The 2012 Best of Innovations award in the High Performance Home Audio category went to the Devialet D-Premier DAC/preamp/amp. It also got the award for Most Difficult to Photograph Audio Product. Note the reflection of my badge, intended to show that this is not just a manufacturer-provided photograph. Devialet is distributed in North America by Audio Plus Services and Stereophile has just received a sample for review.
The Best of Innovations winner in the Headphones category was the Sonomax eers ™ earphones, described as "the world's only custom-fitted earphones that can be fitted in 4 minutes, [offering] incomparable sound isolation, fidelity and comfort."
Everybody wants to get into the act. Pro Audio manufacturer Behringer had several iPod/iPhone audio accessories, including the nifty Soundscape Air ($129), which features wireless speakers (good for up to 8 hours of playing, up to 150 feet from the base unit) that utilize inductive (ie, wireless) charging.
After encountering booths of so many manufacturers I had never heard of, I got some comfort from seeing a familiar name from the world of audio: Velodyne. Well known for their subwoofers, Velodyne has entered the highly competitive earphone market. Their new $90 Vpulse's claim to fame isyou guessed itexceptionally powerful bass performance. Velodyne's David Short was most enthusiastic about it, and told me that although Velodyne is not about to go out of the subwoofer business, they're working on a wide range of headphones.
The first morning of CES is traditionally when Stereophile presents its awards for the best products of the previous year, voted on by the magazine's editors and writers. Here, in the magazine's suite at the Venetian Hotel, awaiting their recipients are the 2011 Awards. My thanks to Ariel Bitran for doing a great job getting the awards to CES in time for the presentations.
For several years now, the CES's High-Performance Audio exhibits have been housed at the tony Venetian Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. And also for several years, the room shared by Stereophile and Home Theater magazines, now joined by our sister websites AudioStream.com and InnerFidelity.com, has been hosted by our administrative assistant (which means she is the glue that holds us together and tells me she prefers to be called our "Digital Goddess") Rosemarie Torcivia. Welcome to Las Vegas, Ro'.
One of the newcomers to the Venetian this year is a Japanese company called Qualia (not to be confused with the short-lived Sony venture). I remember seeing their gorgeous-looking products at T.H.E Show last year, and new this year is the equally stunning Indigo USB-DAC at $45,000.
The Indigo USB-DAC sports four 32-bit Hyperstream DACs and all discrete output and headphone amplifier sections. Connections on the back include both balanced and unbalanced outputs, as well as USB, coax, XLR and TOSLINK inputs. The unibody cases are machined from high-purity aluminum and the product is available now, distributed in the US by Immedia.
A music server priced in the low six figures. An air tight music server filled with inert gasses. A music server so rare, only two have been built to date.
I try to be logical about show coverage so usually start at the top floor and work my way down, room by room, floor by floor.
CES exhibits at the Venetian top out at floor 35, and as soon as I exited the stairwell, I spied the first exhibitor, Magico speakers. I'm here to cover digital and tend to skip the speaker-only rooms, but Magico provides great demos, so I stepped in.
Eleven year old French audio manufacturer Neodio was at CES for the fourth year showing their complete line of audio products including the NR 22 CD Player ($15k), Transport ($13k) and DAC ($12k). Shown here are Michel Rousseau on the left and Jean-Francois Fronton on the right with the DAC and Transport in silver on the shelf. All three units feature a special non-resonant three-layer chassis and the company is looking for US distribution.
First shown at RMAF last year and making its CES debut, the QA-9 is intended for audiophiles wishing to transfer their LPs and other analog sources to hard drive. It features two XLR left and right inputs that can run both balanced and unbalanced and has only a single USB output (up to 24/192) to your computer.
The QA-9 should be shipping in late February or early March at $3,950. An optional Word Clock Input Board upgrade is $800 and will allow the QA-9 to be synced to a master clock in a recording studio environment.
Ariel Brown (Ayre's senior engineer) also hinted at a new DAC at some point that would include both USB and SPDIF inputs.
A look inside the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium integrated amplifier ($3199) reveals neat point-to-point wiring and high-quality parts, like Takman resistors and SRC tinfoil capacitorsstuff that an amp-lover like Art Dudley might appreciate.
Upscale Audio’s Kevin Deal is excited about PrimaLuna’s new DiaLogue Premium integrated amplifier ($3199), and I can’t blame him: The DiaLogue Premium uses six 12AU7 tubes, said to produce a wider bandwidth, greater dynamic range, and improved bass control over previous DiaLogue models; users can have fun swapping between 6L6GC/KT66, EL-34/KT77, 6550/KT88, and KT120 power tubes; a “Bad Tube Indicator” lets you know when a tube has expired and provides automatic bias adjustment; a high-quality Alps potentiometer should provide long-lasting, quiet volume control; and, like every PrimaLuna amp we’ve seen, the DiaLogue Premium is beautifully built and finished.
mbl is now shipping the Corona Line of products that were shown as prototypes last year. The mbl C31 CD Player, shown here with Chief Engineer Jürgen Reis, retails for $9,200 and features the same gorgeous casework mbl is known for as well as USB, Toslink and SPDIF inputs. The C31 also networks with other mbl Corona products for simplified control and display options.