CES 2013

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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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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 2 comments
And then there were five. At the end of the show on Friday evening, the remaining members of the Stereophile crew met for dinner at the same BLT Burger restaurant at the Mirage where they had eaten the night before the Show opened. Larry Greenhill, Michael Fremer, Kal Rubinson, Jon Iverson, Tyll Hertsens, and Jason Victor Serinus had already departed, so remaining were (left to right) myself, John Atkinson, Michael Lavorgna (AudioStream.com), Stephen Mejias, and Tom Norton (Home Theater, erstwhile Technical Editor for Stereophile). We don’t even look too tired!
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
While the sound and music in Philip O’Hanlon’s On A Higher Note systems is uniformly excellent, I had an especially good time listening to his smaller desktop system: MacBook running Audirvana, a pair of passive Eclipse desktop speakers, and Luxman’s new DA-200 USB DAC/preamp and M-200 stereo amp ($2790 each).
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 17, 2013 6 comments
Earlier in this show report, I mentioned that the excellent music played in Jeffrey Catalano’s High Water Sound room served as a reminder of my passion for the high-end audio hobby. And it’s true: From time to time, I do need those gentle reminders. So much of high-end audio remains so completely foreign and unobtainable that I sometimes feel entirely out of place.

But in the Music Hall room, I always feel right at home. . .

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 17, 2013 2 comments
At every CES, I seem to find out on the last day that there was something I should have checked out. And, sure enough, on Friday afternoon, I’m talking to Wayne Schuurman of the Audio Advisor, who mentions that Magico has a new speaker that’s about $13,000/pair.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Although a number of speaker manufacturers use Heil AMT drivers, only one company has the rights to use the name of the original speaker company that used Heil drivers: ESS. Headquartered in South El Monte, CA, ESS Laboratories LLC (which we might call “ESS Reborn”) also owns the rights to the original slogan, “Sound As Clear As Light.” Unlike the speakers by ADAM Audio, GoldenEar, etc., these speakers look just like the original ones from ESS. President and CEO of ESS, Ricky “Rico” Caudillo, seen in the photo, told me that he wanted to stay with the original, highly-successful designs, but in recreating these designs managed to improve them in a number of ways, most notably in producing wider dispersion. A brief listen to the LD12 ($3295/pair), modeled on the original ESS Monitor, left me with a very positive impression.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
This is the first time I've taken a close look at the Gato products from Denmark. Though the company has a rich history at home, tracing their roots back through GamuT to other brands, the Gato moniker is now making inroads around the US. They manufacture speakers, amps and the $8,000 CDD-1 that I spotted in their room at the Venetian.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 1 comments
Erick Lichte was very impressed with the Marten Django XL loudspeaker when he reviewed it last September. The three-way Django costs $15,000/pair, but CES saw the debut of the two-way Django L, at a more affordable $9000/pair. A 1" Accuton tweeter is married to two 8" woofers and the sound on Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" was much better-integrated than I would have expected.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 17, 2013 3 comments
Promoted as "the first pocket-sized portable speaker good enough for the audio purist,” the Soundmatters FoxLv2 has had endorsements from renowned speaker designers—including Michael Kelly (Aerial Acoustics), Gayle Sanders (MartinLogan), and Peter Tribeman (Atlantic Technology)—and a rave review by Michael Fremer on AudioStream. There are three models, the price ranging from $149 to $229, the basic model accepting analog input only, the other two connected with Bluetooth (including aptX technology) as well. The top Platinum model has a longer battery life (20 hours vs 12 for the other two) and includes an AudioQuest interconnect. I have some interest in portable speakers, and have listened to a fair number of them, including the audiophile-oriented offerings from B&W, Arcam, and B&O, but somehow the FoxLv2 was not among them. CES 2013 gave me an opportunity to remedy this omission. The Soundmatters booth was in the iLounge section of the Convention Center, and when I got there it was surrounded by a full TV crew. There is apparently a lot of interest in this product.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
The Phoenix, a large, attractive-looking three-way design with ceramic-diaphragm drivers, can be had in passive form for $75,000/pair or in active form for $95,000/pair. The active form includes a 500W class-D amplifier for the woofers and incorporates the Rives PARC low-frequency equalization. Demmed with VAC amplification driving the HF and MF sections, the active Phoenixes worked well on Charles Mingus Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus album, the low end sounding more evenly balanced than in most other rooms.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 0 comments
Speakers in the VTL room were Rockport's new Atria ($21,500/pair). This is a three-way dsign using a 9" carbon fiber sandwich-cone woofer, a 6" carbon fiber sandwich-cone midrange unit, and a 1" beryllium-dome tweeter, with Transparent Audio internal cabling. The 43.5"-tall speaker has a specified frequency response of 28Hz–30kHz, –3dB, a 4 ohm impedance, and a sensitivity of 87dB/W/m. Driven by VTL MB450s in triode mode, Peter Gabriel singing David Bowie's "Heroes: from LP had a delicious tangibility to the voice and a powerful but clean bass line. "Sweet" I commented in my notebook.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 17, 2013 7 comments
Photograph: John Atkinson

Las Vegas? Why bother to fly across the country or around the world when you can visit New York City, Venice’s Grand Canal, and Egypt’s Great Pyramid in one easy, smoke-filled, retail therapy-rich, constantly stimulating stop? Why search out music on the net when, in Las Vegas, it constantly bombards you in elevators, from outdoor loudspeakers, and at your free lunch at T.H.E. Show?

Ah, Las Vegas. In his wrap to CES 2012, Stephen Mejias did a beautiful job of asking the simple but profound question, “Why?” Why, of all the god-forsaken places on Planet Earth, has the Consumer Electronics Association chosen this compulsion-driven, ecologically devastating, one-stop tourist and gambling destination as the site for the largest industry trade show in the US?

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 17, 2013 1 comments
Over the last several years, whenever I’ve run into High Water Sound’s Jeffrey Catalano at a show, he reminds me that I have an invitation to visit his NYC salon for a proper listen. I smile, thank him, and honestly agree: Yes, we definitely have to get together soon. It’s gotten to the point now that we don’t even have to talk about it. I know what he’s going to say, he knows what I’m going to say. For no good reason at all, I still haven’t made it down to 274 Water Street.
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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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