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April 2003
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
CES And T.H.E. Show 2003
Part II

by Gigi Krop
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

Sunday, January 11, 2003

  Sunday morning arrives with a burst of bright sunshine. My body yearns for a few more hours sleep but it is the last day of CES and I haven't been to the convention center or THE Show. So I drag myself out of bed, throw on a pair of corduroys and sweater, grab a quick cup of coffee and hop a cab to the Las Vegas Hilton and Convention Center. 

Something is strange... the exhibit floors are empty. I ask one of the exhibitors, "Where is everyone?" He replies, "Today is the last day, everyone's gone home." Once in awhile I do something right. Today it appears that my timing is fortuitous. I wonder through the maze of exhibits until I find the home theater wing and a familiar name catches my attention.

 

I walk over to the Parasound area and say hello to the owner and talented designer, Richard Schram. Always the cordial host, Richard shows me his new Parasound C1 Controller ($6,000) with its very cool built-in 5-inch panel video monitor. The C1 also has auto room calibration, a revolutionary DSP Engine, component video input, user programmable 7.1 channels of sound and extra large power supply. It is powered by the Parasound A 51 amplifier which provides 5 channels at 250 watts per channel. Two Parasound A 21 amplfifers add two additional channels of 250 watts per channel each for a total of 7 channels. These new components are very serious pieces of equipment with a high-tech sleek stainless steel design. I'd love to test-drive these babies, but the display is silent. Guess my listening session will have to wait until next time. I give a big hello to Paul Brownlee, V.P. of Parasound Products and move on to the next exhibit.

 

The next name to catch my eye is a well-known hi-end company that has jumped on the surround sound super shuttle to audio and video fame. The owners of Krell Industries have already gone back to Connecticut but their new speakers are still on display. The impressive looking Resolution 1 speakers ($9,500/pr) the Resolution 2 powered sub ($7,500/pr), the Resolution 3 bookshelf speakers ($3,500/pr) and the Resolution Center Channel ($3,000) are all on display. They are (shipping in April 2003) ported with bi-wire capabilities. Also shipping in April is Krell's new multi-channel SACD player, the SACD Standard (Retail $4,000) with analog output stage, balanced circuitry and 5.1 multi-channel output stage. Effective January 2003, the entire KAV line is available in a black finish and the KPS 28c is discontinued. Sorry people but the equipment is on static display so visit your local dealer for a demo.

 

The knowledgeable Steve Hill of Straightwire Cables occupies the next booth. He shows me his new Rhapsody S Interconnect Cables with their low resistance, optimized Helix Design ($150 per meter pair). Steve also talks about his Virtuoso H Speaker Cables with the first symmetrical helix combo and symmetrical co-axil design. One can always rely on Steve Hill to give us hi-quality sound at affordable prices.

 

The next display is the popular and innovative digital company, Meridian Audio Limited. Their DSP-7000 four-way speakers are completely digital and the Meridian 598 DVD Audio player and 568.2 Surround Sound Processor are wired together with the Meridian MHR Smart Link multi-media interface. The Smart Link allows six encrypted digital audio channels to be transferred directly from the 598 into 568.2.

 

The MHR Smart Link is the first approved digital output connection for DVD-A, making it a unique feature only available to Meridian customers. While admiring the Meridian equipment, I ran into John Dahl of THX. He told me that the Meridian MHR Smart Link will be the future standard for audio and video equipment. 

Next to the Meridian display is a home theater demo with the new Faroudja single chip DLP, Meridian Electronics and speakers. I love these state of the art home theater demonstrations! The sound and picture quality is always amazing and the choice software clips of Spiderman, Rich Little and Burt Reynolds are such a blast. 

But when the rumbling of my stomach is almost as loud as the bass from the Meridian system, it's time for lunch. One of the coolest things about the CES show at the convention center is the pressroom. A suite of rooms full of literature, computers and copy machines is a welcome sight for a weary writer. And the best part is the beautiful hot buffet lunch. I grab a plate of chicken, vegetables, potatoes and salad and sit down next to another unsuspecting writer. 

Another fun thing about the press area is the interesting collection of international writers, photographers and video people. I look up from my food for a second and do a double take. Standing in front of me live and in color is my good friend, neighbor and recording engineer, Seth Snyder.

"Seth, I can't believe it's you." 
"Hi, Gigi. What's new?"
"Seth, that's a dumb question to ask at a CES show. Join me for lunch."
So we sit and talk for a few minutes. 
Then Seth says, "Gigi, I got to go now."
"What's the hurry?
"I want to check out the porno show."
"Oh, I still need to visit The Show. See you next week in Miami."

 

On my way out of the convention center I hear something a little different, the sound of live music. The people from Gibson Guitars have set up a stage with a café atmosphere. A solitary musician serenades us with voice and acoustic guitar. On display is an interesting array of exotic guitars owned by various rock legends. I take a few minutes to enjoy the music before grabbing a shuttle bus to The Show at the San Remo Hotel.

In the lobby of the San Remo run into a cool, longhaired guy from New York City. It's David Chesky. We talk about his new hybrid SACD and the sound epiphany I experienced in the Alón room. He promises to check it out.

 

I see a crowd milling around outside one of the rooms, so I walk in. This room showcases the Reference 3A Speakers ($4,000 Retail), Art Audio Electronics with the Symphony 2 Amplifier ($6,000), the Gill Audio Design Elise tube D to A 24/96 Converter ($7,000) and Acoustic Arts Transport ($3,500 Retail). Also on display are the Nottingham Spacedeck Turntable with arm ($2,500 to $3,600 Retail), the Benz L2 Cartridge ($1,250), Art Audio Phono Section ($3,995) and Dynamic Design Cables. The Burmester Demo CD is in the transport and sounds incredible with deep soundstage and clean voice. The trumpet resonance is suspended in space and it sounds like Hugh is sitting in front of me. The more I listen to this system the better I like the clean effortless, easy to listen to quality. The drums, voice and organ are so musical; I can listen into the music.

 

The next display features the Art Audio 20 watt per channel amplifier, Art Audio preamp, Naim Audio CDX-2 CD Player, Analysis Plus Copper Cables and Harbeth Super HL-5 Speakers and stands ($2,995) from England. This room displays a similar amp and preamp to the Reference 3A room but the CD player and speakers are different. These speakers are sweet and transparent but don't compare to the Reference 3As.

 

On to the next room where the beautiful Golden Dreams Audion 22 watts per channel monoblock amplifiers ($14,995/pr) from France are hooked up directly to Samuel Johnson PCD CD player with digital out to the PDA100 DAC. The Royal Device Laura Studio Speakers ($10,895) are 97dB with a full range 8-inch woofer with phase plug, horn tweeter and 9,000Hz crossover. Once again track 9 of the Burmester Demo CD is in the player. The horn tweeter is really cool with transparent highs and unusual voice quality. The midrange is sweet but the bass is a little muddy and doesn't extend down far enough. If the bass was as good as the highs, these would be killer speakers. If you want equipment that no one else has, these are the speakers for you.

 

Well, you might have heard of a Ferrari red Vidikron video projector, but have you ever heard of an electric blue Mercedes CD player? Mercedes Benz has a 40 percent interest in this English audio company. Consequently Tag McLaren Audio makes a CD player that looks like you can drive it down the street. The Aphrodite AvantGard Music System (pre-amplifier, CD player, radio) and small Calliope Loudspeakers is a gorgeous looking system and it comes in 8 colors. This small sound system has an incredibly dynamic and natural sound with accurate midrange and excellent bass. All I can say is, "Wow".

The next room plays host to the Alon Lotus Elite Signature Speakers and the DeHavilland 845G, 30 watts per channel, single-ended triode amplifiers ($6,000/pr) and the UltraVerve all-octal tube line stage preamplifier. The Sony 777 CD player and CAL Alpha D provide the front end to A Converter. The Burmester Demo CD provides the source. To my ears the sound is understated with a smoothed out top end. This system is very musical and easy to listen to with tight bass, but the background instruments appear a little muddy. Is it possible that the Sony CD player is not passing enough information to the DeHavilland electronics? I believe that this quality equipment deserves a better source, but then again what does a spaced - out blond like I know about hi-end equipment?

 

The room at the end of the hall houses the new Audio Research 150 watt per channel, 5-channel amplifier, Sony SACD player and Magnapan 5 channel speaker system ($725/pr, $950 Center Channel). The Magnapans are thin beige panels that hang from the wall. These planar magnetic speakers produce incredibly delicate, defined and sweet sounding music. The bass sounds a little blurry. In my humble opinion, the system needs a more powerful subwoofer. The speakers are so unobtrusive; they blend in with any décor. This is one of the best SACD demonstrations of The Show.

 

The last room I visit at The Show belongs to Nearfield Acoustics manufacturers of the Pipedreams Hemisphere Loudspeaker system. Prices for the Nearfield speaker productions range from $10,000 to $75,000. The Hemisphere model is a dynamic line-source array, housed in a tall slender cabinet with large cylindrical matching subwoofers. Nearfield Pipedreams is an accurate name because these speakers bring you nearer to the music. Known for their deep soundstage, you won't be disappointed. The redesigned cabinetry of the Hemisphere features a high strength unibody with a semi-circular curved back. The inner workings reveal refinements in drive units, geometry of driver placement and internal crossover component clusters. Up front is the TNT HRX, VPI's 25th Anniversary reference turntable with triple laminated air-suspension chassis, platter accuracy of +/-.0005 and two 24-pole motors driving a 7-pound flywheel ($10,000). The sweet and powerful VAC Renaissance Signature Amplifier and Preamp join together with the VPI turntable to create a fabulous dynamic sound equally involving at low and high volumes. The cables are from Silversmith Audio and George Mike Audio Technology designs the CD transport and tube D to A converter. 

The desert sun goes down in a blaze of yellow and orange over an azure blue sky on the last day of CES 2003. The music compliments the view. More than a pipedream, no castle in the sky, no field of dreams, this is the real thing. This is high-end audio at its best. 

So concludes another four days of space age sights and sounds in the desert village of Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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