2002 CES Day Two

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) officially opened today, Tuesday, and the SACD press conference put together by Sony and Philips started the day. Sony's Shizuo Takashino opened the presentation by explaining the three-phase rollout for the high-resolution format. Phases one and two, represented by the release of high-end and multi-disc SACD players, are now complete he said, with phase three launching at the show. As Takashino said, "This year is the true beginning of the mass-marketing of SACD."

Current hardware manufacturers for SACD now include Marantz, Classé, Accuphase, Pioneer, Sony, and Philips. Takashino announced that products will be arriving shortly from dCS, Linn, Luxman, Lindemann, Denon, Kenwood, Onkyo, and Yamaha. Software is now manufactured by 40 independent labels according to Philips' Guy Demuynck, with over 600 titles released so far, and 75-80% of those in multichannel surround sound. Universal's Larry Kenswil reiterated his label's support of SACD, and promised to begin distribution of titles in the next few months. Already slotted for SACD re-release are albums from John Coltrane, The Allman Brothers, and Muddy Waters, in addition to more recent works.

Most refreshing was the matter-of-fact presentation from Tower Record's Russ Solomon, who admits openly that 2001 was a flat year for music, and hopes SACD will give sales a boost. Solomon says he hopes folks will replace their CDs with SACDs "just like they replaced LPs with CDs. Even with CDs, something is still lost in the process of getting music from the recording studio to the player. This is not the case with SACD." He added, however, his frustration that new SACD releases "are coming too slow."

After the SACD presentation, we strolled the floor of the main convention center and south hall spotting a significant number of high-end audio companies making the jump from their traditional stomping grounds at the Alexis Park to the main consumer and home theater arenas.

PS Audio was demonstrating their new 150 Wpc hybrid class-A (HCA-1) power amp, which features what the company describes as a "revolutionary new input voltage-gain stage," and retails for $1495. For the output stage, PS says the amp relies on its newly developed Super Digital Amplifier Technology (SDAT) which is intended to solve the problem of varying load impedance. Also on hand in the PS booth was a mock-up of the company's forthcoming Classic 250 Dual Mono Reference Standard amp, sporting 250Wpc for $3995.

Other vendors in the south hall included Krell, Meridian, JMlab, Primare, Pro-Ject, KEF, Adcom, SLS, Kimber Kable, Parasound, Tact Audio, XLO, and Linn. Linn had a couple of new audio products on display including the flagship Klimax preamp which is expected to ship sometime around July at $10,000. Also on hand is the Klimax Twin 125Wpc amplifier at $9000, and the $3000 Classik Movie System featuring CD/DVD playback, AM/FM tuner, 6x75Wpc watts/4 ohms power amp, multiroom capability, and a choice of five colors.

Amphony is exhibiting what it says is the world's first 2.4GHz digital wireless headphones which use a proprietary technology to transmit digital audio at 3Mbps from a stationary transmitter to one or more sets of portable headphones. The company's Gunter Fellbaum explains, "Since we transmit audio digitally, noise and audio distortion, which are the major drawbacks of existing 900MHz analog systems, are absent from our designs. Further, since we can transmit at a data rate of over 3Mbps, we were able to avoid having to compress the audio which would have resulted in audio degradation similar to MP3 compressed audio. The high data rate also allowed us to implement an intelligent error correction scheme which is able to correct transmission errors to guarantee reliable error-free reception even under difficult conditions." Amphony's Model 1000 headphones will have a retail price of $129, and additional headphones will be $79.