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.
Furutech is introducing a new speaker cable brand in 2011, ADL, Alpha Design Labs. Designed to make OCC cable products available to entry-level buyers, ADL cables are the lowest priced cables in Furutech’s current line-up. Prices start at $100/1m pair interconnects, with USB and LAN cables going for around the same price.
Pictured is Furutech’s Flux series of cables, which was introduced last year. The Flux power cable runs $1200/6ft, while speaker cables cost $2000/2m pair. On the left is publicist extraordinaire Jonathan Scull, standing aside Furutech’s Graeme Coley. Also present, albeit unpictured, was Furutech’s Engineer and VP, Frank Yoo.
I think it was at least a couple of years ago that I first heard that Atlantic Technologya speaker manufacturer that I associate more with value-for-money than cutting-edge productswas 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 companieswhich 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.
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.
Nate Mansfield, Sales Manager of Kimber Kable, happily showed off the company’s newest products, the complete line of Kimber Select KS 6000 series speaker cables ($4400$18,800/8ft pair, depending upon level and wiring). Introduced in prototype form at CES 2010, the KS series has been shipping for the last six months, and is available in either all-copper, copper-silver hybrid, or full silver configurations. Designed by Ray Kimber, the cable also features a new multi-layer braid that combines stranded and solid core conductors in the same cable. The Kimber Select KS 6000 series represents a technological evolution of the old Black Pearl 88, a highly regarded all solid-core cable which Kimber manufactured in the early 1990s.
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 choicewhich people are, even though they may grumble about it. I normally spend about half-a-day at the LVCCI 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.
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.
Synergistic Research’s Ted Denney was eager to show off the great midrange and bass transmitted by his Galileo System of hand-built cables. His choice of music: Michel Jonaz’ “Le Temps Passé,” a classic recording whose abundance of space and choice of contrasting, slightly gimmicky instrumental timbres makes for one of those ideal audiophile demo discs.
The Galileo System of cables includes speaker wire ($40,000/8ft pair) and interconnects ($25,000/1m pair), the PowerCell LE (limited editiononly 20 are being built for $10,000 each), and the Galileo Element series. All cables work universally, with switchable XLR and RCA terminations. If you switch gear from single-ended to balanced, you don’t have to buy an entirely new set of cables with different terminations. Very neat.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.