And now... the end is near...
It seems unbelievable, but eventually the show had to end, and so did my stay in Vegas, otherwise my bank account would never have recovered. It wasn't so much our infamous family outing to the Crazy Horse Too that drained my funds (where my beloved editor treated me to a lap dance... um, that is to say, he paid for a lap dance for my wife and I from a nice young lady from Guadalajara - he didn't do the lap dance himself) but those pesky Casinos kept reminding me that eventually the house always wins. If we stayed any longer, I would have had to send my wife back to the Crazy Horse so we could make some money to pay for our return flight! So we did need to retreat to the comparatively tame environs of New York City. But I'm getting ahead of myself. After all there were a few other audio and video items and systems worthy of note including my vote for "best in show."
In Las Vegas, even the speakers are horny...
Tri-Cell Enterprises, a Canadian
distributor of high-end gear showed some amplification from Accustic Arts and gorgeous horn
speakers from Acapella. As it
turns out, when I was in the room, they were playing orchestral music, featuring
a full horn section. The horns (instruments) sounded very dynamic and
natural through the horns (speakers), but then, is anyone really surprised
to hear that? The featured speakers were the Violins ($23,500/pr.), which
fellow Enjoy the Music.comô writer Tony Maresch reviewed in the October
2002 issue of the magazine. The Violin is a three-way design,
featured a fairly traditional woofer in a sealed enclosure, a horn midrange
driver and a plasma ion tweeter.
In the Joseph Audio suite, Mr. Jeff Joseph
himself was on-hand demonstrating a five piece home theater system comprised
of various Joseph Audio speakers and coming in at just $5,000 for the complete
set of speakers. It included the RM7Si Signature Mk. II ($1799/pr.) doing front left and right duties, a
Cinergy 5.1 Mk. II ($1299) in the center and RM7Si Signature WM
($1899/pr) in the rear. Demo material was a live Diana Krall performance on
DVD. Even without a sub, this system put out plenty of bass and had
a lush natural midrange that took my breath away. Like the ASW system
mentioned in the last segment, these speakers just blended together so magically
that it was impossible to pinpoint the location of the speakers. It
was just one seamless soundscape from left to right and from front to rear.
Electronics in the Joseph Audio Suite were all from Theta Digital -- a Casablanca Mark II processor ($12,000), Carmen Mark II transport ($3850), Intrepid five-channel amplifier ($3,500) (see review by Bill Roberts in our January issue), and Generation 8 D/A converter for the front channels ($10,000). The display panel was from Fujitsu. Put 'em all together and whaddya got? An excellent sounding (and looking) home theater system, even given the limitations of a trade show display. Nice job, guys! Theta's new Enterprise monoblock amps ($8,500/pr. - introduced at the show, available now) were also on hand to drive the new floorstanding RM-33Si Limited Edition ($8,999/pr.) speakers, but alas, I did not get a chance to hear this combo - I'm sure it was stunning.
Looking like something out
of a retro 50's Sci-Fi film, Accuphase
was on-hand paired up with Avalon
Acoustics. Accuphase introduced their new VX-700 8 channel preamp/processor
($19,500) while Avalon featured their Eidolons ($20,495/pr.) as main left/right
speakers mated with Avalon Multi Channel
System's Symbol ($3000) doing rear duty, and their new Center Channel
($2500) and Symbol Subwoofer ($4000) rounding things out.
I've had a soft spot for Avalon
speakers since I first heard the Avalon Ascents at the Stereophile Hi-Fi show
in New York in 1996. The Eidolons appear to continue this tradition
of great sound - very dynamic and involving. There was a bit of boxniess
with the center channel, probably due to its placement within an A/V rack
with little room to breathe, but overall, the sound was expansive and impressive.
Is all that sound coming from that one little speaker?
In the "things that make you
go hmmm" department, Pioneer
was showing off their new PDSP-1 Digital Sound Projector ($40,000 - expected
to be available some time this year). It's a single flat panel speaker
assembly that goes below your display device and generates a complete surround
field without any rear or side speakers. Huh? Well, actually,
it's not a single speaker, it's really 254 different little speakers each
with its own digital amplifier. It uses electronic signal processing,
and precisely aimed sound beams to generate a convincing multi-channel soundfield.
The effect was pretty startling, if bass shy (it definitely needs a
good sub). Hey, if you just don't have a place to mount those side
and rear channel speakers, this may be your only option.
Crosley Radio was on-hand to show their collection of thoroughly modern throwback appliances. These are totally retro phones, turntables and vintage-style radios and jukeboxes that are actually equipped with modern consumer electronics. E.g., the "vintage radio" sports a cassette and CD player. Not high-end gear, but certainly something fun to help dress up your home or complement a retro kitchen or game room.
And speaking of retro... how do you take an item that is basically an essential yet boring commodity, for which people generally shop by price alone without paying any attention to appearance and elevate this to "ultra-cool" status so your item stands out against the competition? Why make it look different, of course, and throw in a little old-fashioned fun for good measure. That's what Verbatim has done with their "Digital Vinyl" recordable compact discs. Digital Vinyl discs are standard CD-R discs made to look like good old-fashioned 45 RPM records, complete with little black grooves! What better way to transfer your vinyl collection to CD? Digital Vinyl CD-Rs are available in stores now in a variety of colored labels.
Plasma Screens look better every year. It has nothing to do
Burmester was back at the Alexis Park showing off their new 022 Loudspeaker ($4695/pr.) with matching 023 stands as well as their new 007 Surround processor featuring Dolby Digital 7.1 and DTS 7.1 processing. They also had on hand the latest in their series of demo CDs, the CD-III - a nice blend of well-recorded classical, jazz and world music tunes ideal for running a Hi-Fi system through its paces.
new babies - the 022 Loudspeaker and matching stands.
Fellow Germans mbl introduced a DVD/CD/SACD player at CES the 1501 universal audio/video player ($6000) along with its twin brother -- an identically styled 200 WPC integrated amplifier the model 7008 ($5000).
Boylan's Best Sound of the Show for CES 2003
There were a lot of really
excellent sounding systems on display this year. But I have to mention
my personal favorite... drum roll please... and the Award goes to...
Alexis Park Suite 1801:
Joseph Audio and Theta Digital!
Suffice it to say these guys did an excellent
job of wringing high quality sound out of adverse conditions.
That's all folks. Kudos to all the manufacturers who trekked
out and did their level best to put on a good show and congratulations to everyone for a fantastic
CES. Next time, I'm bringing more money!
Just tuning in on this show report? Why not start at the beginning and see what you've missed
Items covered in the above article: Joseph Audio, Accustic Arts, Acoustic Arts, Acapella, Murata, Etymotic, Blu-Ray, blue ray, dvd, Sony, HD-DVD, Accuphase, Avalon, Burmester, mbl, hdtv, audio, speaker reviews, high-end, hifi reviews, hifi, audio show, audio reviews, ces, ces 2003, ces show report, home theater show.