CES 2012

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 17, 2012 0 comments
New to me at this show is the QAT MS5 music server using an iPad (shown here) or a slightly smaller custom RP5 touch panel for control. There is a built-in Teac CD drive and 1TB of storage (around 2,500 CDs using FLAC) and the system supports a multitude of file formats and data rates up to 24/192.

The product and interface looked pretty slick and the company's sales and marketing director, Vital Gbezo, said that QAT is currently looking for US distribution. The MS5 is priced at around $6,000.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 17, 2012 0 comments
Bladelius has released a new stripped-down version of the Embla shown last year at a very stripped-down price: $3,000. What they've taken out is the solid-state hard drives and disc player, leaving those items to the network. In addition to the front panel touchscreen, here is an UPnP server and custom iPad app as well.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 17, 2012 3 comments
John Atkinson and Kal Rubinson became familiar with DEQX, an Australian company specializing in digital loudspeaker correction and room compensation, during their review of NHT’s Xd active loudspeaker system; I had the opportunity to become acquainted with DEQX at last year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.

Then, the company gave an impressive demo of their HDP-3 standalone processor mated to a pair of Gallo Reference loudspeakers and Parasound amplification, showing room interaction and examining how the sound of the system could be optimized in the frequency, phase, and, most important to DEQX, time domains.

This year, the company gave a similarly impressive demonstration of their new HDP-4 processor ($4995), which should be available in about two months.

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 17, 2012 3 comments
Speaking of great things in small packages, here we see Parasound’s Zphono USB phono preamplifier ($349) and Zdac digital-to-analog converter ($450). Parasound’s Z Series products are handsome, truly affordable, and built like bricks. Interesting side note: The half-width, rack-mount design has its roots in a mic preamp that Parasound built for AMF bowling centers in the 1980s. I bet those mic preamps kicked butt, too.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 17, 2012 0 comments
When reviewing the Music Player a couple years ago, I was impressed with the build quality, sound quality and thinking that went into the design. There were a few nitpicks, and T+A was eager to show me the latest version where they claim to have addressed these (what I considered very minor) concerns.

The Music Player is still the same gorgeous form factor which includes a CD drive, DAC and preamp functions, but there is a bigger display and it now handles 24/192 via SPDIF or over the LAN connection and a handy new remote (shown below). There are five digital inputs and the device is UPnP compliant. All for $4,400.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 17, 2012 0 comments
Also available in February for around $3.500, the Paris DAC features Toslink, SPDIF and USB inputs and the processing is built around the AKM DAC chips. Both balanced and unbalanced outputs are available.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 17, 2012 0 comments
Audio retailer Wes Bender Studio had a room set up in the Venetian to feature their selected product lines, and the Viola Crescendo caught my eye. It's both a preamp and DAC with both analog and digital inputs on the back. Digital includes 24/192 USB and SPDIF and the Crescendo should be available in the US in a Marchish kind of time frame. Retail is $19k and that includes an iPod touch.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 17, 2012 1 comments
Not officially a new product this year, the Aeris DAC is so wonderful to look at I wanted to include a photo. $9,800.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 17, 2012 0 comments
While we’re on the topic of small things, TEAC America introduced their Reference 01 Series of budget-priced, room-friendly components, including the UD-H01 DAC, A-H01 stereo amplifier, and DS-H01 iPod docking station. (I’m waiting to hear back on the prices, but I’m fairly sure these products retail for hundreds, rather than thousands, of dollars.)
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 17, 2012 0 comments
I like good hi-fi in small packages. Here we see the 25Wpc Napa Acoustic NA-208A hybrid integrated amplifier ($399). It measures a friendly 7” W by 5” H by 9.5” D and its stainless steel chassis and aluminum front panel seem solidly built. It uses a pair of 6N1 vacuum tubes and offers three inputs (two rear-panel RCA and one front-panel iPod mini jack).
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 17, 2012 0 comments
I entered the Oracle room and the Split Enz "I See Red" started singing in my head. This is not a shy red. This is a red that if seen out of the corner of your eye flashes and vibrates until you look right at it.

The new disc spinner is based on a Philips drive and the same processing as in the Paris DAC and also includes two SPDIF 24/192 inputs. It should be available next month for around $3,500

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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Brent Hefley, Marketing Manager of Ayre, walked me through the circuit layout of Ayre's newest amplifier, the $14,950, dual-mono, 200Wpc (8 ohms) VX-R. Based on the well-regarded and long-established MX-R monoblock and introduced at the 2011 CES, the VX-R uses Ayre's ultra-fast printed circuit board materials. Ayre is expecting great things, Brent told JA, from its recent hiring of ex-Classé and Linn engineer Alan Clark, who joins Charlie Hansen and Ariel Brown as the Colorado company's creative engine.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Easily winning the award for most outside-the-box chassis design, Light Harmonic's Da Vinci DAC is an amazing assembly of machined metal. In the photo is co-founder Henry Chew, which also gives you some perspective on how large this DAC is next to a smiling human.

Inputs include an asynch USB and SPDIF and the DAC can handle up to 32/384 at either input. Chew says that the DAC does not upsample and processes all streams at their native sampling rate. Chew feels that "the use of upsampling, oversampling, or any digital filters or signal-manipulations is ineffective". Available now for $20k

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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
I heard very detailed and rich sound in the exhibit run by Lamm Industries and by Verity Audio. The system setup included $95,995 Verity Audio Lohengrin II speakers, $37,190/pair Lamm ML2.2 single-ended, dual-chassis 18W amplifiers, a $28,000 Kronos turnable with a $5,200 Phantom II XL12 tonearm, $5500 Dynavector X1Vs cartridge, and $97,000 worth of Kubala-Sosna interconnects, speaker cables and power cords. Julien Pelchat, the Vice-President of Verity Audio, walked me through the design of the Lohengrin II speakers.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Ron Sutherland of Sutherland Engineering taught me all I need to know about Nixie tubes at CES. Used as the main visual display device used in his Reference N-1 preamplifier and in his Destination Line-Stage preamplifier's control unit shown in the photo, the Nixie tube was invented in 1955 as the first electronic display tool for reading out the numbers 0–9. The Nixie's designers fashioned a wire mesh into 9 layers, each layer in the shape of a number, resulting in a tidy small stack. This tiny wire stack was inserted into a small glass envelope, filled with neon gas, and then sealed. When any of the separate metal layers was charged with 175 volts, the neon gas around the wire ionized, and lit up. When plugged into a circuit board, the tube would read out the numbers, with each number appearing at a different depth. Paul was fascinated with the retro look of this type of readout, so he has installed it in his $15,000, three-chassis Destination line stage, and into his new $10,000 reference N-1 preamplifier.

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