CES 2011

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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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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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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
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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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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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 12, 2011 1 comments
The latest in a growing line of fuses from HIFI-Tuning, enjoyed by Bob Deutsch and Michael Fremer, is the Supreme. Robert Stein of The Cable Company explained that the Supreme fuses are made of 99% silver impregnated with 1% gold, combining the smoothness of HIFI-Tuning’s gold fuses with the openness and resolution of their silver fuses. Prices range from $50–$75, so you can tweak away!
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Erick Lichte Posted: 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.

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 1 comments
British Naim Audio showed an adorable new product in their room at this year’s CES. The appropriately named Unitiqute (pronounced Unity–cute, $2500) is an all-in-one streamer, DAC, preamp, amp, FM tuner and headphone amp. The Unitiqute also has the ability to pull the datastream off an iPod and be controlled by an iPad or iPod. The amplifier section puts out 30Wpc into 8 ohms and has just one button on its front plate. I thought the Unitiqute struck the perfect balance of functionality, cuteness and elegance.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
If you don’t want to worry about how to best match amplification with loudspeakers, Cayin might have a solution for you. Cayin is a subsidiary of the Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., and in the Cayin room at T.H.E. show, the company displayed a couple of Spark mini-systems, including the MM-1 Mini Hi-Fi integrated with FM tuner, USB input, and matching speakers. Cayin’s representative, John Hwang, explained that the company will be improving the original Spark designs for the US market. Price is to be determined and availability will be sometime in late spring or early summer.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments

A highlight of my reviewing year in 2010 was living with and writing about the Acapella High Violoncello II speaker from Germany ($80,000/pair). With its horn-loaded, ionic tweeter and horn-loaded midrange unit, this speaker offered both high sensitivity and some of the most satisfyingly musical sound I have experienced in my room.

Current production has been modified a little compared with the much-traveled samples I auditioned for my review. (They were the same pair I had auditioned at the 2010 CES, Axpona and RMAF Shows.) The drive-unit complement, cabinet, and crossover are all the same, but there is now a greater range of level adjustment for the ionic tweeter and isobaric-loaded woofers. But the sound of the latest version at CES. driven by Einstein electronics, sounded just as I remembered: dynamic, transparent, neutrally balanced, and not a trace of horn colorations.

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Erick Lichte Posted: 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.

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