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.
CES Unveiled, scheduled from 4:007:00 p.m. on the day before the Press Day, is an event that provides a preview of CES, giving exhibitors a chance to have press coverage before CES proper opens, and, similarly, allows attending members of the press to get an early start on their CES coverage. It's a kind of mini- (or micro-) CES, with products mostly on static display, and, given its size (small booths in a hotel ballroom) it cannot be representative of the giant entity that is CES. Still, for most of the CES press, CES Unveiled is the only game in town during that time, so you might as well attendand, who knows, maybe you'll see something interesting that's worth checking out further when CES opens. Based on previous experience, I knew there would be a long lineup, so I didn't go until after 5 o'clock. There was no lineup, but inside it was still crowded.
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?
It began when I reviewed the MartinLogan Montis loudspeaker (September 2012). The amplifiers I had to drive the pair of them were the PrimaLuna ProLogue Premier integrated ($2999), the Audiopax Mk.II (no longer available; the Mk.III costs $22,000), and the Simaudio Moon Evolution W-7 ($9000). The first two are tubed, with power in the 3040Wpc range; the solid-state Simaudio puts out 150Wpc. The Audiopax, which sounds great with my Avantgarde Uno Nanos, turned out to be not such a good match for the Montises: weak in dynamics, and too soft sounding. The PrimaLuna and the Simaudio were better overall, each with its strengths and weaknesses, though neither was ideal. I really liked the ProLogue Premier's tonal characteristics, and wondered what a higher-powered tube amp would sound like with the MartinLogans.
John Atkinson reviewed the Acapella High Violoncello II speakeran esoteric item with a horn-loaded midrange and ion tweetertwo years ago. His conclusion: "This admittedly expensive German speaker really is one of the finest-sounding speakers I have had the pleasure of using."
How expensive? $80,000/pair. Is that too much for you? Well, TAVES 2012 had a demo of the Acapella Violin 1, which is a "mere" $45,000/pair. In a system with Audio Research Reference electronics, the Acapella Violin 1s sounded magnificent.
The most expensive audio system at TAVES 2012 was in the main ballroom. With components from Burmester's Reference line, the total cost of the system was $500,000. That's according to the advance write-up in Canada HiFi magazine. At the show, I heard $600,000 mentioned as the price. But I guess that when you're at that level, what's an extra $100,000? The system was playing during the show and served as PA system for the concert by Cindy Gomez. How did it sound? On its own, not at the concert, it sounded very good indeed, especially considering the size of the room (huge) and the lack of acoustical treatment. At the concert, it sounded like it could have been any PA system.
Last year's TAVES involved a partnership of Suave Kajko and Simon Au, both from the Toronto area, as well as Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay, organizers of the well-established Montreal Salon Son & Image (SSI). Michel and Sarah also brought with them most of their staff from SSI. Suave and Simon were new to "show" business, so when it was announced that Michel and Sarah were not going to be involved in this year's show, there was some concern. Would these Torontonians have the élan, the savoir faire, the je ne sais quoi needed to run a show like TAVES.
The Audio Zone Eliminator speakers ($8900/pair) have a distinctly DIY look, aimed at providing maximum performance with no concession to decor. Bass and midrange are both horn-loaded, the bass using a reproduction of the Electro-Voice DX-15 driver, the midrange a Selenium D330 compression driver, and a Fostex supertweeter. Claimed sensitivity is an astonishing 120dB. The Audio Zone Eliminator is built to order. Audio Zone also offers a variety of amps and preamps (active and passive), at what seem like very reasonable prices (eg, 50W Op-Amp Integrated, $1595), all made in Canada.
Location, location, location. Although there are more factors that go into a successful audio/video show, unless the location and the venue are right, it's really an uphill battle. The organizers of the Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show recognized that unless the show is in location that's convenient and has a venue that's attractive, only the most devoted audio/videophiles will attend.
They got it right by selecting the King Edward Hotel, a luxury hotel in downtown Toronto, with many restaurants nearby, and also close to theaters. All right, so parking is expensive, but the King Edward is steps from the subway, so it's easily accessible by public transit.
One of my formative audiophile experiences was the first time I heard electrostatic speakers. I walked into an audio store and heard music played by a live jazz combo. But where were the musicians? I saw none, though I did notice a couple of room-divider panels in the part of the store where the music seemed to be coming from. Eventually, it dawned on me that these must be loudspeakersbut they sounded like no other speakers I'd ever heard, and nothing like the Advents I had at home.