CES 2012

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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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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 2 comments
Constellation brought their new Jetsons inspired Cygnus DAC to CES, shown here in the hands of VP of Engineering Peter Madnick. The DAC contains four 32/192 DACs in a stereo balanced configuration, with separate DACs used for the positive- and negative-going signals of the left and right channels.

Inputs include USB, SPDIF, AES and Toslink and it looks like they've dropped the CD transport that was included in the demo at last year's CES. Price should be around $20k.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 2 comments
I first auditioned an open-baffle Granada speaker at the 2011 Show, which used a single Feastrex driver to cover the range above 200Hz and was being driven by a solid-state Musical Fidelity amplifier. For 2012, the Lotus Group was showing the less expensive G2 ($75,000/pair), which uses a more conventional midrange unit and tweeter, but still on an open baffle, still with a digital-domain crossover and room calibration realized in DSP. Amplification this year was provided by the humongous Audio Power Labs 833T amplifier that had impressed Larry Greenhill elsewhere at the Show.
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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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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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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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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 0 comments
"These speakers get the scale of the sound right," I scribbled in my notebook as I was listening to the Hansen Emperor E speakers ($68,000 Canadian) playing a big band recording. The leather-covered, 61" tall speakers were being driven by Tenor 350M monoblocks, a Tenor Line 1/Power 1 preamplifier, and Phono 1 phono stage, hooked up with Kubala-Sosna Elation series cables. The front-end components were supported on a Critical Mass Systems Maxxum integrated rack and filter system.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 2 comments
I first heard the attractive-looking BMC amplifiers at last April's Axpona in Atlanta, and was impressed enough that I asked Michael Fremer to review one of them (to appear in our May 2012 issue). At CES, BMC launched its first loudspeaker, the Arcadia ($36,300/pair). A three-way design, the bipolar Arcadia is symmetrical in both horizontal planes, there being an 11" woofer on each side and the trio of drive-units on the front are echoed by an identical trio on the rear.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 1 comments
Quintessence was a brand new to me, but it turns out that the company's Shadow V loudspeaker ($35,000/pair) was designed by PBN's Peter Noerbaek. Driven by PBN amplifiers and playing a Nat King Cole track from open-reel tape, this large, elegant 225 lb speaker sounded a little lacking in air at the top, but this may well have been due to the room being larger than optimal for the tweeter's dispersion. The sound was otherwise high quality, with an uncolored midrange and extended lows.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 1 comments
Though labelled DAC-1, this new unit is also a digital preamp featuring 24/192 SPDIF, Toslink and USB. Priced at $995 and available sometime in March or April, it also includes a remote.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 1 comments
I was astonished to come across a room at T.H.E. Show featuring the Scientific Fidelity brand. Back in the early 1990s, SciFi had some of the most stunning-looking tube amps and preamps, as well as a speaker, the Tesla, that offered spectacular imaging, SciFi's founder, Mike Maloney, exited manufacturing many years ago and founded T.H.E. Show, which he subsequently sold to Richard Beers. I bumped into Mike at a CES a few years back, and he had become a best-selling author on valuable metals trading. But the brand was back for 2012 with the stunning-looking, three-way Stylust loudspeaker ($30,000/pair), which sounded clean and detailed driven by the triangular Trillium amplifier ($25,000). Although the gentlemen in the room didn't speak English very well, I gathered that Mike was still the creative force behind the brand.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 0 comments
Sporting USB (24/96), SPDIF and Toslink (24/192) inputs and a retail price of $299, the DAC15.2 also has a coaxial digital output if you wish to use it as a USB/Toslink to SPDIF converter. Clever.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 0 comments
The second room in which I auditioned YG speakers was the Vitus Audio room, where the Kipod II Signatures ($49,000/pair) were doing their very musical thing. The Kipod uses the same materials and technologies as YG's top-model Anat III and now uses the BilletCore midrange unit and woofer, where the diaphragm is machined from a solid slab of aircraft-grade aluminum. First-generation Kipods can be upgraded to II status.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 1 comments
The BMC (see next story), Ypsilon, and Lansche brands are distributed in the US by Aaudio Imports. Larry Greenhill has already described the new Ypsilon Aelius monoblock amplifier and I auditioned the amplifier in one of the two Aaudio rooms at the Venetian with the new Model No.7 speakers from Lansche ($100,000/pair in satin-veneer finish; $108,000/pair in high gloss).

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