CES 2012

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 0 comments
Demonstrated with Concert Fidelity amps and preamp, the Bricasti M1 D/A processor that I review in the February 2012 issue fed by a Loit CD player, and, like many rooms at CES, wired with Kubala-Sosna Elation and Emotion cables, the Estelon XA Diamond ($64,000/pair) produced sound to match the elegance of its styling. Improvements over the standard XA that I auditioned at the 2011 CES include a diamond tweeter, improved midrange unit and woofer, and changes to the constrained-layer cabinet construction.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 2 comments
If there is one thing audio reviewers like (other than wine, women, and song, of course), it is recommendable products that stay in production for years. And years. I reviewed the original Confidence C4 in 2003, with a follow-up by Wes Phillips in 2007, so it was with some surprise that I encountered the speaker at the 2012 CES. Except that this was the new Signature edition ($22,000/pair), which has a revised crossover, a high gloss finish (that is difficult to photograph :-), and a new coating on the Esotar2 tweeter's soft dome that is said to give a smoother, more open sound. With a standard finish, the C4 costs $20,000/pair; the C1 stand-mount has been similarly improved, with the standard version costing $7700/pair, the high-gloss Signature $8500/pair. Dynaudio is now offering its speakers with a 10 year warranty!
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 19, 2012 0 comments
UK manufacturer Astin Trew had their new DAC 1 on display. Managing Director Michael Osborn was on hand to answer questions and look for US distribution for his products. The DAC 1 features asynch 24/192 USB as well as FireWire and I2S inputs. It has a 6922 buffered tube output stage for single-ended connections and solid state for balanced output. Price should be around $4,500-$5,000 and would arrive in about 2 months once distribution is set up.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
PSB's Synchrony One ($5000/pair) is listed in Class A (Restricted Extreme LF) of Recommended Components, and their Imagine T ($2199/pair) is in Class B. At the 2012 CES, PSB introduced the Imagine T2 ($3500/pair), which, according to Paul Barton (seen in my photo), applies the technology of the Synchrony series to the Imagine T. Like the Synchrony One, the Imagine T2 has three woofers, each in a separate compartment, which are driven together at the low end, and as we go higher in the frequency range the second and third woofer are rolled off gradually at the bottom. As with Paul Barton's other designs, the tweeter is mounted below the midrange. Driven by an NAD C390 all-digital integrated amplifier, the sound had superb clarity and detail, with excellent imaging.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
Checking out the Reference 3A speakers (Grand Veena, MM de Capo i, etc.) in Divergent Technologies' room at T.H.E. Show, I noticed that the center of the midrange and mid-bass drivers looked different. Divergent's Tash Goka was not in the room, but the person who was there introduced himself as the one responsible for the modification of these drivers. He's Ricky Schultz, inventor of the Surreal Acoustic Driver Lens, a small plastic device that is glued to the drive's dustcap, and has the effect of broadening the dispersion. The Surreal Acoustic Driver Lens is being incorporated into the production of all Reference 3A speakers. It's an OEM product, not available to consumers, and, according to Schultz, it has the potential to improve the performance of many loudspeaker drivers. He proceeded to provide me with the explanation of how the device works, but it quickly went over my head.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2012 4 comments
Robert Deutsch reported below on PBN's $14,999/pair Liberty speaker. My attention in the company's large room at T.,H.E. Show was attracted by the large WAS2 (right), which costs $55,000/pair, with its piano-black lacquer-finished enclosure and mahogany hardwood front baffle, and weighs 1000 lbs/pair. It combines two 15" subwoofers, driven by a 1kW ICE-Power amplifier, two 8" coated paper-cone woofers, two 5.25 Nextel-coated paper-cone midrange units, and a 1.1" soft-dome tweeter. Frequency response is quoted as 18Hz–22kHz ±1.5dB and sensitivity is said to be 94dB!
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 4 comments
Although I don't consider myself an expert on headphones by any means, I know that they fall into three basic categories: (1) circumaural (pad around the ear, the back closed or open) (2) supra-aural (pad on the ear), (3) in-the-ear (tightly or loosely fitting). (There were also the Jecklin Float headphones, which involved a pad on top of your head, with the transducers being positioned some distance from the ears. These have never enjoyed widespread success, and I don't think they're being made any more.) However, I was intrigued by one of the pre-CES emails, announcing "ear-free" headphones.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2012 2 comments
As they had at the 2011 Show, Magnepan's Mark Winey (left) and Wendell Diller (right) were demonstrating their system behind a curtain, so that listeners' preconceptions would not affect their opinions of the sound. It turned out that the speakers being demmed, driven by Bryston amplification, were a pair of the Minnesotan company's MMG planars ($599/pair), to which had been added a $5000 Tricenter center channel speaker. This seemed a bit odd to me, but Wendell explained that they were showing an unlikely combination that might be just what a specific customer needed.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
Revel's well-received Performa series of loudspeakers has been completely overhauled, with a number of advances in materials and manufacturing technologies. The new Performa3 series now consists of 10 models, including three floorstanders, two stand-mounted monitors, and various home theater speakers. The drivers are all new, and, according to Revel's Kevin Voecks, they have exceptionally low distortion, which contributes to clarity and transparency. This was very much in evidence with the pair of M106s ($1700/pair) and F308s (at $6000/pair, the most expensive speaker in this series) that I listened to.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 2 comments
In my posting on Opera Loudspeakers, I wrote about company names, and how they might suggest something about the product and the priorities of a speaker's designer. In the case of Volent Corporation, I must admit to being puzzled. What does this mean? The Dictionary of Difficult Words defines "volent" as "exercising will power." How does a speaker do that? Finally, going through the company's website, I found the following explanation: "the name Volent [is] derived from the phrase, 'Voice of Excellence': signifying not only the quality of reproduced sound but also the vocal appreciation of music lovers."
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
Totem is expanding their Element line, which features bass drivers running full-range up to the tweeter’s passband. The latest speaker in this line is the Ember ($4200/pair) a two-way using a 6" Torrent driver designed and made by Totem. Driven by Boulder electronics, a pair of Embers produced a full-range sound, with the sort of bass that made you wonder if there was a subwoofer in the system. Not bad for a 6" driver!
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
Stephen Mejias has written about Anssi Hyvönen of Amphion, who believes that music reproduction doesn't have to be loud to be effective, and that, in fact, the hallmark of a really good speaker is its ability to be involving at low levels. Amphion's demos always provide for a soothing experience at shows, and so it was at CES 2012, this time using the new Argon7Ls ($5999/pair) with Nuforce electronics.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2012 4 comments
I always look forward to visiting Vladimir Lamm's room at a Show; my Brooklyn neighbor both has excellent taste in music and knows how to set up a system so that it works with the room. At CES, Vladimir was driving Wilson MAXX3 speakers ($68,000/pair) with his four-chassis ML3 Signature single-ended 32W tubed amplifiers ($139,200/pair), LL1 Signature dual-mono tube preamplifier ($42,690/pair), and LP2 phono preamplifier ($7590). Cabling was all Kubala-Sosna Elation series—$92,500 worth—which with the Onedof turntable with Graham Phantom II tonearm and Benz Micro cartridge, the Neodio digital front end, and Harmonic Resolution Systems racks, gave a total system costs of $599,000! (This is what you would pay for a 3-bedroom family home in our part of Brooklyn.)
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
This Kim Kristiansen slide illustrates the effectiveness of Dali's SMC/linear drive magnetic system in reducing distortion. I believe the lowest curve shows the distortion levels of this the woofer—built completely in-house—that uses the linear drive magnetic system with SMC.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
The opening night of T.H.E. Show, cable manufacturer ZenSati ApS sponsored a recital by the Russian pianist Hagia Pastor, following a short speech on the state of the audio industry by yours truly. I am not ashamed to admit that Dr. Pastor put on a better show :-)

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