CES 2013

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Larry Greenhill, who was covering expensive amplification at CES for Stereophile already blogged about the Constellation preamp and power amplifiers that were being used to bi-amp Magico's top-of-the-line Q7 loudspeakers ($185,000/pair). But here's a photo of the speaker, which was connected with MIT cables. AC conditioning was courtesy of Shunyata, racks by HRS. The sound in this room was magnificent, whether it was Lyle Lovett's "The Boys from North Dakota," Leonard Cohen's 10 New Songs, or my own live recording of Cantus performing Curtis Mayfield's "It's Alright." Oh my!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 8 comments
When I walked into the MBL suite in the Venetian, the recording of German pianist Martin Vatter, engineered by MBL's Juergen Reis, was playing on the MBL 101 X-Treme speaker system ($263,000, 3600 lbs, two 6' subwoofer towers operating below 80Hz, two double-101 omnidirectional upper-frequency towers). I was familiar with this superbly clean hi-rez recording, having auditioned it on MBL systems at other shows and also at home. But I had never heard it sound as though there was an actual grand piano in the room, which is what I experienced at this CES. Driven by two pairs of the massive MBL 9011 monoblock amplifiers that Michael Fremer reviewed in March 2012, this extreme system sounded better at this Show than I had heard it at earlier CESes.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
T+A (Theory and Application) is a German audio company best known in North America for their electronics and source components, not their speakers. That’s about to change with the appointment of Dynaudio as T+A’s North American distributor, and the introduction of the T+A Criterion line of loudspeakers. Asked whether Dynaudio—which, of course, is a loudspeaker manufacturer—has collaborated with T+A on the design and/or manufacturing of their speakers, Dynaudio’s Mike Manousselis quickly assured me that Dynaudio functions only as the distributor for T+A; the T+A speakers are manufactured entirely in the T+A factory in Herford, Germany. Dynaudio makes loudspeaker drivers that are used by quite a few speaker manufacturers, but T+A is not among them.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Invented by Oskar Heil and made popular by speakers under the ESS name in the ‘70s, the Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter and midrange have lost popularity for a while, but have made a major comeback in speakers made by a number of manufacturers, including ADAM Audio in Germany. The Column Mk.3 ($7000pair), reviewed by Kal Rubinson in August 2012 was used by Cary Audio at CES, and had what I now think is a sonic signature that’s apparent in a variety of loudspeaker designs: low in coloration and detailed without being overly bright.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
With so much new equipment to cover, and so little time, I only listened to a handful of systems at CES. One of the few that really wowed me to the core was in the “Made in the USA” Absolare room at T.H.E. Show. The system mated the parallel single-ended 52W Absolare Passion 845 monoblock amplifiers ($37,500) and single-ended Absolare Passion preamplifier ($25,000)—both manufactured in New Hampshire—with a full MSB digital system—MSB Signature DATA CD IV transport ($7995), MSB Diamond DAC Plus with Femto Second Galaxy Clock ($38,950), MSB Signature Transport Powerbase ($3495), and MSB Diamond Power Base ($5995)—Rockport Technologies Altair II loudspeakers ($100,000/pair), Absolare Bybee Purifier ($7250), Absolare Speaker Bullets ($3750/set of four), and Echole cables.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Wednesday evening after the CES closed, Luke Manley (left) and Bea Lam (second left) of VTL held a reception to honor the memory of Luke's father and VTL founder David Manley, who passed away in December. Everyone present offered their memories of David, including Stereophile's Larry Greenhill (right) and Jason Serinus (second right).
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Listening to the big MartinLogan CLX full-range electrostatics ($25,495/pair) at the June 2012 Newport Beach Show had been a high point for me, though they were being demmed in too large a room. At CES, the CLXes were in a smaller room, and were being supported by a pair of MartinLogan's Balanced Force 210 subwoofers. Amplification was by Cello and the source included Berkeley's Alpha DAC. I sat down to listen to a 176.4kHz file of Respighi orchestral music from Referenece Recordings, but sadly it was not possible to form much of an impression, due to the conversations competing with the music.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Meridian pioneered the integration of digital crossovers and D/A converters in a powered loudspeaker and the first room I visited at the 2013 CES featured the DSP7200 speaker ($38,000/pair). The has anew tweeter, said to be smoother and more open-sounding than the HF units used in earlier speakers, but perhaps more importantly, the 7200's crossover now compensates for the low-frequency group delay associated with the high-order alignment. This is difficult to do, as it conventionally demands a very long digital, computationally intense filter. However, Meridian's engineering team came up with a solution that only adds around 40 milliseconds of latency. While this might make video synchronization tricky, the added clarity at low frequencies was impressively audible. Bass started and stopped as it should, with none of the feeling of the lows being detached from the upper ranges that is typical of high-order woofer alignments.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
I sought out Manley Labs, manufacturer of tube amplifiers and preamplifiers, at CES. The system in their room included a Music Hall mmf-2.2le turntable, the Chinook phono stage that impressed Michael Fremer last August ($2250), a Steelhead phono preamplifier ($8000), a pair of Snapper monoblock 100Wpc tube amplifiers ($7650/pair), which use four EL34 output tubes, driving Neat Acoustic Ultimatum XLS speakers. EveAnna Manley mentioned after the show that she was working on a secret, prototype1 DAC that promises "to beat all comers." I greatly enjoyed the audio I heard in the Manley Labs room at CES. I had to agree with the saying on the rug that appears at every Manley abs exhibit: "Tubes Rule!"
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Audio critic Myles Astor was playing Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells—"the LP that launched a thousand virgins," he quipped—when i walked into YG's large room. Whether it was the Dan D'Agostino Momentum amplifiers, the Veloce LS-1 battery-powered preamp, the Kubula-Sosna Elation! cables, or the Scheu Analog Das Laufwerk 1 turntable with Scheu 12" Tacco arm and Scheu Ruby 3 cartridge, but the sound in this room was stunning. Or perhaps it was YG's new flagship speaker, the Sonja 1.3 ($106,800/pair)!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 4 comments
Over dinner one evening at the 2013 CES, I was being grilled by other magazine editors about my measurements of the Wilson Audio Specialties Alexandria XLF speaker that Michael Fremer reviewed in the January issue. In vain did I point to the XLF's superb in-room response; in vain did I emphasize that no one measurement fully describes a speaker's sound; in vain did I point out that the best way to integrate all the measurements was to listen to the thing. What I should have done was bid my peers to visit the dCS suite on one of the Mirage's penthouse floors where Wilson's Alexia loudspeaker ($48,500/pair), which incorporates much of the XLF's technology, was being demmed with Dan D'Agostino Momentum monoblocks and dCS's new Vivaldi digital system, wired up with Transparent Audio cables.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
In our November 2012 issue, Michael Fremer reviewed the Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable ($25,000) with its complementary Centroid tonearm ($6000), an interesting unipivot design that places the pivot point and stylus in the same plane to increase the system’s overall stability. At CES, Spiral Groove showed the new universal version of the Centroid tonearm, a 10” arm with a standard mount. With the supplied setup jig and the Centroid’s easily accessible pivot point, users should be able to determine the correct spindle-to-pivot distance and “accurately set the geometry for overhang and offset angle,” said Immedia’s Stirling Trayle. The universal version of the Centroid tonearm is available now; price remains $6000.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Distributed in the US by Colleen Cardas Imports, the new Moos Mini Aero speakers ($2499/pair) represent a serious attempt to get good sound from powered wireless speakers. Founder of the Australian company, Tom Celinski, shown in the photo and once with Linn, told me that the two drive-units are ScanSpeak Revelators and, in fact, the speakers are assembled by ScanSpeak. A USB2.0 interface guarantees bit-accurate transmission of digital audio at up to 24bit/96kHz. The wireless data are fed to a DSP-based digital crossover running on Analog Devices SHARC floating-point chips. Thee crossover in turn feeds the data for each drive-unit to a quad mono differential Wolfson DAC which drives a Hypex 200W class-D amplifier module. The sound was open and spacious. The speaker, which was honored with an International CES Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Award, is scheduled to start shipping in April.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Two of the products I most wanted to see in the flesh at the show didn't actually arrive due to the exhibitor's respective shipping services. The first was Antelope's Rubicon DAC, lost by DHL; this time it was the Mimer music server from Bladelius, lost courtesy of UPS.

Too bad, because the photo in the brochure is quite enticing. The Mimer is essentially a wall-hung touchscreen device about 7.5 inches wide by 13.5 inches tall. You can see by the photo of a photo how the touchscreen display is arranged for album cover art and control/navigation. The chassis looks about an inch thick and inside is an upgradable hard drive for storing music as well as support for NAS and USB drives, 32/348 files, 4 SPDIF inputs, Wi-Fi and ethernet, internet radio and Spotify, headphone amp, multi-room support and analog input (for the built-in analog preamp).

Though I'm sure many will differ, I've always been partial to music servers that have always-ready built-in navigation screens like Meridian's Sooloos as apposed to relying on iPad apps. I'm hoping to get my hands on the Mimer in the future and see if it lives up to the photo and spec sheet.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Using the same treble and upper-midrange Air-Motion Transformer units as the Class Column 3 that Bob Deutsch writes about in the next story, the much more expensive Tensor Beta Mk.2 ($35,000/pair) adds new lower midrange unit and woofers, all with Hexacone diaphragms. The massive, cross-braced MDF enclosure features a 22mm-thick aluminum baffle and the interior walls are faced with a unique plastic-honeycomb substance with the cells filled with steel shot. The shot very effectively absorbs vibrations.

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