Consumer Electronics Show, January 10, 1999

The last day at CES is low-key. Displays at the Las Vegas Convention center are already being broken down by mid-day, and many attendees have already left.

So things were quiet at the Alexis Park, except for the last-minute scrambling of bag-toting journalists trying to see the demonstrations they missed. Shannon Dickson wandered by, looking dazed. "I should have trained for this," he said. "Walked miles every day with a cinder block in each hand." We know the feeling, having spent nearly a week trudging thither and yon, computer in one hand, bag o' literature in the other. Can we hire Sherpas for next year's Show?

Induction Dynamic demonstrated its largish 1D-1, a two-way loudspeaker plus subwoofer in a single cabinet. This unusual design features two 15" drivers in a vented push-pull configuration. Bulging beneath the removable grille is one of the drivers, reverse-mounted on the outside of the cabinet. Yes, the magnet and basket face outward. The 1D-1 goes low enough to set Sheetrock walls in motion, if you were wondering. Spokesmen said the company has recently been granted a patent for a new crossover design. How many ways are there to configure capacitors, coils, and resistors?

Such a deal: "$100,000 speakers for $25,000." That's not an end-of-show bargain, but a line from a Wisdom Audio brochure, whose Adrenaline Line Source impressed listeners at T.H.E. Show next door. Not far away was Albuquerque's Champlain Valley Speaker Company, previously unknown to us, whose $3000 Tachion 2.5 shows promise. The company also makes the $4500/pair Copernicus, a small two-way speaker with a poured-acrylic Corian cabinet. The manufacturer's literature compares them to B&W's 800 and 801 and to Shahinian's $4700 Diapason, something we could not verify.

Singapore's Diva Classic Audio had some affordable, retro-styled tube amps and preamps on display. The power amps have input connectors on the front "for the shortest possible signal path," in the manner of the classic old Dynaco Stereo 70. The amps are not class-A designs, something Diva dismisses as offering "no sonic advantages." Legend Audio Design of Berkeley, California believes quite the opposite. Its Triode 200 SE boasts 200W of class-A output power into a 4-ohm load. The $28,000 set consists of two huge tube power supplies and two matching amplifiers in machined aluminum cages. DC is derived via mercury-vapor rectifiers, output via single industrial power tubes. You gotta have plenty of real estate and a good air-conditioner to use these babies.

British hi-fi stalwart Castle Acoustics Limited shared a suite with Arcam, whose Alpha 10 integrated amplifier graced the cover of a recent Stereophile. Castle has a striking new line of loudspeakers, the Inversion Series, whose stylistic theme is a gradual taper from top to bottom. "It's only a two degree slope," said a company rep, "but it's enough to give the speaker a really arresting shape"---not to mention dealing effectively with internal standing waves. We listened to a music video through Castle's 5.1 surround system and thought it thoroughly enjoyable. The small hotel room was a tad cramped, keeping the soundfield underdeveloped. The full system, at about $8k, warrants investigating by music lovers who like retro-modern style. Estimated arrival time in showrooms is about six weeks from now.

Totem Acoustics' $11,000/pair Shaman sounded absolutely glorious driven by AudioPrism's big Mana monoblocks. The Mana can drive separate speakers simultaneously from its various output-transformer taps, according to Byron Collett: a 4-ohm subwoofer here, an 8-ohm full-range there. We were treated to the latest in AC noise suppression by Victor Tiscareno, whose WaveGuide noise damper clamps around power cords.

The improvement in detail and dynamics---in an already superb reproduction---impressed even the Shaman's designer, Vincent Bruzzese. We aren't crazy! Stereophile's Bob Deutsch, Brian Damkroger, and a half-dozen other audionuts were there---they heard it too.

Oracle's ominous black CD transport, in an adjacent room, was one of the most beautiful creations at this Show. It looks like a small alien spacecraft. "Industrial design has never been Oracle's weak point," Brian observed.

Kimber Kable, also known for stunning designs, has introduced a new series of speaker cables that promise to bring the music into focus: the Monocle, for standard loudspeakers; the BiFocal, for biwiring; and the TriFocal for triwire applications. KK is promoting this line as "the most intimate union of amplifier and loudspeaker"---something BW attests to, after a recent audition of the Sonus Faber Amati Homage driven by Bow Technologies electronics through very long lengths of Monocle cables. "Amazing," he gasped.