As I was heading out dazed from the Sennheiser headphone experience, Dynaudio’s Mike Manousselis invited me to briefly listen to their demo. In the middle of the Convention Center’s huge South Hall, and at a reasonable volume level that did not attempt to drown out the ubiquitous din, a very cool Patricia Barber had claimed the space as her own. Abetted by a Wadia player and Simaudio amplification, speakers that I think were the Focus 360Mike, help me out here; I hadn’t yet come down to earth from the Sennheiserswere doing a marvelous job of filling the space with inviting sound. If anything could entice me to transition from Richard Strauss’ Alpine heights to Patricia Barber’s sensual coolness, it was this speaker/electronics combo.
Tara Labs has so many levels of cables that factory manager Matthew Sellars, who assists designer Matthew Bond with cable design and oversees implementation, had to draw a four-tiered chart just to explain where the company's newest offerings fall in the Tara Labs hierarchy. That may be an exceedingly long opening sentence. But so is Tara Labs' product list.
Jim Aud of Purist Audio Design has released several new products. The diminutive Digital Isolation Adapter ($300) plugs into the S/PDIF output of a CD transport or music server with then the RCA digital cable that connects the transport and DAC plugged into it. The Adapter is claimed to electrically isolate the transport to the DAC, reduce jitter via control of the 75 ohm impedances, and reduce EMI/RF noise.
"We are your one-stop shop for cables and tweaks," proclaimed Joseph Cohen of The Lotus Group, while leading me through two rooms filled products. Even the new products took up two pages of notes. Through it all, I remained extremely jealous of legendary mastering engineer Steve Hoffman, who had settled onto a couch in front of the fabulous Feastrex $55,000/pair speakers, and was blissfully tapping his foot to the extremely realistic, full-range sound of a jazz combo playing back on a A Feastrex modified EMT studio type CD player with outboard line transformer.
"Do you have a low-cost amplifier that Stereophile hasn't reviewed that you'd like people to know about?" I asked VTL's glamorous Bea Lam. With a grace and surety usually reserved for Vannah White, the incomparable Ms. Lam glided over to the diminutive VTL ST-85 Performance Amplifier ($2750).
Want to hear silver turn to platinum? Check out Wireworld's new line of Platinum Eclipse Reference audio cables, whose interconnects are composed of four flat conductors made of Ohno continuous cast solid silver of 99.99997% purity.
Sam Laufer of Laufer Teknik has become the US manufacturer and distributor of Bybee Wire and the distributor of the Bybee Power Purifier ($4500) that is manufactured by Transparent. Here he's pictured holding the new Bybee wire, which contains the equivalent of three Bybee Golden Goddess Speaker Bullets. While I haven't tried the wire, I have two sets of Bullets on each of my reference speaker inputs, and am continually startled by their ability to clarify and refine low-level bass detail. I never, ever thought I could get this much bass clarity from my speakers, especially from closely spaced, multiple parallel lines of double basses and cellos.
Clarity Cable of Wichita, KS had a neat little demo going at T.H.E. Show. Rather than pairing their single cable line and new Clarity Audio Pillows with high-priced electronics, they intentionally chose inexpensive mass-market electronics. With a twist. The Infinity Beta 50 speakers were rewired with Clarity wire. (You can also find Clarity wire in MaxxHorn speakers). The CD player was a Panasonic DMP-BD30 with a flimsy chassis, etc. Yet the sound was impressively full-range and inviting.
I love this stuff. Ultra System's Robert Stein (pictured right with Bernd Alne of HiFi-Tuning left) greeted me with an entire array of 12 audio enhancement products, a host of which are just entering the US market. One that will surely attract Michael Fremer's attention is the Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner. This German wonder, which retails for $3495, delivers the world's first, fully automatic ultrasonic as well as mechanical LP cleaning bath. The baby treats both sides of an LP to an ultrasonic cleaning, then to a liquid bath, and finally to a blow dry. The only services it doesn't offer are tints and highlights.
When John Atkinson requested that I check out the new state-of-the-art Sennheiser HD 800 headphones ($1399.95), which will debut next month, I dreaded descending into the madness of the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Little did I know that instead of encountering an impossible throng of tech-crazed computer geeks, I would have my peak sonic experience of CES 2009.