International CES 2009
& THE Show Report
CES & THE Show 2009 Report
Part 1 By Rick Becker
In the larger room
in the Harbeth suite was their
40.1 driven by a Luxman integrated amplifier (I believe) that had a full, warm and inviting sound.
These large monitors ($13,000) were sitting atop beautifully crafted wood stands
from ResonantWoods.com in New
Hampshire USA featuring exquisite joinery that left lots of open air beneath the Harbeth.
I expect Brooks Tanner would be willing to make a custom wood stand if
you need something special like this. On a more curious note, I noticed a
number of tuning devices on the walls that reminded me of Tibetan singing
bowls. I’ll have more to say about them much later on.
In a rather expensive room I met Jim
Aud from Purist Audio Design,
a company that has made very high end cables featuring fluid and gel filled
casings for many years. He figured he had about $20,000 worth in the system
that was kicked off with a Marantz
SACD player used as a transport for a Stahl~Tek
($17,000) that fed a KR Audio
Kronzilla SXI integrated amplifier putting out 50 wpc ($25,000). The speakers
were Peak Consult Zoltan
Signatures ($40,000). There was a lot of great gear in this room, but it
didn’t come together for me — sounding a little fuzzy. Perhaps it was the
least expensive component at the head of the chain.
In what might only be considered a gimmick, an audience
ClairAudient LSA8 line
source array comprised of eight 3-inch full range (40Hz to 22kHz) Audience
designed A3 drivers with an S-shaped surround for linear
excursion…(phew)…was driven by a $349 Virtue
Audio model two amplifier putting out 40 wpc about the size of
a…well, just go to their website. This thing cheats like a Stealth bomber.
It is jammed with high tech and designed by Roger
Sheker of Audience. Pick a color, buy two, duct tape them to the
back of your speakers and wire them for vertical bi-amplifying. Oh, did I mention
the separate power supply? We’re talking about a $349 integrated amplifier
in this room driving a $21,000 pair of speakers. If you need more sound for a
larger room (like really large)
there is the 16 driver version LSA16 at $33,000. What we really have here is a
primo amplifier for a vacation rig. The music sounded great, but the gear was
enough to drive me to schizophrenia! Where’s Mark Katz when I need him?!?!
I had a great time visiting with Keith
Herron where I had the opportunity to A-B polarity with his remote
controlled tube preamp. The reversal of polarity took on varying degrees of
subtlety depending on the music itself and the polarity of the particular cut
on my compilation CD. It seems to be an acquired taste that I am better off
not acquiring, lest I be forced to get up and reverse the cables on my
speakers time and again. The rig itself was entirely Herron,
right down to the cables, save for the rim-drive VPI
TNT HR-X turntable with JMW-12.7 tonearm ($12,000). M1 monoblocks
($6850 per pair.) drove the tall 2104A infinite baffle speakers that are yet
to reach production. It was interesting to hear the deep and tuneful bass of
this sealed loudspeaker. Keith had both his VTSP-3 tube preamp and the new
SP-4 Hybrid preamp with two tubes that will be available in the 2nd
quarter of this year. The room had a familiar look with all the plants in the
corners and the sound was very listenable.
For $41,700 you can buy a pair of Consensus
Audio’s Conspiracy loudspeakers from Austria,
which are designed by a man who has many years experience in loudspeaker
research and engineering. They were exquisitely finished in an exotic Etimo veneer from Africa —
is a sort of African Rosewood that is popular in kitchens and furniture in South Africa.
Also available is piano gloss black or other woods. The cabinet's lute
shape is designed to control the air flow in conjunction with the port. A
plywood spine is visible at the rear where you will also find very significant
cable posts. With its ceramic drivers it had a similar sound to the Kharmas,
but uses a tuned cabinet rather than inert, damped one. The room was tweaked
with Shakti tuning devices and
the cables were on risers. Alto-Extremo
vibration absorbing footers were also in evidence.
loudspeakers have been re-invented as Brodman,
another piano manufacturer in Vienna,
where the loudspeakers are now made. Three sizes range from $6000 to $16,000,
although the tall ones seemed shorter than I remembered from the New York show
some years ago. With their extra set of tuning panels on each side, these
un-damped speakers are designed to resonate and recreate the sound of a
concert hall with twin front facing tweeters and twin side firing mid-woofers
on each side on the largest model. The full length side grill has been removed
to reveal the mid-woofers for the photograph. These speakers have an air of
elegance, but the difficult room architecture probably prohibited them from
sounding as good as I remembered them from the past. Or it might have been the
humble Oppo disc player used as a
source. A Viola Cadenza preamp
with very cool billet aluminum knobs was also in use.
In the Reference 3A
room I met Tash Goka and heard the new Episode floorstanding loudspeaker
($5500) that I saw on silent display at
last year. The Episode is positioned between the Grand Veena and the smaller
Veena. I liked the sound here a lot. Tash told me that they now have a new
Faraday ring on the tweeter in their Dulcet and they will be incorporating
that feature in the MM de Capo I in a Mk2 version that may be done in time for
the Montreal 2009 show. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing that one.
I crossed over to the other side of the Alexis Park and hit
the Analysis Audio room where their 66-inches tall planar-ribbon model was
driven by Spectron electronics created a huge soundstage with a long slow
decay. There are two taller models, going up to 84-inches if you’ve got the
room for it. The music here was luscious, creating the sense of being in a
very large space. While I usually prefer tube electronics, the Analysis Audio
speakers demand a high current amplifier. The Spectron gear presented very
little sacrifice, if any.
By now it was dark and I headed for the St. Tropez to
reconnoiter with my friend Art Shapiro whom I haven’t seen in a few years
and meet his wife, Joan, for the first time. We decided to walk to a nearby
Indian restaurant for dinner. In a typical
moment, I spotted this billboard for my namesake’s chain of gentleman’s
clubs. The one here in Las Vegas is perhaps most notable for setting the
record at 362 for the most simultaneous lap dances during a single song, in
this case, Prince’s Exotic City.
Much more to come in Part 2, stay tuned!