CES 2011

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments
mbl products always make you wonder, is it technology I'm looking at or art? Their new Corona Line continues this tradition with, depending on your taste preferences, some of the most drop-dead gorgeous casework you'll see in the audio world, or some of the most over-the-top gratuitous metal (choose between gold or palladium alloy palinux), paint (white or black) and gloss this side of a Kustom Kar show.

Nonetheless, you can't argue with how carefully these products are made. The C31 wil be available sometime this summer for around $8,000 (depending on exchange rate at the time) and has coax, toslink and USB inputs in addition to its disc playing function. The C31 can also communicate with the other products in the Corona line via the SmartLink ethernet connector on the back

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2011 1 comments
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 distortion—0.05% 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.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
There’s a kind of hierarchy of prestige among speaker manufacturers (which may or may not have anything to do with the sound quality of their offerings). At the bottom you have manufacturers that use off-the-shelf drivers which are available to any hobbyist, and don’t do anything other than mount these speakers in an enclosure and connect the drivers to a crossover (which may also be an off-the-shelf unit). Then you have manufacturers that start off with an off-the-shelf unit but modify this unit to their purposes. (The modification can be as simple as adding a bit of mass to the cone or adding a foam ring around the tweeter cone.) The next higher level in the hierarchy are speaker manufacturers that have the drivers made to their specifications by a specialist manufacturer of speaker drivers. And at the very top of the hierarchy are the speaker manufacturers that make their own drivers. This allows them to not only control of every step of the manufacturing process but also the ability produce drivers that are proprietary.

It is this top level of speaker manufacturer hierarchy that Totem has reached with the new Element series, shown in JA's photo with designer Vince Bruzzese. The 7” woofers used in the Element Series are of the Canadian’s company’s own design, manufactured in-house, which requires three hours of machining and more than four hours of assembly. I don’t know enough about loudspeaker driver design to talk with any authority about how the new Totem woofer differs from other woofer designs (the magnetic design was inspired by something called the Halbach array); suffice it to say that it has a free-air resonance of 16–17Hz, and its mechanical top end frequency rolloff is such that it’s matched with the tweeter without any crossover components in the woofer path. The top-of-the-line Metal ($12,995/pair) sounded good in a brief listen. I look forward to having more of an opportunity to listen to these new Totems at the 2011 Montreal show.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
The Talon loudspeaker brand has been revitalized since it was purchased by Richard Rives Bird. Richard is see here with the new Phoenix, a floor-standing three-way with ceramic drive-units. The Phoenix costs $72,000/pair in passive form, which is what was being demmed at CES, driven by VAC amplification. The crossover is mounted in a separate compartment at the rear of the woofer section and an upgrade (approximate price $15,000) is planned whereby the passive crossover module can be replaced by one containing a line-level crossover, Rives' PARC bass equalizer to provide room correction, and a class-D amplifier to drive the woofers.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 13, 2011 1 comments
In a show dominated by forward-racing technologies and innovative solutions to complement the ways in which we consume media, DeVore Fidelity and Tone Imports continue to find inspiration in old-fashioned pleasures...
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
Jim Fosgate’s forthcoming Signature headphone amplifier (right), scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2011, has an industrial design that echoes his Signature phono stage (left). Combining a tube input stage with a solid-state output, it will include a loudness control, spatial enhancement circuit, and built-in DAC. Scheduled for distribution by Musical Surroundings of glorious Oakland, CA, its price has yet to be determined.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
The Antique Sound Lab AQ 1003 Mk.II DT integrated amplifier ($1495) is optimized for EL34 tubes and provides 30Wpc. Though the basic design has been in production for over 15 years, the MK.II DT version has been updated with an attractive extruded-aluminum chassis and improved winding technique for the transformers. These same improvements can now also be found in ASL’s 50Wpc AQ 1001 Mk.II DT ($1995), which, according to Divergent Technologies’ Tash Goka, represents the company’s “best value for money.”
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
The Stello Ai500 integrated amplifier was shown in the April Music room. A 150Wpc integrated with a built-in high resolution DAC, the Ai500 sells for $3500 and ably drove power-hungry Magnepan speakers.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2011 2 comments
Glenn Phoenix, President of Westlake Audio, was touting the loudspeaker company’s cable muffs. Made of foam, the muffs are used to support and separate cables. They are also said to benefit cables that are under-damped.

“We have a rule in the company to keep cables between 2” and 4” apart,” he said. “Putting left and right channels too close together can increase crosstalk, while positioning them too far apart may lead them to generate and pick up interference.” I hope I got that right.

Westlake Audio manufactures cable muffs with a number of different size holes and slots to accommodate a wide assortment of cables other than the extremely thick variety. Prices range between $59.50 and $88/set.

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
CES 2011 was the Show of the Android tablet. Once form has followed function into the form of a movable picture in the palm of your hand, buttons have disappeared into the picture, weight trends towards zero, and, like the first wind-tunnel designed cars of the ‘90s, everything looks astonishingly alike.

I don’t know if Archos has the bitchen’ box, but their cred as a long-time portable audio player maker had me going to their booth and not the bazillion others. Their gadget was fun to play with (just like all the other Driods out there), and sure, I’d like to play more with an Android tablet . . . it is cool stuff. I hope Archos does well in the sea of tablet competition, but wow, tablets have been overwhelming this year.

Bon chance, mes amis!

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2011 1 comments
Sony has a track record of sporadically producing high-quality loudspeakers, like the SS-M9 that I reviewed in 1997. But as good as these speakers could be, their commercial success was limited. But at the last two Rocky Mountain Audio Fests, Ray Kimber had been getting great sound with a prototype Sony floorstander and the 2011 CES saw the official launch of the Sony SS-AR1 ($27,000/pair).

A three-way design, the SS-AR1 uses Scanspeak drive-units made to Sony's specification, housed in a unique, Japanese-made enclosure. Seen here standing next the basic enclosure, designer Yuki Sugiaro explained that the walls are made from Finnish birch ply and the front baffle from maple ply. The latter is sourced from trees grown in Hokkaido.) The woodworking is so precise that the cabinet shown here is holding itself together without any glue (thoigh glue, of course, is used on the production line).

Driven by Pass Labs amps and an EMM SACD player, the SS-AR1s were demmed in too small and crowded a room for me to pronounce on their sound quality, other than to note that the midrange seemed exceptionally clean and uncolored. But my prior experience at RMAF suggests that this will be a contender.

Availability is said to be "spring" and Sony announced that they have already signed up blue-chip US dealers like Goodwins, Definitive, David Lewis, and Music Lovers.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
Debuting at CES 2011, Running Springs Audio’s Elgar Powerline conditioner is so new that Dan Babineau has yet to produce product literature. A trickle-down, opening price-point piece ($999/6 outlets), it can handle 1800W maximum. The 100% passive, non–current-limiting design employs the same filters as all other Running Springs Audio products, but uses a smaller-laminate inductor to increase dynamics.

Designed for smaller, modest systems, the Elgar Powerline conditioner is hand-built in Anaheim, CA. “It does three things really,” Babineau said. “A high quality circuit breaker, it also takes care of atrocious noise anomalies, and cleans up the power without negatively affecting the source. This has always been my goal since I started the company ten years ago.”

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
Here is a close-up of the Qsonix iPad app that offered real-time scrolling through album covers in addition to the playlist editing.
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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
Suweet! Beyerdynamic head headphone designer Gunter Weidemann is responsible for the T1 headphone (open back; $1295) and its extraordinary driver that exceeds 1 Tesla of magnetic field strength. Previous high-end Beyerdynamic designs delivered 0.6 Tesla; the new driver delivers 1.2 Tesla in the gap. Field strength is nothing without low moving mass, so significant effort has been exerted to design a novel and performance-based diaphragm and voice-coil to provide speed and absence of diaphragm break-up. My significant experience with these cans puts them in the world-class category in my mind; especially remarkable for their natural and powerful vocal range reproduction.

Also, I think anything named after Nicola Tesla (and not a rapper, dammit) is really cool.

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2011 3 comments

When I walked into the Boulder room, I actually started to giggle. I was told Boulder was showing off some large new amps, but I was not ready for what I saw. Sitting atop plinths of solid granite were the new 3050 monoblock amplifiers. Unlike most monoblocks, the left and right amps, seen here with Boulder's genial Rich Maez, are designed as mirror images of one another for greater visual appeal. These class-A amps put out 1500W into 8 ohms, use 120 output devices, require a dedicated 240AV AC outlet, and weigh 400 lbs each. Oh yes, they cost $180,000/pair. They will begin shipping soon and I am told that orders are already in for these beasts.

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