In this issue you can find a full report from the 2000 International Consumer Electronics Show, held last January in Las Vegas. By contrast to the 1999 CES, the Y2K Consumer Electronics Show was considerably more upbeat, both according to my own observations and to those experts who specialize in judging the size of Las Vegas conventions: the city's taxi drivers. Yes, there were some rooms where lonely exhibitors were more than usually pleased to welcome a visitor from the press, but to judge from the home-theater exhibits at the Las Vegas Hilton's Convention Center and the specialty audio exhibits at the Alexis Park Resort Hotel, as well as the companies exhibiting at the splinter T.H.E. Show at the St. Tropez, the joint was jumping.
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.
The Talon loudspeaker brand has been revitalized since it was purchased by Richard Rives Bird. Richard is see here with the new Phoenix, a floor-standing three-way with ceramic drive-units. The Phoenix costs $72,000/pair in passive form, which is what was being demmed at CES, driven by VAC amplification. The crossover is mounted in a separate compartment at the rear of the woofer section and an upgrade (approximate price $15,000) is planned whereby the passive crossover module can be replaced by one containing a line-level crossover, Rives' PARC bass equalizer to provide room correction, and a class-D amplifier to drive the woofers.
As fascinating as the design of high-end hardware can be, it goes without question that without musical software (or firmware, as our more computer-minded readers would have it) of an appropriately high standard, the whole business would be pointless. Stereophile's interviews have therefore often featured engineers and producers whose recorded work reveals sound quality to be a major concern. I interviewed Performance Recordings' James Boyk back in Vol.9 No.6; J. Gordon Holt spoke in Vol.10 No.3 with Doug Sax and Lincoln Mayorga, of Sheffield Lab, and with Keith Johnson of Reference Recordings, about their history-making Moscow sessions; JGH also discussed Brad Miller's and Lou Dorren's Colossus digital project in Vol.10 No.1 and Vol.11 No.4; while last month Dick Olsher interviewed Peter McGrath, responsible for some superb-sounding recordings for Harmonia Mundi USA as well as for his own Audiofon label.
Ken Swauger runs a Baltimore-based company called TapePath (www.tapepath.com) that specializes in restoring classic open-reel tape recorders, especially ReVox A77s. Ken is shown here in the vestibule to the Polk room, holding a baggie with all the parts from an A77 that he replaces and upgrades. I still have an A77 in storageperhaps I'll send it to Ken to have it brought back from the dead!
I had not heard the 300W Technical Brain monoblocks ($90,000/pair) before, but driving the TAD CR1 speakers that I very positively reviewed last January ($40,600/pair with stands), they produced a sound from the Reference Recordings Nojima performance of Liszt's Mephisto Waltz that offered superb scale yet with equally superb microdynamics. The amplifier is said to run in class-A up to 120W and has "no resistors in the signal path"! Source was the Ratoc D/A converter (currently only available in Japan) fed data by a MacBook Air, preamp was also Technical Brain ($57,000) and cables were all TB designer Kurosawa-san's own. The system was powered by the Audience aR12-TS power conditioner.
I wasn't familiar with Montreal-based Tenor Audio's amplifiers when I entered their room at FSI. But the sound of the new 350M hybrid monoblocks—tube front end, MOSFET output, 350W power, CDN$90,000/pair—with Avalon Eidolon speakers, an upsampling CD player from Audio Aero, all connected with Kubala-Sosna cables, was impressive. The sound of the JVC XRCD reissue of André Previn's Scheherazade was rich and expansive, but a little recessed. It was explained to me, however, that the speakers were still breaking in. Apparently a static discharge the previous day had caused a DC pulse to be sent to the Kharma speakers Tenor had first used in their room, destroying the midrange units. Ouch!
One of my last stops at THE Show at the Flamingo was the Teresonic room, where Mike Zivkovic demmed his 6'-tall single-driver Ingenium Silver Edition speaker using his own single-ended 2A3 tube amplifier. According to Mike, the amp uses interstage and output transformers from Lundahl and "there is not a capacitor in the circuit."
Roy Gregory, that is, editor of HiFi+ magazine from the UK, who had chosen and set-up the system I was using for my high-resolution demonstrations. And my thanks also to Roy's wife Louise, who was signing up attendees for my dems at the Show's front desk.
The eighth Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, held October 1416 at the Denver Tech Center Marriott, with Analogue Productions' Pink Floyd presentation at the Hyatt a couple of blocks down the road, was the largest yet, with an estimated 180 brands on show. We haven't yet seen the official attendance figures, though I wouldn't be surprised if they were a little down from last year, the corridors being more comfortable. But Show organizer Marjorie Baumert, seen here obviously having fun despite the pressure, is to be congratulated for making the RMAF a fun place to spend a weekend and a superb venue to see, but more importantly, to hear the best of what high-end audio has to offer music lovers. Thank you, Marjoriewe will see you in 2012.