CES 2010

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Erick Lichte  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  10 comments
As I wandered the halls looking for the next audio fix, a friendly voice with a thick Swedish accent called out to me. Since I'm pretty new at the magazine, I wondered who might be calling out my name let alone who might be calling out name that's from Scandinavia. It turned out it was Timo Engstrom, the maker of The Lars two-chassis, tube integrated amplifier that Art Dudley wrote about in June 2009. Somehow Timo read my badge and knew I was covering amplification at CES for Stereophile—he must have good eyes. He invited me in to have a listen to the Lars.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  3 comments
Two of my colleagues had waxed so enthusiastic about the Vienna Acoustics The Music loudspeaker ($27,000/pair), showcased in the huge Sumiko suite on the 34th floor, that I had to take a listen for myself. Sources were the Wadia 781 CD player and Project Xtension turntable ($6000) with Sumiko Palisantos Presentation cartridge ($3500), feeding an Aesthetix Calypso linestage, Aesthetix Io phono preamp, and Aesthetix Atlas amplifier. Also heard was a pair of REL G1 subwoofers ($3995 each), all connected by a mix of Transparent Audio and OCOS cabling.
Erick Lichte  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  4 comments
Rogue Audio was also showing off the yet-to-be-released Ares phono preamplifier. The preamp can be run in all-tube or hybrid tube/solid-state to allow it to work with any cartridge you might want to throw at it. Mark O'Brien told me he was completing the design as recently as two weeks ago. The Ares will retail for $1995 and will start shipping at the end of June 2010.
Erick Lichte  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  4 comments
Every time I see a Nagra piece I get lust in my heart, Jimmy Swaggart style. I think it all goes back to the old days when I produced CDs with JA and he used his Nagra D digital tape recorder. It was a great -sounding and awesome-looking recorder. Of course these days when we record, that old Nagra has, for better or worse, been replaced with a laptop or Mac mini— or something else nowhere near as sexy.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  2 comments
Elsewhere in this report, Brian Damkroger writes about the new Audio Research DS-450 class-D power amplifier. However, I was more taken by the Minnesotan company's $5995 DSI200 integrated amplifier, which offers 200Wpc into 8 ohms, compared with the larger amplifier's 410W, and had its top off. (This is Las Vegas, after all.) The 93%-efficient class-D outputstage was developed in-house and is coupled with a hefty linear power supply.
Erick Lichte  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  3 comments
All right, listen up all you haters. Here's some inexpensive gear to help you forget about the prices of Lamm preamps, Magico speakers and DarTZeel amplifiers.
Larry Greenhill  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  1 comments
John Devore was using this diminutive integrated amplifier, the German-manufactured Acoustic Plan Mag Amp, to drive his new high-sensitivity loudspeakers. According to Jonathan Halpern, the US importer, the Mag Amp uses a tubed voltage-gain stage and an output stage comprised of two small transformers with dual primaries. He described it as the "world's first switching integrated amplifier, and added that it was designed by Lars Lundahl in the 1960s. The 19 kg stereo chassis offers 15Wpc into 8 ohms and will cost $18,500. It played both a 1980s recording of Ella Fitzgerald and one of Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite with great dynamics, speed, and detail. This is the kind of odd and fascinating gem one can uncover at the end of a day when one is too tired to rush out of an exhibit room, and instead collapses on the couch to listen.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  0 comments
Need your remote and music server to match that orange rug? Sonneteer demonstrates the color finish possibilities for the Morpheus product line.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  15 comments
I finished my first day at THE Show, at the Flamingo hotel. (It's wonderful that CES and THE Show are now within easy walking distance.) Over the years, Magnepan has built some of the best-sounding speakers I've heard, and most often ones that perform at the level of speakers several times their price. The MG 1.6 is one of the High End's true classics and has always been one of its most spectacular bargains. One of Magnepan's demo systems was the brand-new MG 1.7. It's physically identical to the 1.6 but rather than planar-magnetic drivers for the bass and tweeter, the 1.7 use Magnepan's "Quasi-Ribbon." Both planar-magnetic and quasi-ribbon drivers are lightweight diaphragms onto which a conducting element is attached, but in the case of the planar-magnetic, the element is wire. In the quasi-ribbon, it's a very fine ribbon, or foil. The latter is lighter and covers more area, so the performance approaches that of a ribbon, where the conducting elementis the diaphragm. The 1.7s sounded truly spectacular and at just $2000/pair, destined to be another winner for Magnepan.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  2 comments
Also in the Musical Fidelity suite were the new M6 Series components which include the M6i integrated amp and the matching M6 CD-DAC. Priced at $2500, the M6 CD-DAC includes SPDIF, Toslink and USB inputs on the back for external digital sources which feed into the 24 bit/192kHz upsampling DAC.
Larry Greenhill  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  5 comments
"Go and hear the KEF Concept Blade Loudspeaker," encouraged John Atkinson, "it’s their current statement on the state of loudspeaker art." For reasons unclear, KEF selected a hard-to-find Hilton Hotel suite for their exhibit, far away from the high-end exhibits in the Venetian Hotel. But when I whispered the word "Blade," I was ushered into a dark room where the set of twin loudspeakers, looking like aircraft wings, were standing. The cabinet curvature eliminates cabinet resonances, I was told. The KEF engineer explained that the company had not set a price on the Blade because they regarded it like a concept car, a one-off, handbuilt test model.
Erick Lichte  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  1 comments
Mark O'Brien of Rogue Audio was showing off the new Tempest III integrated amplifier ($2999). The III (an update to the Tempest II) offers 90Wpc and comes with a remote control. It also features an optional 10dB boost of solid-state gain before the signal hits the tube section, which is selectable on the front panel. Also on the front panel is a high quality headphone output. Mark was playing the Apollo monoblock amps in the room's live system, so I did not get a chance to hear it. Hey Stephen Mejias, might this be the new amp you are looking for?
Erick Lichte  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  4 comments
Because of the Stereophile writers' need to share a cab (and keep costs down) I visited the Nagra suite at the Mirage hotel with JA, JI, KR, and LG. As we walked through the Mirage I felt like we weren't a group of audio writers, we were a posse. I kept humming the music Quintin Tarantino used in Kill Bill for the Crazy 88's whenever we walked around. All right, we weren't that bad ass.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  0 comments
Siltech's Edwin van der Kley handed me his new preamp. There were no wires attached, but the four tubes were glowing. "It's battery-powered, and I could use a low 25V voltage rail for the tubes because they are ECC86 dual-triodes, which were developed for car-audio and microphone use." Edwin went to explain that as this tube uses a 6.3V heater, he could run the heaters of the four tubes in series from the same 25V supply. It also offers very low 1/f noise for a small-signal tube, he told me. Siltech has a plentiful supply of the tubes and the preamp wil sell for $28,000.
Erick Lichte  |  Jan 13, 2010  |  1 comments
The folks at Simaudio were happy to leave the frozen tundra of Canada and bring their wares to the mild climate of Las Vegas. This year they showed off their new Moon 600i integrated amplifier ($8000). The 600i is a beautifully built, dual-mono amplifier that puts out 125Wpc into 8 ohms and sounded lovely.