Although most of the products on display at CES Unveiled were not in the audio category, there were a few products that were of interest to Stereophile readers: winners in the Best of Innovations 2013 contest, which had products nominated in various categories of consumer electronics. The Sennheiser 800IE earbuds are the result of several years of research, and are claimed to have a frequency response of 8Hz41kHz, ±3dBan astonishing achievement for a single transducer. The price is $999. For many people, earbuds are almost a disposable item, and are often left on planes. I would be very afraid of losing these.
After a few years absence from the U.S. market, France's oldest loudspeaker company, Cabasse, has signed a distribution agreement with Esoteric and Teac. In the next few months, many of Teac-Esoteric's 125 US dealers will begin distributing the Cabasse line.
At $1295, Rogue Audio’s latest hybrid integrated amplifier is also the company’s most affordable amplifier. Don’t you love that? I do. The Sphinx is rated to deliver 100Wpc into 8 ohms; looks tough; has a phono stage, headphone amp, and an optional remote; and is handmade in Pennsylvania, USA.
Cambridge Audio’s good-looking Azur 351A integrated amplifier ($599) is rated to deliver 45Wpc into 8 ohms, has a front-panel iPod input, headphone jack, balance and tone controls, and a handy USB input mated to an onboard Burr-Brown DAC so you can connect your computer and get better performance out of your music files.
Also new to the line are the 75Wpc Azur 651A ($799) and 120Wpc Azur 851A.
McIntosh had their new D100 digital preamplifier on hand with five digital inputs (each with their own DAC according to the company's Marc Lamb) and remote controlled volume. The preamp/DAC has been optimized to work with headphones and will retail for $2,500.
EMM's new transport sports an Esoteric drive and is intended to mate with the company's DAC2X DAC. Retail price is $17,000 or $30,000 when bought together with the DAC2x. When the two are connected, "CDs and SACDs are automatically upsamples to 5.6 MHz, which is double SACD's standard sampling rate." There is an optical out for DSD and AES/EBU for PCM (from CD or SACD).
Meridian's Bob Stuart is holding the recently introduced Media Source 200 which allows current Meridian Digital Media System (Sooloos) owners to add another zone to their system for $1,000. As with other components in the MDMS line, the Media Source 200 includes Meridian's apodising upsamping filter.
There is an ethernet jack on the rear to connect to the network and then a combination analog/digital jack so you can connect the Media Source 200 via stereo analog cable or optical SPDIF. There is also a SpeakerLink output for connecting directly to Meridian DSP loudspeakers.
Mike Yee (shown here holding his DAC) has been working for the past several years on a unique approach to DAC design. He has invented a technique (for which he has applied for a patent) he calls MODR or Musically Optimized Digital Reconstruction.
Yee uses an FPGA (field programmable gate array) to intercept the digital signal as it comes into the DAC. The FPGA provides a proprietary "pre-emphasis" conditioning of the signal before the DAC chip to "remove the DAC's effect on quantization error." After the DAC chip, an analog stage provides de-emphasis prior to output.
There are SPDIF and Toslink 24/192 inputs as well as a 16/48 USB port. On the front are LEDs to indicate the sample rate. Introductory price is $1,000
For many years, when the Stereophile crew journeyed to Las Vegas to cover the Consumer Electronics Show, we stayed at what eventually became the Hyatt Place. Not only was it smoke and slot machine-free, quiet, and equipped to serve breakfast gratis, but it was also located just a block from the CES "high performance" exhibits in the Alexis Park and the "alternative" T.H.E. Show in the St. Tropez, and a shuttle bus ride from the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). It was an ideal place to sleep, work, and recoup in... until CES shifted its "high performance" exhibits to the Venetian Hotel on the Strip, and T.H.E. SHOW moved nearby.
At last, Stereophile has caught up with the shows, and made the move to the Mirage. Located just across the street from the Venetian, and down the block from T.H.E. SHOW at the Flamingo, it's a massive hotel whose interior is dominated by a huge, multi-story arboretum complete with towering plants and waterfalls. Behind the registration desk is a huge aquarium, packed with an impressive collection of exotic looking fish whose blank-eyed stares are mirrored in the faces of many of Las Vegas' veteran gamblers. To get to the room elevators, you must walk through the gambling area, with all the smoke, noise, and looks of desperation that are the mark of one side of Las Vegas. Pictured is the alternate reality view from my 5th floor hotel window. Treasure Island is on your left, and the Venetian on your right. Don't even think about what lies in between.
Robert Deutsch had yet to make his appearance, fresh from performing in two musicals in Canada, when I snapped this photo of some of Stereophile's CES team stressing the show account and plotting our on-line coverage at the Mirage's classy BLT Burger. Pictured, LR, are John Atkinson, Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and Audiostream.com's Michael Lavorgna.
CES Unveiled, scheduled from 4:007:00 p.m. on the day before the Press Day, is an event that provides a preview of CES, giving exhibitors a chance to have press coverage before CES proper opens, and, similarly, allows attending members of the press to get an early start on their CES coverage. It's a kind of mini- (or micro-) CES, with products mostly on static display, and, given its size (small booths in a hotel ballroom) it cannot be representative of the giant entity that is CES. Still, for most of the CES press, CES Unveiled is the only game in town during that time, so you might as well attendand, who knows, maybe you'll see something interesting that's worth checking out further when CES opens. Based on previous experience, I knew there would be a long lineup, so I didn't go until after 5 o'clock. There was no lineup, but inside it was still crowded.