CES 2012

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
When I gave my Richard Heyser Memorial Lecture at last October's AES Convention, THX's Laurie Fincham was sitting in the audience. Afterwards, Laurie whetted my appetite for what the company would be presenting at CES: a patented non-switching power amplifier topology that would be as efficient as a class-D amplifier but without the side-effects that afflict such designs, high levels of radiated RF, for example. In the photo, Laurie is pointing to the power supply of the amplifier. DC is fed to two oscillators running at 25kHz, one generating a sinewave, the other a cosinewave, ie 90° out of phase with the sinewave. Each wave feeds a transconductance amplifier in the primary pf a small transformer; the output of each secondary is rectified and summed to produce a high DC voltage which is then used to power the amplifier circuit. There are no storage capacitors in the circuit—it looks as if almost all the energy entering the supply is available as the final DC voltage! The new topology was developed by Fincham, Owen Jones (the twin brother of TAD's Andrew Jones) and Andrew Mason.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
Sonus Faber co-founder Franco Serblin has started a new, eponymous company and two of his speakers, the floorstanding Ktema ($39,995/pair) and bookshelf Accordo ($12,995/pair) were being demonstrated in one of the Axiss Audio rooms in the Venetian. Amplification was all-Air Tight—ATM-3011 monoblocks, ATC-2 preamplifier, ATE-2 phono preamplifier, ATH-2A transformer—with the source a Transrotor Fat Bob S turntable fitted with an Audiocraft AC-3300 tonearm and an Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge. The laidback sound of Norah Jones matched the superb looks of the speakers and the bass was full and warm—which impressed me the more when I realized I was listening to the stand-mounted Accordos, not the larger Ktemas.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
The Diamond DAC shown here has now been upgraded with MSB's Pro I2S Network capability which the company claims is a faster, lower jitter version of MSB’s original network and retails between approximately $20-35k depending on included options. The entire line is also now available in this luscious, but hard to photograph, black finish and it's likely I'll be reviewing an MSB system for Stereophile in the next few months.

Below the DAC is the MSB Diamond Power Base power supply running at $4,495 and below that is the very thin WiFi System Interface which brings iPad app control to the entire MSB line for $1,950 and should be available shortly.

Perhaps the most interesting MSB announcement is the $9,950 FemtoSecond Galaxy Clock that the company is making available as a plug in module for all DAC IVs. The claim for the clock upgrade is less than .077 picoseconds of jitter (77 femtoseconds)--let's see if JA can measure that.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
I'm guessing this will be a hot product: asynch USB to stereo out for either headphone or audio feed. Handles up to 24/96 (sample rate indicated by LED), powered by your USB bus and is priced at $139.95. Designed and manufactured in California and available now. I'm really curious to hear how this one sounds.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
My experience with the Thiel CS1.7 at CES is a story in three parts. Part I: Maybe. On the first day that I was at CES, which was the day before the Press Day, I visited the Thiel room while they were still setting up. I saw a prototype of the CS1.7, and asked if they were going to do a demo of these speakers. "We haven't decided yet. We're not sure if the crossover is finalized. But if the speaker sounds as good here as it did at the factory, we'll demonstrate it." Fair enough. I took some pictures and promised to return.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
All-new from TAD at the 2012 CES was a more affordable line of components than the 600 series and electronics and Reference loudspeakers. The Evolution Series E1 speaker ($29,800/pair, right) still uses a concentric tweeter and midrange unit, like its more expensive Reference One sibling (left), but while the tweeter dome is still beryllium, the midrange diaphragm is now magnesium rather than beryllium and the unit is built on a 5" rather than a 6" chassis. Twin 7" woofers are used, but still with the highly linear corrugated surrounds and with a 2.5: voice-coil. Bass extension is specified into the low 30s, anechoic. I auditioned so much music on this system, I thought I was outstaying my welcome, but the sound of the E1 system, at $76,800 including the new M2500 500Wpc power amplification and the C2000 D/A preamp driven by asynchronous USB from a MacBook Air and all sitting on a Finite Elemente rack was open, natural, and uncolored, with superb low-frequency definition and weight. I couldn't imagine how the sound of a a 176.4kHz/24-bit transfer of Rebecca Pidgeon singing "Spanish Harlem" could be bettered—until TAD's Andrew Jones switched to the TAD Reference system (see next story).
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 20, 2012 39 comments
Photo: John Atkinson

It looks sort of pretty, doesn't it?

Imagine how much prettier it would be if it were real. Imagine again how much prettier it would be if those bridges and roads and towers weren't there at all.

Every time I stepped from the slow elevator and onto the casino floor at Harrah's, where Stereophile's editors spent their sleepless nights, my hatred for Las Vegas was revitalized. This was like some kind of bad joke, some kind of post-modern torture. Oh, god, I am still here. I would turn right and see the same flashing lights, the same low ceilings, the same people who had been there the night before, still sitting, still smoking, still hoping, still staring blank-faced into spinning screens of cherries, spades, and jokers, and I would wonder why.

Why? Most people who visit Las Vegas seem to be looking for money, sex, drugs, or simple escape. Why are we here?

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
Scheduled for a summer 2012 launch with a projected priced of $9000–$10,000/pair, the Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Imperial Grand speaker uses a smaller flat, concentric tweeter/midrange drive-unit developed from that used in the Austrian company's top models, The Kiss and The Music. But like them, it uses a supertweeter to cover the range above 17kHz. The cabinet is sourced from Italy and the speakers are assembled in Vienna. And the name? Well, the Bösendorfer company is also based in Vienna and their flagship piano is also called the Imperial Grand.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
Here's a closer "glamor shot" of the new G3Giya loudspeaker, though it doesn't do justice to the deep gloss maroon finish of the speaker. Note how the fact that the tweeter and upper-midrange unit have to be mounted higher up the curve of the "tail" means that the transmission lines loading these drive-units have become a styling feature rather than buried within the enclosure.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
At the 2011 CES, Swedish company Perfect8 concentrated on their Force flagship speaker. For the 2012 Show, they brought their Point Mk.II ($115,000/pair with subwoofer modules), which, like its big sister, uses an enclosure fabricated from glass—or rather, from what Perfect8 calls "Super Silent Glass," joined without solvent-based adhesives. The upper-frequency module is a dipole, allowed to roll off naturally to integrate with the subwoofer module below it, which uses two 10" drive-units mounted on its sides to cancel mechanical reaction forces. The woofer's low-pass filter is set at 86Hz and realized in DSP; the module includes a class-D amplifier housed in the triangular section at the rear. Despite my reservations about glass as an enclosure material, both Diana Krall and Rimsky-Korsakov sounded uncolored and natural.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
The Mårten Django represented a new direction for the Swedish speaker manufacturer, in that at $15,000/pair, it is considerably more affordable than the Mårten Coltrane speakers shown at earlier Shows. It still uses a ceramic tweeter and a ceramic-cone midrange unit, with three aluminum-cone 8" woofers, but in a less complex enclosure than the more expensive speakers. Downward-firing posts reflex-load the woofers. Set up across the room's diagonal, and flanked by Swedish SMT acoustic panels, the Jacques Loussier Trio performing an arrangement of an Eric Satie Gymnopedie was reproduced with superb low-frequency weight and definition. Amplification was Mårten's own M-Amp, with an MSB digital source. The Djangos were also being used in US importer Dan Meinwald's room, where they were being driven by EAR tube amps and a prototype EAR SACD player to great effect.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 10 comments
I missed this tiny jewel of a speaker when it made its debut at the 2011 T.H.E.Show, but it's now in production. As I sat down to listen to it at this year's show, I asked what it cost.

"25."

Okay, $25,000/pair is not unheard of for high-performance minimonitors; the Sonus Faber, Magico, and Franco Serblin stand-mount speakers are even more expensive.

"No, 25 hundred per pair. With the stands.

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 19, 2012 0 comments
The Sonist Concerto 3 ($3495/pair) is a favorite of Art Dudley's, who praised its "SET-friendly" nature (April 2009). The system I heard in the Sonist room at T.H.E. Show used the Concerto 4 ($5895/pair), which JA wrote about in his report from the 2011 Atlanta Axpona, The Concerto 4 is claimed to have a sensitivity of 97dB, 2dB higher than the Concerto 3, and the bass is claimed to extend 3Hz lower, to 27Hz. (When it comes to the extremes of sensitivity and bass extension, even small gains are hard to come by.) With a Cary 306 Pro SACD/CD player as the source, Increcable Acoustic Lab TIA216 integrated amp (300B-based), Acoustic Revive power conditioner, and Exakte cables, the sound was clean, open, and "fast" on percussion.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 5 comments
Based on the popular Oppo 93, Primare was displaying their universal player that will retail for $5495. It plays all the typical Oppo disc formats including 3D Blu-ray and has custom audio, video and power supply circuitry. The BD32 is a gorgeous-looking product and the photo does not do it justice.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 0 comments
Crystal Cable's first loudspeaker, the Arabesque, used a complex-shaped enclosure fabricated from glass panels. Three years later, the Dutch company showed the new Arabesque Mini ($25,000/pair plus $1000/pair for matching stands), which uses a small aluminum cabinet with the same "comma" cross-section as the glass speaker, a shape that confers advantages when it comes to controlling the inevitable air-space resonances. A beryllium-dome tweeter is coupled to a long-throw, 1" maximum excursion (presumably peak–peak) 6" woofer. Crystal specifies distortion as being <0.5% from 120Hz to 20kHz, though no spl is given for this specification.

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