Previewed by Michael Fremer in the October 2010 issue of Stereophile (pp.1316), 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 speakerit stands 67" tall and weighs 672 lbsand 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.)
I was very impressed with the Monitor Audio PL200 that I reviewed last April; apparently, so were a lot of other audiophiles, but many were put off purchasing the speakers by the $8000/pair price. The new Monitor Audio Gold GX series is intended to appeal to these folks. The GX series offers most of the technology and aesthetic appeal of the Platinum, but at substantially lower prices. The GX300 is broadly similar in appearance and driver complement to the PL200, but costs an easier-on-the-wallet $5500/pair. It was making fine sounds at CES with Simaudio electronics and Simaudio digital source.
The German T+A brand is now being distributed in the US by Dynaudio North America and having only been aware of their electronic products, I was surprised when I went into the T+A room at CES to see a large pair of speakers, the Solitaire CWT2000s ($45,000/pair). However, "I have been designing speakers since the company started," explained T+A's Siegfreid "Siggi" Amft, seen here with his creation.
The speaker features an electrostatic tweeter, 45mm wide but mechanically split into three 15mm-wide sections. as the frequency increases, the crossover increasingly cuts off drive to the outer sections, maintaining lateral dispersion. Adjacent to the tweeter is an array of six 6" cone midrange units, with the higher frequencies mainly being handled by the central units, again to optimize dispersion. Two pairs of 10" woofers complete the driver complem3nt, one pair being mounted each side of the enclosure and driven in-phase so that their reactive forces cancel. The sealed-box alignment is said to give a dB point of 37Hz. Two more, smaller, less expensive Solitaire models will be launched later in the year.
The T+A speakers were bring driven by T+A M10 hybrid monoblocks ($33,000/pair), which use a tube input stage capable of delivering the full output voltage required by the speakers, with then a solid-state current amplifier providing the necessary cone-controlling grunt.
I took this picture of a room at T.H.E. Show just because I thought it looked cool. The system featured old Apogees, long out of production. The music playing was pleasant. But what were these people selling? Maybe cables. Everyone sells cables. And then I looked at the sign on the door: N.F.S. Audio. N.F.S. Not For Sale. Here’s what a Google search turned up:
“We are a couple of Las Vegas audiophiles who love good music and wine. This will be our sixth year at T.H.E. Show. We hope to provide a fun and relaxing listening experience for show exhibitors and patrons alike. We'll have plenty of music and libations. Every year we bring an excitingly different stereo system with interesting visual effects. Come visit! . . . we'll pour you a glass. . ."
NuForce’s Jason Lim explained that the people behind NuForce and Oppo have been friends for a long time, and now that friendship has produced the NuForce Edition Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player ($899), scheduled to be available by the end of this month. The NuForce user-upgradeable output board, seen here, will add $400 to the cost of existing Oppo BDP-93 players. “It sounds as good as our CDP-8,” Lim smiled.
An “Extreme” version, featuring synchronous re-clocking of all eight channels, will be available in March for around $1300.
Gary Koh of speaker manufacturer Genesis was happy to show off the new Absolute Fidelity Interface cables. Being sure to note that the product does not use the Genesis name, because it has been designed to be used with all loudspeaker brands, it has been give its own dedicated Absolute Fidelity website.
“To me, a cable should not function as a component; it should be an interface between two components,” said Koh. “Since every component is different, and draws power differently, I’ve designed different cables to interface between different components.”
The Absolute Fidelity Interface line currently includes the Loudspeaker Interface ($3000/2m pair); Turntable Power interface, Amplifier Power interface, and Component Power interface (each $1800/1m pair); and Component Interface (for use between source components, $1800/0.6m pair).
Koh explained that, a few years back, when he could not find a cable sufficiently transparent to do full justice to his Genesis 1.2 loudspeaker, he began rolling his own. Steve McCormack and a few other designers he works with were so impressed with the cable that they urged him to market it.
“I didn’t really launch them,” Koh said with a smile. “They just started selling. You can call this the official launch.”
Conrad-Johnson introduced their new ET5 line stage preamplifier. According Bill Conrad and Lew Johnson, the ET5 is a scaled-down version of the GAT preamp (the silk-screening you see here labeling the ET5 as a GAT is an error). The ET5 shares all of the same parts as the GAT but is a stereo design instead of the GAT’s dual-mono layout. The ET5 uses Vishay resistors, CJD Teflon capacitors, gold plated OFC I/O connectors and vibration-isolated printed circuit boards for the gain circuit. The ET5 ships this month and will cost $9500.
The electrostatic Kingsound speakers were hits at 2010 Shows, so I was anticipating good sound in the room where VAC was demming their tubed electronics with the King II speakers ($11,500/pair) and a Spiral Groove SG2 turntable and arm fitted with a Lyra Kleos cartridge. Stands were all-Symposium.)
The bugbears of electrostatic panels have been limited treble dispersion and a lack of low-frequency definition, but listening to Hans Theesink's and Terry Evans' rendition of "You Can't Tell a Book," from the LP Vision, where the guitarist and singer were accompanying themselves with footstomps, the bass remained in control and the top-octave sounded airy and spacious.
Distributed for the first time in the US by Robert Kelly of Kelly Audio Technologies in San Diego, the unusually designed Bertram cable comes in copper, silver, and gold configurations. Pictured is Proxima 2 balanced silver interconnect ($8000/1.5m pair).
Designed by Soren Bertram of Denmark, Proxima 2’s silver ribbon wire is flattened and twisted into what looks like a braid. Boasting an air dielectric and laser-welded terminations, it is third down from Bertram’s top-of-the-line. Also available are the Proxima 2 silver speaker cable ($25,000/2m pair), signal cables, and power cords.
Some readers may recognize Kelly as the former speaker designer for EgglestonWorks and Cello. Out of the business for a number of years, he has returned with an intriguing portfolio of Scandinavian-sourced products.
Audio Power Labs was a new name to me, and not without reason. The company was recently started up by a number of audio enthusiasts, including a number of ham radio operators and this was their first showing at a CES. The 833TNT monoblock amplifiers (price not set) use an interesting compliment of tubes, including two 833C tubes that are often used in small AM transmitters and a switching power supply.
Bladelius has created a gorgeous product that includes a touch screen on the front and can play discs, stream media and store music. Hand made in Sweden and retailing for around $9,000, the Embla features internal flash memory for storing music (upgradable to 2TB!!), USB and Ethernet on the back, and built-in analog preamplifier.
Ayre showed off their new VX-R stereo amplifier, a stereo version of their lauded MX-R monoblocks. Rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms the VX-R is priced at $14,950. The amp is a zero-feedback design, featuring fully balanced discrete circuitry. As usual from Ayre, the chassis is beautifully made of milled aluminum. The sound of the VX-R, driving the TAD Compact Reference monitors was wonderful.
Sonneteer, a UK audio company, was showing off its new Morpheus Music Center ($4000), an integrated amplifier, DAC, and control center for streaming audio. The amplifier section is rated at 50Wpc and will stream music via WiFi or Ethernet, play Internet radio, and USB input. The Morpheus also has three analog inputs and one analog output so it can send signal to an external power amplifier or subwoofer. Standing by his creation is Sonneteer’s Haider Bahrani.
Cambridge has created the NP30 (the bottom product in this photo) as the bridge between your digital media and a stereo system. As such, it has a built-in Wolfson 24bit/96kHz DAC, two USB connectors, Wifi, Ethernet and SPDIF coax and optical outputs. It can handle most audio file formats and also stream internet radio. I was surprised that it did not have an SPDIF input of any kind.
There is a small display on the front and you can also control the NP30 with your iPhone and their app. Price is $649 and it is available now.
At last year’s CES, many of my favorite rooms featured Sweden’s Marten speakers. The same held true this year. I expected good things when I stopped by Marten’s own room at the Venetian. Not only where they showing off the new version of their Coltrane 2 speaker ($95,000/pair) but also their first amplifier design, the M Amp ($45,000/pair). These monoblock amps have scary low distortion0.05% at 400W into 8 ohms and use a class-D stage that switches at 600kHz. The amp can output 550Wpc into 8 ohms, 1000Wpc into 4 ohms, and 1700Wpc into 2 ohms.
The folks in the Marten room seemed in dire need of some good music when I came in, having suffered through too much audiophile approved crap during the show. I handed them a CD of the XX, a band I love, and we all bobbed our heads to this sparse but funky Pop. I find this album doesn’t work at all if a system cannot get the interplay between the bass guitar and kick drum right. The Marten system did this very well, sounding rich and articulate. The M Amps never let on that they were class-D amps, sounding more like super powerful tubes or a richly voiced class-A amp. I was thanked for playing some sweet cuts off the XX’s album, and I thanked them for making it sound great.