CES 2011

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Back in the Audience room, PR representative Frank Doris mentioned that Audio-Technica was displaying a turntable at the Convention Center. Of course, I wanted to see it: Audio-Technica’s AT-LP240-USB direct-drive professional turntable ($499) was mated to a pair of M-Audio BX5a active loudspeakers ($400/pair), making a fun and easy system.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 1 comments
Hansen's cost-no-object speakers have always sounded excellent at CESes, so one of the first rooms I visited at the Venetian was Hansen's, to hear the new The King E (for Enlightened) loudspeaker ($98,000/pair). A 63"-tall, 6-driver, 3-way design weighing 420lbs, The King E was being driven by Tenor mooblocks and preamp, with the front-end a Clearaudio turntable fitted with a Graham Phantom II tonearm. (My apologies for not noting the phono cartridge being used.)

Listening to a 45rpm remastering of Manuel de Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat, I was struck by the effortless sweep of sound and low-frequency performance that suggested that The King's specified frequency response of 18Hz–23kHz was not hyperbole. Percussion and pizzicato strings had a start-stop character that was very lifelike, with not a hint of overhang or boom.

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Tyll Hertsens Posted: 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.

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
I chilled with Lionel Goodfield of Simaudio in the Canadian manufacturer’s room around noon on Friday. We were both hitting our midday energy slump, so we sat on their comfy couch and chatted about two new products in Simaudio’s Evolution Series. The Moon 880M monoblock amplifiers ($38,000/pair) offer 800W into 8 ohms, 1600W into 4 ohms, and a staggering 2400W into 2 ohms. The amp utilizes bipolar output devices biased into class-A/B and uses zero global feedback. The amps sounded as relaxed as the Bob Marley tunes Lionel played near the end of our discussion. It was a great break from the CES frenzy.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
AAudio Imports' Brian Ackerman holds what must the world's most expensive AC strip, the Weizhi PRS6. Priced at $3200, the PRS6 is machined from a block of Super Duralumin alloy and features a graphite grounding module. There are no isolating transformers or conditioning circuits, the PRS6 is purely passive. The thinking behind the product, said Brian, is "to get the noise out of the line without changing the sound."

Yes, the Weizhi is a gorgeous piece of audio jewelry but do people really pay $3200 for peace of mind? Brian told me that he is currently shipping 10 units a week, so I guess they do.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: 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.

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Erick Lichte Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Melody Valve HiFi of Australia was a new company to me. Pictured here is the Pure Black 101 Preamplifier ($4499) and PM815 monoblock power amplifiers ($7959/pair). The Pure Black 101 features an Alps remote attenuator, point-to-point wiring and Jensen copper foil paper in oil capacitors. The PM815 delivers 70W of pure class-A power using 845 output tubes.
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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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Tyll Hertsens Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Audiophile sensibilities have long found a comfortable home inside George Cardas’ head. Also in George’s head for the past two years has been the design of a single-driver, dynamic in-ear monitor that would fulfill his desire for a non-fatiguing portable listening experience. The as yet unnamed little gems are just entering production, and are expected to retail in the $300–$500 range. A quick listen confirms that George has indeed managed to do something quite special: glorious midrange. I gladly accepted a sample pair for review; I reckon I’ll be spending a good chunk of time with George’s thoughts and sound in my head very soon.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Hegel Music Systems was on hand to show off their ever-expanding range of DACs. The smallest sitting at the top right is the $350 HD2 USB "music streamer" that can handle 24bit/96kHz USB data and output it either as analog audio or digital data over SPDIF.

Under the HD2 is the $1,200 HD10 which offers USB, coax and optical digital inputs as well as both balanced and unbalanced outputs. To the left of the HD10 is the newest DAC from Hegel, the HD20, which in addition to the inputs and 24/192 conversion found on the HD10, offers remote control and display for $2,000.

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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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