CES 2012

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
MSB has upgraded their Data CD IV disc player to the new Signature model with a machined metal disc drawer and updated networking. The Pro I2S digital output connects directly to the master clock in the DAC so the Data CD drive is controlled by the same clock that is running the DAC modules and motherboard for "hyper accurate data clocking when playing discs".

This is an interesting transport in that it plays CDs and also DVD data discs (such as Reference Recordings HRx discs) with .wav files up to 32/384! The transport sells for $7,995 and in this photo is paired with the Signature Transport Power Base at $3495.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
Branching away from strictly audio products, the HDMI Streamer has two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output and a stereo audio output. The idea is to peel the audio off of an HDMI signal and send it to your analog stereo preamp while leaving the video intact for your TV. All perfectly legal says HRT. Available sometime around April for $229.95
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 2 comments
The New York debut of Sonus Faber's stunning-looking Aida ($120,000/pair) was compromised by sub-optimal room acoustics and too much noise from outside the dem area. But the speaker, powered by Audio Research's new Reference 250 monoblocks ($25,900/pair) lived up to the promise in Las Vegas. But as I had found in New York, the true magic of the Aida was only to be found if you sat exactly in the sweet spot, when the speakers disappeared and the end of the room dissolved into the recorded acoustic. Certainly the team from WhatsBestForum.com sitting in front of my camera—Hi, Steve!—were enjoying what the Aidas' were doing.

The rest of the system comprised an SME Model 20/3 turntable/tonearm ($17,000) with a Palos Presentation cartridge ($3995), an Audio Research CD8 ($9995) and DAC8 ($4995), Reference Phono 2SE ($12,995) and Reference 5SE linestage ($12,995), all connected with Shunyata cables. Racks were the ubiquitous Harmonic Resolution Systems SXRs and power conditioning was also by Shunyata.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
It costs $42,000 but TAD's new C600 solid-state line preamplifier features dual-mono construction, an all-discrete signal path, a separate power supply, and fastidious attention paid to detail in both its design and construction. The amber LED display for example, is DC-powered rather than from the usual multiplexed supply, to eliminate EMI interference. And the sound, in conjunction with the D600 SACD player, M600 monoblocks, Reference One floor-standing speakers, and HRS rack to give a system price of $214,500? I'll leave it to Stephen Mejias to describe in his show wrap. Personally, it was a highlight of the 2012 CES.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 5 comments
At the previous Shows where I had auditioned it, MBL's extravagantly excessive (or should that be excessively extravagant) X-Treme system had been set-up in inappropriate rooms, Finally, at the 2012 CES, this 4-enclosure system, which basically comprises two of the true omnidirectional upper-frequency modules of the Berlin-based company's 101E Mk.2 speaker (to be reviewed by Mikey Fremer in the April 2012 issue) with two man-sized powered subwoofers, each using six 12" drivers mounted three on each side to cancel mechanically induced vibrations, was set up in a room worthy of it. (The Venetian room was 31' by 22' with a 10' ceiling.) Bi-amped with four file-cabinet–sized MBL 9011 monoblocks—the total system cost was $565,000!—the X-Treme produced a big-bottomed sound that was indeed extreme when required but also delicate when appropriate. Oh my!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 0 comments
Other than the soft ring of blue light at the top, Meridian's new M6 powered loudspeaker ($9000/pair) looks unprepossessing but hides a wealth of high technology within its black enclosure. The entire range from 200Hz to 25kHz—two decades!—is handled by a single front-firing 3" driver at the top of the cabinet. This is a development of the drive-unit Meridian designed for the F80 music system and is coupled to a downward-firing woofer, which can be seen in the exploded diagram next to the speaker. The M6 has a digital input and the use of DSP for its crossover and equalization means it can be placed near room boundaries, maximizing its Spouse-Acceptance Factor. I listened to the Sheffield Drum Record from Bob Stuart's Sooloos server, controlled with the new iPad app, followed by Dire Straits, the pizzicato movement from Ravel's String Quartet. and the 2L hi-rez recording of Britten's Simple Symphony, and the M6 demonstrated surprising dynamics and clarity, coupled with an overall ease to its presentation. Yes, the lows were a bit too rich, but this is a fit'n'forget speaker system that non-audiophile music lovers will go ga-ga over.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 20, 2012 1 comments
Costing $165,000/pair, Magico's new Q7—shown here with AudioStream.com editor Michael Lavorgna for scale—embodies everything the Californian company knows about speaker design: a proprietary beryllium-dome tweeter, nano-fiber–sandwich-cone midrange unit and woofers, housed in a sealed all-aluminum enclosure weighing 750 lbs! With the prototype Audeeva music server, Pacific Microsonics DAC, a Spectral preamp, MIT cables, and unidentified amplifiers hidden behind a curtain, the Q7s threw an enormous soundstage on a 176.4kHz/24-bit file of a Reference Recordings orchestral recording, with bass-drum blows that pressurized the room without obscuring a low-level bassoon that was playing at the same time—macro and micro-dynamics.
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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 19, 2012 1 comments
For the past few years, Colorado company YG Acoustics has been exhibiting in a large "air-wall" space in the Sands Convention Center. Their reason for doing so was that it was a great place for a new company to get foot traffic, but the downside was that it took heroic efforts to get sound quality that would indicate what YG speakers were capable of. For the 2012 Show, they had moved to a large suite in the Venetian Tower, and finally they were showing what their $119,000/pair flagship, the Anat III Signature, was capable of.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 0 comments
Jon Iverson already wrote about the Viola Crescendo D/A preamplifier in the Wes Bender Studio room. The New York retailer was also showing the new, leather-covered Hansen Prince E loudspeakers ($30,000/pair), which were making their world debut at CES. This was another room playing the QRP pressing of Shelby Lynne singing Dusty Springfield's "Just a Little Loving," this time on a Redpoint turntable fitted with a Tri-Planar arm and Dynavector XV-1t cartridge. While I felt the earlier Prince V2, which Wes Phillips reviewed a few years back promised more than it delivered in the bass, the bass guitar on the Lynne album positively growled on the Prince Es driven by Viola Forte monoblocks ($19,000/pair), with terrific power.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 1 comments
Rockport Technologies' Andy Payor alerted me before CES that VTL would be using his new Avior speaker at the Show. A three-way design using twin 9" carbon-fiber–sandwich woofers, a 6" carbon-fiber–sandwich midrange unit, and a 1" beryllium-dome tweeter, with Transparent Cable internal wiring, the Avior costs $29,500/pair. Driven by VTL's new S400 II monoblocks, a TL7.5 Series III preamp, YP6.5 phono preamp, and Spiral Groove LP player, the sound of Shelby Lynne singing "Just a Little Loving"—the song of the 2012 Show—sent shivers down my spine. "Deliciously real!" said my notes.

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