CES 2014

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Jon Iverson  |  Jan 14, 2014  |  0 comments
Nagra is not a company known to throw a few products together each year, and instead create their precision-machined wonders at a glacial pace befitting their Swiss heritage. As their press release states: "Introduction of new models follows a strict procedure at Nagra. A new product is considered worthy of appearing in the catalog once it brings a true improvement in sonic reproduction." More than one person asked if I had been up to the Nagra suite near the top of the Mirage hotel to see the new DAC.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 19, 2014  |  9 comments
Though English manufacturer Naim Audio has had some very affordable products in their line, like the original Nait integrated amplifier from the mid-1980s, their reputation for sound quality was established with relatively expensive models. But nothing in the company’s history prepared me for the Naim Statement six-piece preamplifier/twin monoblock system (center in photo) that made its debut at CES. To be available in July, the Statement, which comprises the NAC S1 line preamplifier and two NAP S1 power amplifiers, will be priced at $200,000 and is specified as delivering one horsepower (740W) into 8 ohms! Its weight matches its power: the preamp weighs 135 lbs and the power amplifiers each weigh 222 lbs.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 17, 2014  |  13 comments
When I interviewed Thiel’s new owner Bill Thomas (right in photo) at the 2013 CES, he was bullish about the company’s future. However, I felt that future was going to be dependent on whom Bill hired to head up the Kentucky company’s engineering team. At the 2014 CES, Bill introduced me to that person, Mark Mason (left), who had come to Thiel from PSB, where he had worked alongside veteran speaker engineer Paul Barton. Bill and Mark are flanking the new TT3 speaker, which is intended to replace the CS3.7 as the company’s flagship when it comes to market in the late summer. Bill feels that with Mark now leading the engineering, Thiel can be taken to a larger customer base.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 12, 2014  |  0 comments
Korg showed a pair of DSD-capable DACs that work with their well-known AudioGate software, the DS-DAC-100 ($599) and, above, the DS-DAC-100m ($350). They are similar in technology and support up to 24/192 PCM and DSD at 2.8224 and 5.6448MHz. Using AudioGate, all audio formats, including MP3, are up-converted to 5.6448MHz DSD in the computer for transmission to the DACs. The bigger DS-DAC-100 sports RCA and XLR outputs in addition to a standard 6.3mm headphone jack while the more portable DS-DAC-100m has 3.5mm outputs for both line and headphone applications.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 14, 2014  |  0 comments
I cadged a copy of the hot-off-the press February 2014 issue from the Stereophile room to read Bob Reina's enthusiastic review of the Epos Elan 10 loudspeaker, then headed over to Music Hall to find out what's new. The affable Roy Hall showed me some very new Epos speakers, the first ones designed under the leadership of Luke Creek. The bookshelf K1 ($795/pair, above) and the floorstanding K2 ($1750/pair) were striking in gloss white with exposed black drivers and a slotted port just beneath them. Compared to the more traditional Epos designs, these stood out visually but, although less expensive than the Elans, they sounded like members of the family.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 14, 2014  |  0 comments
SVS showed two new subwoofers, both based on a newly-developed 12" driver that features dual ferrite magnets, a reinforced Nomex spider, a long-throw rubber surround and tinsel leads integrated into the cone to eliminate tinsel slap and improve reliability. Each is also powered by a amplifier, the Sledge STA-500, rated at 500W continuous and it incorporates a DSP engine with an array of filters, controls for volume, gain and phase as well as a frequency-dependent limiter/compressor to control driver behavior. Both driver and amp come in a compact sealed design, the SB-2000 ($699, right above) with a FR of 19-240Hz and in a larger, more powerful ported design, the PB-2000 ($799, left above). During a brief audition, even the smaller SB-2000 seemed more than capable of filling the demo room with powerful, tight bass.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 12, 2014  |  0 comments
The name Tannoy is, of course, synonymous with "Dual Concentric" and their classic designs were in full display and demonstration. Off to the side, however, they were showing their new Precision range of more affordable designs, which are based on a new implementation of the Dual Concentric concept in a 6" driver that incorporates a wide-band tweeter.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  3 comments
On first glimpse, Nola’s Carl Marchisotto appeared to be demming the same Concert Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers he had shown at the 2013 CES. However, those were the preproduction protypes and the 2014 show featured the production version. Costing the same $197,000/pair, the speaker features a new ribbon supertweeter taking the response up to 100kHz and two new Gold Technology woofers operating below 40Hz. Driven by an Audio Research Reference 75 stereo amplifier and an Audio Research Reference 10 preamp, with source two United Home Audio Tape decks running 15ips, 2-track analog tape and hooked up with Nordost Odin cabling, the sound in this room had an impressive, full-range sweep that usefully loosened up as the show progressed and the speakers/system broke in.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 08, 2014  |  1 comments
Axiss Distribution was on hand to display new products from Olasonic including a CD transport and DAC (shown in photo). Axiss' Arturo Manzano explained that Olasonic is a Japanese company comprised of ex-Sony engineers who had worked on SACD development. The products are made in China and come in white or black finishes while retailing for $800 each.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 13, 2014  |  0 comments
As I walked into "The Hi-Res Audio Experience" ballroom, I scanned the room and noted several high resolution audio vendors along the walls. Then I noticed an odd symmetry to the arrangement: the PCM distributors and labels were lined up on the left, while all of the DSD folks were lined up on the right.

I was wishing this wasn't symptomatic of greater divisions between the two HD audio worlds, but when someone in a DSD booth asked if I'd be back for the big PCM vs DSD battle the next day, with a gleeful glint in his eye, I realized this might be shaping up as a format war after all. I sure hope not.

Jon Iverson  |  Jan 13, 2014  |  0 comments
The DSD exhibitors included Native DSD Music, Blue Coast Music and representatives for Acoustic Sounds new download web site: Super Hi-Rez. In all fairness it should be pointed out that Super Hi-Rez offers both DSD and PCM HD downloads, though the numbers of titles seem heavily weighted towards DSD at this point.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 15, 2014  |  0 comments
"One touch," that’s all it takes for you to enjoy your music, said B&O CEO Teo Mantoni, introducing the Danish company’s BeoSound Essence music-streaming system to the press at CES, and compared that one-touch solution to the current compendium of 10 swipes and presses that you need to playback a Spotify playlist from your smartphone. Mr. Mantoni is holding the elegant Essence Remote in his hand; a ring around the small aluminum puck controls volume and play/pause, forward and backward buttons are embedded on the top. The circular puck is available as wall-mount and desktop versions, and a remote box both connects to the playback system and is the center for AirPlay streaming, DLNA streaming, Spotify Connect, QPlay and Internet radio stations.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 19, 2014  |  0 comments
“A kiss back to Sony,” was how Nelson Pass described the debut of a unique pair of Pass Labs monoblocks driving Sony’s SS-AR1 speakers in the Sony room at Venetian. And it was an affectionate kiss indeed—the sound in this room, with a Pass Labs XP-20 preamplifier and Sony’s HA-P1ZES media player, I thought one of the best of the 2014 CES. Yes, it had superb clarity and dynamics, with an impossibly low noisefloor on the 24/176.4k Reference Recordings file of Stravinsky’s Firebird, but these qualities were even apparent on a Red Book file of a Rossini opera excerpt. There was something just right about the sound.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 14, 2014  |  1 comments
Before I learned a thing about Pass Labs' new .8 Series of amplifiers, which is designed as the new bridge between the company's current .5 and XS Series, Pass's Kent English welcomed me to listen to the Impex Records LP transfer of an RCA Red Seal 1958 mono recording of Beethoven's Violin Sonata No.8 with Jascha Heifetz and Emanuel Bey. (Only 2000 LPs were pressed, and this was number 1244.) Wow! The clarity and believability of the presentation were phenomenal. Bey's piano was recorded far too distant, but the layered complexity of the sound of Heifetz's violin was mesmerizing. All that audiophile talk about hearing the sound of the rosin on the bow had never before seemed as real as when I auditioned this recording. And the presentation was musical to boot!
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 08, 2014  |  0 comments
Having had a Meridian Sooloos in my system for the last few years, I'm a sucker for a nice big touch screen for controlling a music collection. Done right, there's nothing like it. So I made a beeline to the $9,995 Pathos Musiteca, which I first observed in prototype form at a previous CES.

Very similar in features to Meridian's Control 15, with built in 1TB drive, CD slot for ripping discs and network connection for gathering metadata, the Musiteca also has a built in tube DAC based on the design for the company's Endorphin CD player.

The Musiteca has beautiful styling, however when I started tapping the screen and calling up music, I found it a bit pokey in the speed department. Also, there is currently no method for adding more hard drive space in case you exceed the roughly 2,000 CD storage capacity.

Still, it looks gorgeous sitting there and should be available in April.