CES 2011

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 15, 2011 0 comments
Steve Holt, global sales manager for MIT, proudly introduced me to the company’s brand new Matrix line of cables. Designed by Bruce Brisson, the cables retail between $9999 and $21,999, and are part of the company’s reference line.

The new speaker cable comes in three flavors: Oracle Matrix HD 90 ($9999/8ft pair), Oracle Matrix HD 100 ($14,999/8ft pair), and Oracle Matrix HD 120 ($21,999/8 ft pair). There is one interconnect, Matrix 50 ($4999/1m pair, $5999/1m balanced pair). For digital cabling, one needs to go up one step in the reference line to Oracle MA-X digital ($3495/1m RCA or BNC, $3995/1m AES/EBU)

These new cables use MIT’s multi-pole technology. “We talk about poles of articulation,” said Holt. “There are electronics inside our boxes on the cables to provide wider bandwith coverage to power, so that sounds at either end of the spectrum won’t be rolled off as quickly.” The Matrix cables also employ a new technology called F.A.T. (Fractional Articulation Technology) that helps maintain the harmonic structure of audio signals.

In the Magico room where they were displayed, the new Magico Q3, Soulution amplifiers, and files from Paul Stubblebine’s Tape Project made wonderful music through Oracle Matrix HD 120 speaker cable and the Oracle MA-X interconnects (start at $8495/1m pair). You can see the Oracle Matrix HD 120 boxes in the above photo, which was taken behind one of the Magico speakers. If other rooms hadn’t called, I would have dropped everything then and there and stayed for hours.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 15, 2011 3 comments
So many music servers and related products appeared at the 2011 CES, that we can now sort them into various sub-categories depending on what is included in the box. I was looking for new or upgraded digital products, but likely missed a few. Feel free to add what I missed in the comments.

Click through to see the complete list of what I found with links and an informal taxonomy.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2011 0 comments
My other joint best sound at CES was to the On a Higher Note room at the Mirage Hotel across the street from the Venetian. On dem was the G2Giya ($50,000/pair), which made its debut at the 2010 CES, driven by a Luxman stereo amplifier, and the Audio Aero La Source tube preamp/digital player, hooked up with Shunyata's new Anaconda line of cables.

The G2 has half the cabinet volume of the similar-looking G1Giya that Wes Phillips reviewed last July, and replaces the larger speaker's twin 11" woofers with 9" units. Whether it was the smaller speakers not exciting the penthouse room's acoustics as much as had the G1Giya the previous year—the Mirage's glass-fronted rooms may give spectacular views of Las Vegas, but they also flap at low frequencies—or the new front-end and cables, but the sound on José Carreras singing the audiophile classic Misa Criolla, Peter Gabriel's idiosyncratic but convincing reading of Paul Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble," and the unexpected combination of John Lee Hooker dueting with Miles Davis, from the soundtrack to the movie Hot Spot was to die for, the system simply stepping out of the way of the music. As it should.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2011 0 comments
Without a doubt, the four-way, five-driver Magico Q5 that Michael Fremer reviewed last November was one of my loudspeaker high points of 2010. But at $59,950/pair, the Q5 is definitely a speaker aimed at the deep-in-pocket. Magico's Alon Wolf proudly showed his new Q3 at CES, which, at $34,000/pair, is going to appeal to a somewhat wider market.

A three-way sealed-box with three 7" Nano-tec–cone woofers, the 47"-tall floor-standing Q3 uses the same proprietary beryllium-dome tweeter as the Q5 in the same type of space-frame enclosure, with a 6" Nano-tec midrange unit. The lower woofers roll off earlier than the upper one, to optimize the crossover to the midrange unit. Frequency response is specified as 20Hz–50kHz, sensitivity as 90dB (which is significantly higher than the Q5's 86dB), and impedance as 5 ohms.

I auditioned the Q3s in a system comprising Soulution pre- and power amps hooked up with MIT's new cables, and listening first to a Red Book file of Patricia Barber, then to a Jordi Savall/Hespèrion XXI recording of a baroque double-violin concerto, this was one of the best sounds I heard at CES, with excellent LF extension and definition, if a touch on the mellow side.

Magico were showing a prototype of the Q1 stand-mount in a back room, which they will be introducing at the 2011 Munich Show. This combines the beryllium-dome tweeter with a single Nano-tec midrange-woofer, but the price has yet to be decided upon.

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 15, 2011 0 comments

Michael Fremer and I got up early Friday morning and headed to the Mirage hotel where Devialet, a new French audio company, and its new North American distributor, Audio Plus Services, hosted a breakfast gathering to unveil their new D-Premier ($15,995). Encased in a mirror-finished solid aluminum chassis, the D-Premier is an all-in-one DAC, streamer, preamp, power amp, and phono stage. Not only does the D-Premier combine all these features in one product, but it also has a new and novel amplifier section; a patented Analog Digital Hybrid.

The input signal goes directly to a class-A amplifier. Though the output of this connected to the speaker terminals, it can’t deliver enough current to do so without help. The necessary high current is sourced from a class-D amp. The analogy of this amplifier is like power steering on a car where the driver is assisted by a powerful engine to turn the wheels; the driver turns the wheel but the power steering does the heavy lifting. In the same way, the class-A section of the amplifier controls the class-D section. The idea is that the amp retains the sonics of class-A yet maintains 85% efficiency in a 240Wpc amp.

The Devialet design team— Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel and Matthias Moronvalle (the latter shown in JA’s photo holding a demonstration version of the amp housed in acrylic)—was insistent during the presentation the D-Premier is not a class-D amp.

The sound with Focal speakers was clear, balanced, open, and grain-free, with no hint of the hash sometimes associated with class-D amplification. (The eggs at the breakfast were also excellent.)

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 1 comments
The Trenner & Friedl Duke's diamond-diaphragm supertweeter fires upward at a Golden-Ratio–proportioned Swarovsky crystal that acts to widen its dispersion.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
Touraj Moghaddam, based in Windsor, UK, near London, manufactures the relatively new TM Systems Pulse cables. The complete line includes tonearm wires and internal wiring for loudspeakers.

Not yet distributed in the US, Moghaddam’s handmade interconnects ($8000–$9000/1.1m pair) will be followed in February or March by the machine-made Pulse R interconnects ($4000–$5,000), which include special proprietary connectors made of copper alloy. Below them, Pulse B and Pulse C entry-level interconnects are in the works.

Veteran audiophiles will recognize Moghaddam as the 25-year veteran designer of Roksan turntables and loudspeakers. He began designing and manufacturing Pulse cables three years ago after he discovered that some Roksan ‘tables were being used with incompatible cables.

Gary Koh of Genesis, who had invited Moghaddam to exhibit his cables in the Genesis room, noted that they both attended the same college in England 25 years ago. “And now, 25 years later, we discover that we are both making our own cables because of similar concerns, such as their incorrect use by some people as tone controls,” he said.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
It is a truism worth repeating: you can't really draw any conclusions about the sound of a component from an audition at an audio show.

Then there are those exceptions that prompt you to drop your neutrality and reach for the superlatives. The Vienna Acoustics room was like that for me last year. But this year, I've got to hand it to Philip O'Hanlon for creating a sound and scripting a demo that I would rate as extraordinary no matter what the circumstances.

Vivid's G2 Giya loudspeakers and the large room at the top of the Mirage didn't hurt. But I was here for the digital front end, and in this case, the Audio Aero La Source, which was functioning both as a disc player and preamp, connected to a Luxman M-800A Amplifier.

O'Hanlon describes the La Source as "an all-out attempt to put an analog preamp into the same box with the SACD/CD player." The La Source was also hooked up to a computer and streaming files via its USB input. On the back is a set of balanced and unbalanced analog inputs, BNC, SPDIF coax and optical, USB, and AES/EBU digital inputs along with a BNC digital and balanced and unbalanced analog outputs.

You can order the La Source with an Esoteric VMK5 Neo VRDS transport for $44,000 or without the transport for $35,000 and there is a trade-up program for Prestige owners. Also in the box is an Anagram digital clock along with S.T.A.R.S. 32bit/384kHz DSP, dual mono Burr Brown 1792 DAC, and vacuum tube output stage.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
“What’s new?” is the question that comes up first with established manufacturers when considering whether there’s something worthy of a blog item. In Polk Audio’s case, the answer was “Everything!” According to Polk rep, Jim Crowley, their entire home audio line has been revamped, with changes in the cabinetry, drivers, and crossovers. Perhaps the most significant change is that now, for the first time, some Polk speakers feature a midrange driver. And with all that, Polk loudspeakers continue to be reasonably priced: the pictured LSiM is a modest-by-audiophile-standards $4000/pair.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
Hiding in the back room of their palatial suite in the Mirage, Musical Fidelity was running a demo of their M1CL:C Universal Music Controller which is now being finalized. MF says they are shooting for somewhere under $2,000 for the product which operates as a DAC and preamp and includes USB, SPDIF and analog inputs. I noted a USB input on the front and a beautiful color display as well.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
I first encountered the glass-enclosured Force dipole loudspeaker from Perfect Eight, which combines a full-length ribbon with 8 cone midrange units and a subwoofer handling the load below 60Hz, at the 2008 CES. Their 2011 dem, with the speakers driven by Ypsilon amplification, was noteworthy for having invited Ray Kimber to talk about and play some of his IsoMike recordings. (Ray is seen here on the left in my admittedly rather grainy photo—it was dark—with Perfect Eight's Jons Rantila.) I listened first to soloists from the Academy of St. Martin-in-the Fields performing a movement from the Mendelssohn Octet, then to a Mozart piano sonata movement by Robert Silverman (the latter one of my "Records to Die For" in the February 2011 issue). Despite my skepticism about glass as an enclosure material, the sound was natural and uncolored.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 1 comments
Previewed by Michael Fremer in the October 2010 issue of Stereophile (pp.13–16), where he goes in depth into its technology, Sonus Faber's flagship loudspeaker, The Sonus Faber, will only be produced in a limited edition of 30 pairs. Apparently, all 30 pairs have been spoken for by distributors and dealers.

This is a big speaker—it stands 67" tall and weighs 672 lbs—and was being demmed in an appropriately large room with the large Audio Research Reference 610T tubed monoblocks. Or it would have been demmed, as on both my visits to the room, the electricity supply to the room had failed. (If you look closely, you can see the electrician's red toolbox to the left of my photo.)

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
Austrian Vienna Acoustics set up its own distribution company in the US in 2010 and when I popped my head in the door of their suite at the Venetian, I saw they were demming the Kiss speaker ($16,000/pair) reviewed a year back by Wes Phillips. (The rest of the system comprised Ayre KX-R preamp, MX-R monoblocks, and DX-5 "universal audio engine, with Transparent cabling.)

The Kiss looks like a stand-mount but it is really a floorstander with an integral stand. The sound in this room really flattered piano, whether it was a 24/96 file of a jazz trio featuring a Fazioli instrument, or Glenn Gould's 1981 reading of the Bach Goldberg Variations, remastered from the analog backup tapes.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
Utah-based Zu Audio does indeed goes its own way, with retro, almost-full-range pulp-cone drive-units used in high-sensitivity designs. (See Art Dudley's review of the $4000/pair Essence in the October 2009 Stereophile. All of Zu's speakers have been moderately priced, so I was not expecting to see and hear a design costing $40,000/pair when I went into the Zu room at T.H.E. Show.

The Dominance uses three 10" paper-cone drivers, each with a whizzer cone, to cover the range from 27Hz to 12kHz. Each is in its own sub-enclosure featuring Zu's proprietary ZuRG loading (See AD's review) with the outer two tuned identically and the central drive-unit adjusted to give a bit more upper-midrange energy. There is also a downward-firing 15" subwoofer, covering the octave below 27Hz, and completing the line-up are two horn-loaded ring-radiator tweeters operating above 12kHz. Unusually, these are placed at the top and bottom of the Dominance.

For the dem, the subwoofer was powered by a Pass Labs XA30.5 but the main drive-units were driven by a 1.5Wpc Yamamoto SET amp. Yup, just 1.5W, but the Dominances still managed to fill the room with sound. Lows were tight and extended; imaging was tangible; jump factor was startling; but I couldn't get away from a touch of character in the mid-treble imparted by those whizzer cones.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 1 comments
"$175,000/pair?" I gulped. I know my beat at the 2011 CES was expensive loudspeakers, but the price of the Trenner & Friedl Duke took my breath away. Yes, the sound in the large room the new Austrian company shared with Cardas, Profundo, and the Jeff Rowland Design Group was superb, but that's a lot of change, even if the manufacturer will fly anywhere in the world to set the speakers up in the customer's home. (The rest of the system comprised a dCS Puccini used as a transport to feed JRDG's new Aeris DAC (the Colorado company's first digital product), $9800; a JRDG Criterion line stage, $18,500; and two JRDG 625 stereo power amplifiers, $13,500; with Cardas Clear cabling.

Each 12" woofer uses a fiber-glass–reinforced paper cone and is loaded by what is referred to as "a hybrid form of horn-resonator and bass reflex design." The mid/HF module is coupled to the woofer modules with spheres of varying hardness, to drain vibrations optimally, and can be adjusted to bring the drivers into proper time alignment at the listening position. The midrange unit features a papyrus cone with an elmwood phase plug and an alnico magnet, while the enclosure is filled with wool from "locally raised sheep" to reduce internal reflections being retransmitted through the drive-unit cone. The tweeter uses a titanium nitride dome loaded with a Tractrix-flare horn, while the supertweeter is a diamond-diaphragm type. The upper-range crossover is passive; the woofers are fed via a line-level crossover, and internal wiring is all Cardas Clear.

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