Some products at CESall-black products, with black highlights, and with the lettering tastefully done in black, in a darkened roomdefeat all but the most-determined photographers. So my thanks to Larry Greenhill for managing to photograph the new Classé CTM600 600W monoblock amplifier ($6500 each).
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."
Friday was the busiest day I and other Stereophile writers found at the CES venues. Pictured here is a lull in the traffic taken from a window at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) near the press room, where the line for the free press lunch stretched hundreds of feet. Later that day, the bus and cab lines at the LVCC stretched half a mile as evening approached and the temperature outside dropped from mid 60s to temperatures in the 40s (Fahrenheit). Little evidence of a recession was visible in pure crowd count, but I ran into many more Asian and European attendees, while missing some friends in the audio high end community who skipped CES this year.
I have come to expect innovative engineering from Rockport's Andy Payor, and was not disappointed by his new Alya loudspeaker. The two-way Alya costs $29,500/pair and marries Scanspeak's new beryllium-dome tweeter with a custom Audio-Technology woofer with a 6.5" carbon-fiber cone and a 2" voice-coil. The front baffle is aluminum and internal horizontal rods connect it to the rear of the cabinet, holding the HDF enclosure in a rigid grip. A rear port is tuned to a respectable 35Hz.
I had gone into the Koetsu USA room at the Venetian to catch up on the latest developments to the Italian Blacknote DSS30 media server, which I hope to be reviewing later in the year. But I was very taken by the sound of the three-way Odeon Elektra loudspeakers ($19,100/pair), which, driven either by the DSS30,a Goldennote Stibbert CD player, or a Montegiro LP player, via a Goldennote 75Wpc, solid-state integrated amplifier, didn't sound at all like what I expect from horn speakers. Strings had a natural sheen, brass winds a natural "blattiness." Whether solo voice, classical orchestral, or solo piano (a high-rez Beethoven Sonata from 2L), the sound was uncolored, unstrained, and enjoyable.
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.
There were a few companies showing products on the 2nd floor of the Venetian, adjacent to the Sands Convention Center, where the Adult Show was being held. After John Atkinson and I grabbed a well-needed afternoon cup of coffee we checked out a few of the spaces on these lower floors. JA and I quickly found the Parasound/Atlantic Technology rooma pairing of companies I would not have come up with myself. On silent display was the brand new JC3 phono preamplifier ($2000). Those who know about Parasound equipment will already know that the JC moniker for this phono stage indicates that it was designed by John Curl, an engineer that many audiophiles (and reviewers) speak of only in hushed tones. As you can see from JA's photo, the preamp is divided up into shielded sections within the chassis to keep the dirty signals dirty and the clean signals clean. Each channel's circuitry is encased in a metal sub-enclosure, that also shields the input and output jacks, and is supplied super-regulated DC from the power supply.
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.
I was aware of CEntrance from the code they supply for the Texas Instruments USB receiver chip used by Benchmark , Bel Canto and others to allow USB connection without there having to be a driver program on the host PC. But the Chicago-based company also makes USB-based hardware, and at THE Show, Jason Serinus and I bumped into their Managing Director, Michael Goodman (left) who is showing Jason the cute DACport USB Headphone Amplifier ($500). This 24/96-capable, bus-powered, cigarette lighter-sized product has a miniature USB port on one end and a ¼" headphone jack on the other, with a small volume pot on top. CEntrance also makes similar bus-powered products with an A/D converter to connect microphones and electric guitars to a PC via USB.
The vendor display at THE Show was up and going strong throughout the four days. Classic Records, who clearly didn't want to attract any attention, joined Acoustic Sounds, Chesky, Elusive Disc, HDtracks.com, MA Recordings, Music Direct, Reference Recordings, themusic.com, Ultra Systems, Truextent, Quality Rare Records, and Parts Express.
The first night of CES saw a memorial reception held in honor of loudspeaker designer Jim Thiel, who passed away last September. A succession of high-end audio's greatest offered thoughts and reflections on a talented, well-respected, and universally liked man whom everyone agreed was taken from us too soon. Shown in my photo is erstwhile Stereophile publisher Larry Archibald, whose comments were deeply felt and moving. I paid my own tribute to Jim in my November 2009 "As We See It" essay, which I reprised in my closing day's speech at THE Show, discussed above by Jason Serinus..
I know, center-channel speakers are the bailiwick of our sister magazine Home Theater. But as Wilson Audio Specialties' Peter McGrath told me when he explained the speaker's technology to me in the Utah company's suite at the Mirage, two Polarises work magically as a stereo pair. (Unfortunately, the speaker was only being shown, not demonstrated.)