CES 2011

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Veteran CES-goers often refer to the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) as “the Zoo”—a term that I don’t think applies very well. In the zoos that I’m familiar with, the animals are not crowded closely together (as people are during CES), and they’re not there because of choice—which people are, even though they may grumble about it. I normally spend about half-a-day at the LVCC—I refuse to call it “the Zoo”—which gives me a chance to catch up on what’s happening in mass-market consumer electronics. And it sometimes allows me to discover the occasional product that could easily have been exhibited in the hallowed halls of high-performance audio in the Venetian.

Case in point: the Titan Series Telesto ($7999/pair) and Tigro ($9500/pair) floor-standing loudspeakers from Earthquake, a company that until now has specialized in subwoofers. According to Earthquake President and designer of these speakers, Joseph Sahyoun, these are speakers that he actually designed several years ago, but could not build them because he was not able to get overseas the kind of molded cabinet construction that he felt was essential to get the results he wanted. The cabinets of these speakers are now made in the USA, and the drivers are also made in-house. The speakers were on passive display, so I can’t comment on the sound, but the design certainly looks like a serious effort, with a lot of attention to detail.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 11, 2011 1 comments
I think it was at least a couple of years ago that I first heard that Atlantic Technology—a speaker manufacturer that I associate more with value-for-money than cutting-edge products—was working on a patent-pending technology that combines reflex, acoustic suspension, inverse horn, and transmission line approaches to bass loading. Dubbed Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System (H-PAS), this is said to combine the best aspects of each approach, with deep bass extension, good system sensitivity, and reasonable enclosure size.

Well, the patent has been granted, and the floor-standing AT-1 ($2500/pair) is the first speaker to utilize the H-PAS approach. (According to Atlantic’s Peter Tribeman, they have licenzed H-PAS to five other companies—which he understandably declined to name.)

Having listened at CES to a pair of AT-1s, in a system that included top-of-the line Halo by Parasound electronics, I’m convinced that they’re on to something with this technology. The AT-1 is a modestly-sized floorstander, with two 5¼” woofer/midrange drivers, and yet it generated bass of such extension, power, and control that left me and others who attended the demo shaking their heads in disbelief. The sound was otherwise fine, too: tonally well-balanced (the bass was there only when it was on the recording), and a precisely-defined soundstage. Most impressive.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Allen Sung, owner of XLO (left), introduced the Purple Rush power cord ($7000/6ft). The first product in the company’s new Purple Reigns series, this substantial baby is heavy enough to easily yank a poorly positioned component off the shelf. IMHO, the cable’s oversized proprietary connectors are as impressive as its girth.

XLO’s designer, Jay Victor (right), explained that he wanted to design a power cable that he could use on high-current power amps in his own system. “I started dabbling in cable design when I was in charge of product development at Monster Cable with Demian Martin,” he said. “We were marveling at how much of a difference different power cables made to a system’s sound. I kept refining my ideas of power cable design, until I came up with idea of mixing different conductor shapes to best convey the whole range of bass sound.”

Victor believes that a large solid conductor is great for low bass, a flat conductor is best for mid bass, and a polymer coated Litz works best for highs and transients. He has combined all three in the Purple Rush power cord. The cord also employs an exotic field-balanced winding technique to lower the noise floor and cancel magnetic effects. All in all, five patents are associated with the Purple Rush power cord, which took eight years to develop and refine.

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Audiophile sensibilities have long found a comfortable home inside George Cardas’ head. Also in George’s head for the past two years has been the design of a single-driver, dynamic in-ear monitor that would fulfill his desire for a non-fatiguing portable listening experience. The as yet unnamed little gems are just entering production, and are expected to retail in the $300–$500 range. A quick listen confirms that George has indeed managed to do something quite special: glorious midrange. I gladly accepted a sample pair for review; I reckon I’ll be spending a good chunk of time with George’s thoughts and sound in my head very soon.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Hegel Music Systems was on hand to show off their ever-expanding range of DACs. The smallest sitting at the top right is the $350 HD2 USB "music streamer" that can handle 24bit/96kHz USB data and output it either as analog audio or digital data over SPDIF.

Under the HD2 is the $1,200 HD10 which offers USB, coax and optical digital inputs as well as both balanced and unbalanced outputs. To the left of the HD10 is the newest DAC from Hegel, the HD20, which in addition to the inputs and 24/192 conversion found on the HD10, offers remote control and display for $2,000.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
The audiophile community was greatly shocked by the death, in September, 2009, of speaker designer Jim Thiel. My acquaintance with him was restricted to brief chats at shows, but he has always impressed me as a modest, gentle man, with a singular devotion to the pursuit of making the most accurate and musically pleasing speakers. Somehow, I thought he would always be around.

The Thiel/Bryston room had a system featuring the Thiel SCS4T ($3690/pair) speakers and a pair of new prototype Thiel USS subwoofers (price and delivery date TBD), partnered with Bryston electronics and digital source. The sound had that famed Thiel clarity, and an astonishing sense of depth on the well-known Misa Criolla recording. The SCS4T is the last speaker that Jim Thiel had a hand in designing: a fitting tribute to one of the greats of the world of audio.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
In defining what is the maximum cost of “mid-priced” speaker, which was my assignment at the Show, I had tentatively settled on $10,000/pair. Jeff Joseph Audio’s Perspective, still undergoing tweaking, at a projected price of $11, 800/pair, exceeds that self-imposed maximum, but the speaker sounded so good, and Jeff Joseph was so obliging in hamming it up, that I just had to include it in my blog and take Jeff’s picture. JA, you can write up a sub-$10k speaker in return.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Joe Skubinski of JPS Labs introduced its first two USB cables, the Superconductor Q USB (approximately $399/1m) and Superconductor 3 USB (approximately $799/1m). The cables are so new that Skubinski had to guess at the prices. Both boast a precision twisted-quad design with dual shields and gold-plated connectors.

Skubinski’s design goals were to transfer the digital signal as flawlessly as possible without radiating noise into adjacent cables. As I left the room, he and the folks from Usher loudspeakers were about to conduct an experiment to see if the Superconductor 3 could successfully transmit music recorded at 352.8kHz.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 10, 2011 0 comments
For those looking to set up the full-featured Sooloos system, Meridian will be releasing the Media Core 600 sometime in the near future for a price still to be determined.

What we do know, however, is that it will have 6 zone outputs each with S/PDIF, SpeakerLink, and fixed and variable analog outputs. Each zone also has an independent clock which means different sample rates are possible at the various outputs. The multiple zone clocks are also slaved to a central clock, keeping the multiple zones in synch in case sound bleeds from one to another.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 10, 2011 0 comments
Displaying near the registration booth at T.H.E. Show, CEntrance, makers of the excellent DACport USB-input headphone amplifier, introduced their new DACMini PX (price hasn’t been determined, but CEntrance’s Michael Goodman noted the company is looking to keep it “aggressively under $1500”), which combines the same array of inputs (USB, coaxial, optical, line) and line outputs found on the company’s DACMini CX ($795, now in final production) while adding speaker connectors and a 25Wpc Class-D amplifier section.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 10, 2011 0 comments
Meridian keeps slimming down the original Sooloos system not only reducing the price but also its footprint. The Media Core 200 looks like a slightly puffed Mac Mini sat on its side, and requires only an iPad to complete the system, though it can also be connected to the company's Control 10 or 15 touchscreens.

The MC 600 contains a 500GB hard drive, analog, SPDIF and Meridian SpeakerLink outputs and has a retail price of $4,000. Available within the month.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 10, 2011 0 comments
It was a pleasure to finally meet Audience’s John McDonald, who beamed with energy, pride, and happiness over his new Audience The One ClairAudient loudspeaker ($995/pair), seen here alongside Audience’s own A3 drive unit, which uses a relatively large neodymium motor structure and voice coil, suspension venting, and is said to provide 12mm of usable excursion with less than 1dB compression.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 10, 2011 0 comments
Here is the back panel view of the Media Source 600 which acts as a network endpoint and DAC for your most critical listening zone in a Meridian Sooloos system. It can be combined with the Media Core 600 in an elaborate multi-room network.

It has both balanced and unbalanced outputs in addition to Meridian SpeakerLink.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 10, 2011 0 comments
T.H.E. Show was held at the famous Flamingo Hotel and Casino, the oldest resort on The Vegas Strip, opened by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel on the day after Christmas in 1946. On the site’s 15 acres, you can find lots of glitter, gold, and rich history, in addition to a wildlife habitat with an exhibit of flamingos!
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 09, 2011 0 comments
Music Hall’s USB-1 2-speed, belt-drive turntable has a built-in phono preamp, comes with Audacity software for digitizing vinyl and supplies all necessary cables, uses an S-shaped tonearm with a detachable headshell, and includes an Audio-Technica AT3600L moving-magnet cartridge. With its gloss-black finish and DJ-style platter, it also looks extremely cool. All this, and it costs just $249. A teenager working weekends at Dunkin’ Donuts can afford the Music Hall USB-1. I love this crazy thing and will write more about it in a future issue of Stereophile. Music Hall’s Leland Leard has been crossing the country, getting the USB-1 into his favorite record shops. Good for Music Hall, good for hi-fi, and good for music lovers.

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