CES 2013

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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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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 17, 2013 9 comments
For the first time in many years, I walked into a room at CES and was immediately blown away. Pass Labs personnel had suggested I listen to the amplifiers driving Sony loudspeakers, so I went to the 30th floor of the Venetian to listen. I had no expectations, other than knowing that five Sony SS-AR1 loudspeakers ($27,000/pair) were powered by five Pass Labs Xs300 amplifiers ($85,000/pair), all connected by Kimber Kable. What I didn’t know was that Sony had given the two people running that demonstration, Blue Coast Records’ Cookie Marenco and Super Audio Center’s Gus Skinas, carte blanche permission to play any one of the 150 Direct Streaming Digital (DSD) master titles from Sony’s library for the duration of the Show.
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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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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 1 comments
Over at T.H.E. Show, Acoustic Sounds' Chad Kassem proudly showed me the box and inserts for his new Bill Evans Waltz for Debby reissue, which will be released as a UHQR LP. Kassem's QRP pressing pant has acquired the rights to JVC's 30 year-old LP technology and each 200-gram UHQR pressing, with its flat profile, will be hand-pressed on a Finebilt press and hand-inspected. Back in the 1970s I was told by an EMI executive that that they could have pressed perfect LPs but people would never pay for it. Chad didn't seem to get the memo as he has invested a lot of money in producing LPs the way they should have been all along!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 1 comments
I had auditioned the Estelon X-Diamond speakers ($65,000/pair) at the 2012 Newport Beach Show, but the room there was not allowing the speakers to sound at their best. Driven by top-of-the-line, class-A Vitus amplification, these speakers, which use the 1.2" Accuton inverted diamond-dome tweeter, along with a 7" Accuton ceramic-cone midrange unit and an 11" Accuton ceramic-cone woofer, sounded much better at CES, even though the dem room was one of the infamous split-level rooms at the Venetian.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 1 comments
The Arabesque speakers ($90,000/pair) in the Crystal room, with their glass enclosures, were familiar, as were the Crystal cables that Jason Serinus blogged about a few days ago. But the Siltech SAGA amplifier—for Structural Amplifier Gain Architecture— were new. Designed by Siltech's Edwin Rijnveld and costing $100,000, the three-piece, 300Wpc amplifier comprises a preamplifier chassis with ultra–low-noise tubes, a battery-powered voltage-amplifier chassis, and a current-amplifier chassis. No negative feedback is used, either global or local, and the current amplifier uses optical drive of the output transistors, called "Apollo Light Drive." Output device biasing is said to be class-A at all powers into all loads.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 17, 2013 1 comments
Active speakers—ie, those that that have built-in amplifiers—are generally unpopular with audiophiles. One well-known speaker designer working on his state-of-the-art speaker contender told me at CES that he would like it to be active but marketing told him that it wouldn’t sell, so he’s staying with the passive design. I guess Precision Transducer Engineering (PTE) didn’t get the memo—or maybe they wrote their own . . .

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