CES 2011

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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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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 12, 2011 0 comments
Lew Johnson has been bitten by the computer audio bug and was proudly displaying Conrad-Johnson's new USB-only DAC, the HD USB3. While the digital portion was designed by Kevin Halverson of Muse, Johnson emphasized that their own designers spent quite a bit of time getting the analog part of the DAC just right. He likened the analog circuitry and its importance to final audio quality with the vital function a phono preamp plays in a vinyl playback chain.

The new DAC should be available in late February for $3,000. Johnson added that maybe they will also include a C-J logo on the front panel for the final product.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Veteran CES-goers often refer to the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) as “the Zoo”—a term that I don’t think applies very well. In the zoos that I’m familiar with, the animals are not crowded closely together (as people are during CES), and they’re not there because of choice—which people are, even though they may grumble about it. I normally spend about half-a-day at the LVCC—I refuse to call it “the Zoo”—which gives me a chance to catch up on what’s happening in mass-market consumer electronics. And it sometimes allows me to discover the occasional product that could easily have been exhibited in the hallowed halls of high-performance audio in the Venetian.

Case in point: the Titan Series Telesto ($7999/pair) and Tigro ($9500/pair) floor-standing loudspeakers from Earthquake, a company that until now has specialized in subwoofers. According to Earthquake President and designer of these speakers, Joseph Sahyoun, these are speakers that he actually designed several years ago, but could not build them because he was not able to get overseas the kind of molded cabinet construction that he felt was essential to get the results he wanted. The cabinets of these speakers are now made in the USA, and the drivers are also made in-house. The speakers were on passive display, so I can’t comment on the sound, but the design certainly looks like a serious effort, with a lot of attention to detail.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 11, 2011 1 comments
I think it was at least a couple of years ago that I first heard that Atlantic Technology—a speaker manufacturer that I associate more with value-for-money than cutting-edge products—was working on a patent-pending technology that combines reflex, acoustic suspension, inverse horn, and transmission line approaches to bass loading. Dubbed Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System (H-PAS), this is said to combine the best aspects of each approach, with deep bass extension, good system sensitivity, and reasonable enclosure size.

Well, the patent has been granted, and the floor-standing AT-1 ($2500/pair) is the first speaker to utilize the H-PAS approach. (According to Atlantic’s Peter Tribeman, they have licenzed H-PAS to five other companies—which he understandably declined to name.)

Having listened at CES to a pair of AT-1s, in a system that included top-of-the line Halo by Parasound electronics, I’m convinced that they’re on to something with this technology. The AT-1 is a modestly-sized floorstander, with two 5¼” woofer/midrange drivers, and yet it generated bass of such extension, power, and control that left me and others who attended the demo shaking their heads in disbelief. The sound was otherwise fine, too: tonally well-balanced (the bass was there only when it was on the recording), and a precisely-defined soundstage. Most impressive.

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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 11, 2011 0 comments
Allen Sung, owner of XLO (left), introduced the Purple Rush power cord ($7000/6ft). The first product in the company’s new Purple Reigns series, this substantial baby is heavy enough to easily yank a poorly positioned component off the shelf. IMHO, the cable’s oversized proprietary connectors are as impressive as its girth.

XLO’s designer, Jay Victor (right), explained that he wanted to design a power cable that he could use on high-current power amps in his own system. “I started dabbling in cable design when I was in charge of product development at Monster Cable with Demian Martin,” he said. “We were marveling at how much of a difference different power cables made to a system’s sound. I kept refining my ideas of power cable design, until I came up with idea of mixing different conductor shapes to best convey the whole range of bass sound.”

Victor believes that a large solid conductor is great for low bass, a flat conductor is best for mid bass, and a polymer coated Litz works best for highs and transients. He has combined all three in the Purple Rush power cord. The cord also employs an exotic field-balanced winding technique to lower the noise floor and cancel magnetic effects. All in all, five patents are associated with the Purple Rush power cord, which took eight years to develop and refine.

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Tyll Hertsens Jason Victor Serinus 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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