The vendor display at THE Show was up and going strong throughout the four days. Classic Records, who clearly didn't want to attract any attention, joined Acoustic Sounds, Chesky, Elusive Disc, HDtracks.com, MA Recordings, Music Direct, Reference Recordings, themusic.com, Ultra Systems, Truextent, Quality Rare Records, and Parts Express.
The outboarding THE Show, run by the affable Richard Beers, was held for the first time at the Flamingo Hotel on the Strip, two Las Vegas blocks from CES’s “High-Performance” venue, the Venetian. In previous years, THE Show had been held at the St. Tropez Resort, then the Alexis Park, but Richard now has a multi-year contract with the Flamingo. I estimated THE Show had representation from a good 110 manufacturers. One of the big draws was actually outside the Flamingo's back door, where Panasonic was demming HD-3D TV in a huge trailer. It's rumored that some die-hard two-channel audiophiles snuck into the trailer trying to mask the same guilty expressions that they carried to the porno exhibit in the Sands Convention Center.
I always look forward to Peter Ledermann's analog demos, because the sound of his cartridges, electronics, and speakers is consistently delicious. While it certainly was this time around, some surprising booming in the basssomething I do not recall hearing at any previous SoundSmith demoalerted me to the fact that the small rooms at THE Show, situated on the fourth floor of the Flamingo Hotel, were a bitch to control.
Two of my colleagues had waxed so enthusiastic about the Vienna Acoustics The Music loudspeaker ($27,000/pair), showcased in the huge Sumiko suite on the 34th floor, that I had to take a listen for myself. Sources were the Wadia 781 CD player and Project Xtension turntable ($6000) with Sumiko Palisantos Presentation cartridge ($3500), feeding an Aesthetix Calypso linestage, Aesthetix Io phono preamp, and Aesthetix Atlas amplifier. Also heard was a pair of REL G1 subwoofers ($3995 each), all connected by a mix of Transparent Audio and OCOS cabling.
On the fourth floor of THE Show, Tim Ryan of Simpli-Fi was demming the Gradient Helsinki 5.1 loudspeaker ($6500/pair, down from $8000 a year ago). This weird-looking loudspeaker produces anything but weird sound. Designed to avoid reflections from the sidewalls and floor, it has 85dB sensitivity, a nominal 6 ohm impedance, and a frequency range of 200Hz20kHz.
In the Laufer-Teknik room, I had the opportunity to audition the Ascendo C8 loudspeaker ($9800/pair) with stand. This three-way includes a rear-firing ribbon tweeter and upward-firing, internal woofer, and has a specified sensitivity of 88dB
In the middle of the King's Audio room sat the omni-directional King Tower ($4500/pair). The speaker was created specifically because, according to the distributor, there was no affordable omni on the market. Paired with same substandard cabling as was the King's Audio Prince II electrostat, a $99 Philips CD player, and the mbl Noble series 4004 preamp and 8011 monoblocks, the speakers sounded quite promising. This is a speaker that needs a better source component and better cabling to fully demonstrate what it can do.
One of the many delights of CES was running into Neil Sinclair, former owner of Theta Digital, in the hallways of the Venetian. In answer to my question, "What would you recommend I check out?" Neil led me to the King's Audio suite.
It was a case of Johnny Hartmann the third time over. In the room shared by Hansen and Tenor Audio, my third encounter with Hartmann's vocalism at CES 2010 came via a CD transfer of a 1964 recording. Happily, the CD retained much of the vocal richness of the two Hartmann LPs I had heard earlier in the show.