun to accommodate digital media wherever it may be found.
Between 150 and 200 producers of cables and components rely on WBT for their terminations and connectors. Hence, any advance in their line has profound implications for audiophiles. This year, WBT was touting its Nextgen terminations. Composed of either pure copper or fine silver, Nextgen connectors s boast less mass than other WBT terminations, and are claimed to yield superior sound.
Kimber Kable was more than happy to show off the four latest additions to its very full line of cables. First came the 12TC Teflon-insulated speaker cables, which use 24 conductors. Terminated with WBT Nextgen, an 8' pair of 12TC costs $854. Next there's the Cadence Subwoofer cable, which costs $175 for 1 meter with the best terminations Kimber supplies. Finally, complementing Kimber's HD19 1.3 cable, which costs $239 for 4 meters are the new HD09 1.3 (5 meters for $159) and HD29 1.3 (5 meters for $557). Other lengths are, of course, available. The display in the Venetian may have been static, but the very live demo Kimber Kable was conducting simultaneously at The Alexis Park was reportedly producing great sound.
E.A.R. USA took advantage of CES to announce the world premiere of the Origo cable line from Jorma Design of Sweden. Prices for loudspeaker cables start at $7000 for the first meter, while interconnects start at $5250 for a 1-meter pair. A cable that, I am told, counts Japan as its major market, two of Jorma's lines have been designated "Product of the Year" by a leading Japanese audiophile publication. Jorma's extensive line starts with Jorma No.3 ($1450 for a 1m pair of speaker cables), and proceeds to Jorma No.2 ($2860 for a 1m pair of speaker cables), Jorma No.1 ($5000 for that pair), the new Origo, and the top-of-the line Jorma Prime ($12,800 for a 1m pair of speaker cables). All lines include loudspeaker cables in both single and bi-wire terminations, RCA and XLR interconnects, and jumpers. An Origo power cable, aptly named Origo Power, is due out shortly.
Kerem Kücükaslan (pronounced something like "Kooshookasslan," shown standing in the center of the photo), former President of the Istanbul HiFi Club, is justifiably proud of his Echole Obsession cables. When I first encountered these cables, mated with Kaiser Kawero speakers from Germany at last year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I was mightily impressed with the huge, three-dimensional soundstage that the system achieved in a huge ballroom. Playing a portion of Ivan Fischer's R2D4 recording of Mahler's Symphony 2, this system spoke musical truth.
After years of attending shows where Nordost cabling was successfully paired with Raidho Acoustics speakers, I was surprised to learn that the Raidho Acoustics Ayra C-2 ($24,000) speakers are internally wired with Nordost Valhalla. No wonder the combination is so synergistic. Frankly, even a boom box would sound like a breakthrough product if it were wired with the Nordost Odin I heard in this room. Odin ain't cheapOdin power cables cost $11,000 for a decent length, interconnects $16,000 for 1m, and speaker wire starts at $20,000 for 1m, with the best sound said to come from 4 meter lengths of speaker cable and an investment of $38,000but the sound is as full, complete, neutral, and satisfying as anything I've yet heard. My own experience confirms that single Odin power cable can transform the sound of a system.
Upon hearing that I was looking for relatively inexpensive electronics to feature in our blog, Parasound's Richard Schram and publicist extraordinaire Gordon Sell immediately pointed to a static display of Parasound's Halo P 7 multichannel analog preamp. Designed by Finland's Juha Kuusama, the Halo P 7's origins lie in Juha's design for Parasound's first surround processor, which was released late in the last century.