CES 2011

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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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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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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
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 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
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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