CES 2011

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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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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 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 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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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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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: 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.

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Simaudio also showed its newest preamplifier, the flagship Moon 850P ($25,000). The 850P is a two-chassis preamp that is designed to damp all vibrations through the use of an eight-point floating suspension for critical parts of the circuit. Like its predecessor, the Moon P-8, it separates the functions into a “clean” box—amplification—and a “dirty” box—display, power supply, etc.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Wireworld’s David Salz released two new USB cables, the Platinum Starlight ($600/1m) and the Silver Starlight ($300/1m). The Platinum Starlight USB uses molded carbon-fiber connectors, while the Silver Starlight uses aluminum connectors.

Both cables use a new technology, called DNA Helix, that Salz originally developed for use in Wireworld’s premiere PS and SS HDMI cables. DNA Helix utilizes twice as many signal conductors as conventional USB cable designs.

When Salz was first developing the DNA Helix design, he began to measure the transmission speed of cables. By designing a more efficient cable, he found he was able to increase transmission speed by 20%.

“I always start with the direct connection as my reference,” he explains. “What I heard from cables at the start of my work was really disappointing. This new design allows me to get substantially closer to the purity of the direct connection.”

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
I finally got to meet Roy Hall of Music Hall. I, along with many of you, have been recently delighting in his colorful and off-color manufacturer’s comments in the pages of Stereophile. New to the stable of products Roy distributes is Creek’s Wyndsor phono preamplifier ($2495). This is a fully adjustable phono preamp with all of the settings available as you scroll through the on-screen menus. The preamp is powered by an external power supply and has just started shipping.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
After Thursday’s full day at the Venetian’s high-performance audio exhibits, it was time to throw all caution to the winds and head to some of the major headphone exhibits at CES’ official three-ring circus, aka the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South, Central, and North Halls.

I’m glad that John Atkinson suggested I spend no more than a half-day at the LVCC. That’s how long it took to navigate through tens of thousands of people (or so it seemed) in the South and Central Halls to reach the displays of Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, and Monster.

First stop was Audio-Technica, where I encountered former audiophile critic turned publicist Frank Doris. Together we examined three new over-ear “Audiophile headphones” and one set of in-ear noise-canceling headphones.

I sampled the most expensive of the audiophile bunch, the Audio-Technica ATH-W1000x Grandioso ($699.95) that Tyll Hertsens writes about elsewhere in this report. I also briefly checked out their new in-ear QuietPoint active noise-canceling (ANC) ATH-ANC23 headphones ($99.95). Complete with an in-line volume control, the phones will first reach the market in February 2011. I found them a pleasure to use. Unfortunately, Unfortunately, all that was available to audition were MP3s of highly compressed, noisy pop and rock.

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Erick Lichte Posted: 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.

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