Toward the end of the final day in Las Vegas, I found Kalman Rubinson entranced by the sound of Shirley Horn singing and playing piano in the Audio Research room at T.H.E. Show. A pair of the new Mk.2 version of the Wilson Sophia speakers was being driven by ARC's Reference 210 monoblocks, a Reference 3 line stage, the Minnesota company's new Ref CD7 player, with cables from Shunyata and Cardas and AC conditioning by Richard Gray. I was equally entranced.
Codenamed "ML-DVD" during its development, the Mark Levinson No.51 Media Player made its debut at CES. The $18,000, limited-edition player (only 150 will be offered for sale) is intended to get all there is to be gotten from CDs and DVD-Vs, but pointedly will not play SACDs or DVD-As (though it will, of course, play the video-zone Dolby Digital tracks of the latter). I listened to the No.51 in a system comprising the Mark Levinson No.40 controller, the new No.433 three-channel amplifier for the LCR speakers (a pair of Revel F52s and a C32) and a No.431 two-channel amp for the Revel M22 rears, along with two Revel F15 subs. Whether it was two-channel music—Greg Browne's "Who Killed Cock Robin?", which was everywhere at the Show—or film surround sound—Pleasantville—there was an addictive ease to the system's sound, coupled with extraordinary dynamic range.
In our forthcoming February issue, I review the 5.2 loudspeaker from Genesis Technologies. Like many Arnie Nudell designs, the 5.2 demands a lot of current from the partnering amplifier. (See, for example, my 1989 measurements of Arnie's classic IRS Beta design.) I was impressed, therefore, to hear the 5.2s being driven to great effect on a track from singer Jacintha by Genesis' new i60 60Wpc integrated tube amplifier. Made in China, with design input from veteran amplifier maven Bascom King, the i60 uses KT88s and will cost $3495. Rather than show the normal frontal shot of the amp, I photographed the hard-wired circuit, which impressed the heck out of me with its superb craftsmanship.
A product that impressed me last year was OliveMedia Products' Symphony music server. The size and appearance of a conventional CD player, the Symphony incorporates an 80GB hard drive and a WiFi hub so that it can act as a music-file server, all for just $899. I wrote my positive impressions of the Symphony with its digital output driving my high-end rig in our mid-November eNewsletter, so I checked out Olive at CES. The company was demonstrating the new Opus, which increases the HD size to 400GB and uses a high-end D/A section. The Opus will be available mid-February for $2999.
The CES's "Innovations" exhibit at the Sands Convention Center is intended to honor the most technologically advanced and ground-breaking consumer electronic products at the Show. Most of the display cases were still waiting to be populated on set-up day (though we spotted B&W's cute cylindrical subwoofer as well as Krell's Dean Roumanis wheeling in some big boxes). But some of the choices for an award raised our eyebrows, as with this robot intended to train boxers in the comfort of their own homes. Stereophile's Stephen Mejias strikes a suitably pugilistic pose.
As a reader pointed out, missing from Wes Phillips' coverage of Wednesday's Thiel CS3.7 press conference was a picture of the new speaker. Here it is, pictured with Jim Thiel waxing lyrical about his new midrange diaphragm.
As more than 100,000 visitors fly in to Las Vegas for the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, I thought I'd post this shot of an empty Alexis Park Hotel, home of the high-end audio exhibits, on the last day of the 2005 Show. Tomorrow, this joint will be jumping!
In his January "Sam's Space" column, while writing about the system he used with Sutherland's Director line stage (p.32), Sam Tellig wrote "For the most part, I used now-discontinued XLO interconnects and speaker cables. XLO itself has been discontinued, alas. I do miss its founder, Roger Skoff."
English digital audio company dCS has announced a major change in its management and ownership structure. David Steven, marketing manager for the last four years, has purchased the majority shareholding in the company. Derek Fuller, who was the business manager, has left the company, while Mike Story, dCS's founder, will continue as chief digital designer. A dCS press release says that the change should result in "products and programs that have a much more customer-centric focus."
Michael Fremer's review of the AudioPhysic Caldera III loudspeaker in this issue (p.81) reminded me of a subject I have written about many times in the past: what happens when a manufacturer submits a faulty sample for review. I formalized Stereophile's policy on this matter in late 1988, following both an unfortunate series of reviews in which the samples either arrived broken or broke during the auditioning, and my learning about how much went on behind closed doors at other audio magazines, where reviewers and editors too often appeared to collude with manufacturers.1 I wrote back then that: