CES 2010

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2010 8 comments
On the fourth floor of THE Show, Tim Ryan of Simpli-Fi was demming the Gradient Helsinki 5.1 loudspeaker ($6500/pair, down from $8000 a year ago). This weird-looking loudspeaker produces anything but weird sound. Designed to avoid reflections from the sidewalls and floor, it has 85dB sensitivity, a nominal 6 ohm impedance, and a frequency range of 200Hz–20kHz.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2010 2 comments
Newly unveiled in the Cary Audio room was the CAD 211 Founders Edition amplifier. This fully balanced monoblock retails for $20,000/pair. The amps have taps for 4, 8 and 16 ohm speakers and specified as putting out 70W in class-A, increasing to 110W when pushed into class-AB. They also employ zero feedback so I'm not going to send them to JA's test bench (low-feedback designs seem to make him grumpy). They sounded sweet and full-bodied driving the Marten Coltrane speakers, with cabling by Tara Labs. It is ironic, however, noted JA, that Cary founder Dennis Had retired from Cary in the fall of 2009.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2010 2 comments
I always look forward to Peter Ledermann's analog demos, because the sound of his cartridges, electronics, and speakers is consistently delicious. While it certainly was this time around, some surprising booming in the bass—something I do not recall hearing at any previous SoundSmith demo—alerted me to the fact that the small rooms at THE Show, situated on the fourth floor of the Flamingo Hotel, were a bitch to control.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2010 2 comments
Visiting one of Aaudio Imports' rooms gave me another opportunity to hear Tidal loudspeakers from Germany. I initially encountered an extremely imposing pair of these speakers on the first day of the show, paired with BAlabo electronics and Echole cabling. Now before me was a smaller pair of the Tidal speakers, either the Contriva Diacera SE ($73,500/pair) or Piano Cera ($28,400/pair). (The equipment sheet listed both models).
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 12, 2010 4 comments
The Holm Acoustics leather wrapped remote control which feels heavy and comfortable in the hand. Just press on the leather for the buttons to work.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2010 7 comments
What a relief to revisit VTL electronics, and breathe in the mellow midrange of jazz vocalist Johnny Hartmann singing on the Original Recordings Group reissue of I Just Dropped by to Say Hello. There's a beauty and timbral truth to VTL electronics that you do not hear from many tube products that cost more than the $50,000/pair Siegfried monoblocks, and far more than the wonderful VTL MB450 Signature Series II monoblocks ($15,000/pair).
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Brian Damkroger Posted: Jan 12, 2010 2 comments
My penultimate stop at THE Show, held for the first time this year at the Flamingo, was the Audience room, where they were playing a system full of new gear. Their line stage combines a relay-controlled autotransformer volume control and zero-gain active buffer. The unit has four inputs, all single-ended, and very clever switching to keep noise to an absolute minimum. Oh—it also includes a headphone amp and all of Audience's power and signal-transfer technology, in a sleek, compact package.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2010 3 comments
CES is where you can see the new but it is also where you can catch up with old acquaintances. Caught here in the CES Press Room in Jon Iverson's photo, I'm standing on the left with my partner in Stereophile Inc. for 12 years, Larry Archibald, who is both enjoying his retirement from the high-end audio industry and missing it, and Larry's wife, Laura Chancellor. It was on the 700-mile drive back to Santa Fe, New Mexico, from the CES in January 1986 that Larry, Laura, and I mapped out the future of Stereophile.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2010 3 comments
Beckoning like the mythical paradise for which the Coloradon company is named, the Avalon Acoustics Time loudspeakers ($47,995/pair) stood in a large suite on the 34th floor. Surrounded by a large complement of room-tuning devices that only partially controlled their low end, the beauty and clarity of the Time's diamond tweeter transmitted the beauty of Renaud Capuüon's violin as few other speakers I have heard.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 12, 2010 2 comments
Denmark's Holm Acoustics set themselves up at the Flamingo with their beautifully-designed CD1 transport at $7,300 and DSPre 1 DAC/preamp/DSP starting at around $8,000 depending on the number of processing channels and analog output.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 12, 2010 4 comments
Vandersteen's $45,000/pair, time- and phase-correct, four-way, floorstanding, Model Seven loudspeaker made its debut at the 2009 CES but is now in production. I sat with Richard Vandersteen in his suite at the Venetian, and listened intently to his description of how he designed the Model Seven. He started by saying, "I didn't really understand the advantages of carbon-fiber as a material that could help speaker design until I built my own airplane." From there, he described how he developed a patent-pending sandwich of high-Young’s Modulus carbon-fiber skins bonded to a balsa-wood core for the mid-bass, midrange, and tweeter diaphragms, which combines very high stiffness for proper pistonic operation, with high self-damping. Carbon-fiber construction for the enclosure also allowed him to restrict the cabinet resonance to very high frequencies, where they will have no effect on sound quality. The drive-units use Vandersteen’s patented method of avoiding rear reflections from the magnet structure. The powered 12" subwoofer fires down at the floor. All this was evident when he played a vinyl recording of Holst's The Planets. The Model Seven, driven by Aesthetix amplification, played with unusual clarity and definition, and I could easily follow different motifs in this orchestral selection that I had not been aware of at home. From what I heard at the Show, I anticipate the Model Seven doing very well in the review scheduled to run in the March, 2010 issue of Stereophile.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 12, 2010 7 comments
Some disc players simply look better than others when the lights go out. The Raysonic CD168 Tube CD-Player is one such machine and retails for $2,550. The CD168 uses 4 Russian 6922EH tubes and upconverts your CDs to 24 bit/192kHz to either balanced or unbalanced outputs.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2010 2 comments
Most of the time at CES, Stereophile's writers prowl the corridors in solitary fashion. But occasionally we find ourselves in the same room at the same time, which was the case in the Blue Smoke suite at the Mirage, where we had gathered to check out the company's new server that Jon Iverson blogs about elsewhere in this report. Seen in this photo are (from left to right): Erick Lichte, Jon Iverson, Kalman Rubinson, Larry Greenhill (partially hidden), Blue Smoke's Peter Sills (back to the camera), and someone whose name tag I couldn't see. It gives you an idea of the inquisitorial mode we are in at Shows, desperate for detail but eventually satiated with sound.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 12, 2010 5 comments
John Atkinson introduced me to English engineer Laurence Dickie, who was sharing our ride up the elevators to the 34th floor of the Venetian Hotel. Mr. Dickie is a well-known loudspeaker designer, responsible for the original B&W 800 and B&W Nautilus loudspeaker designs, and as well as the cute little Blue Room Minipods, and is now creating new products for South African company Vivid from his design studio in Brighton, England. "Dick," as he is known to his friends, designed the G1 flagship for Vivid, which retails now for $65,000/pair and was being demonstrated in the Convergence Audio suite with, among other things, the piano recordings John Atkinson made and wrote about in the February issue’s “As We See It.” Laurence is shown here with the smaller G2, which was being demmed in the Halcro room and so impressed Erick Lichte.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2010 9 comments
Dynaudio had something for almost everyone with an exhibit that ranged from affordable to cost-no-object. At one of the room stood the imposing Consequence SE, whose bass was so powerful that it would interact with the spongy wall behind it unless the mighty Michael Manousselis braced himself against the corner. But on the other end of the long room sat a marvelous little system composed of the Contour S 1.4 ($3500/pair, with optional stands costing an additional $450), Octave V40SE 40Wpc integrated amp ($4900), and an optional capacitance Black Box ($1200) that increased the capacitance of the integrated amp's power supply. Interconnects were from Tara Labs, and speaker cables the Ocos Pro ($900/3 meter pair).

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