One of the things I look forward to at these shows is a visit to the Wilson Audio room, and the chance to listen to master recordings made by Peter McGrath. The system at this year's FSI, in the room sponsored by dealer Coup de Foudre, featured the WATT Puppy 8s and Watchdog subs, VTL TL-6.5 preamp and MB-450 amps, with Nordost interconnects and Transparent speaker cables. (I guess they didn't want to be accused of favoritism when it came to cable choice.) As usual, the sound was clean and dynamic, with a deep soundstage, and voices sounding very natural. Peter played a recording he had made of Renee Fleming singing Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs heartbreakingly beautiful. Luke Manley (VTL, left) and Peter McGrath (Wilson, right) are looking appropriately pleased.
Wisdom's planar-magnetic drivers are used in some very expensive speakers, and they had a pair of their LS4 floor-to-ceiling wall-mounts at CES, which sounded superb, easily one of the best at the show. (It was in the "if you have to ask" price category.) Of more interest to me was the new Insight series of in-wall speakers, which use the same technology as Wisdom's more cost-no-object offerings. The drive units start at $1250 each (P2i) and go up to $5000 (L8i). That's more my speed!
The Sony booth had a lot of interesting products on display, but hardly anything specifically dealing with audio. Last year, the only product I found I could find in the Sony booth that I could mention in my CES blog was a pair of headphones. This year, the product that I spotted that I thought would be interesting to Stereophile readers was "a pair of headphones!"
The auteur theory of the cinema, first described in the 1950s by François Truffaut, states that a great movie represents the artistic vision of one person, usually the director. Moviemaking may involve collaboration, but it cannot be done successfully by a committee. There has to be a single individual in charge, one whose sensitivity and world view is reflected in the movie. In the same sense that the author of a novel is telling a story through the medium of print, the director of a movie is telling a story through the medium of film.
The Audio Refinement brand of affordable components from France's YBA is no more—problems with their Asian manufacturing partner, I understand. But there’s good news: Audio Refinement has been reborn as YBA Design, with a new Asian manufacturing facility that promises to be more reliable. The first two products in the line—designed by Yves-Bernard André, Mr. YBA himself—are the YA201 integrated amp and YC201 CD player, each priced at $1499. The industrial design is stunning in its elegance and simplicity, and, judging by the sound of a pair of Focal-JMlab 1007Be loudspeakers driven by the YBA Design combo, the performance is up to YBA's usual high standards.
On Saturday at noon, the John Atkinson trio (JA on bass, Bob Reina on piano, and Mark Flynn on drums) performed their own takes on some jazz standards, to the appreciation of a fairly substantial audience. (As usual, Saturday was the best attended day at FSI.) There were also two original items on their program: one of which was a tribute to Frank Sinatra, composed by Bob Reina. It's an interesting piece, with no actual quotes from any of the numbers that are associated with Sinatra, but somehow capturing the spirit of the songs in his repertoire. I think Ol' Blue-Eyes would have approved.
The day before CES opens is designated Press Day, with press conferences scheduled every hour, including presentations by major consumer electronics manufacturers such as Pioneer, Toshiba, Philips, Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony. These are extremely well-attended, to the point that last year some of the press conferences were so full that members of the audio/video specialty press ended up being turned away. As Wes Phillips noted in a recent news story, for the 2008 Show CES announced that, to deal with this problem, it would be more stringent in determining who gets a Press badge. While they may indeed have done so, there were still huge crowds at all the press conferences I attended, although I think this time at least all my fellow audio/video writer colleagues managed to
get in. (That's www.ultimateavmag.com's Tom Norton in the foreground.)