CES 2010

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2010 0 comments
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..
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2010 8 comments
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.)
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 14, 2010 4 comments
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.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2010 0 comments
Havng recently used Esoteric's four-box SACD playback system, with its dual-mono DACs and the ultra-high-precision Rubidium Clock unit, I checked out what the Japanese company was displaying in the rooms they were sharing with cable manufacturer Synergistic Research. My eye was caught by this beautifully styled one-box SACD player/DAC/100Wpc amplifier. The RZ-1 is scheduled to sell for $6000 and as well as using one of Esoteric's highly regarded SACD/CD transport mechanisms, it has both 192kHz-capable S/PDIF and 24/96-capable USB digital inputs and—significantly for the way the audio market is going—a phono preamplifier. The 32-bit D/A section uses an AKM AK4392 chip and offers both a conventional reconstruction filter, one that resembles Meridian's minimum-phase "apodizing" filter.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2010 3 comments
"Have you heard the Devialet D-Premier amplifier?" asked UK high-end distributor Riccardo Franassovici when I bumped into him in the Magico room. (We were both there to check out the impressive new Q5 loudspeaker that Jason Serinus writes about elsewhere in this report.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2010 1 comments
Walking into the Jeff Rowland Design Group room is like walking into a dreamscape of audio bling. To look at a Rowland faceplate is like gazing into the face of God...well, maybe that's overstating it a bit. Whoever set up the Rowland room knows how great their gear looks and even set up floor to ceiling poles full of lights, strategically aimed to heighten their hypnotic, 3-D look.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2010 0 comments
Musical Fidelity, now distributed in the US by Tempo, had a room at the Mirage and were displaying lots of new equipment. As part of their newly released M series, Antony Michaelson's company showed off the M6i dual-mono integrated amplifier. The amps' circuitry design trickles down from the Musical Fidelity Titan amp reviewed last June by Michael Fremer. The amp puts out 200Wpc, retails for $3000, and, surprisingly, features a USB input.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2010 11 comments
One of the many delights of CES was running into Neil Sinclair, former owner of Theta Digital, in the hallways of the Venetian. In answer to my question, "What would you recommend I check out?" Neil led me to the King's Audio suite.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2010 3 comments
Some of my favorite industrial design in the audio industry comes from Chord. I'm not sure that the cool glass and aluminum flourishes found on many of their products have key functional utility, but they sure look inviting. So the relatively understated casework done for the new Cyan Click Digital Integrated Amplifier still stands out among more staid designs from others.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2010 0 comments
In the Laufer-Teknik room, I had the opportunity to audition the Ascendo C8 loudspeaker ($9800/pair) with stand. This three-way includes a rear-firing ribbon tweeter and upward-firing, internal woofer, and has a specified sensitivity of 88dB
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2010 1 comments
For those of you who lust after a Benchmark DAC but wish it had remote control, rejoice. And in typical pro-audio fashion, they didn't add just any remote, but a motorized Alps pot that turns the front panel knob. The company claims that digital volume controls can reduce dynamic range and analog IC type controls add distortion and noise, hence their custom motorized design.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2010 3 comments
Two of my colleagues had waxed so enthusiastic about the Vienna Acoustics The Music loudspeaker ($27,000/pair), showcased in the huge Sumiko suite on the 34th floor, that I had to take a listen for myself. Sources were the Wadia 781 CD player and Project Xtension turntable ($6000) with Sumiko Palisantos Presentation cartridge ($3500), feeding an Aesthetix Calypso linestage, Aesthetix Io phono preamp, and Aesthetix Atlas amplifier. Also heard was a pair of REL G1 subwoofers ($3995 each), all connected by a mix of Transparent Audio and OCOS cabling.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2010 10 comments
As I wandered the halls looking for the next audio fix, a friendly voice with a thick Swedish accent called out to me. Since I'm pretty new at the magazine, I wondered who might be calling out my name let alone who might be calling out name that's from Scandinavia. It turned out it was Timo Engstrom, the maker of The Lars two-chassis, tube integrated amplifier that Art Dudley wrote about in June 2009. Somehow Timo read my badge and knew I was covering amplification at CES for Stereophile—he must have good eyes. He invited me in to have a listen to the Lars.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2010 4 comments
Every time I see a Nagra piece I get lust in my heart, Jimmy Swaggart style. I think it all goes back to the old days when I produced CDs with JA and he used his Nagra D digital tape recorder. It was a great -sounding and awesome-looking recorder. Of course these days when we record, that old Nagra has, for better or worse, been replaced with a laptop or Mac mini— or something else nowhere near as sexy.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2010 4 comments
Rogue Audio was also showing off the yet-to-be-released Ares phono preamplifier. The preamp can be run in all-tube or hybrid tube/solid-state to allow it to work with any cartridge you might want to throw at it. Mark O'Brien told me he was completing the design as recently as two weeks ago. The Ares will retail for $1995 and will start shipping at the end of June 2010.

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