Jason's Trek Continues at CES 2019

One of several small, wireless speakers unveiled at the Venetian Hotel, Audioengine's A2+ ($269/pair), with built-in DAC and aptX Bluetooth, is manufactured in China, and scheduled to ship at the end of January. I didn't get a chance to hear the A2+, but our niece, who has the wired version, raves about its sound with her Mac laptop.

Right across the hallway from the A2+ sat some of its competition, Kanto Audio's Tuk 65Wpc, class-D powered bookshelf speaker ($799/pair). Due in April, Tuk, whose frequency response is 50Hz-20kHz ±3dB, offers onboard DSP, a 24/96 USB DAC, and a 28 x 35 mm AMT tweeter plus 5.25" aluminum concave cone mid-bass driver. There are Toslink, RCA, USB, and RCA inputs, as well as headphone, USB charge, and subwoofer outputs. This baby works with both Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX HD and AAC codecs. There's even a high-pass filter (80Hz, selectable). The sound was quite listenable, with a mellow and smooth middle and toned down top on a Red Book file of pianist Igor Levitt, streamed from Tidal.

While Dayton Audio has been supplying speaker drive-units to the DIY community for 30 years, it also has a few finished speakers for sale. Amongst them is the CBT24 line array speaker ($1495/pair, or $995/pair in kit form), seen on the left in the photo.

Continuing right along in speaker land, the next room I visited displayed Morel's new Vario speaker system. Although the line includes a center channel model, I focused on a stereo pair of the Morel Vario Elite ($1700/pair), which includes a handcrafted silk dome tweeter, 6.5" woofer with 3" voice coil, and removable grilles that, when on, are said to smooth frequency response.

This photo shows the Vario's internal drivers. Listening without the grilles, a 24/88.2 file of Brubeck's well-worn "Take Five," played through a little system that included a computer outfitted with Amarra music playback software and a Hegel H316 integrated amplifier, sounded very clear and convincingly alive, with naturally bright cymbals and a mellow midrange.

Morel's Nomadic Audio brand showed off its very cool, specially designed Nomad ($659) carry-on suitcase for travel and music. What the company calls the Nomadic Audio Speakase is housed in a hard-cased, custom-designed travel bag that includes a removable two-channel Bluetooth speaker unit that can play either through speaker vents on the suitcase's side, or as a stand-alone device. The speaker's DSP setting changes when you remove it from the suitcase and set it up on its own via its foldable feet.

The Bluetooth speaker unit, whose Li-ion batteries are rechargeable via USB, includes two custom 4"X6" woofers, two 22mm soft dome tweeters, and a 25W class-D amplifier. Once housed in its internal slot, the speaker occupies only 8% of the suitcase's volume. The speaker can also be played in wired fashion, and includes bass and treble controls for a hybrid retro/21st Century listening experience. As you might well expect, the Nomadic Audio Speakase won an Innovation Award at last year's CES.

If I spent a long time in the Increcable room, it was because (a) the technology of their US-manufactured vibration controls was fascinating, (b) the sound, when we finally got around to listening, was excellent—so much so that I wished that the amplifiers might possibly be a good match for my Wilson Alexia 2s so that I could propose a review, and (c) my difficulty understanding the presenter's accent meant that it took a long, long time for me to record what I hope is accurate information about what I was seeing and hearing.

I believe that Increcable has two vibration control tools, the older MVD-2 (4 pieces for $180) and new AIR (2 pieces for $200). AIR=Ambience, Imaging, and Resolution, and is intended for placement on both speakers and components. The units work by transforming vibration into heat.

Inside each unit is a rubber–cork–rubber sandwich. The bottom and top sides are ridged, with the ridges on one side turned 90º from the other side. The sandwich, which floats within a metal frame, transforms vibration into heat and addresses low frequencies, while the metal frame addresses high frequency vibration.

The newer AIR units come with two differently shaped removable radiators, one for high frequencies and the other for lows, which stick out of the top of the unit. The positioning of the AIR units atop speakers helps determine soundstage depth and width, along with imaging and focus.

Shown in the rear of the photo is the EBD-1, aka Earth Box Digital-1 ($398/each), which includes a grounding cable. These are intended for CD players and other components.

In a demonstration, initially performed without the AIR units, I was equally impressed by the very neutral, lively, well-focused yet expansive presentation. Adding the AIR units really opened up the sound while retaining musicality. Quite impressive, and definitely worth exploring.

COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

Wireless speaker revolution ....... KEF LSX was selected as the product of the year 2018 by AudioStream :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Waiting for surround sound wireless speakers :-) ..........

spacehound's picture

…..not to trip over the various power wires :)

Wireless? Pah! Unless they are powered by internal batteries or magic it's all Alice in Wonderland "A word means what I want it to mean"

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ok ...... I'll settle for surround sound wireless headphones :-) .........

Look ma ... no wires and, I'm un-attached :-) ........

John Atkinson's picture
Bogolu Haranath wrote:
KEF LSX was selected as the product of the year 2018 by AudioStream :-)

Herb Reichert has just received a pair of KEF LSXes for review in Stereophile.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Class-A Limited LF $$$, Stereophile recommended component list April 2019 :-) ..........

I'll bet a bottle of single malt Scotch :-) .........

There are many very favorable on-line reviews including videos :-) .......... Please don't read them or see the videos before reviewing :-) ............

The technology within the LSXes is quite impressive for $1000 :-) ..............

Indydan's picture

The Kef LS50 is the MOST OVERRATED speaker of all time. It's good for its price, but not great.

funambulistic's picture

… provide a list of speakers that outperform the LS50 at their original $1500 msrp? I'm not being snarky - I am actually curious. Now that they are selling for $1300 (and even $1K!) they are an even better value. Thanks!

Indydan's picture

I have no problem if people say the LS50 is the best at its price point (though I would disagree). What I object to, is Stereophile putting them in Class A, with speakers several times their price. The reviews in general are over blown.
I prefer the Sonus Faber Venere 1.5 over the LS50. The Ryan R610 at $2000 will walk all over them.

funambulistic's picture

I do appreciate it. The Sonus Faber is a fair comparison, even though it is less expensive (which says a lot about the 1.5!). The Ryan, at 33% more expensive is not as I would certainly expect an increase in performance. I felt the KEF R300, at 20% more expensive, trounced the LS50. Now, the LSX sounds better than either to me (and is a screaming bargain at $1100). And no, I am not affiliated with KEF...

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Hi JA ..... May I suggest reviewing the new ATI class-D mono blocks $3990/pair? ....... They are rated 500 WPC/8 Ohms :-) ......... JVS mentions them in his CES show report with photos :-) .........

I know the ATI multi-channel amp was reviewed with no measurements :-) ............

theprofessor's picture

"I didn't get a chance to hear the A2+, but our niece, who has the wired version, raves about its sound with her Mac laptop."

so, this is what paid promotion looks like. didn't even hear the product, but it gets first mention. audioengine indeed makes good stuff, but not the best ... and no longer the most innovative ... and not anywhere near earning the top spot //without even having heard them//... but i'm sure jason's niece is a fantastic reference.

how much did this cost them?

John Atkinson's picture
theprofessor wrote:
so, this is what paid promotion looks like.

Please put away your cynicism. This is not a paid promotion.

theprofessor wrote:
how much did this cost them?

Stereophile does not charge exhibitors at a show for coverage. Period.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

theprofessor's picture

no cynicism... simple observation (or missed editorial oversight). ... a non-auditioned product getting first mention?

theprofessor's picture

(that said, the response is appreciated — thanks for taking the time. as a venerable publication, a reader might simply expect input a bit more vetted vs. anecdotal input from the author’s niece.)

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

It was not possible to audition many products at CES. In some cases, even when products were active, there was so much business going on that audition was pointless. It is, after all, a B2B show, not a consumer show.

My niece, who has just finished graduate school, moved up from the A2 to the A2+. She immediately heard what the addition of an outboard DAC meant to the sound. As someone who lives in small quarters, she is the perfect person to speak on such matters.

theprofessor's picture

thanks for the response. what did your neice study in grad school? having owned every version of the A2 since their release, including a harder to find early piano-black version, and an early matte black version with an atrocious logo on the face (which was promptly returned) — and as a grad-school professor with a small office — maybe i should join your advisory panel, too! ;) (... in all seriousness, i get the “it’s crazy busy” verve... but I’d hope future features are a bit more vetted.)

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

It's Sunday. Time to enjoy the music and move on. But not before searching out my email address - professors know how to do as much - and offering your expertise ;-)

jason

theprofessor's picture

right on. i'm down with that. :) ... and if you're still in vegas, have fun.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Aha ..... Future lady audio reviewer for Stereophile ........ The 'other' audiophile magazine has/had lady audio reviewers ........ Why not Stereophile? :-) .........

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

During her time with us, Jana Dagdagan made significant contributions to Stereophile. I question, however, whether either Jana or my niece would refer to themselves as "ladies."

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I want to be polite and respectful :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I don't want to be labelled as a person with 'hegemonic (toxic) masculinity' :-) ........

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