CES 2012

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John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  0 comments
At the 2011 CES, Swedish company Perfect8 concentrated on their Force flagship speaker. For the 2012 Show, they brought their Point Mk.II ($115,000/pair with subwoofer modules), which, like its big sister, uses an enclosure fabricated from glass—or rather, from what Perfect8 calls "Super Silent Glass," joined without solvent-based adhesives. The upper-frequency module is a dipole, allowed to roll off naturally to integrate with the subwoofer module below it, which uses two 10" drive-units mounted on its sides to cancel mechanical reaction forces. The woofer's low-pass filter is set at 86Hz and realized in DSP; the module includes a class-D amplifier housed in the triangular section at the rear. Despite my reservations about glass as an enclosure material, both Diana Krall and Rimsky-Korsakov sounded uncolored and natural.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  0 comments
MSB has upgraded their Data CD IV disc player to the new Signature model with a machined metal disc drawer and updated networking. The Pro I2S digital output connects directly to the master clock in the DAC so the Data CD drive is controlled by the same clock that is running the DAC modules and motherboard for "hyper accurate data clocking when playing discs".

This is an interesting transport in that it plays CDs and also DVD data discs (such as Reference Recordings HRx discs) with .wav files up to 32/384! The transport sells for $7,995 and in this photo is paired with the Signature Transport Power Base at $3495.

Jon Iverson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  0 comments
Branching away from strictly audio products, the HDMI Streamer has two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output and a stereo audio output. The idea is to peel the audio off of an HDMI signal and send it to your analog stereo preamp while leaving the video intact for your TV. All perfectly legal says HRT. Available sometime around April for $229.95
John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  2 comments
The New York debut of Sonus Faber's stunning-looking Aida ($120,000/pair) was compromised by sub-optimal room acoustics and too much noise from outside the dem area. But the speaker, powered by Audio Research's new Reference 250 monoblocks ($25,900/pair) lived up to the promise in Las Vegas. But as I had found in New York, the true magic of the Aida was only to be found if you sat exactly in the sweet spot, when the speakers disappeared and the end of the room dissolved into the recorded acoustic. Certainly the team from WhatsBestForum.com sitting in front of my camera—Hi, Steve!—were enjoying what the Aidas' were doing.

The rest of the system comprised an SME Model 20/3 turntable/tonearm ($17,000) with a Palos Presentation cartridge ($3995), an Audio Research CD8 ($9995) and DAC8 ($4995), Reference Phono 2SE ($12,995) and Reference 5SE linestage ($12,995), all connected with Shunyata cables. Racks were the ubiquitous Harmonic Resolution Systems SXRs and power conditioning was also by Shunyata.

John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  0 comments
It costs $42,000 but TAD's new C600 solid-state line preamplifier features dual-mono construction, an all-discrete signal path, a separate power supply, and fastidious attention paid to detail in both its design and construction. The amber LED display for example, is DC-powered rather than from the usual multiplexed supply, to eliminate EMI interference. And the sound, in conjunction with the D600 SACD player, M600 monoblocks, Reference One floor-standing speakers, and HRS rack to give a system price of $214,500? I'll leave it to Stephen Mejias to describe in his show wrap. Personally, it was a highlight of the 2012 CES.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  5 comments
At the previous Shows where I had auditioned it, MBL's extravagantly excessive (or should that be excessively extravagant) X-Treme system had been set-up in inappropriate rooms, Finally, at the 2012 CES, this 4-enclosure system, which basically comprises two of the true omnidirectional upper-frequency modules of the Berlin-based company's 101E Mk.2 speaker (to be reviewed by Mikey Fremer in the April 2012 issue) with two man-sized powered subwoofers, each using six 12" drivers mounted three on each side to cancel mechanically induced vibrations, was set up in a room worthy of it. (The Venetian room was 31' by 22' with a 10' ceiling.) Bi-amped with four file-cabinet–sized MBL 9011 monoblocks—the total system cost was $565,000!—the X-Treme produced a big-bottomed sound that was indeed extreme when required but also delicate when appropriate. Oh my!
John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  0 comments
Other than the soft ring of blue light at the top, Meridian's new M6 powered loudspeaker ($9000/pair) looks unprepossessing but hides a wealth of high technology within its black enclosure. The entire range from 200Hz to 25kHz—two decades!—is handled by a single front-firing 3" driver at the top of the cabinet. This is a development of the drive-unit Meridian designed for the F80 music system and is coupled to a downward-firing woofer, which can be seen in the exploded diagram next to the speaker. The M6 has a digital input and the use of DSP for its crossover and equalization means it can be placed near room boundaries, maximizing its Spouse-Acceptance Factor. I listened to the Sheffield Drum Record from Bob Stuart's Sooloos server, controlled with the new iPad app, followed by Dire Straits, the pizzicato movement from Ravel's String Quartet. and the 2L hi-rez recording of Britten's Simple Symphony, and the M6 demonstrated surprising dynamics and clarity, coupled with an overall ease to its presentation. Yes, the lows were a bit too rich, but this is a fit'n'forget speaker system that non-audiophile music lovers will go ga-ga over.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  1 comments
Costing $165,000/pair, Magico's new Q7—shown here with AudioStream.com editor Michael Lavorgna for scale—embodies everything the Californian company knows about speaker design: a proprietary beryllium-dome tweeter, nano-fiber–sandwich-cone midrange unit and woofers, housed in a sealed all-aluminum enclosure weighing 750 lbs! With the prototype Audeeva music server, Pacific Microsonics DAC, a Spectral preamp, MIT cables, and unidentified amplifiers hidden behind a curtain, the Q7s threw an enormous soundstage on a 176.4kHz/24-bit file of a Reference Recordings orchestral recording, with bass-drum blows that pressurized the room without obscuring a low-level bassoon that was playing at the same time—macro and micro-dynamics.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  0 comments
Sonus Faber co-founder Franco Serblin has started a new, eponymous company and two of his speakers, the floorstanding Ktema ($39,995/pair) and bookshelf Accordo ($12,995/pair) were being demonstrated in one of the Axiss Audio rooms in the Venetian. Amplification was all-Air Tight—ATM-3011 monoblocks, ATC-2 preamplifier, ATE-2 phono preamplifier, ATH-2A transformer—with the source a Transrotor Fat Bob S turntable fitted with an Audiocraft AC-3300 tonearm and an Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge. The laidback sound of Norah Jones matched the superb looks of the speakers and the bass was full and warm—which impressed me the more when I realized I was listening to the stand-mounted Accordos, not the larger Ktemas.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  0 comments
The Diamond DAC shown here has now been upgraded with MSB's Pro I2S Network capability which the company claims is a faster, lower jitter version of MSB’s original network and retails between approximately $20-35k depending on included options. The entire line is also now available in this luscious, but hard to photograph, black finish and it's likely I'll be reviewing an MSB system for Stereophile in the next few months.

Below the DAC is the MSB Diamond Power Base power supply running at $4,495 and below that is the very thin WiFi System Interface which brings iPad app control to the entire MSB line for $1,950 and should be available shortly.

Perhaps the most interesting MSB announcement is the $9,950 FemtoSecond Galaxy Clock that the company is making available as a plug in module for all DAC IVs. The claim for the clock upgrade is less than .077 picoseconds of jitter (77 femtoseconds)--let's see if JA can measure that.

Larry Greenhill  |  Jan 19, 2012  |  First Published: Jan 20, 2012  |  0 comments
Thiel and Bryston always share an exhibit area in the Sands Convention Center’s Bassano Ballroom, and this year's CES was no exception. James Tanner, Bryston's upbeat product manager, had gathered a terrific playlist of musical selections on a thumb-drive, which drove the company's $2195 BDP-1 digital file transport, $2195 BDA-1 DAC. Livingston Taylor's whistling on "Isn't She Lovely" opened the playlist, just as it did at the Joseph Audio suite, and many others—it was a common selection at the Venetian exhibits. Sound from the $9500 Bryston SP-3 preamp/processor ($7900), three-channel Bryston 6BSST2 amplifier, Thiel CS1.7 speaker prototype and Thiel USS SmartSub Subwoofer produced soundstage depth and imaging that was among the best, almost as good I heard at the much more expensive system in the VTL suite. Tanner walked me through Bryston's newly announced BHA-1 headphone amplifier featured in the photo ($1295), which is highly versatile, including twin XLR outputs for balanced headphones, and both XLR and ¼ jacks for conventional headphones.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 20, 2012  |  0 comments
I'm guessing this will be a hot product: asynch USB to stereo out for either headphone or audio feed. Handles up to 24/96 (sample rate indicated by LED), powered by your USB bus and is priced at $139.95. Designed and manufactured in California and available now. I'm really curious to hear how this one sounds.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 19, 2012  |  1 comments
I was astonished to come across a room at T.H.E. Show featuring the Scientific Fidelity brand. Back in the early 1990s, SciFi had some of the most stunning-looking tube amps and preamps, as well as a speaker, the Tesla, that offered spectacular imaging, SciFi's founder, Mike Maloney, exited manufacturing many years ago and founded T.H.E. Show, which he subsequently sold to Richard Beers. I bumped into Mike at a CES a few years back, and he had become a best-selling author on valuable metals trading. But the brand was back for 2012 with the stunning-looking, three-way Stylust loudspeaker ($30,000/pair), which sounded clean and detailed driven by the triangular Trillium amplifier ($25,000). Although the gentlemen in the room didn't speak English very well, I gathered that Mike was still the creative force behind the brand.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 19, 2012  |  1 comments
Though labelled DAC-1, this new unit is also a digital preamp featuring 24/192 SPDIF, Toslink and USB. Priced at $995 and available sometime in March or April, it also includes a remote.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 19, 2012  |  0 comments
Sporting USB (24/96), SPDIF and Toslink (24/192) inputs and a retail price of $299, the DAC15.2 also has a coaxial digital output if you wish to use it as a USB/Toslink to SPDIF converter. Clever.