CES 2011

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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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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 0 comments
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.

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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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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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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2011 1 comments
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.”

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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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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
Symposium Acoustics has released its upgraded Turntable Top Aircell Level ($1499). Designed to be used with Symposium’s visually arresting Isis Rack, the Turntable Top provides isolation and damping through four AirCell isolators that are level-adjustable for off-center loads. This means that if you have a table or transport with a heavy motor or power supply on one side, you can still level the shelf. Leveling is accomplished via four small underside holes, one in each corner quadrant of the platform, that are accessed with a supplied 1/8” Allen key.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
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.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
Made in Germany, available in 12 color combinations, the Lindemann Birdland series of loudspeakers is intended to appeal to the consumer who appreciates not only great sound but also stylish industrial design and German craftsmanship. Components include German-made ceramic drivers, German copper-foil inductors, cryogenically treated Swiss-made copper terminals, and various other audiophile goodies. The demo system featured the Dixie!, the smallest speaker in the series, with Lindemann digital source and electronics. The speakers had a sound that was notably free of cabinet resonances, and had much greater dynamic freedom than I would expect from a speaker of such relatively modest size. The speakers were not fazed even by Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man: the lowest octave was missing, but the sound did not otherwise lack in body or dynamic punch. At $9900/pair, the Birdland Dixie! cannot be considered a bargain, but it’s one of the best-sounding small speakers that I’ve heard.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2011 2 comments
In prior Show reports, we have photographed Tidal's Jörn Janczak standing next to his speakers. But as Jörn stands 6' 8' in his socks, I made him crouch by the Sunray ($151,000/pair). so you can get an idea of how big this bi-amped speaker really is.

As at the 2010 CES, the rest of the system included two BAlabo 500Wpc stereo amps ($77,500 each), and the BAlabo BD-1 24/192 DAC ($37,500). Preamp was the BAlabo BC1 ($60,000) and the source was the Blue Smoke music server. Cabling was by Argento. I listened to a recording that many were playing at CES, piano/bass/drums jazz from the German Tingvall Trio, and was impressed by the effortless sweep of full-range sound produced by this admittedly very expensive system.

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2011 3 comments
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.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
One of my more pleasant duties at this year’s CES was substituting for John Atkinson at a dinner for the press held by DTS. (JA had not arrived yet from New York.) What I was particularly looking forward to—in addition to dinner at Nobu, one of Las Vegas’ best Japanese restaurants—was the opportunity to meet the legendary “JJ”: James Johnston (left), audio researcher, who has been called “the father of perceptual coding” for his work while at Bell Labs on MP3 and MP4. JJ is Chief Scientist at DTS, and also a Forum contributor at stereophile.com, occasionally jousting with those who make claims about sound reproduction that he feels have no scientific basis.

The pre-dinner presentation dealt with the latest surround sound format from DTS: Neo X 11.1, which uses 11 channels. Yes, folks, that’s 11 speakers, 11 channels of amplification, plus a powered subwoofer. There is not definite word on exactly when software and consumer hardware for this format will be available, and DTS admits that an 11.1 channel system is not something the average consumer will likely aspire to. However, a point made by JJ was that even if DTS 11.1 does not reach broad consumer acceptance, the research on 11.1 will lead to a better implementation of surround sound with 5.1 or 7.1 systems. He made an allusion to some work that he’s doing now—which he could not discuss—that promises sonic virtual reality with a lot fewer than 11 channels.

I did get to meet and chat with JJ, and found him to be very genial—not at all like the doesn’t-suffer-fools-gladly persona that’s sometimes in his Forum postings.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
The Lotus Group's Granada speaker ($125,000/pair) combines 21st-century technology—a digital-domain crossover realized with DSP, including room correction—with distinctively retro loudspeaker engineering—frequencies above 200Hz are handled by a single Feastrex unit featuring a field-coil magnet and a paper diaphragm with a coincident "whizzer" cone. The paper used for the diaphragms is sourced from a Japanese "National Treasure" paper maker, Ichibei Iwano, and the surrounds are made from lambs' skin. Two woofer handle the bass and all three drivers are open at the back to give a dipole radiation pattern. There is also a rear-firing 0.75" dome tweeter to maintain the speaker's power response in the top octave. (The treble energy from the whizzer is emitted in a quite narrow frontal beam.)

My photo doesn't do justice to the beauty of this speaker; the rest of the system included Musical Fidelity AMS-50 class-A amplifiers, a Steve McCormack VRE-18 preamp, a Hanss T-10A turntable with phono stage and fitted with Dynavector DRT XV-1t cartridge,with interconnects and power cabling by Pranawire and speaker cabling by Acoustic Revive. Total system costs was $324,245! Listening to Joan Armatrading's "Show Some Emotion" then the Roy DuNann-recorded The Eleven LP by Art Pepper, I was struck by the effortless nature of the sound and the sheer musicality of the system, though I have to admit that instruments didn't quite sound tonally correct.

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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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