CES 2004: Opening Day

The show started slowly at the Alexis Park Hotel, since many exhibitors were still setting up and tuning systems as the gates opened at 10am. We ducked into the Gryphon room and discovered the company's new flagship speaker making its first public appearance. Called the "Project 30" until a more formal name is selected, the imposing four-way system consists of two mid/high-range towers and two powered woofer towers. Each woofer tower sports a built-in 600W amplifier and is reported to reach down to 16Hz. The system is claimed to have a 94dB efficiency rating and will be available before the summer at a projected price of around $120,000 in the US.

TAD had the production version of its impressive Model 1 loudspeaker on display. We were favorably impressed with the very dynamic sound coming out of the prototypes at last year's show, and the company's Andrew Jones explained that they've tweaked only a few items in the tweeter mount and crossover for the final release. The frequency response of the unique beryllium tweeter extends out to 100k, Jones said. Retail is $45,000/pair.

The Model 1 is joined by the CCM-1 center channel and CM-1 compact surround.

More new speaker announcements: Verity Audio had the new "Encore" version of the $12,000 Fidelio on display, along with the new flagship Sarastro ($30,000/pair) and Tamino Monitor ($4000/pair), both hitting the market in early February.

Penaudio had the Chara+Charisma ($5500/pr) and Chara+Rebel2 ($4000/pair) set up with both models consisting of diminutive midrange/tweeter monitors mounted on accompanying woofer/stands. The company says its mission is to promote "auditional wellbeing."

Rarely do we see new models from Vandersteen, so it was a treat to see the new four-way Quatro on display. The speaker stands 43" high, and possesses a frequency response of 24Hz–30kHz ±2dB. It will will hit dealer showrooms this spring for $6500/pair.

Proac was making beautiful music in its room. It announced two new models: the dual-woofer Response D38 at $8000/pair and the Response D25 at $5000/pair.

Wadia was back this year with the brand new 921 "decoding computer" serving as a DAC and a digital preamp. The 921 should appear at Wadia dealers near the end of February for somewhere between $20,000–$30,000 and has both PCM and DSD decoding capability. General Manager Paul McNeill says that a new transport should appear by mid-year that will play SACD and CD discs. Also new from Wadia this year is the 302 CD player, based on a Philips transport and falling somewhere between $3500 and $4000 retail.

Muse had the new Model Eleven universal player on hand, which is slated for release at around $4000 in early spring. The base unit is a two-channel machine, with a multichannel upgrade available for around $400. Bel Canto also had a new version of its PL-1 universal disc player, the PL-1a. The new model will cost several thousand dollars less then the $8900 PL-1 and will omit the more expensive player's DCDi video circuitry. Bel Canto was also showing a new two-channel preamp based on the same topology as their multichannel Pre-6. The Pre-2 will retail between $2500 and $3500. It will feature two pairs of both balanced and single-ended outputs and will accommodate an optional phono section that allows capacitance, resistance, and gain settings to be adjusted by remote.