I still remember seeing the first two HRT Streamers at CES last year, when Kevin Halverson held them out in his hand, thinking what a great idea to improve the lot of cash-strapped PC Audiophiles. One year and thousands of sales later, version two of the original DACs are out as the $149.95 Music Streamer II and $349.95 Music Streamer II+. Joining them is the Music Streamer Pro at $499.95 which sports balanced +4 voltage outputs and other goodies for the pro-audio set.
"It's really red" I exclaimed, "bright, give-me-a-speeding-ticket red." Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield and distributor Michael Baskin were both quick to respond with "is there really any other color when it comes to special cars? So it is with special audio components."
Peachtree scored a hit last year with their Decco desktop DAC/Amp combo. They've returned with an updated version of the original Decco called the Decco2 which is available now for $799 and sports a 40 watts per channel tube hybrid integrated amp and ESS Sabre DAC.
I was surprised at how ambitious the new Maestro from Electrocompaniet looked on paper: Blu-ray drive, both audio and video streaming, internet radio, FM tuner, options including iPod dock and DAB/HD radio, integrated amplifier delivering 120 Watts into three channels, and optional 75 Watts times two amplifier for surround that can be wirelessly driven using a RF link. All this for between $8,000-10,000 depending on options.
A clever USB to Ethernet bridge (Pont Neufget it?) to allow your computer USB out to serve the Cantata over long cable runs. In striking case to match the Cantata aesthetics and available in February for $400.
Twice this CES, I found rooms that were so striking that I suggested all the Stereophile brothers go take a look/listen. The first one was the Sumiko/Vienna Acoustics suite up on the 34th floor (I still can't get over how great the sound was in that roomyou can read Jason's more reserved take on the room here), and the second, for completely different reasons, was the Resolution Audio room.
As John Atkinson and I entered the room at THE Show in which darTZeel electronics partnered Evolution Acoustics loudspeakers, I was immediately struck by the fullness of the midrange. It was as though the system was opening its heart and welcoming us in. That's how warm and nurturing the sound was.
Since the ES14 from the mid-1980s, speakers from the English Epos company have been renowned for their midrange magic, not for ultimate dynamics. But Mike Creek, Epos's owner, is aiming for both with the Encore 50, which made its debut at CES. This three-way floorstander, priced at $9995/pair, uses two port-loaded 9" woofers with Kevlar/carbon-fiber/pulp-composite cones, in a large cabinet to achieve a high 90dB sensitivity, while the metal-dome tweeter uses an injected-molded roll surround to give high excursion. The midrange is fed by a tapped autotransformer to allow adjustment to a tight tolerance in production.
One of my last stops at THE Show at the Flamingo was the Teresonic room, where Mike Zivkovic demmed his 6'-tall single-driver Ingenium Silver Edition speaker using his own single-ended 2A3 tube amplifier. According to Mike, the amp uses interstage and output transformers from Lundahl and "there is not a capacitor in the circuit."
Colorado manufacturer YG Acoustics, led by the energetic Yoav Geva, achieved notoriety by proclaiming its Anat Reference II Professional the "Best Loudspeaker on Earth. Period. " Stereophile reviewer Wes Phillips didn't disagree with that characterization, though it is fair to note that at $107,000/pair, the Anat Reference II Professional is also one of the more expensive speakers on Earth. Making its debut at CES, YG's two-way Carmel is relatively more affordable, at $18,000/pair, but shares with its sibling an enclosure constructed from slabs of aluminum CNC-machined in-house.
Though my photo shows the Canadian company's Director of Marketing Mark Aling with the top-of-the-line Paradigm Reference Signature S8 tower, my interest was piqued by Paradigm's new SE speakers. The Special Edition series combines elements of the more expensive Paradigm models, such as the tweeter from the Monitor series with the mineral-filled polypropylene-cone bass/midrange drivers from the Reference Studio series. The two-way SE1 bookshelf will sell for a very affordable $598/pair and the three-way floorstanding SE3 for $1398/pair.
San-Diego-based PBN is best-known for its heroically proportioned loudspeakers, but PBN's Peter Noerbaek introduced his new Sammy loudspeaker at THE Show, which, as you can see from the photo, is a little more manageable in size. The 55"-tall Sammy uses premium Scanspeak drive-units in an unusually constructed cabinet (see next photo): a new, long-travel 10” Revelator woofer, a wide-range, 4” Illuminator midrange unit, and the Danish company's new pressure-formed beryllium-dome tweeter. Price will be $29,500/pair.
Ensemble has taken the position that with all the formats flying around, the biggest library of decent-sounding music remains the CD, so they might as well perfect it. Their Dirondo Player and Drive is a straightforward top-loading CD-only machine based on a Philips pro mechanism that allows the user to select the upsampling rate up to 24 bit/192kHz. Price is $12,000 and the Dirondo is available now.