CES 2012

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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 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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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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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
The business card of Dali's Kim Kristiansen states his position as "Director, Innovation." And, to judge by the illustrated talk he gave, Kristiansen and his associates at Dali have been working hard at producing innovations. The drivers for their latest speakers have a new linear drive magnetic system that uses a soft magnetic compound (SMC), which radically reduces distortion. Listening to the well-known recording of Misa Criolla on the demo system with the Epicon 6s (Primare CD player and electronics), which incorporates all the latest advances, I was impressed by the clarity and precise focus on the voice of José Carreras.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
The great thing about audio shows is whom you bump into in the corridors. Here is legendary engineer John Curl, who has been designing the superb-sounding Halo series of amplification components for Parasound—dig the name badge which, instead of the usual "Exhibitor," "Press," "Sales Representative," or "Consultant," simply and very appropriately says "Engineer."
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 1 comments
Episode Audio, exhibiting at T.H.E. Show, had some unusual-looking speakers, with the tweeter set well back from the front of the speaker, presumably to effect time alignment. They also claim wide dispersion horizontally and vertically over a wide range. The Episode-V ($12,500/pair) sounded good despite having a less-than-audiophile-quality Sony DVD/CD player as the source, and modestly-priced Onkyo electronics.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 3 comments
The Tréo ($5995/pair), shown in prototype form at the 2011 CES, is the latest speaker from Vandersteen. Indications are that it offers the same sort of musical accuracy that characterizes all of Richard Vandersteen's designs. It's a three-way design, with a 1" ceramic-coated alloy-dome tweeter, 4.5" tri-woven composite-cone midrange, 6.5" woven fiber-cone woofer, and an 8" subwoofer. Like other Vandersteen speakers, the Treo is time and phase correct. Through the years, Vandersteen has moved away from the strictly functional appearance of the original model 2 and model 3, and the Treo is perhaps a culmination of this trend: the slim, truncated pyramid is stylish as well as functional. My notes on the makeup of the system playing are somewhat difficult to decipher (I need to take a course in remedial handwriting or start to carry an iPad with me), but I can tell you that it used Aesthetix electronics and a turntable source. The LP of Mary Black singing "Babes in the Wood" sounded smooth and engaging.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 18, 2012 0 comments
Zu Audio speakers always look like fun, and sound like it, too. This was confirmed in a brief visit to their room at T.H.E. Show, the demo system featuring the latest Definition Mk.IV ($12,500/pair).
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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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