CES 2011
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CES 2011
Jason Victor Serinus 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.”

CES 2011
Jason Victor Serinus 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.

CES 2011
John Atkinson Jan 13, 2011 3 comments
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-coil–energized 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.

CES 2011
Erick Lichte Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Aotearoa. The Land of the Long White Cloud. New Zealand. The home of the Maori, Kiwi birds, an upcoming shoot for Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit, and Plinius Audio. On display in the Plinius room was the Hiato integrated amplifier ($9100). The Hiato is a 300Wpc integrated, able to kick out peaks of 50A of current. The amp is a high-biased class-A/B design that allows the first few important watts to benefit from class-A purity and then switch over A/B for greater efficiency and maximum power. The Hiato had me grooving to Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on, Reggae Woman” and stopped me in my tracks playing a live duet version of Johnny Cash singing “Don’t Take You Guns to Town” with none other than Willy Nelson. The Hiato can also be installed with an optional phono preamp which brings the price up to $11,000.
CES 2011
Erick Lichte Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Last year I marveled at the visual design of Resolution Audio’s Cantata Music Server. This year, Resolution debuts a new matching integrated amp, the C50 ($4000). The C50 puts out 50Wpc. According to Resolution’s Jeffery Kalt, on paper the C50 doesn’t look much different than most integrated amplifiers. However C50 benefits from custom capacitors, a unique application of feedback above the audio band, and a circuit layout that minimizes eddy currents. The C50 must be doing something right as it made a modest pair of Epos speakers sing with clarity, focus and body, sounding great song after song.
CES 2011
Erick Lichte Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
All of Bel Canto’s equipment was powered by their VBS-1 Virtual Battery Supply ($1495), which effectively takes their equipment off the electrical grid. The VBS technology was debuted at last year’s CES, but new this year are the VB-Ref power cables which connect the 12V output of the VBS-1 power supply to the component. Having tried these cables out in my own system at home during my audition of the Bel Canto DAC3.5 VBS, I can testify to their ability to bring out the best in this new Bel Canto gear.
CES 2011
Erick Lichte Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Also on display was Bel Canto’s new headphone amplifier (shown right), a product so new it doesn’t yet have a proper model number or name. Bel Canto’s John Stronczer let me take a listen to the amp through a pair of in-ear headphones. The sound was lovely, but I couldn’t really get the cans to stay in my ears (I must have very large ear canals).

When I checked out the back of the headphone amp I noticed that it was in the signal path of the room’s big rig. The DAC3.5VBS’s outputs went into the headphone amp and the outputs of the headphone amp went to the rig’s amplifiers. I asked John, “What gives?” He told me that he has been experimenting with using the new headphone amplifier as a unity gain buffer, taking advantage of the headphone amp’s ultra-low output impedance. John said that he hears improvements in the system using this configuration and that Bel Canto is exploring new applications for this technique. No price has yet been set for this headphone amplifier.

CES 2011
Erick Lichte Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Constellation also showed a brand new line of products at a more “real-world” price point. The components of the new Performance line will each go for between $15,000 and $20,000 and feature (from left to right) a preamp, digital source, phono preamp, and power amp. I was told that the circuit designs of the Performance line are exactly the same as Constellation’s Reference line but use less expensive parts.
CES 2011
Erick Lichte Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
The Metrodome may have collapsed but Minneapolis-based Bel Canto sure hasn’t. Brand new at CES is the C5i, a DAC/integrated amp/headphone amp that sells for the feel-good price of $1895. The amplifier, said to be stable into 3 ohm loads, puts out 60Wpc into a 8 ohms. The amp also includes two S/PDIF digital inputs, a USB input capable of handling 24bits/96kHz data, a moving-magnet phono input, an RCA line input and a headphone amplifier. I marveled at this little gem’s price but also its sound as it played files from a nearby laptop driving a pair of Joseph Audio speakers. This was my first room of CES 2011 and it was a great start!
CES 2011
Erick Lichte Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
“Go check out the Constellation Audio room,” said Jon Iverson. So I did. As I entered the room filled with unworldly looking gear I spied Michael Fremer, engrossed in one of his famous mix CDs, burned from his vast vinyl collection. Michael, ever the gentleman, relinquished the sweet spot to me and both of us took in some big, clean, transparent sound. Driving a pair of $150,000 Tidal speakers was Constellation’s Hercules amplifiers ($70,000 each), which are each able to put out a kilowatt of juice into 8 ohms and runs its first 250W in class-A.

The visual design of the amps is both striking and understated, clad in an all aluminum chassis. Each side of the amp has a diffuser grid which hides the amp’s heatsinks and allows for a chimney action to help cool the amplifier. All that aluminum also serves the purpose of mass-loading the amps to control vibration. Internally the amps mechanically float the sensitive signal carrying parts. That attention to vibration damping could be heard as stillness and ease, particularly when I played a high-resolution file of Robert Silverman playing the final fugue from Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Handel. My time in the Constellation room was stellar.

CES 2011
Jason Victor Serinus Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Derived from Finite Elemente’s Emperor rack, the Soundbase equipment shelf ($1800) is filled with aluminum foam whose random patterning allows it to absorb energy and dissipate it as heat. Immedia’s Stirling Trayle notes that the shelf works as well for turntables as for other components.

Each Soundbase comes complete with four Cerabase Slimline coupling feet that use a combination of three internal ceramic ball bearings and stainless steel for ultra-efficient energy transfer. The Cerabase Slimlines are also sold separately for use under components ($550/set of four). Their three internal ceramic balls represent an advance in “resonance deflection” technology for the company.

CES 2011
Jason Victor Serinus Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Cable manufacturer Kubala_Sosna has been in business eight years, with business expanding each year. This year, the company’s products were in use in 12 rooms at CES.

Just introduced are two new digital cables, the Emotion S/PDIF ($1500/first meter, $300/each additional meter) and Elation S/PDIF ($2700/first meter, $400/each additional meter). Both cables are a step up from Kubala-Sosna’s previous Expression level.

“We’re raising the bar, no doubt,” said keen recordist Joe Kubala (pictured on the right). In perfect agreement was partner Howard Sosna (left), who designs the cables in collaboration with Joe.

With the new cables used to connect the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport to the Perfect Wave DAC, I heard impressive bass and captivating warmth coming through the not-too-shabby Tenor Audio Reference 350M monoblocks ($100,000/pair) and Estelon Model XA loudspeakers ($43,900/pair) from Alfred & Partners in Estonia. Of course it helped that Estelon’s entire line is internally wired with Kubala-Sosna.

CES 2011
Jason Victor Serinus Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Steven Hill, designer and owner of Straight Wire, has released his new Expressivo line of speaker cable ($700/8 ft pair). The cables, which contain four conductors surrounded by multiple spiral shields, include a compressed conductor of special OFHC certified copper and a spiral polyethylene rod that encapsulates the conductor. The net result of his geometry is that the spiral rod only touches the conductor group in a small area, resulting in an effective air-spaced dielectric.

Hill claims that Expressivo’s soundstaging, imagery, and detail retrieval surpass those of his Maestro speaker cable. Expressivo occupies the middle of Straight Wire’s loudspeaker cable line, with three lines above it. The company’s full range of cables ranges in price $1/foot to $150/foot for speaker cable, and from $15 to $900/1m pair of interconnects.

CES 2011
Tyll Hertsens Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
For a decade or more, I’ve begged Japanese company Audio-Technica to bring more of their domestic models into the US. Woot! Seems like they’re doing it. The recent addition of the ATH-A900 (closed back; $249), ATH-AD900 (open back; $299), and the beautifully finished Black Cherry wood of the ATH-W1000x Grandioso (closed back; $699) will broaden choices for the strong following among headphone enthusiast who prefer a tastefully done fast and airy sound.

I know you guys have more stuff over there . . . if you’re listening, bring it on.

CES 2011
Tyll Hertsens Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Fang Bian has long been a maker satiating the desires of headphone enthusiasts. Head-Direct's line-up of products includes many headphones including the orthodynamic headphone HE-6 ($1199), headphone amplifiers, and seemingly the only portable music players that could be legitimately called high-end. The HM-801 ($790) looks and feels a bit cumbersome, but the electronic goodness of the Burr-Brown PCM1704 DAC chip and OPA627 op-amps, and the ability to play back 24bit/96kHz FLAC and 16bit/44.1kHz FLAC, WAV, APE, OGG, WMV, and MP3 files will make your portable listening a real treat.

So, as if his headphone activities over the past decade or so isn’t a career enough, he’s also been going to school and a few months ago received his doctorate in nano-technologies. Wow! I wouldn’t be surprised to see a HiFiMAN player ten years hence in a pill. Twenty minutes after you swallow it you can hear a CD by rubbing it between your hands. :-)

Congratulations Dr. Fang Bian, on both your academic and sonic successes!

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