As I said in an earlier blog posting, I was sufficiently intrigued by B&O's single-cabinet stereo speaker at the CES Unveiled event that I made a note to myself to check it out later. The opportunity presented itself in the form of a B&O press conference. The press conference did not involve any demonstrations of sound, but when the press conference was concluded I managed to prevail on Henrik Taudorf Lorensen, CEO of B&O's PLAY division, to give me a demonstration of the A9. The setting was not ideal, with no attempt at optimal positioning of the speaker, but the speaker certainly had a smooth, room-filling sound. I continue to be intrigued by this product. The A9 looks more like a satellite dish than a speaker, and is sure to be a conversation piece. B&O also has some new wireless speakers that are more conventional-looking, such as the BeoLab 12-1 ($2950/pair), pictured here.
I had a quick look in Nola's room, and as soon as I saw their giant speakers, I knew that these were not going to be in my designated "Under $15k" price range. Indeed, the speakers (whose name escapes me, but it has something to do with boxing) were just under $200k/pair. They sounded great, with tremendous dynamics, but I have trouble relating to speakers in that price range. "Do you have anything new and relatively affordable?" Yes, said Nola's Marilyn Marchisotto. The $9998/pair KO (another boxing reference) was being used in another room in demos by Nordost.
Canadian speaker manufacturer Paradigm is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a limited edition speaker, called the Tribute ($6000/pair). The Tribute (pictured here) has a new cabinet, built in-house, a beryllium tweeter from the Signature range, a new mounting system for the drivers, corrugated drivers surrounds, and a chrome-plated stainless steel plinth.
"Head Monster" Noel Lee is known as a shrewd, successful businessman, but I think that if he had taken a different career path he could have made a great evangelist. His CES press conferences have very much feeling of revival meetings, and, like an evangelist, he works hard at whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Given the largely skeptical audience of media representatives, Lee is not always successful in this, but you certainly can't fault his enthusiasm. (Consumer electronics journalists are a tough crowd.)
The Sony press conference is arguably the most prestigious at CESand the largest. It would have been even larger if Sony did not have the policy of allowing only select invited members of the media to attend. Having a Press badge by itself does not guarantee admission. Even so, I overheard a Sony rep saying to one of his colleagues that attendance at the Sony press conference was over 1600.
The Best of Innovations 2013 award for High Performance Audio went to the B&O Beoplay A9 digital loudspeaker ($2699), which offers wireless streaming via AirPlay and DLNA. The Beoplay A9 was on static display. It's an interesting-looking product, and I'd like to have a chance to listen to it. Maybe at the B&O press conference that's coming up on Tuesday. . .
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.
QAT Audio Technology is a Chinese company, whose principals have a wide range of interests, from bio-medical engineering to musical performance and composition, and their products aim at the highest level of performance. The QAT MS5 ($5990), which received the Best of Innovations 2013 award is a music server that includes a TEAC CD drive, 2 TB-capacity hard drives, and a tablet-style remote control.
The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 has nothing to do with audio, high-performance or otherwise, so it arguably doesn't belong in a Stereophile show report, but I'm assuming that some readers are gadget-philes as well as audiophiles. The AR.Drone 2.0 is a toy, but not "just" a toy: it has two cameras, so you can shoot aerial helicopter-type shots and view them live on your iPad. Wouldn't you have wanted one of these when you were a kid?