2008 Show Report
Consumer Electronics Show 2008
Design Awards By Phil Gold
Leave it to others
to tell you how things sound at the Vegas shows. I'm
handing out awards for style and style alone. Let us
start at the top.
1. B&W Signature Diamond Speaker
The best design is simple, timeless and original. It should
look and feel good and should not sacrifice performance to form. This one meets all the criteria and I'm pleased to welcome
B&W back to CES in style. B&W announced the limited edition Signature Diamond
Speaker (£11,000) last summer to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
Kenneth Grange (well known for the Kodak Instamatic Camera, the Kenwood Chef
and Parker pens) is the industrial designer and Dr John Dibb is the acoustical
mastermind behind this masterpiece. The marble tube-loaded tweeter is B&W's renowned Diamond
Dome design, while the 7" bass midrange driver uses a woven Kevlar cone.
Frequency response is 40Hz to 28kHz (±3dB). The first order crossover provides a
simple pure signal path. B&W call this the best 2 way monitor in the
world. I couldn't put that claim to the test at CES because it was on static
display, but I invite B&W to send me a pair for review.
2. Vivid Audio Giya Speaker
Second prize goes to a brand new company – Vivid Audio for
a product preview. Vivid's Giya is sensational for both sonics and appearance,
and you're going to need a big room and over $50,000 if you want to go home
with a pair of these beauties. The principal designer is Lawrence Dickie while
the industrial designer is Alison Risby. These two worked on the legendary
B&W Nautilus Speaker, from which Giya is a direct descendent.
There are five custom made drivers in a four way arrangement
and the cabinet is made from reinforced advanced composite materials. Tapered
tubes absorbers eliminate destructive resonances and reflections from within
the driver enclosures, even for the bass drivers. These tubes work with a pair
of reaction canceling critically tuned vents to realize low distortion and
high efficiency (91dB/W/m on axis). Vivid claim a frequency response
of 30Hz to 41kHz (±2dB) with distortion below 0.5% over the frequency range. The
rich automotive finish sets this speaker off perfectly. The speaker is almost
exactly my height, but I'm not at liberty to reveal what that is.
Vivid Audio's Giya is made in Durban, South Africa.
3. Sony VAIO Home Theatre PC VGX-TP25E/B
Not strictly an audio product, here is Sony's new Digital
Home Theatre PC. I guess curves are in this year. $3000 buys you a T8100 Core
2 Duo based media center based on the newly dominant Blu-ray technology. It
features dual cable HDTV tuners with DVR capabilities, allowing you to store
up to 50 hours of high definition video on its 500 MB drive. Sure you can get
these specs elsewhere, but would it look so cute and take up so little space
(17" x 5" x 16")?
4. Quad II-80
Quad commissioned Tim de Paravacini to develop this 80 watt monoblock
tube amp following the Peter Walker's traditions and philosophy, and
the result is a winner. It has the grunt and low output impedance to drive
many a difficult speaker and is an ideal match for Quad's own line of
electrostatic speakers. UK pricing runs at £5000 a pair.
5. PS Audio Memory Link
There's 64Meg of RAM in the new Memory Link ($1695) CD
Player from PS Audio. The bitstream is downloaded into RAM asynchronously for
playback. This picture shows the latest form factor which is now close to
production and much better looking than earlier prototypes. PS Audio has had
killer transports (Lambda) and DACs (UltraLink) before and this looks set to
be a major return to form for PS Audio's digital sources.
6. Furutech A/C Connectors
When's the last time your head was turned by an A/C
connector? Well, these babies grabbed my attention big time. The FI50-M(R)
Power Connector features pure Copper Rhodium plated conductors, a patented
earth jumper system, a nylon/fiberglass body with nano-sized ceramic particles
for enhanced resonance control, a stainless steel and carbon fiber body and a
curved pressure plate. All metal parts are cryogenically treated and
demagnetized with Furutech's Alpha process. This connector will come in just
under $200. The corresponding IEC Connector FI50-(R) has pure
copper rhodium plated conductors.
They may well be the best connectors on the market and they
just have to be the best looking. Watch out for Furutech – they're like a
7. Luxman Vacuum Tube Power Amplifier MQ88
Luxman returns to North America with a wide range of
exquisitely designed products. The MQ-88 Vacuum Tube Power Amplifier is a case
in point. It offers 40 watts per channel in a classic tetrode design using
KT88 output tubes. The MQ-88 weighs sells for $8000 and weighs 55lbs. I could
have picked any product from their extensive range and you would see elegant
lines, lavish attention to detail and superb finish. It gives you confidence
in the product when what you see looks so good.
8. Sonus Faber Cremona M
This update of the classic lute-shaped Cremona may not break
new visual design barriers for Sonus Faber, but simply exemplify the very high
standards this company has set for many a year. The Cremona M has a 1" ring
radiator tweeter specially made for Sonus Faber by Scan-Speak, a 6" Scan-Speak
threaded wood-fiber midrange and two 7" woofers employing advanced
aluminum/magnesium alloy cones. Non resonant low order crossovers are used
with crossover points at 400Hz and 2.3kHz.
What doesn't show in the photo is the rich musical
experience the new Cremona M delivers, a bargain at $12,800 the pair. Take
your choice of Natural Maple or Graphite multicoated with medium gloss
ecologically sensitive lacquer. Make mine maple!
9. Krell Modulari Duo Speaker
You can buy the Modulari Duo Top for just $10,500 but if you
want serious bass (and who doesn't) you'll want the complete package, the
Krell Modulari Duo System shown here, which sells for a modest $36,000 a pair.
The lower cabinet contains three 8" aluminum woofers (after 25 years in North
America I still want to write aluminium) while the Modulari Duo Top has
a 6" polypropylene midrange driver and a 1" neodymium tweeter. The Top alone
is flat from 47Hz to 30kHz (±3dB), while the Duo System is flat down to 24Hz.
You may find it odd to give design awards for rectangular
boxes. What's special here is the finish and the detailing. The quality of the
aluminum casework beggars belief. Custom colors are available – I'm trying
to picture them in red.
10. Creek Wyndsor
It's hard to pick a winner in vinyl spinners with excellent
and elegant designs from SME and ClearAudio high on my shortlist. But if I
have to pick one it will be for this completely new design from the UK's Creek
Audio, which comes bundled with a carbon fiber arm from Pro-Ject for just
$4500. I understand designer Mike Creek's arm was twisted by his German
distributor to come up with a turntable, so here it is. Outside of the US the
Wyndsor will be sold without an arm, with the armboard initially precut for a
Click here for main CES 2008
show coverage page.