International CES and
T.H.E. Show 2013 – Part 2
Here are some photos and comments about some rooms that, for reasons that really have no explanation, didn't make it into my initial CES report. Nothing against any of these companies, in fact there are some really fine sounding exhibits here. Let's just call it the time constraints to get my initial report delivered in a timely manner. So, this is Part 2!
Acoustic Zen, Tri (CES)
Acoustic Zen was once again showing their Crescendo speakers ($16,000) with Triode Corporation electronics. As usual, the sound was big, luscious, and ever so musical. Good stuff!
Angel Sound (CES)
The Angel Sound P8 speakers were looking rather imposing, though they certainly sounded nice, but $160,000 worth of nice? I'm just not sure I understood this one. I will say their more conventional, lower priced (though still pricey) speakers in another suite sounded quite promising.
What's a good way to show off your cables without setting up a big, imposing audio system? Modify a bunch of really good headphones with your cables, hook them up to really good headphone amps, and play from a server offering good quality tunes. Definitely worked for me.
Viewsonic (CES LVCC)
On a side note, am I a good dad or what?
Introducing my son to some of the finer aspects of trade shows – Booth Babes! In the Viewsonic exhibit.
DLS Flatbox (CES)
Swedish company DLS has decided the way to make quality sound marketable to a wider audience, is to make speakers exclusively that mount on the wall. The main speakers mounted up higher, and the subwoofers mounted down low. They sounded better than I would have expected.
Harman Luxury Group, JBL, Levinson (CES)
The large, very high efficiency JBL Synthesis Everest speakers ($65,000) driven by Levinson electronics had the kind of effortless presentation that large, high efficiency speakers excel at. They also sounded remarkably coherent and neutral. We only had a brief listen, but came away very impressed.
High Water Sound, Cessaro, Tron, TW-Acoustic (CES)
Importer High Water Sound was exhibiting a wonderful, all analog system of Cessaro Chopin speakers ($40,000), Tron Electronics ($96,000 for the whole set), TW-Acoustic turntable ($40,000), TW-Acoustic 10.5 tonearm ($5500), Ortofon 309D tonearm ($2999), and Ortofon cartridges—a Windfield ($3899) and a Cadenza Mono ($1199). We spun a lot of interesting old vinyl here, and lost track of time. That tells you something about how good the system sounded!
The new little HRT Microstreamer has been getting all kinds of positive buzz recently. Didn't get to try it out, but it does look well built, and is much smaller than I had expected.
Joseph Audio, Bel Canto (CES)
Joseph Audio was demonstrating their flagship Pearl 3 speakers ($28,100) with a full setup of Bel Canto electronics, in one of the larger suites at the Venetian. This was clearly one of the standout exhibits of the whole show, as we've come to expect from the Joseph Audio/Bel Canto combination over the years.
Kondo / Audio Note (CES)
Kondo/Audio Note was showing a wide range of pricey tube gear and speakers. Over the years, I've come to expect a luscious, warm, highly musical sound from Kondo/Audio Note displays. This year things just seemed a little flat and uninvolving. Hotel suites can do that to you sometimes.
LG (CES, LVCC)
Okay, not audio related, but LG's huge "3D Video Wall" display at the main LVCC hall, was still very impressive. Not a big fan of 3D at home or in movie theaters, but this huge display, made of up of a whole bunch of smaller screens, was the brightest, sharpest, most effective 3D demo I've seen, surpassing even the local movie theaters I've been to recently. And this out in the open with the hall lights on. Can't imagine what it would have looked like in a proper dark room. Still feel silly wearing the glasses though.
Manley Labs (CES)
Didn't listen to their system much, but I've heard Manley gear enough times to appreciate just how good it is. I also just love how all the gear looks.
I know many people tend to think of Naim for their very high priced offerings, but we mustn't forget they also make some very nice reasonably priced gear too. Here we see the combination of their new DAC-V1 Asynchronous USB DAC ($2395) and NAP 100 Power Amp ($1295). With these two pieces, as long as you don't have any analog devices to plug in, all you need is speakers and your various digital sources.
I think most people can agree that over the last many years, Carl Marchisotto's speakers have to be included amongst the great products in high-end audio, and I don't think anyone seeing or hearing his new Concert Grand Reference speakers ($197,000/pair) would think otherwise. Two things I thought about; these cost more than any house I've ever bought, and they weren't the most expensive speakers I saw at the show. I can't really wrap my head around products like this, but I am glad they exist. I'm also glad Carl directs a lot of talent towards more affordable speakers, too.
Red Wine Audio (T.H.E. Show)
Red Wine Audio's fine line of battery-powered electronics were sounding fine through Harbeth speakers. Interesting design, beautiful sound, and not unreasonably priced. A good combination.
Reference 3a, Copland (T.H.E. Show)
Divergent Technologies showed their new Reference 3a NEFES speaker ($9950/pair), which departs some from prior Reference 3a designs in using two of their unique, proprietary drivers, driven by Copland CTA 506 power amp ($6500). I'm used to hearing wonderful things from Reference 3a speakers, so maybe this just suffered from an uncooperative room. Hopefully we'll see these again at T.H.E. Show Newport in June.
TAD (Technical Audio Devices) was showing their recently released low cost speaker system, the Evolution-1 ($29,900). Hard to say how this compares to their CR-1 stand mounted monitor, but it sure sounded nice in this room. I heard several other rooms with TAD speakers, and have to admit, they all sounded darn good.
Totem Acoustics (CES)
Apparently I fell for the same thing many other attendees to Totem's room did. Listening to the system, being very impressed by the power and full range sound, only to realize we were listening to the small stand mounted Fire ($6000) and not the larger floor standing Metal ($12,000). I don't normally miss obvious things, like where the cables are attached!
Violin Speaker (CES)
Actually, Huaxing Musical Instrument Co., Ltd. I saw these last year downstairs in one of the general home electronics pavilions. There, everyone was talking about them. This year they showed upstairs with all the big boys, and it may have been a mistake for them. The violins are not housing conventional drivers; they are the drivers. There are woofers mounted in the bases. Though they sounded better than one would expect, better still doesn't mean good. They had some very nice looking tube amplifiers on display, and it would have nice to hear them with some real speakers.
Voxative, KR Audio, Gregitek
I can hear it now, "Honey, you'll like my new speakers, they're just a single 6.5 each driver…" But, if you cater to the sound of high efficiency, full range single driver speakers done right, then it might be worth trying to sneak these into the house. But then again, the Voxativ Ampeggio Duo, at $100,000/pair, using field coil drivers, it might be tough to get the spouse to say okay.
After a few years out of the US market, YBA has new distributorship and is back. They showed a variety of moderately priced products, such as the Passion IA350 integrated amp seen above.
They also showed some pricier separates that included fancy metalwork. Look at the heat sinks on this amp. All metalwork is apparently done in house.
All done! I hope that those of you who couldn't attend the show at least got a feel for what went on there. With T.H.E. Show Newport open to the public, maybe we'll see you there.