CES 2014

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Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
I found the combination of Jadis and Spendor totally magical. It certainly flattered a CD of a Rossini String Symphony with the warm and special sound that made former Stereophile editor turned publicist Jonathan Scull salivate over Jadis products when they first reached the US from France two decades ago, and impelled me to buy the DA-7 amplifier, a later incarnation of the Defy 7 amp that J10 reviewed.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  2 comments
Shown in Tom Norton’s photo are the Platinum versions of Dynaudio’s Confidence C2 floorstander ($15,000, left) and C1 stand-mount (middle)loudspeakers in the new Platinum trim, which I had seen and heard at 2013 shows. But I was more interested in the news that the Excite 12 loudspeaker, which has been a reference for Bob Reina since he reviewed it in March 2010, has been replaced by the Excite X14 ($1500/pair). My photo wasn’t usable, unfortunately, but I auditioned the X14s in a system comprising the Octave V40 SE 45Wpc, tube integrated amplifier ($5300), T+A DAC S8 ($3250), with Amarra running on a MacBook, Dynaudio Stand 3X stands ($350/pair), and in-akustik Reference interconnects and speaker cables, and was impressed by what I heard.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
Scottish manufacturer Tannoy was showing the Carbon Black version of the Kingdom Royal speaker ($85,000/pair), which adds carbon-fiber trim panels, individually machined metal components, and a “specially formulated” paint on the cabinet surfaces. The speaker combines a 12” Dual-Concentric driver with a supertweeter and a 15”, vented woofer with a corrugated surround for maximum linearity. The Kingdom Royal looked elegant indeed, and driven by Cary single-ended power amplifiers with Cary’s new streamer as source, the full-range, wide-dynamic-range sound was equally elegant.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
The Belgian Venture company introduced its Vidi speaker at CES. Costing $30,000/pair, the floorstanding, three-way Vidi speaker combines two 4" midrange units with a 1" tweeter and two 7" woofers, these mounted on the speaker’s sidewalls. All the drive-units use AGC (Abaca Graphite Composite) diaphragms. The crossover operates with first-order slopes at 250Hz and 3kHz and the speaker is specified as having a frequency range of 30Hz to 40kHz. Used fullrange but with an AW500 subwoofer also operating below 70Hz, the beautifully gloss-finished Vidis did a creditable job with the the live Bootleg Series recording of Bob Dylan’s "Desolation Row," played back from a laptop running the XX HighEnd software feeding digital data to a Weiss Medusa DAC. The opening up of the soundstage as the initially mono recording, made with a Nagra tape recorder, was spliced to the stereo backup tape when the Nagra ran out of tape, was delicious.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
Darren Censullo's Avatar Acoustics did itself proud with a system that, on one of John Atkinson's recordings of male vocal ensemble Cantus, delivered totally natural and clear sound with beautiful layering and air, and natural timbres to boot. And as much as Shelby Lynne's "Little Lovin'" is getting less and less lovin' from me each time I discover multiple rooms playing it at shows—aren't there any other good tracks on her very well-recorded album?—Lynne's bass accompaniment was very profound, and the heart-warming beauty of the sound most impressive.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
Alexander Vitus Mogensen was deservedly bright-eyed about his equally handsome AVM-TEC Alluxity Pre One ($9150). Designed with the lifestyle conscious in mind, the Pre One first reached Asia last summer, and is now appearing in the US courtesy of distributor Light Harmonic. Its relay-operated volume control adjusts in 3dB intervals, and then decreases to a still large (in my estimation) 1.5dB as volume increases. It also offers balanced, zero global feedback topology, easily upgradable internal modules, five inputs (RCA and XLR), and two outputs.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  1 comments
Once again, Unison Research scored a 10. Distributed by Colleen Cardas and Marc Phillips of Colleen Cardas Imports, the new Unison Research Triode 25 integrated amplifier ($3495) exhibited beautiful sweetness and marvelous delicacy in a Handel piano recording by Murray Perahia (whom I’m going to hear live on February 20, yippee). The amp is switchable between 22Wpc in triode mode and 45Wpc in pentode, and sounds equally fine in both.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  2 comments
I know this is a lousy picture but it doesn't matter because the important product in it, the new AURALiC Aries Music Streamer (second from the top) is a prototype and it is housed in an enclosure borrowed from the AURALiC Vega DAC (top of the stack) recently praised by JA in the February issue. The Aries ($999) is the link between the NAS where you store your music files and your USB DAC. It is the first implementation of AURALiC's Lightning streaming protocol, based on 802.11ac Gigabit WiFi and capable of gapless play of all current formats, in stereo, up to 32/384, DXD, and DSD128 as well as all common lossy and lossless formats. The Aires has built-in Internet radio and is compatible with all major platforms and many other streaming protocols, including UPnP and DLNA.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
The German ADAM company has been developing the idea of the Air Motion Transformer HF unit, originally developed by Dr. Oskar Heil. The latest version of their tweeter, the X-ART tweeter, is featured in the Mk.II version of the Tensor Beta loudspeaker ($25,000/pair), which was being demmed with Cary electronics. The X-ART tweeter is married to a folded-ribbon upper-midrange unit, a new lower midrange unit and two woofers, all mounted on a solid aluminum baffle. The enclosure is made from 1” and 2” MDF panels, extensively crossbraced. Interestingly, waffle-shaped inner panels are loosely filled with steel shot, which absorbs vibrational energy. The speaker is also supported on fluid-filled feet to further absorb vibration.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
With new US distribution, by the Katli Audio Co. from LA, the Taiwanese Usher loudspeaker manufacturer premiered its Grand Tower flagship ($37,800/pair) at CES. Combining Usher’s diamond-dome tweeter with two in-house 7" midrange units and two Eton 11" woofers, the Grand Tower weighs 500 lbs and has a claimed low-frequency extension of 24Hz, with a 90dB sensitivity. My experience of a percussion recording suggests that both specifications are valid!
John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  1 comments
The Polar Vortex weather and its associated flight cancellations prevented Convergent Audio Technology’s Ken Stevens from reaching Las Vegas until the third day of the show. However, once he arrived, he set up a system featuring Vandersteen 5A Carbon speakers, connected by Stealth cables to his new JL5 Triode "Baby CAT" stereo power amplifier. This 100Wpc (8 ohms) amplifier costs $12,000 with amorphous core transformers and Black Gate capacitors, $10,000 with silicon-steel transformers. The circuit features what Ken calls "OptiBias"—Ken describes this as "somewhere between constant current and constant power"—which keeps the bias current of the output-stage KT120 tubes independent of fluctuations in the AC supply voltage. Those who feel tube amplifiers can’t rock hard in the bass should have experienced the Led Zeppelin track I auditioned in Ken’s room.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  4 comments
Given Dan D'Agostino's products recent awards—Stereophile Joint Amplification Component of the 2013 for the original Momentum monoblock amplifier, and CES 2014 Innovations Design and Engineering awards for the Momentum preamp—it's no wonder everyone was buzzing around the new Momentum integrated amplifier ($45,000). Manufactured in—you're going to love this—Carefree, AZ, the Momentum integrated is a no-compromise design that includes the same preamp and stereo boards used in the Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems' separates
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
"Bass really impressive . . . very neutral," I wrote in my notes as I listened to the Budapest Symphony Orchestra blast away in the last movement of Mahler's Symphony 1. "Really excellent in clarifying complex instrumental layers that other systems blend together. A little toned down on top and lacking in ultimate color, but rich in ultimate clarity and control."
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
I was getting bored with my own opening question asking exhibitors do you have anything that's new for under $2000. For two days, I was getting either a gleeful "Yes!" or a slow "No but . . ." Mike Manousselis, Director of Marketing for Dynaudio USA, surprised me with a new answer: "Well, we have something that is not new but it's price is new and it is now under $2000."
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 16, 2014  |  0 comments
Quasi-secreted in the front half of his father Dan’s room, Bret D’Agostino showed off the rethought aesthetics, better class-A power, and additional refinement of his new BSC 5 series. Available now are the M5 monoblocks ($28,500/pair), which replace the 100M monoblocks; S5 class-A stereo amplifier ($15,000); and optional amplifier Base 5 ($1600). Coming in March is the L5 line stage preamplifier ($14,500). Bret is responsible for the entire design, inside and out, which pushes the envelope of his original design topology. There was no way to audition the products, but I can only assume that they improve upon the sound of their predecessors, some which I enthused about last year at T.H.E. Show.