CES 2012

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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
I visited Burmester's President, Dieter Burmester, in the German company's Venetian Hotel Suite. As well as high-end audio products Burmester also manufactures high-perfomance music systems for the Bugatti Veyron and Porsche sports cars. I mentioned that I saw Dieter's likeness in a sketch for an interview with him and Richard Chailly that appears in the latest Christophorus, the Porsche's owner's magazine. That led to chat about our favorite automobiles, and from there to high-end audio. Dieter hopes putting high-end audio in the Porsche Panamera and 911 automobiles will introduce high-end audio to a younger but affluent generation now focused on limited-fidelity MP3 on their iPods.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
I've had the new Peachtree DAC•iT at home for several months and a review will be showing up in Stereophile shortly. It's a great little product for the money ($449) and sports USB, SPDIF and Toslink input and features an ESS Sabre32 9022 chip.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Paul Stookey, now 74 years young, sounded optimistic, vibrant, and sweet, delivering a solo performance to the audiophile crowd at the Flamingo, as hosted by T.H.E. Show, Cary Audio, and PBN Audio. Somehow Paul has retained all the youthful energy and optimism that characterized his role when was a member of the Peter, Paul and Mary trio. Although I associate him more with the flower child, utopian, flower-child world of the 1960s, celebrating love, sex, freedom and occasionally drugs ("Puff the Magic Dragon"), he easily slipped into the role of audiophile troubador. Although his vocal range had narrowed with the years, his guitar accompaniment was superb.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
The $25,000, 500W Mark Levinson No.53 digital-switching reference monoblock amplifier made its regular non-playing appearance at CES 2012 but this time with an illuminated cutaway display, allowing its lead design engineer, Mark Seiber, to walk me through its circuitry. The transparent panel, which the display used in place of heatsinks allowed me to easily see the No.53's four major subsections (analog input stage, modulation, amplifier output stage with its eight air-core inductors, and power supply section, which is at the bottom of the chassis.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
MartinLogan is famous for speakers that use electrostatic drivers—full-range or in combination with dynamic woofers—but they have more recently broadened their offerings to include non-electrostatic models. According to MartinLogan's Peter Soderberg, their aim is to produce speakers that approach the sound of their electrostatic models, but at a lower price and easier to drive. He says that this has become possible with their version of the Heil tweeter (the original Oskar Heil patent having expired). He did a comparison for me between their top-of-the-line electrostatic CLX ($25,000/pair), supplemented by the Depth 1 subwoofer ($2000), and the new Motion 40 ($1995), which uses the Folded Motion (aka Heil) tweeter, in both cases driven by Anthem's new class-D amplifier, top-of-the-line Conrad-Johnson preamp, with a laptop as source. With Patricia Barber singing "Norwegian Wood," the tonal balance of these physically very different speakers was surprisingly similar. Peter Soderberg is pictured here with the CLX and the Motion 40, after what must have been an exceptionally amusing quip on my part.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 16, 2012 2 comments
Last week, we learned that Gibson and Onkyo were negotiating a deal that would see the legendary guitar manufacturer purchase a stake in Onkyo Japan and acquire a majority interest in Onkyo USA to become the second largest shareholder in Onkyo Corporation. Near the end of show hours on a brisk Tuesday evening, a small group of reporters were invited aboard Gibson’s luxury bus for a bit of freedom from the Convention Center chaos and to learn more about the merger.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Harman Specialty Audio introduced the new Revel Performa 3 series of loudspeakers at the 2012 CES. Kevin Voecks, lead audio engineer in the design, was delighted at the increased performance of Performa 3 series, including the $4500/pair, three-way, F208 full-range floorstander and the $1750/pair M106 two-way bookshelf. The F208 replaces the more expensive, $7500 F32 Performa in the previous series.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
UrbanEar's Andrea Miles models their new mustard-colored Platten headphones, which list at $65. This was part of the great upsurge in headphone exhibits found in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, or the "Zoo."
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Not strictly a digital product, the ECI-6 DS from Norwegian manufacturer Electrocompaniet is a 125 watt per channel integrated amp that also incorporates a DAC and streaming and runs $5995 for the "basic version". DAC inputs include SPDIF, Toslink and USB and the ECI-6 DS can stream internet radio, DNLA devices, iPods, etc.

Company COO Peder Beckman provided an interesting demo where he was able to move the music stream from the integrated amp to a handheld device (in this case an Android phone), which started playing the music though its tiny speaker instead of the main system.

Electrocompaniet was also showing the new EMP-2 Disc Player based on the Oppo 93. They have added their own 24/192 DAC, analog board and balanced outputs. All for $3995.

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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
A combination digital preamp, streamer and DAC, Cambridge Audio's Stream Magic 6 also has twin Wolfson WM8740 DACs that upsample to 24/384 and a 24/192 USB input. All for $1,149 and available sometime this month.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
France manufacturer Micromega's $4,995 "WHiFi" player is AirPlay compatible, meaning it can wirelessly stream from any Apple device.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
I had planned to attend the press conferences by Panasonic, Samsung, and Sharp, all scheduled for Press Day, but it seems that every single person with a Press badge had exactly the same idea, and the resulting crowds were at least as big as at the CES Unveiled event. In fact, about an hour before the scheduled Samsung press conference, CES staff announced that the number of people in the line-up exceeded the capacity of the hall, and not everyone could be admitted. I gave up on both Samsung and Panasonic, but was Sharp was different. They had sent emails to a selected group of journalists, including yours truly, designating them as VIPs, and special tickets to be printed out, which would allow these individuals entry to the press conference before everyone else. Even if I had not been all that interested in whatever Sharp was going to announce, being called a VIP meant that I just had to attend. And, as I walked in, who do I see but my colleagues, Kal Rubinson (left) and Tom Norton (right)? We had our choice of seats, up front. It's good to be a VIP!
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 13, 2012 2 comments
Ypsilon Electronics’ Demetrius Baklavas designed the new $36,000/pair Aelius monoblock amplifier. The Aelius is rated at 220W into 8 ohms, 308W into 4 ohms, and 500W into 2 ohms. It is a hybrid design that features tube inputs, hand-wound interstage coupling transformers, and MOSFET output devices wired in the same type of push-pull Circlotron output configuration that was found in some Output-Transformer-Less tube (OTL) designs. The Circlotron configuration was developed years ago by Electro-Voice, and while the Aelius's output devices are all N-channel MOSFETs, the Circlotron approach is very different from conventional quasi-complementary approaches.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
JL Audio's home high-end audio subwoofer engineer, Brett Hanes, proudly shows off the company's new $1700 ES-112 subwoofer (wood finish) that uses clever engineering principles to coax better performance and value from a less-expensive product. The ES-112's woofer features the company's only dual-spider driver construction, a smaller voice-coil, though the cone is designed for the same 3" peak–peak excursions found in the company's flagship f212 and Gotham models. Other construction simplifications—you change line input voltage by changing fuses in external fuse holder—make the product more adaptable for international sales. It also has a high-pass output with variable frequency crossover, which will be appreciated by those of us using subwoofers in a two-channel home audio system.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
What we have here is the Vincent C-35 Hybrid HDCD CD Player. It features a 100% vacuum tube output stage (two 12AX7 tubes and one 6N10), dedicated headphone amp with volume control and SPDIF digital output. Priced at $1,999.99.

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