CES 2012

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
There's nothing like a nice big touchscreen to browse a large music collection, and Pathos was showing a prototype of the largest touchscreen dedicated to a music server that I've seen to date. Called the Musiteca, the new product was up and running but clearly had some features to work out. As shown, the product has a built-in DAC, transport for loading discs, and 1TB drive for storage.

In addition to the above features, Pathos' Paolo Andriolo says there will be variable XLR outputs to feed the audio directly to your amp and a free iPad app. Price is predicted to be around $7k and should show up by April.

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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
It was good to visit McIntosh Laboratory's 35th floor suite at the Venetian Hotel and spend a few minutes with Ron Cornelius, the product manager, discussing our shared experiences with the legendary McIntosh MR-78 FM tuner. Ron showed me the latest iteration of the company's MC-275 tube amplifier. Now released as version 6, 50th-Anniversary 275, priced at $6500, it reminded me that the amplifier was first shipped in 1961.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Bel Canto had several digital products on display including the CD3t CD Transport (pictured above) which includes both AES and SPDIF (via BNC connector) outputs at $1,495.

Playing in a side room was the C7R DAC Integrated Receiver with an amplifier section based on the companies REF150 and includes a built-in DAC, FM tuner, phono section and some pretty beefy speaker connectors on the back. This modest size box would make a great companion to the CD3t mentioned above. Retail is $2,995.

The company was also showing off a pair of product updates. The DAC3.5VB MK II includes an improved analog supply that Bel Canto claims better isolates the PCM1792 converter and a new, low-phase-noise main clock oscillator. Price is $5,895. The uLink USB-to-digital audio interface is now 24/192. Shipping next month for $795 MSRP

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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
The Audio Power Labs exhibit took my breath away, Imagine, a huge, beautiful $175,000 per pair, 200Wpc monoblock tube amplifier using 833C, graphite-plate, radio-frequency transmitter tubes that have a bandwidth of 30MHz and run with 1500V on the plates! These tubes were used in the output stage of BCF-1 radio transmitters. Now imagine that the amplifier's designers are named Squeek Rieker (right) and Peeya Iwagoshi (left), and you know why I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
Shown above is the new Pandora DAC which has three slots on the back for a variety of input options including AES, USB (asynch) and SPDIF, and tube analog stage and both balanced and unbalanced outputs and an optional volume control. Retail is $6k.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Sumiko teamed up a pair of Sonus Faber Amati Futura floorstanding speakers — watch for JA's review in the March 2012 issue—with the $4500 REL Gibraltar G1 subwoofer to produce explosive, massive, but tightly controlled bass while playing the "Chinese Drum Poem" selection from disc 3 of the Burmester Demonstration Disc series. The REL G1 is a 108 lb, closed-box, front-firing 12" driver driven by a 600W, high-current amplifier. Sumiko's John Hunter set the gain of the G1 using a small remote. The G1 subwoofer fell totally silent when the music was free of deep bass content, as it should.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
Soulution Audio's Cyrill Hammer was on hand to discuss the company's "small" Soulution 501 mono Amplifier ($55,000/pair). Similar in design to the Soulution 710 stereo amplifier that had so impressed Michael Fremer in the August 2012 issue of Stereophile, the more diminutive 501 monoblock amplifier is rated at 125W into 8 ohms, utilizes six switching-mode power supplies, and features a high-bandwidth, zero-feedback voltage-amplification input stage. Unlike the 176 lb Soulution 710 stereo amplifier that required three good men to move into Mikey's listening room, the 501 weighs in at a "mere" 80 lbs per chassis.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Bang & Olufsen's publicist sent me a "By Invitation Only & You Are Invited" email, promising to "unveil the newest innovations" and "the unveiling of a new, iconic product concept." (I pity the poor housekeeping staff at CES, having to clean up all the veils discarded by manufacturers.)

Reduced to its essentials, the "new, iconic product concept" is a division within B&O under a new brand, called "B&O Play." As I understand it, the products with the B&O Play brand will have all the traditional quality that B&O is known for, but they'll be less luxury-oriented, more "fun"—and perhaps less expensive. The first product under this brand is the Beolit 12, a portable (battery-powered), AirPlay-equipped sound system.

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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
Not to be outdone by the audiophile crowd, an auto sound manufacturer displayed a huge metallic woofer that dangled from a crane. (The crane could be set to lift loads between 500 lbs and 3 tons.) I thought I had seen everything, but the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center never disappoints!
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Luke Manley and Bea Lam of VTL were on hand as host and hostess at the VTL exhibit suite at the Venetian Hotel to present their two new stereo tube amplifiers, the $33,500, 400Wpc S400 Series II amplifier, and the $10,000, 200Wpc S200 Stereo Signature amplifier shown in the photo. Although the S400 was configured into a floorstanding tower and the S200 in the rack-mounted chassis used for their MB-450 monoblock amplifier, both new products feature VTL's latest tube technology, including fully balanced, differential input stage, VTL's SmartTube technology with automatic bias and screen supply adjustments and fault sensing, and a new user-adjustable damping factor feedback control. The feedback loop amount can be precisely set to suite the listener's taste via three-position switches located between the input tubes on the top of the chassis.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
The Genesis Advanced Technologies 7.2f claims to be the "new affordable reference for bringing true-to-life music into your home." And they have a formidable amount to technology in the speaker to support this claim. At the top, there is the latest version of the circular flat-ribbon tweeter that apparently has been steadily improved since it was first introduced in 1992 (and which, for once, owes nothing to Dr. Oskar Heil). A solid titanium-cone mid/woofer claims to deliver exceptional clarity and low distortion within its range (and the "oil-can" resonance is far outside the range where the driver is utilized), and a servo-controlled powered bass from an 8" side-firing aluminum-cone driver, is claimed to extend the response down to 22Hz. There is also a rear-firing tweeter, which can be turned off if desired. There is control over tweeter as well as woofer level. The price of all this technology is a very reasonable $9000/pair.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
On Tuesday morning, at a very well-attended press conference held at the Embassy Suites, members of the press learned more about Fang Bian, founder of HiFiMan, makers of personal audio products, and were introduced to HiFiMan’s new HE-400 planar magnetic headphone ($399), EF-6 headphone amplifier ($1499), and HiFiMan Express HM-601 Slim portable music player (4GB, $199; 8GB, $249).
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
I know of speakers where, depending on the crossover, the same 5" or 6" driver is used as midrange or as woofer, but I've never encountered a speaker where a driver normally designated as a tweeter also functions as a midrange. This is the unusual design approach taken by McIntosh in some new speaker models, including the $10,000/pair XR100, and, judging by the sound, it certainly works for them. The driver is a 2" metal dome: eight of these are combined to serve as midrange, with two more as the tweeter flanking a supertweeter.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
Also in the Burmester room is the new 113 DAC which retails for $6k and is available now. The DAC is rather modest-sized next to the rest of the Burmester line and includes Toslink, 24/96 USB (24/192 on Mac only) and Bluetooth (wireless!) inputs and both balanced and unbalanced outputs. The Bluetooth input means you can stream from any Bluetooth audio device like a Blackberry or iPhone in the vicinity.
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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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