CES 2018

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Jana Dagdagan  |  Jan 19, 2018  |  8 comments
For our video coverage of the 2018 Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, we purchased Sennheiser's "Ambeo" binaural system, which mounts microphones on the outer surfaces of a pair of earbuds, thus allowing the ears' pinnae to influence each mike's pick-up pattern. The Ambeo connects to an iPhone. In this report, John Atkinson visits the Lamm, Vandersteen, and VTL rooms, talks to exhibitors about their systems and their thoughts on the show, listens to some of his recordings, as well as some chosen by the exhibitors, and offers his thoughts on what he had just heard. But first, Michael Fremer shows off his Karaoke skills!
John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2018  |  2 comments
When Jason Victor Serinus visited the Bluebird Audio room on the Venetian's 35th floor, he mentioned that Chord was demonstrating its Blu Mk.2 CD transport ($11,788) along with the Dave DAC that I reviewed and was impressed by last June. I chatted with Chord's digital guru Robert Watts (above in photo) about the new transport and he mentioned that it incorporated his latest WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) digital filter with a million taps! (The more taps there are, the closer a DAC can reproduce the timing information in the reconstructed analog signal—see my DAVE review for why Robert feels why this should be so.) I was puzzled, as a digital reconstruction filter belongs in a DAC, not a transport.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 16, 2018  |  35 comments
Photo by John Atkinson

The question, "What if they Gave a CES and Nobody Came?," which headlined my As We See It from mid-2016, was echoed by a similar title on Jon Iverson's opening blog for our coverage of CES 2018. Yet hopes and fears that our industry's increasingly limited presence in the Venetian would sound the death knell for "high performance audio" at CES do not reflect the experience of those who this year chose to either exhibit or wander hallways and eateries in search of dealers and distributors.

John Atkinson  |  Jan 16, 2018  |  1 comments
I was working on our video coverage of the 2018 CES with our resident videographer Jana Dagdagan, and as video is such a time sink, I wasn't able to visit as many rooms as I usually do. But one room I managed to visit and that stood out when it came to sound quality was Constellation's.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  0 comments
Gorgeous metalwork award goes to Tom Vu's Triangle Art display and especially the Master Reference Turntable ($39,900) seen in the photo above. Vu is based in Memphis TN, and said that the show marks the debut of the Master Reference Turntable's little brother, the Maestro (shown below), which retails for $7,500 and is available now.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  0 comments
Andrew Jones's first active speaker, the tri-amped Argo Series B51 ($2000/pair), offers 250W of class-AB power in the form of a 150W AB amplifier for the woofer, 70W AB amp for the midrange, and 30W class-A amp for the tweeter. The B51s can be used either wired or wirelessly, but need an external DAC, DAC-equipped server, or other device to produce sound from digital.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  0 comments
I spent some time listening to systems from two companies of which Brian Barr is President: SAE (Scientific Audio Electronics) and CAT (California Audio Technology). In the first, two SAE 2HP-D amplifiers ($20,000/each), which graced the cover of Stereophile when Michael Fremer reviewed the amp in the October 2016 issue, drove new bi-amped Eggleston Works 20th anniversary Limited Edition Andra Viginti speakers ($40,000/pair). Michael is currently reviewing these speakers, whose 4 ohm nominal impedance indicates that they were driven by a mere 1200Wpc of SAE power.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  3 comments
HiFiMan had two new products on display this year: one for the budget-minded, and one not.

First, for the entry level, is the new Sundara planar headphone which will retail for $499. Josselin Marvie from HiFiMan explains that "We spent some time designing this headphone to be more reliable and comfortable, so we have a new headband design which is more lightweight as well. We also have new cups, and everything has been redesigned to make the headphone last longer."

Jon Iverson  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  7 comments
Swiss audio company Nagra won an Innovation Honoree award this year for their ingenious motorized volume control design in the tubed HD Preamp. René Laflamme, based in Montreal himself, describes the product: "The preamp is two channels of mono in a single chassis. There are two Super Cap capacitor power supplies, two independent circuits, and each channel has a single triode input stage featuring a NOS (new old stock) Mullard tube hand-selected by Nagra."
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  0 comments
Arcam's Scott Campbell was running through the new lineup of HDA products starting with the Integrated Amps. "This is the start of our new 2-channel range. The Player and SA10 are each $1,000 and the SA20 is $1,300. Both amplifiers are new for us since this is the first time we've put digital inputs on the back. We've taken our experience with how to tackle digital noise in our AV receivers and put that knowledge into how to do that properly in a two-channel amplifier."
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  1 comments
Because Art Dudley is writing a Follow-Up review to Michael Fremer's take on the Audio Technica AT-ART1000 direct-power stereo MC phono cartridge ($4999), I shall replace lots of words with this blow-up of a cartridge whose coils sit at the tip of the cantilever, right over its diamond stylus.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  0 comments
Paired with the same Theta Gen. VIII DAC/preamp ($15,995)/Theta Compli Blu transport ($3995) combo and VPI Avenger reference turntable ($20,000) as in the SAE room, but with a TR phono cartridge ($7000) replacing the Zu, this room showcased CAT's brand new MBX 1250.2 FD XPR twin monoblock amplifier ($30,000), which outputs 1250Wpc in to 4 ohms, and MBX 320.2 FD ($10,000) twin monoblock amplifier, which outputs 320W into 8 ohms. The amps were driving a bi-amped pair of CAT loudspeakers, specifically voiced for this hotel room, which consisted of CAT MBX 900 Trinity satellites resting upon MBX Miramar subwoofers ($100,000/pair for all). Analog crossovers were employed, and the subs were dialed-in through a CAT MBX DSP8x8 digital signal processor ($15,000).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  6 comments
I really don't know the answer; I just know that loudspeaker company M&K says that's the case. I also know that the original Miller & Kreisel was founded in 1973 by music lovers who wanted to manufacture speakers good enough to do justice to recordings by Steely Dan. 35 years later, the company went bankrupt, and was relaunched shortly thereafter by new Danish investors who have a strong home theater orientation. For the past 10 years, the company's owner has been Lars Johansen, who spoke with me in their room in the Venetian Hotel.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  0 comments
"This is the evolution of our Sonja series," Explains YG Acoustics senior account executive Kerry St. James. "This follows the Sonja 1 series and the 'dot' indicates how many modules there are in the model. So this is a Sonja 2.2 (he points to the demo in the room) meaning it is the second series and has two modules. The 2 series is available as one module or expanded into three modules, the Sonja 2.3."
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 15, 2018  |  0 comments
Paul Jayson, president of Viola Audio Laboratories, New Haven, CT was on hand to demo the company's new Chorale Integrated Amplifier. Price is still to be determined, says Jayson, "but we are looking at around $19,000, and plan on shipping in March."

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