Looking at the ginormous horn speakers in the Silbatone room, all I could think was "how did they get them through the door?" The speakers were a hybrid, the lower half being vintage Western Electric with field-coilenergized 18" woofers, and the midrange and highs being modern recreations from GIP in Japan.
I hadn't been aware of the Silbatone brand before this CES. Their website says that "The goal of Silbatone Acoustics is to recreate the musical enjoyment of the great theater systems in the home, creating practical realizations for today's serious music listeners." Okay. It turns out that their beautifully constructed power amplifiers ($150,000, depending on tube choice) are vehicles for unusual and rare tubes. The amplifier seen in front of the speakers, for example, used square-base Marconi DA100 broadcast modulation tubes (around $5000 each) for the outputs, with pre-WWII Siemens ED red-base tubes as the drivers. The audiophile air in this room was rarefied, indeed.
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 toin addition to dinner at Nobu, one of Las Vegas’ best Japanese restaurantswas 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 nowwhich he could not discussthat 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 genialnot at all like the doesn’t-suffer-fools-gladly persona that’s sometimes in his Forum postings.
The Lotus Group's Granada speaker ($125,000/pair) combines 21st-century technologya digital-domain crossover realized with DSP, including room correctionwith distinctively retro loudspeaker engineeringfrequencies 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.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Purist Audio Design, founder/designer Jim Aud has just introduced their 25th Anniversary cable. Shown at T.H.E. Show for the first time, the 25th anniversary line consists of interconnects ($8100/1m pair) and speaker cable ($18,000/1.5m pair).
“Basically we’re using solid silver, single crystal wiring surrounded by Ferox 103, which is a proprietary doped silicon,” Aud explained. “Our other cables only use copper or copper alloys, and don’t use the Ferox 103.” While Purist still makes two cables that contain fluid, the 25th Anniversary cabling does not.
New from E.A.R. USA is the V12 integrated amplifier ($9595), one of the prettier looking and sounding pieces I heard at CES. Many may remember E.A.R.’s V20 integrated, to which the V12 owes some inspiration. The V12’s visual design is also inspired by a Jaguar V12 engine, minus the motor oil stains. The V12 was designed by Tim de Paravicini and uses six EL84 tubes per channel. It puts our 50Wpc in triode mode. The sound, driving Marten speakers and using Jorma cables, was airy yet colorful.
Jason Victor Serinus elaborates on the Jorma cables: Jorma Koski, who owns Jorma Design of Sweden, designs all of his cables. When asked what makes them unique, he initially replied, “It’s the best cables in the world, except that everybody says that.”
I was sort of shocked to see the Kiso Acoustic HB-1. While I’d never heard of Kiso Acoustics, the speaker looked so darn familiar. The HB-1 is nearly identical in size and shape and design philosophy to the Onkyo D-TK10, a collaboration between Onkyo and guitar-maker Takamine, which I discussed backinlate2006...
Pass Labs showed off two nice beer fridges, er, amplifiers at this year’s CES. Lacking any model numbers or nomenclature, the top monoblock amp (the top two units) is a single-ended 200W amp ($45,000/pair) and the bottom monoblock is a single-ended 300W amp ($75,000/pair). Nelson Pass is shooting to use no feedback on these circuits and maintain the Super Symmetry design made popular in far less extreme applications. The new part for these amps is a brand new silicon-carbide FET. These FETs were initially designed for the militaryway to turn swords into plow shares and space heaters, Nelson!and Pass Labs intends on exploring their use in future products.
Parasound showed off the guts of their new Halo JC 3 Phono Stage ($2300) in the same room as the butt-kicking Atlantic Technology AT-1 loudspeakers. Designed by John Curl, the JC 3’s signal/noise ratio is a high 83dB for moving-magnet cartridges and 73dB for moving-coils. The RIAA curve is said to be accurate to within ±0.1dB and the units are currently shipping. Michael Fremer reviews the JC 3 in the March issue of Stereophile.
Qsonix has been providing a touchscreen-based product line for several years, and have recently teamed up with Wadia to collaborate on the DAC side. The Q205 is a one box single zone system with either 1TB or 2TB of storage, and a touchscreen ranging in size from 15" to 19". Price ranges from $7,450 to $8,250 and comes in six configurations.
The Q210 is a one box five zone system with the same screen and storage options and ranges in price from $7,750 to $8,450. The company also has a standalone server without the touschscreen (but can be controlled by the qsonix app) for $6,650 to $7,150 depending on storage and number of zones.
Qsonix's Mike Weaver was on hand to demonstrate the company's new iPad app which should be available later this quarter. I found I liked how the app was laid out better than their touchscreen software, and it offered real-time scrolling of album covers for browsing a collection, something I haven't seen in other iPad apps yet.
Kerem Kücükaslan, whose surname means “Little Lion,” was born in Istanbul, where he resides for at least part of the year. Fluent in English, he received his BS in industrial engineering at WPI and a minor degree at MIT.
Kücükaslan founded Echole four years ago in New Hampshire. On display at T.H.E. Show was the complete line of Obsession Signature: speaker cable ($11,000/6ft pair), interconnects ($7500/3ft pair), and power cords ($6850/6ft).
Parts for Echole’s two cable lines, Echole Obsession and Echole Obsession Signature, are manufactured in both the US and Turkey. The wire, which is manufactured in Japan, consists of a proprietary ratio of silver, gold, and palladium. (The Obsession line has less gold and palladium that the Obsession Signature).
Several weeks before CES, I got an email from PS Audio, inviting me to a press conference that will be held during CES but not as part of the official CES itself. They promised to provide transportation from the Venetian to the Wynn, where PS Audio had a suite. I knew that PS Audio was very much into computer-based audio, an area that for the most part I’ve stayed away from, so I wasn’t all that interested in that part of their presentation; however, I’ve reviewed, and use in my system, PS Audio’s Power Plant Premier AC power regenerator, so I was intrigued by word that they would have information on the successor to the Power Plant Premier.
It turns out that they have two successors, both representing substantial reworking of the product while staying with the principle of “regenerating” rather than merely “conditioning” power. Alas, the “power plant” terminologywhich I’ve always thought was quite aptis gone: the two products are called PerfectWave P5 ($2999) and P10 ($4499). They differ mostly in terms of the amount of maximum current they can produce, the P5 putting out 1000VA and the P10 1200VA. The bigger unit also has more zones. Output impedance is lower than ever, and so is distortion.
Like the Marten room, the Engström & Engström room also played the new large Coltrane 2 speakers by Marten of Sweden. This year, the Coltrane 2 speakers met The Lars Type 2 monoblock amplifiers ($60,000/pair), which each use two 300B tubes and deliver 36Wpc.
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.