After encountering booths of so many manufacturers I had never heard of, I got some comfort from seeing a familiar name from the world of audio: Velodyne. Well known for their subwoofers, Velodyne has entered the highly competitive earphone market. Their new $90 Vpulse's claim to fame isyou guessed itexceptionally powerful bass performance. Velodyne's David Short was most enthusiastic about it, and told me that although Velodyne is not about to go out of the subwoofer business, they're working on a wide range of headphones.
Everybody wants to get into the act. Pro Audio manufacturer Behringer had several iPod/iPhone audio accessories, including the nifty Soundscape Air ($129), which features wireless speakers (good for up to 8 hours of playing, up to 150 feet from the base unit) that utilize inductive (ie, wireless) charging.
The Best of Innovations winner in the Headphones category was the Sonomax eers ™ earphones, described as "the world's only custom-fitted earphones that can be fitted in 4 minutes, [offering] incomparable sound isolation, fidelity and comfort."
The 2012 Best of Innovations award in the High Performance Home Audio category went to the Devialet D-Premier DAC/preamp/amp. It also got the award for Most Difficult to Photograph Audio Product. Note the reflection of my badge, intended to show that this is not just a manufacturer-provided photograph. Devialet is distributed in North America by Audio Plus Services and Stereophile has just received a sample for review.
The first major press event at CES, scheduled to start at 4 pm on the day before the Press Day, is something called CES Unveiled, described as "a pre-show look at who will be making news headlines before the show officially opens...catch all the latest products in one room." This description is a bit...well...exaggerated. The exhibitors are mostly small companies, with no representation from heavy hitters like Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, etc. The high-performance audio companies also pass on it.
This photo should give you an idea of what it was like once inside. And, yes, camera fans, that's a Canon DSLR with what looks like a big L-series lens, being held up above the crowd. Which brings up another point about why there were more people at this year's CES Unveiled: this year, PMA, the photoimaging manufacturers' association, has joined CESthey call it PMA@CESso in addition to the consumer electronics press there are also the photo equipment journalists.
You know about them: audio products or tweaks that fall outside the standard definition of audio component. They're not source components like CD players, not amplifiers or preamplifiers, not loudspeakers, not power-line conditioners or cablesand, if aimed at modifying room acoustics, they're not the standard devices that absorb or disperse sound. Let's call them Unorthodox Audio Products (UAPs). They promise a kind of audio panacea: something that fixes whatever's wrong with the sound of your system.
I must admit that, for a long time, I found it difficult to accept the idea that a major portion of one's audio budget should be spent on the preamplifier. Speakers, yesthey produce the sound; amps drive the speakers, so they're important. And source components? Well, everyone knows it's garbage in/garbage out. But a preamp? Even the name suggests something that's not quite the real thing, like pre-school, pre-med, or premature. Unlike amplifiers, they don't have to contend with loads that sometimes approach a short circuit, and heat dissipation is not normally a problem. What's the big deal?