Another big name makes the move into wireless speakers with Focal's announcement of the Easya. It is a floor-standing 2½-way system which comes as a pair, with its hub/controller and remote control, for just $1799. Available colors are a snazzy gloss white or black and it sports an inverted-dome tweeter and a pair of 5" polyglass-cone drivers. Inputs are TosLink, coax and USB inputs as well as analog. Better yet, it sounded like a Focal . . . but, look Ma, no wires!
LA Audio Electric Company's tube electronics produced warm, euphonic, and very smooth sound from ridiculously soppy pop music via Acoustic Zen loudspeakers. All products are hand-wired, and include proprietary output transformers. As best as I could make out, new at the show, although not in the photo, were the M-5W push-pull integrated amplifier ($1450) and A-50W integrated amplifier ($1700).
If you were fascinated, as I was, by JA's February 2013 review of the BSG qøl Signal Completion Stage but were deterred from satisfying your curiosity about this unusual device by the asking price, you no longer need hold back. In the ReveelSound room, BSG's Larry Kay showed and demonstrated his new, tiny and inexpensive implementation of the technology in the form of the øreveel. Contained within the small package in Larry's hands is an all analog in/out version whose size and connectors clearly indicate that its target is headphone use. When I told him that I don't listen to headphones, Larry made the convincing demo with a desk-top system. The unit is powered by a rechargeable battery and, although I didn't ask, it looks like it should also run on the included power supply. Price? Just $119.95 and an ear-opener.
I can never tell what's new in the McIntosh line, because everything retains the company's same classic look. In this case, attention turned to the new MA8000 integrated amplifier ($10,000), introduced at the 2013 CEDIA, that merges the MC302 power amp and C50 preamp ($14,000 total) into a single chassis and, I'm told, sounds "pretty much the same" as the separates.
Loudspeaker manufacturer Angel Sound from Las Vegas was a new name to me, but I was drawn into their room at CES by this striking-looking speaker, which resembles a flame. Called, according to my notes, the S8, the speaker uses ScanSpeak drivers, can be supplied in custom colors, and costs $180,000/pair. The system in use featured Angel Sound DAC, amplifier, and cables, with a C.E.C transport, but the adverse room acoustics prevented me from forming any real opinion of the speakers' sound quality.
Bel Canto is moving decidedly upmarket with the new Black system. Jason will cover the amps, so I'll stick to the pre/DAC here. The ASC1 will interface specifically with the MPS1 monobloc amps via custom LightLink ST fiber interfaces and cables. There are nine inputs, and capabilities include analog sources, AES, SPDIF, Toslink and UPnP/DLNA streaming up to 24/384 PCM as well as DSD64 and 128.
The ASC1 retails for $20,000. When you add the amps, the entire system is $50k.
"It's a black box. It's a music source, it plays everything. Forget about converters and other technologies." So stated Genesis' Gary Koh when I asked him to explain the new Genesis Muse. Koh noted that they've been running a home-brew server in their rooms at CES since 2006, so it seemed only logical to turn it into a product.
However, there are specifications: the Linux-based system comes configured with 1TB SSD, has 2 USB 3.0 inputs for adding storage, has ethernet for network connectivity and streaming, and includes both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs. You can also add an optional CD ROM drive to rip CDs, backup via a cloud-based approach, and control it with any app compatible with the Squeezebox protocol.
One cool feature is that it will stream to your iPad for headphone listening if you like. Price will be around $15,000 when it appears "probably in spring this year."
Creek's new EVO 50CD made its debut at CES and will also include a DAC built around 2 Wolfson 24/192 chips. On the back will be coaxial, toslink and USB inputs as well as coax and toslink as well as analog outputs. The player/DAC with USB will be available in spring this year for $1,495.
Qualia founder Masanori Fujii was born in France where his father was Japan's former ambassador to the country. Fujii still bridges both cultures by designing his products in Europe, but building them in Japan.
The Qualia DAC with USB is machined out of a single large block of aluminum and features 4 ESS Sabre 9012 DAC chips in a dual mono design. In addition to USB, inputs include AES/EBU, coaxial and optical. The DAC handles all PCM streams up to 24/192 and has both balanced and unbalanced outputs as well as headphone jack.
Available now for $39,000. Fujii adds that he is "not interested in any compromise in quality. The DAC has a very natural analog sound."
"It's the best amp we've ever done," said an enthusiastic Kevin Deal about the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium HP integrated amplifier ($3999) and power amplifier ($3899). "The bass and control will work with ribbons and electrostats." Indeed, I found the sound really nice, with very natural timbres that rival or surpass those of the high-priced spread.
"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore" may be one of the most famous lines from an American filmNetwork, 1976, to be precisebut it seems, on the surface, to have little relationship to MAD (Made in England), the British loudspeaker company whose products have earned praise from cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and Stereophile's European correspondent Paul Messenger, among others. Playing at T.H.E. Show was the MAD Grand MS ($12,000/pair).
I can’t believe it was five years ago that I first heard the Wilson Sasha W/P speaker at a CES. Funnily enough, it was in the same suite at the Mirage so when I first entered this year I didn’t notice anything new. But then I realized that the speaker on the right in my photo was the same size as the Sashaokay, it’s ½” taller than the original Sasha, shown on the leftbut now resembles the larger Alexia that I reviewed in December, though the tweeter is now mounted in the same enclosure as the midrange unit. The Mk.2 Sasha costs $29,900/pair compared with the Mk.1's $27,900/pair.