CES 2011

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Joe Lavrencik, owner of Critical Mass Systems, designs all Critical Mass Systems Precision Component Support Systems. All of the company’s products are built in the Chicago area.

The newest Critical Mass product is Maxxum ($5650 per shelf), a precision component-support system. The shelf and rack architecture operate together to mitigate vibration in the floor, the rack, the shelf, and the component at the same time.

“We do more than isolate,” the sleep-deprived designer offered by way of explanation. “We give energy in the air a pathway out of the component so that components are not saturated with vibration from the loudspeakers.”

Lest you think Critical Mass Systems only manufactures high-priced products, prices start at $195 for a set of four MXK spikes, and $195 for a basic shelf. “Even though we’re very expensive, we start very low,” says Lavrencik.

At CES 2011, Critical Mass Systems products were used in the Lamm, Hansen/Tenor, and BAT rooms. In the photo, Lavrencik kneels near his Maxxum amplifier/component stands ($5650/each) and the Lamm ML3 Signature monoblocks ($139,290/pair) being used to drive Wilson Alexandria II speakers.

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Erick Lichte Posted: 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.
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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Audio Research of Minnesota is located only a mile from my home, yet my visit to their room at this year’s CES was the first time I’d really met any of their staff. Getting pride-of-place in their CES system this year was the Reference Anniversary Preamplifier ($24,995), a two-chassis preamp celebrating the company’s 40th anniversary. According to the folks at Audio Research, this preamplifier has been a huge hit and has, to their own surprise, exceeded their sales expectations. Orders for the preamplifier will be taken through April 2011 and, unlike Brett Favre, will not come out of retirement.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Although Sennheiser has come out with nothing that surpasses their wonderful, state-of-the-art HD 800 headphones, they have released three new, far less expensive audiophile models: the HD 598 most prominent in the photo ($329.95), the HD 558 ($229.95), and the HD 518 ($169.95).

I auditioned the HD 598, whose beige soft velour pads contrast elegantly with their black body. The salesperson who showed me around made a big deal of the packaging. Far more important were the frequency range, 15Hz–28kHz, and the sound. Although the rather bombastic source material was supposedly MP3, the headphones delivered impressively smooth bass and a far more natural-sounding presentation than I would have expected.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Avantgarde's Armin Kraus stands next to the new version of the three-way Duo speaker, the Grosso ($36,000/pair). Finished in "Lamborghini Orange," the Grosso substitutes two 12" woofers for the Duo's 10-inchers, and drives them with twice the amplifier power. The midrange and treble horn units are the same, but the speaker is now supported by a sturdier space-frame with spikes that are adjustable from above. And again, this is a horn speaker that offers the advantages of horns—high dynamic range, sensitivity, and "jump factor"—without the disadvantages, such as midrange coloration.
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Erick Lichte Posted: 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.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
We're still in that transition period where most folks who move to music servers and care about quality are going to source their tunes primarily from discs. As a result, most of the current server crop has a disc slot and the new Weiss MAN 202 is no exception.

The MAN 202 also includes AES/EBU, SPDIF, Ethernet and USB inputs on the back along with AES/EBU, SPDIF and Firewire outputs. Since there is a DAC inside, there are also a pair of balanced and a pair of unbalanced analog outputs. And there's more: Wordclock in and output via BNC connectors and a WiFi antenna is included for communicating with an Apple iPad through a free app which serves as the interface to run all of the music.

Weiss says that the MAN 202 will handle all digital formats up to 24bit/192kHz (with comparable quality to the Weiss DAC 202) and should be shipping in 4 or 5 months for a retail price of between $10,000 and $15,000. I love this kind of product, which is optimized for the modern audio enthusiast who doesn't have time to play around with computers.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
At T.H.E. Show in the Flamingo hotel, a mere half mile, 500 hawkers, and 2000 gambling-addicted alcoholics away from the bulk of high-performance audio exhibits in the Venetian, John McDonald of Audience was showing his new Adept Response aR6-TS power conditioner. Each unit comes complete with an Audience powerChord. The units sell at two different price points, depending upon choice of Audience power cords ($5000 with a standard Audience powerChord e, or $6550 with the Au24 powerChord).

The 6-outlet version of the Adept Response aR6-TS was in use in the room. A 12-outlet version is also available ($8600 or $10,150, depending upon powerChord choice).

What’s new about the unit is the “S” in aR6-TS. “T” stands for the Teflon version of power conditioner, and “S” for its new Audience Teflon aura-TO capacitors. John McDonald says the new capacitors are significantly more resolute and transparent.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
The audiophile community was greatly shocked by the death, in September, 2009, of speaker designer Jim Thiel. My acquaintance with him was restricted to brief chats at shows, but he has always impressed me as a modest, gentle man, with a singular devotion to the pursuit of making the most accurate and musically pleasing speakers. Somehow, I thought he would always be around.

The Thiel/Bryston room had a system featuring the Thiel SCS4T ($3690/pair) speakers and a pair of new prototype Thiel USS subwoofers (price and delivery date TBD), partnered with Bryston electronics and digital source. The sound had that famed Thiel clarity, and an astonishing sense of depth on the well-known Misa Criolla recording. The SCS4T is the last speaker that Jim Thiel had a hand in designing: a fitting tribute to one of the greats of the world of audio.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
In defining what is the maximum cost of “mid-priced” speaker, which was my assignment at the Show, I had tentatively settled on $10,000/pair. Jeff Joseph Audio’s Perspective, still undergoing tweaking, at a projected price of $11, 800/pair, exceeds that self-imposed maximum, but the speaker sounded so good, and Jeff Joseph was so obliging in hamming it up, that I just had to include it in my blog and take Jeff’s picture. JA, you can write up a sub-$10k speaker in return.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Joe Skubinski of JPS Labs introduced its first two USB cables, the Superconductor Q USB (approximately $399/1m) and Superconductor 3 USB (approximately $799/1m). The cables are so new that Skubinski had to guess at the prices. Both boast a precision twisted-quad design with dual shields and gold-plated connectors.

Skubinski’s design goals were to transfer the digital signal as flawlessly as possible without radiating noise into adjacent cables. As I left the room, he and the folks from Usher loudspeakers were about to conduct an experiment to see if the Superconductor 3 could successfully transmit music recorded at 352.8kHz.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
George Cardas stands darped in the new Cardas cables whie the company's Operations Manager Josh Meredith was happy to show off Cardas’ Clear Light Speaker cable ($1048/2m pair). Now the lower end of the Clear speaker cable line, it will soon move up a notch to middle position as another model of speaker cable comes out. A simplified version of Clear speaker cable ($3726/2m pair), its ability to be produced more rapidly results in its considerably lower price.

Also on hand was the Clear Light Rev 1 interconnect ($856/1.5m pair). Now with a larger diameter, improved shield, and nicer RCA connector, it is still substantially lower in price that the Clear interconnect ($2360/1.5m pair). Next on the horizon is a Clear power cable.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Mach2 Music offers two services: they will sell you an upgraded Apple Mac Mini computer optimized for digital audio music serving, or take your already purchased 2010 or later Mac Mini and perform their upgrades on it.

They had the first option on hand, which includes a 40GB solid state OCZ Vertex drive to replace the factory drive, Amarra 2.1.1 installed and set up, 8GB RAM installed, cables from Most Beautiful Sound (they cut the power lead in the Firewire 800 cable) and a power cable from PI Audio Group.

Also included, but missing from the photo above due to shipping issues, is a PI Audio Mac Sandwich clamp system. Dayton Audio Brass Speaker Spikes (shown in black) complete the package which retails for $2,995 through the end of this month. All you need to add are external hard drives, a monitor (or iPad/iPod control device) and music.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2011 8 comments
Synergistic Research’s Ted Denney was eager to show off the great midrange and bass transmitted by his Galileo System of hand-built cables. His choice of music: Michel Jonaz’ “Le Temps Passé,” a classic recording whose abundance of space and choice of contrasting, slightly gimmicky instrumental timbres makes for one of those ideal audiophile demo discs.

The Galileo System of cables includes speaker wire ($40,000/8ft pair) and interconnects ($25,000/1m pair), the PowerCell LE (limited edition—only 20 are being built for $10,000 each), and the Galileo Element series. All cables work universally, with switchable XLR and RCA terminations. If you switch gear from single-ended to balanced, you don’t have to buy an entirely new set of cables with different terminations. Very neat.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Nate Mansfield, Sales Manager of Kimber Kable, happily showed off the company’s newest products, the complete line of Kimber Select KS 6000 series speaker cables ($4400–$18,800/8ft pair, depending upon level and wiring). Introduced in prototype form at CES 2010, the KS series has been shipping for the last six months, and is available in either all-copper, copper-silver hybrid, or full silver configurations. Designed by Ray Kimber, the cable also features a new multi-layer braid that combines stranded and solid core conductors in the same cable. The Kimber Select KS 6000 series represents a technological evolution of the old Black Pearl 88, a highly regarded all solid-core cable which Kimber manufactured in the early 1990s.

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