As I said in an earlier blog posting, I was sufficiently intrigued by B&O's single-cabinet stereo speaker at the CES Unveiled event that I made a note to myself to check it out later. The opportunity presented itself in the form of a B&O press conference. The press conference did not involve any demonstrations of sound, but when the press conference was concluded I managed to prevail on Henrik Taudorf Lorensen, CEO of B&O's PLAY division, to give me a demonstration of the A9. The setting was not ideal, with no attempt at optimal positioning of the speaker, but the speaker certainly had a smooth, room-filling sound. I continue to be intrigued by this product. The A9 looks more like a satellite dish than a speaker, and is sure to be a conversation piece. B&O also has some new wireless speakers that are more conventional-looking, such as the BeoLab 12-1 ($2950/pair), pictured here.
"Head Monster" Noel Lee is known as a shrewd, successful businessman, but I think that if he had taken a different career path he could have made a great evangelist. His CES press conferences have very much feeling of revival meetings, and, like an evangelist, he works hard at whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Given the largely skeptical audience of media representatives, Lee is not always successful in this, but you certainly can't fault his enthusiasm. (Consumer electronics journalists are a tough crowd.)
The Sony press conference is arguably the most prestigious at CESand the largest. It would have been even larger if Sony did not have the policy of allowing only select invited members of the media to attend. Having a Press badge by itself does not guarantee admission. Even so, I overheard a Sony rep saying to one of his colleagues that attendance at the Sony press conference was over 1600.
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.
The Best of Innovations 2013 award for High Performance Audio went to the B&O Beoplay A9 digital loudspeaker ($2699), which offers wireless streaming via AirPlay and DLNA. The Beoplay A9 was on static display. It's an interesting-looking product, and I'd like to have a chance to listen to it. Maybe at the B&O press conference that's coming up on Tuesday. . .
QAT Audio Technology is a Chinese company, whose principals have a wide range of interests, from bio-medical engineering to musical performance and composition, and their products aim at the highest level of performance. The QAT MS5 ($5990), which received the Best of Innovations 2013 award is a music server that includes a TEAC CD drive, 2 TB-capacity hard drives, and a tablet-style remote control.
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?
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.
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.