The Home Entertainment Show 2004
Consumer Electronics Show 2004
The Best Public Address System at the show (yes, you read that
right) was from Von Schweikert Audio. The loudspeakers used
planar magnetic drivers for midrange and treble, and four cone woofers for the
bass. We were treated to excellent sound through this system every day
at lunchtime at T.H.E. SHOW, while we listened to the Misty River Band playing
live. Speaking of which...
The Best Sound in the Show was "The A Capella Song," as
performed by the Misty River Band in an all-acoustic set at TG Audio/CTC
Builders in a small jam-packed room at the Alexis Park. Doing a
combination of bluegrass, folk, and other art forms that they dubbed
"Americana," this four-woman group hailing from the Portland,
Oregon, area sang and played their hearts out. Their harmonies blended
beautifully. Bob Crump of TG Audio/CTC Builders was the
driving force behind Misty River’s appearance in Las Vegas, following his
introduction to their music by Jan Mancuso. He convinced the band
that they should appear, and he convinced Mike Maloney likewise. Bob had
been bowled over by Misty River’s recorded and live performances, championed
their cause with Maloney, and funded their appearance at the Alexis Park.
Bravo. (This session goes undocumented, as my photos were egregious.)
Stan Ricker was fortunate enough to sit in on bass with Misty River
several times. In an e-mail to the members of Misty River after the
show, Stan said, “I’m still trying to peel myself off the ceiling for
having the privilege of doing the obligato bass part behind your
“America”! A hell of a thrill, pure music-making thru and thru!!!
Thank you all for putting up with my unabashed unbridled enthusiasm --- you
didn’t really think I came to all those lunches just to munch on 5 hot dogs
a day, did you?!?!!????”
The Most Fun at the Show was watching and hearing a recording
workshop put on in the Von Schweikert Audio room at the San Remo.
The audience got to hear the Misty River Band sing live, got to watch
recording engineer extraordinaire Chris Huston work with the group and
make adjustments in real time, and got to hear the playback over a big system
consisting of amplifiers from Kevin Hayes of VAC, cables from Robert
Lee of Acoustical Zen, room treatment from RPG, and
loudspeakers from Albert Von Schweikert (the behemoth VR-11s). Room
correction was done by Chris Huston and Richard Rives Bird of Rives
Audio, using their analog-domain PARC (Parametric Adaptive Room
Compensation) device. Recording was done with a Meitner DSD recorder.
I was also quite taken by Rives Audio’s catchphrase, "So you finally
have the sound system to die for. Only your listening room is what’s
killing you." This session was an absolute blast and quite
educational, and I thank everyone involved. My hat is off to Albert Von
Schweikert for having the good taste to fund the appearance of Misty River at
these workshops, as well as every single day (including Monday) at lunchtime
at T.H.E. Show.
Kevin Hayes of VAC
Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen
Afterward, Chris Huston told me that he was from Liverpool, went to
school with John Lennon, and was with a band in the early 60’s called The
Undertakers, for whom The Beatles once opened. Chris went on to engineer
records for The Who, Led Zeppelin, War, and a large number of other famous
bands. He has also designed world-class recording studios, such as the
Sound Kitchen in Nashville. An ideal candidate for a future interview,
Abraham Laboriel, who is said to be “the most recorded bass player
in the world,” put on some demonstrations of his prowess that were
generating good buzz around the show. He was playing through new hybrid
ribbon-and-cone-woofer loudspeakers from Mark Gilmore of Gilmore
Audio, powered by Atma-Sphere tubed monoblocks. Watching Abraham
play electric bass was a joy; just when you thought he couldn’t get any
better, he did.
The Biggest Turntable Paradigm Shift was described to me in detail
by Sanju Chiba, president of the ELP Corporation. This
gentleman purchased the intellectual property of Finial, the US company that
originally attempted to produce a laser turntable. ELP spent five years
developing the final product, and five more years marketing it, and report
that over 1000 of these wear-free turntables have been sold since 1997.
Two lasers read the groove, one for each groove wall. They read higher
in the groove than a typical stylus rides, thus sensing a “virgin” portion
of the groove. Two more lasers are used to track the groove laterally
and aim the read lasers, while a fifth laser keeps track of the height of the
record. The spot size of the read lasers is 2 microns, smaller than a
typical stylus, and equal to the size of the burnishing facets on the cutting
stylus on Stan Ricker’s mastering lathe. The major drawback appears to
be that the LP must be squeaky clean; any dust on the record apparently
produces major noise. A good record cleaning machine is a must, and ELP
recommends the Loricraft. The quality of the associated playback system
was poor, so I could make no judgments about sound quality.
The Most Interesting Marriage of Computers and Audio was to be found
in the Electra-Print room of Jack Elliano. Vincent
Sanders of VRS Audio Systems was exhibiting a computer-based audio
system that can copy CDs or LPs (the latter at up to 32 bits/192 kHz
sampling). For CDs, the computer acquires the track information from the
web, then rips the contents to a hard drive in under 5 minutes. A
playlist of up to 1000 tracks can be generated, in any desired genre.
The contents of approximately 220 CDs can be stored with no compression of any
kind, on a 160 GB hard drive. DVD-Audio discs can also be accommodated,
but not SACDs. The system reportedly completely eliminates digital
jitter, resulting in sound quality that is better than the original CD.
Although I could not vouch for that from the demonstration that was presented,
I can say that the playback did not sound digital.
Barry Kohan of Bright Star Audio showed the Best Grit and
Determination for the eighth year running. And running he was,
installing his justifiably famous resonance control products in myriad rooms
around the show. (This entire line started from a humble box of sand
that Barry had sitting under a turntable many years ago, hence the grit.)
Some of my favorite products of Barry’s over the years have been the Rack of
Gibraltar and the Padded Cell (sporting the catchphrase “Every audiophile
needs a padded cell”). Whatever happened to that, anyway? I need
one desperately. The latest product featured at the show was the IsoRock
3 Reference platform, in Barry’s three official CES rooms. Barry also
does the assembly for the new Gilmore loudspeaker mentioned above.
Winston Ma of First Impression Music is busily expanding his
line, to include very high quality power outlets, IEC connectors and power
plugs, interconnect and power cables, maple equipment platforms, and
acoustical panels. I am enjoying one of Winston’s duplex AC
receptacles in my system now, and plan to install them in the remainder of my
system shortly. At the show, Winston introduced the Most Interesting
New Acoustical Panels. These are absorbing panels made entirely of
natural fibers, designed to be used safely in place of fiberglass, dubbed the
Safe Home Acoustic Panel (SHAP).
The Most Interesting New Connector was introduced by Eichmann
Technologies International from Brisbane, Australia. The Eichmann
Bullet Plug is a brand new type of RCA plug. It replaces the standard
outer return/ground collar with a tellurium/copper pin. This reportedly
solves the problems introduced by a collar with multiple contact points, gaps,
and impedance effects. This one is definitely worth investigating.
The Most Promising Power Conditioner was the Power Wing,
manufactured by World Power and represented by Alan Kafton of audioexcellenceaz.
I have one on short-term loan for a tryout in my reference system, and will be
able to report back at some point in the future on whether the angels sang and
the skies parted. Or maybe even on what it did for my system.
The Most Promising In-Wall Loudspeaker was being shown by Jeff
Joseph of Joseph Audio. “The Insider” uses a metal cone
woofer and a silk dome tweeter with an infinite slope crossover. The
design is said to result in an excellent dispersion pattern that mitigates
some of the drawbacks of typical in-wall loudspeakers.
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