It was great to again encounter Andy Payor of Rockport Technologies and hear the stunning 200 lb Ankaa loudspeaker ($26,500/pair). Of all the speakers I heard on the first two days of T.H.E. Show, the Ankaa produced images so large and lifelike that it made other speakers (including several wonderful-sounding models I’ve already discussed) seem like pipsqueaks. I have no doubt that the expensive, neutral-sounding Gryphon Antileon Signature stereo amplifier ($31,000 for 150Wpc) and Mirage preamplifier ($25,000), as well as the debuting Purist Audio Design Proteus Provectus cabling had a lot to do with Andy's triumph. As he rather selflessly noted, "The real reason for a good image lies in the collaboration."
It's hardly the same as clicking your heels three times and finding yourself back in Kansas, but Stereophile's metaphoric Good Witch of the High End, John Atkinson, has granted me my big wish for CES. Instead of finding myself wandering around and around in circles, following my ears, I’ve been assigned specific turf: T.H.E. Show. And since T.H.E. Show’s two venues, the St. Tropez and adjacent Alexis Park, are literally across the street from our bloggers' home for four nights, the newly and quite tastefully refurbished, remarkably low-key Hyatt Place Las Vegas (formerly the AmeriSuites), yours truly could not be happier. The Sands/Venetian may have more–well-known, higher-profile players, and is certainly attracting more visitors, but I've entered a number of wonderful-sounding rooms on my first day at the St. Tropez to make me quite happy to be here.
One of the highlights of RMAF 2007 was encountering Lou Hinkley's Daedalus Audio Ulysses loudspeakers ($8800/pair) in the ART Audio room. Here, paired with Gill Audio Designs Alana preamp ($5000) and Elise DAC ($6000), an Ensemble transport, Clayton M-200 power amps ($9500/pair), and relatively inexpensive Empirical Design cabling, the system was arresting in its transparency and three-dimensionality.
The Jadis magic is hard to explain. But once you hear it, you can recognize it again and again. It has to do with the beauty of the midrange, the accuracy of timbres, and an inherent musicality that is less about detail than essence.
"What have you heard that’s good at THE Show?" I asked the fabulous Kara E. Chaffee of deHavilland Electronics. "I'm heading to Joe Cohen's The Lotus Group,” she replied. "I've been told I've got to hear the new Feastrex speakers."
Choose a door, any door. Confronted with three entirely different systems in the Norvinz room, for some reason I ignored my usual inclinations and moved to the far right. There I encountered veteran electrostatic guru Roger Sanders, formerly of Innersound, who now markets Sanders Sound Systems products online and through Norvinz.
Reference Recordings, the Bay Area-based audiophile label founded by John T. "Tam" Henderson in 1976, has adopted a unique approach to computer and music server playback. Later this month, the company will begin to market what they call "HRx" discs. Incompatible with conventional optical disc players, these are data discs containing WAV files intended for playback on computer-based music servers. Each HRx is a digit-for-digit copy of an original Reference Recordings 24-bit/176.4kHz digital master. The format is slated for audition during this week's CES. It can be heard in the TAD, FIM, and Magico rooms at the Venetian, as well as in On a Higher Note's Vivid/Luxman suite at the Mirage. Actual HRx discs will be available soon thereafter.
When Hong Kong–based music lover and electronics-equipment distributor Klaus Heymann (footnote 1), now 70, first began organizing classical-music concerts as a way to boost sales, he had no idea he would end up founding the world's leading classical-music label. But after starting a record-label import business and meeting his future wife, leading violinist Takako Nishizaki, the German-born entrepreneur sought a way to promote her artistry. First he founded the HK label, which specialized in Chinese symphonic music (including Nishizaki's recording of Butterfly Lovers, the famous violin concerto by Chen Gang). Next he established Marco Polo, a label devoted to symphonic rarities.
Starbucks, look out! ArkivMusic is on your tail. Just in time for the holidays, the Internet's major classical-music site has teamed up with the Canadian Brass to create ArkivMusic's first new recording, Christmas Tradition: Music for Brass and Organ. The CD, recorded for the Canadian Brass's own label, Opening Day (ODR 7345), includes music by composers who, over the years, have written some of the ensemble's favorite music and arrangements.
One year after the Consumer Electronics Show switched venues from the Alexis Park to The Venetian/Sands Expo and Convention Center, leaving "renegade" exhibitors at T.H.E. Show's less costly St. Tropez venue isolated from the rest of the action, both shows are back stronger than ever. CES's "high-performance audio" exhibits in the Venetian's Tower Suites have increased to 173 from 122, while T.H.E. Show has expanded to a total of 90 exhibit rooms in the Alexis Park and the St. Tropez.