CES 2011

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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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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
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.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2011 0 comments
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.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Cary Audio Design is known for producing both solid state and tube gear. This year Cary unveils a new set of solid-state amplifiers, the SA-500.1 ($4995 each)and SA200.1 ($3995 each). Shown here is the SA-500.1, a 500W monoblock amplifier that can also push 1 kilowatt of juice into a 4 ohm load. Both amps are built around a modular design that allows a dealer to convert an SA-200.1 to an SA-500.1 and vice versa. The amps each use 1500kVA low-noise transformers and employ 16 bipolar output devices. The amps have been voiced to maintain a similar house sound to Cary’s tube amplifiers. The SA-500.1 sounded warm, open, coherent and dynamic playing high-resolution files courtesy of David Chesky and HDTracks.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 1 comments
Ted Sindzinski, Internet Marketing Director for Monster, introduced me to the Beats by Dr. Dre Pro headphones ($399 street) that Stephen Mejias reviewed a few months back for Stereophile. A partnership with Beats by Dr. Dre, these recently released “mixing phones with high-end capabilities” were designed by Monster and marketed as part of the Beats family products.

Due in spring 2011 will be Monster’s Miles Davis Trumpets in-ear speakers (not yet priced). Featuring drivers in the front instead of the back of the buds, which allows them to be very, very small, these headphones look and feel very special.

Ted Sindzinski, holding the new ‘phones in the photo, believes these are one of the company’s best-sounding headphones. “They’ve been manufactured for a nice, warm, full, rich sound,” he assured me. Note the cute little silver trumpet on the cables. If you ask me, they’ve got Stephen Mejias’s name written all over them.

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Erick Lichte Posted: 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!
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 2 comments
Onkyo showed a nice new set of high-quality, two-channel separates, including the M-5000R Power Amplifier ($2499). This amp puts out 80Wpc into an 8 ohm load but can also deliver dynamic power of 450W into 1 ohm. The products begin shipping this January. It was great to see a mainstream company like Onkyo keeping up a commitment to two-channel music!
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Hi-Fi shows can be notorious for playing the same audiophile approved dreck over and over again. Not so in the VTL room. Luke and Bea Manley played one great tune after the next and introduced me to a bunch of albums I need to go get. Helping me enjoy this great music was VTL’s MB185 monoblock amplifiers ($14,500/pair). Using EL34 output tubes giving 185W in tetrode and 90W in triode, the MB185 offers a unique three-way setting that allows the user to dial in the amount of global negative feedback used in the amplifier. According to Luke Manley, this will allow users to fine-tune the sound of the MB185’s to best match the accompanying speakers and listeners’ tastes.

This system, the smaller of the two in the VTL room, was certainly to my taste. I preferred the MB185 in tetrode mode, finding that it offered the best balance between dynamic bass punch and smooth midrange and extended treble with the Avalon Indra speakers being used. VTL has always struck me as a serious company making serious products, but I had serious fun in their room at this year’s CES.

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Erick Lichte Posted: 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.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Another Cayin/Spark mini-system on display, the MT-iP40 combines a 40Wpc amplifier with iPod dock, FM tuner, USB input, and matching speakers. Like the MM-1, price is to be determined and the package will be available sometime in late spring or early summer.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 1 comments
It was released in 2009, but Krell's Modulari Duo Reference loudspeaker ($65,100/pair) was new to me when I visited THE Show and ventured up to the 28th floor of the Flamingo. The two-box speaker features all-aluminum enclosures, and features twin port-loaded woofers and a ring-radiator tweeter. The Modularis were hooked up with Zen Satori cable to Krell's new Evolution 2250e amplifiers, which offer 250Wpc into 8 ohms and 500Wpc into 4 ohms ($20,000/pair). Also new to the Connecticut company's line at CES was the Phantom preamplifier ($17,500, or $20,000 with optional crossover module, completely adjustable for high-pass and low-pass slopes and frequencies) and the 525 CD player ($12,000 in basic form).
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 2 comments
With the show spread out between a half dozen hotels, and Las Vegas one of the most inefficient cities to move around in, it's tough to see everything. I simply ran out of time before getting over to the Bellagio to see Olive, but Kal Rubinson was able to make it one morning.

His photo above shows the company's new O6HD which is described as a "music server for audiophiles". On top is a modest 10.1" touch screen and inside is a fully balanced differential DAC design that can run at 24bit/192kHz. There is also a headphone jack and slot for ripping discs under the lip on the front. Internal storage is 2TB and it has both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs in addition to HDMI, USB, Ethernet and WiFi which supports the free iPad/iPhone apps. Price is $4,999.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 12, 2011 1 comments
From left: Klipsch Reference RB-61 II ($529/pair), RB-51 II ($329/pair), and RB-41 II ($279/pair). I spotted this handsome family of Klipsch Reference loudspeakers on static display at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Each is a bass-reflex design with a rear-firing port and each utilizes a 1” titanium diaphragm compression driver mated to Klipsch’s Tractrix horn. As you go up the line in size and price, you gain greater bass extension and sensitivity.

Earlier in the week, back at the Venetian, Klipsch’s Mark Casavant and Chris Aiello gave me an introduction to Klipsch’s history, philosophy, and latest products...

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments

Bluebird Music's Jay Rein wanted to hear the Bluetooth-driven Chordette Gem-based system at the front of the room, with Spendor A6 speakers, but my attention was drawn to the familiar-looking speakers at the other end of the room, Peak Consult El Diablo Vs ($89,000/pair), which Michael Fremer reviewed in May 2007. Jay explained that he is ow the North American distributor for these Danish speakers.

The speakers were being driven by Chord SPM1400 monoblocks ($$32,900/pair) and a Chord CPS5000 preamp, with van den Hul's new Mountain interconnects and Nova speaker cables. Jay put the Reference Recordings CD of Scheherazade (RR-89CD) with Jose Serebrier conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra into the Chord Red Reference Mk,II CD player ($25,900) and for an all-too-brief interlude, I was transported from the fake glitz of Las Vegas into the more real sonic world of the Arabian Nights.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Famed audio designer/engineer Demian Martin, known for his work with Spectral Audio, Constellation and others, is also part of Auraliti, who were displaying their wares at T.H.E Show in the Flamingo.

Shown above is the heart of their new product line, the L1000 File Player, which is controlled by either a wireless iPhone/iPad type device or networked web browser and runs Linux. The company says there are no moving parts in the L1000 which boots from a Solid State Drive and has an AES/EBU output for connecting to your DAC. The L1000 Outputs up to 24 bit/192kHz and can handle FLAC, WAF and AIFF files. Price is around $3,000.

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