CES 2014

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
With new US distribution, by the Katli Audio Co. from LA, the Taiwanese Usher loudspeaker manufacturer premiered its Grand Tower flagship ($37,800/pair) at CES. Combining Usher’s diamond-dome tweeter with two in-house 7" midrange units and two Eton 11" woofers, the Grand Tower weighs 500 lbs and has a claimed low-frequency extension of 24Hz, with a 90dB sensitivity. My experience of a percussion recording suggests that both specifications are valid!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 1 comments
The Polar Vortex weather and its associated flight cancellations prevented Convergent Audio Technology’s Ken Stevens from reaching Las Vegas until the third day of the show. However, once he arrived, he set up a system featuring Vandersteen 5A Carbon speakers, connected by Stealth cables to his new JL5 Triode "Baby CAT" stereo power amplifier. This 100Wpc (8 ohms) amplifier costs $12,000 with amorphous core transformers and Black Gate capacitors, $10,000 with silicon-steel transformers. The circuit features what Ken calls "OptiBias"—Ken describes this as "somewhere between constant current and constant power"—which keeps the bias current of the output-stage KT120 tubes independent of fluctuations in the AC supply voltage. Those who feel tube amplifiers can’t rock hard in the bass should have experienced the Led Zeppelin track I auditioned in Ken’s room.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 16, 2014 4 comments
Given Dan D'Agostino's products recent awards—Stereophile Joint Amplification Component of the 2013 for the original Momentum monoblock amplifier, and CES 2014 Innovations Design and Engineering awards for the Momentum preamp—it's no wonder everyone was buzzing around the new Momentum integrated amplifier ($45,000). Manufactured in—you're going to love this—Carefree, AZ, the Momentum integrated is a no-compromise design that includes the same preamp and stereo boards used in the Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems' separates
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
"Bass really impressive . . . very neutral," I wrote in my notes as I listened to the Budapest Symphony Orchestra blast away in the last movement of Mahler's Symphony 1. "Really excellent in clarifying complex instrumental layers that other systems blend together. A little toned down on top and lacking in ultimate color, but rich in ultimate clarity and control."
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Kalman Rubinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
I was getting bored with my own opening question asking exhibitors do you have anything that's new for under $2000. For two days, I was getting either a gleeful "Yes!" or a slow "No but . . ." Mike Manousselis, Director of Marketing for Dynaudio USA, surprised me with a new answer: "Well, we have something that is not new but it's price is new and it is now under $2000."
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
Quasi-secreted in the front half of his father Dan’s room, Bret D’Agostino showed off the rethought aesthetics, better class-A power, and additional refinement of his new BSC 5 series. Available now are the M5 monoblocks ($28,500/pair), which replace the 100M monoblocks; S5 class-A stereo amplifier ($15,000); and optional amplifier Base 5 ($1600). Coming in March is the L5 line stage preamplifier ($14,500). Bret is responsible for the entire design, inside and out, which pushes the envelope of his original design topology. There was no way to audition the products, but I can only assume that they improve upon the sound of their predecessors, some which I enthused about last year at T.H.E. Show.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 3 comments
On first glimpse, Nola’s Carl Marchisotto appeared to be demming the same Concert Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers he had shown at the 2013 CES. However, those were the preproduction protypes and the 2014 show featured the production version. Costing the same $197,000/pair, the speaker features a new ribbon supertweeter taking the response up to 100kHz and two new Gold Technology woofers operating below 40Hz. Driven by an Audio Research Reference 75 stereo amplifier and an Audio Research Reference 10 preamp, with source two United Home Audio Tape decks running 15ips, 2-track analog tape and hooked up with Nordost Odin cabling, the sound in this room had an impressive, full-range sweep that usefully loosened up as the show progressed and the speakers/system broke in.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
Jason Serinus mentioned the Rosso Fiorentino Florentia loudspeakers ($99,995/pair) in his report on the Graaf amplifier in the Avatar Acoustics room below. This four-way speaker enclosure features aluminum front panels and glass side panels and weighs 361.5 lbs. The midrange and treble units are mounted in an open baffle, while the top-mounted woofer and the twin 12" subs are mounted in sealed enclosure. The subs are driven by a 1500W amplifier and the sensitivity is claimed to be 89dB.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
Is it any surprise Audio Consulting and Scaena, otherwise known as Switzerland meets South Florida, sounded excellent? From Audio Consulting, who were making their first show appearance since 2008, and is now sold direct from Nashville, we experienced numerous products. The first, the Audio Consulting MIPA (Mains Independent Power Amplifier) Silver Rock Toroidal amplifier, is available in stereo 30W ($45,000), mono 120W, and 30W/120W switchable ($52,000) configurations. A battery-driven, solid-state class-A switching amplifier, it has customizable inputs and outputs and is housed in a wood chassis.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
I found the combination of Jadis and Spendor totally magical. It certainly flattered a CD of a Rossini String Symphony with the warm and special sound that made former Stereophile editor turned publicist Jonathan Scull salivate over Jadis products when they first reached the US from France two decades ago, and impelled me to buy the DA-7 amplifier, a later incarnation of the Defy 7 amp that J10 reviewed.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 2 comments
Shown in Tom Norton’s photo are the Platinum versions of Dynaudio’s Confidence C2 floorstander ($15,000, left) and C1 stand-mount (middle)loudspeakers in the new Platinum trim, which I had seen and heard at 2013 shows. But I was more interested in the news that the Excite 12 loudspeaker, which has been a reference for Bob Reina since he reviewed it in March 2010, has been replaced by the Excite X14 ($1500/pair). My photo wasn’t usable, unfortunately, but I auditioned the X14s in a system comprising the Octave V40 SE 45Wpc, tube integrated amplifier ($5300), T+A DAC S8 ($3250), with Amarra running on a MacBook, Dynaudio Stand 3X stands ($350/pair), and in-akustik Reference interconnects and speaker cables, and was impressed by what I heard.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
Scottish manufacturer Tannoy was showing the Carbon Black version of the Kingdom Royal speaker ($85,000/pair), which adds carbon-fiber trim panels, individually machined metal components, and a “specially formulated” paint on the cabinet surfaces. The speaker combines a 12” Dual-Concentric driver with a supertweeter and a 15”, vented woofer with a corrugated surround for maximum linearity. The Kingdom Royal looked elegant indeed, and driven by Cary single-ended power amplifiers with Cary’s new streamer as source, the full-range, wide-dynamic-range sound was equally elegant.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
The Belgian Venture company introduced its Vidi speaker at CES. Costing $30,000/pair, the floorstanding, three-way Vidi speaker combines two 4" midrange units with a 1" tweeter and two 7" woofers, these mounted on the speaker’s sidewalls. All the drive-units use AGC (Abaca Graphite Composite) diaphragms. The crossover operates with first-order slopes at 250Hz and 3kHz and the speaker is specified as having a frequency range of 30Hz to 40kHz. Used fullrange but with an AW500 subwoofer also operating below 70Hz, the beautifully gloss-finished Vidis did a creditable job with the the live Bootleg Series recording of Bob Dylan’s "Desolation Row," played back from a laptop running the XX HighEnd software feeding digital data to a Weiss Medusa DAC. The opening up of the soundstage as the initially mono recording, made with a Nagra tape recorder, was spliced to the stereo backup tape when the Nagra ran out of tape, was delicious.
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Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Jan 16, 2014 0 comments
Darren Censullo's Avatar Acoustics did itself proud with a system that, on one of John Atkinson's recordings of male vocal ensemble Cantus, delivered totally natural and clear sound with beautiful layering and air, and natural timbres to boot. And as much as Shelby Lynne's "Little Lovin'" is getting less and less lovin' from me each time I discover multiple rooms playing it at shows—aren't there any other good tracks on her very well-recorded album?—Lynne's bass accompaniment was very profound, and the heart-warming beauty of the sound most impressive.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 0 comments
Like Stephen Mejias at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I have been impressed by the German Zellaton speakers when I have heard them, both at shows, and at a dealer event I attended in 2012 at Fidelis Audio in New Hampshire. With foil-covered drive-units, a crossover from Duelund Coherent Audio, and driven by Trinity balanced phono and line preamps and 200Wpc CH M1 amplification from Switzerland, the three-way Reference speakers sounded forceful and detailed.

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