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May 2003
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
CES Show Coverage – 2003
What The Other Guys Didn't Tell You...
 Part IV (Finalé)
Articler By Chris Boylan

 

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.

Accustic Arts amplification and Acapella speakers
Amplification by Accustic Arts, loudspeakers by Acapella. 

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.

Joseph Audio and Theta Digital teamed up to put together a killer home theater rig.
Joseph Audio and Theta Digital teamed up to put together a killer home theater rig.
Theta's brand new Enterprise monoblocks flank the stereo rack. 

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.

Accuphase
Accuphase rep poses with his stack of ultra-cool gear.

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.  

Accuphase and Avalon Acoustics
Avalon supplemented their Eidelon mains with the new
Symbol Subwoofer and Center Channel, plus Symbols in the rear.

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.   

Murata manufacturing was on hand with their spherical ceramic speaker the ES024 in a pre-production version.  Expected price is $6400 but this is not available  yet.  Low-volume orchestral music sounded sweet and refined through this system,  These are clearly more about finesse than absolute power and dynamics.   

Murata Manufacturing ceramic speaker
Murata Manufacturing's prototype
ES024 ceramic speaker.


Etymotic Research had their new ER-6 Isolator Earphones ($139) on display.  Similar to the ER4P (see my review in the November 2001 issue), the Etymotic ER6 phones offer significant reduction of background noise via acoustic isolation, rather than artificial sounding electronics. They're akin to earplugs, but with teeny tiny drivers in them so the sound is broadcast directly into your ear canal.  For frequent travelers, or folks in noisy environments, these are a godsend.  The earbud of the new ER6 is a bit different than the ER4P (actually, a little more comfortable and less invasive), and the sound was great too, but not quite up to the high standards of the ER4P or ER4S.  But for almost $200 cheaper, the ER-6 represents an excellent value is noise-reducing 'phones. Worth a listen.  

Etymotic Research at CES 2003
The amazingly lifelike animatronic Etymotic
robot shows off the new ER-6 earphones at CES.

 

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.

 Pioneer's Digital Sound Projector PDSP1
Pioneer's PDSP-1 Digital Sound Projector is
made up of 254 independent amps and drivers.
Go ahead - count them.  I'll wait...

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.  

Crosley Radio - retro gear and CES 2003
Crosley Radio puts the fun back in consumer electronics.

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.  

Verbatim's Digital Vinyl
Verbatim gives boring CD-Rs a decidedly retro flair.


Sony had a tremendous display in the North Convention Hall with everything from robots to computers to DVD-recorders to SACD to HDTV displays.  Their main presentation -- "The World About U" -- stressed "Universality" - or convergence of electronics across categories and into our daily lives.  Frankly it was a little schmaltzy, even including a plug for the TV show The Guardian - "every Tuesday night on CBS."  Sony did have some interesting news however, including a prototype Blu-Ray HDTV DVD player with a fantastic picture, new widescreen tube HDTV announcements and some big new plasmas with cool transparent frames. For widescreen tube HDTV monitors, Sony announced a new 30 inch and 34 inch model with "super-fine pitch" shadow masks for even higher resolutions than their acclaimed KV-34XBR2 and KV-34XBR800.  Models are the 34 inch KV-34XBR910 ($2500) and 30 inch KV-30XBR910 ($2000) and are expected to be available in July. Alas, no built-in HDTV tuners so you'll still need an HDTV set-top box.   

Sony Blu-Ray DVD (prototype)
Sony's prototype Blu-Ray HD DVD player was putting out some remarkable images
on Sony's KE-50XBR900 HD-Ready Plasma HDTV ($12,999).

Hawaiian Tropics on NEC Plasma

NEC's Plasma Screens look better every year. It has nothing to do
with the demo material. Pictured is the 61MP1 ($19,995)

 

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).  

mbl at CES 2003

MBL's new twins - the 1501 universal disc player and the 7008 integrated amp.

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.