CES 2011

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 15, 2011 1 comments
Dan D’Agostino is no newbie to high-end audio, but his namesake company is. In the new company’s first showing at a CES, Dan brought in his new Momentum monoblock amplifiers ($42,000/pair). The amps, visually inspired by Swiss watch design, are among the most distinctive and beautiful pieces of equipment I’ve seen. The sides of the amplifier are made of copper, which not only gives the amps a lustrous, glowing color, but also serve as very efficient heatsinks for the 28 output transistors.

The amplifier is completely made in-house, including such things that are usually handed off to subcontractors, like stuffing the printed-circuit boards. There are no surface-mount parts used, Dan feeling that traditional through-hole parts offer better long-term performance consistency.

A 1.2kVA power transformer is packed into the compact chassis and in the tradition of Krell, the company that he cofounded 30 years ago, the new amplifier puts out 300W into 8 ohms, 600W into 4 ohms, and 1200W into 2 ohms, all with class-A/B biasing. Yet, there was nothing about this system that sounded like class-A/B amplifiers. Driving Wilson Sashas, the sound was warm, fast, open and generous—tonally and spatially. Voices all sounded balanced, life-like and three-dimensional. Dan told me a matching preamplifier is on the way.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2011 0 comments

The Devialet D-Premier directly converts the wall current to DC, then uses a high-efficiency switch-mode power supply running at a very high frequency to power the audio circuitry. I asked Matthias Moronvalle if this meant that the power transformer could be much smaller than usual? His response was to show me the two small wafers sitting on his laptop. "That's the transformer," he told me, "with a continuous rating of 600VA." Ulp!

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2011 1 comments

Richard Vandersteen doesn't rush to release new loudspeakers, so given that the top-of-the-line Vandersteen 7 was a hot product at the 2010 CES, I wasn't expecting anything new at the 2011 Show. Talking to Richard in the company's Venetian suite, where they were featuring the Model 7, he casually mentioned that the new Tréo ($5990/pair) was at the Show, just not in his room. So I hustled me along to the Musical Surroundings room, where the Tréos were being demmed with a Clearaudio turntable and Aesthetix electronics.

Basically, the Tréo is similar to the $10k/pair Quatro Wood that Wes Phillips reviewed in December 2007, but replaces that speaker's active, equalized bass unit, with a conventional passive 6.5" woofer and an 8" flat-cone "acoustic coupler." Good sound at an equally good price.

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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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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
The first speaker I reviewed for Stereophile was the Alon IV by Acarian Systems, designed by Carl Marchisotto . I remember it as being a very good-sounding speaker, with outstanding bass, and the dipole midrange giving it an “open” sound. Through the years, for business reasons, the speaker brandname has changed (Nola is Alon spelled backwards), and the company is now called Accent Speaker Technology, but the speakers are still designed by Carl, and his wife, Marilyn, is the company’s wife president. Carl’s more expensive speakers still use the dipole midrange arrangement, but in the more affordable line he has turned to the more common unipolar approach, albeit with his own variations, like separate porting of bass drivers. The latest such speaker, introduced at the 2011 CES, is the Contender ($3400/pair), and it sound like. . .well. . .a real contender.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
Consider this the baby brother to the La Source. Same overall functionality but with the lower priced Esoteric UMK5 transport, a stereo Burr Brown 1792 DAC and an OEM clock directing the digital. Still, it has the S.T.A.R.S. 32bit/384kHz DSP and vacuum tube output stage as well as the preamp features.

The La Fontaine will be available sometime in February with transport for $25,000 and without for $19,000. O'Hanlon adds that by the end of the year, there should be five Music Centers products without disc ranging in price from $3,000 to $35,000.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 3 comments
TAD didn't appear to be demonstrating anything new in their large penthouse suite at the Venetian, but designer Andrew Jones was getting such an enormously involving sound from the Compact Reference CR-1 stand-mounts ($37,500/pair plus $1800/pair for stands) that I had to stop to take an extended listen. Jones had some of HDTracks' new 24/192 files that he was playing with Amarra and one track, featuring Hammond organ, double bass and drums, had the audience stumped. (The fellow in front of me even held up his iPhone and ran a song ID app, only for the screen to flash "No Match.") Then I twigged: it was a jazz arrangement of Pink Floyd's "Money," with sound to die for. DAC, preamp, and power amps were also from TAD.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 2 comments
Musical Fidelity also displayed their V-Link which can take USB from your computer and convert it to S/PDIF for use with your non-USB DAC. Priced at $169, John Atkinson mentioned to me that "it measures really good" and found it did indeed operate in the better-sounding asynchronous mode.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 1 comments
Pride of place in the Avatar Acoustics room at the Venetian went to the four-way Siena speakers ($24,995/pair) from Italian manufacturer Rosso Fiorentino. The designer teaches electroacoustics in Florence, but is a graduate from the University of Salford in the UK. A pair of aluminum-cone 8" woofers in a separate sealed enclosure are combined with a 6.5" paper-cone midrange unit (a ScanSpeak Revelator), a 1" silk-dome tweeter, and what appeared to be a Murata "ultrasonic generator," to give a specified response of 35Hz–100kHz, –3dB.

The Siennas were demmed in a system comprising Dr. Feikert turntable and tonearm, Abbingdon Music Research CD player, phono preamp, and integrated amplifier, with Acoustic System racks and cables, but I will hand over to Jason Serinus for some additional thoughts:

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
The first trickle-down from The Sonus Faber project is a revised Amati model, the Amati Futura ($34,000/pair). Beautifully finished in a mirror-gloss lacquer, as you can see, it was also almost unphotographable. It was also only on passive display in the Sumiko penthouse suite at the Venetian.
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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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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
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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