[Community of A/V Enthusiasts]
Blog Note: My CES 2013 coverage is split across two blog posts. This blog covers from Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - Friday, January 11, 2013.
CES 2013 has come to a close and it is great to be home. I have uploaded my complete coverage from Wednesday through Friday so please continue reading below. I also wanted to share some final thoughts.
The show had an enormous crowd of over 150,000 people. From an audio/video perspective, the new innovation was all around 4K displays. Every major manufacturer was showcasing 4K displays. The practical reality is that while the 4K displays were stunning, the general consumer will not be able to afford this technology for several more years at least until the prices come down to earth. The real stars of the show were the updated plasma and LED televisions that support the current HDTV standards. These new sets were gorgeous and offer the consumer some amazing technology and beautiful video quality at approachable pricing.
On the audio side of things, it was very clear that high-end audio manufacturers have embraced digital audio and the USB input. Companies like Bryston, Cary Audio Design, McIntosh Laboratories, NAD and Antelope Audio were all showing products designed to process digital audio signals via USB. While the implementations may vary, it was clear that the personal computer has been embraced as a media source in our home audio system. Furthermore, that digital content can be enjoyed in a traditional two-channel system or as a personal experience via a multitude of headphones and headphone amplifiers. The best part of all this is that there is hope that high-end audio can reach a younger audience by showing a new generation that music really matters.
That’s it for my coverage of CES 2013. I hope you enjoyed it.
Friday – 1/11/2013 – CES Day 4
Friday was my last day at CES 2013 and I decided to take my bags to the LVCC and leave from there to the airport. This allowed me to have an extra hour or two on the show floor.
While the main entrance was rather light, that changed in a hurry at the Samsung Galaxy Studio. This was the same area that was under construction in my press day coverage.
The Galaxy Studio was full of people creating customized T-shirts with the Samsung Galaxy Note II.
LG was showing the world’s first 3D video wall. The truck and that splashing water looked amazing in 3D.
Panasonic was showing the world’s largest 4K OLED TV.
Sony claimed the first and largest 4K OLED TV at their booth. It must come down to bragging rights in some circles.
LG was also showing off curved 3D OLED TVs.
Tucked away amongst the video displays, LG was showing the BH9530TW 9.1 channel speaker system. The system sounded pretty amazing in the demo.
The speakers in the BH9530TW have a driver which faces upward at the top of the speaker.
While 4K was the rage in television, Panasonic was also showing a 20 inch tablet with a 4K resolution.
Here’s the tablet being shown with an architectural application. A user can touch to zoom into a drawing and can even annotate for collaboration with other architects or customers.
Here’s the Panasonic 4K tablet being used for photographs. This will be a dream for photographers showcasing their work.
Sony was showing off their new magnetic fluid speakers in their new 4K LED televisions. The speakers require less space than conventional speakers and produce a much better sound. Fingerprints are not included.
The Sony XBR-84X900 84” 4KTV was stunning.
While the convention center was much lighter on Friday, there was no lack of crowd at Samsung.
Tucked away in the mobile phone accessories at Samsung was the DA-E700 wireless audio dock. It features network connectivity and a docking cradle for your favorite Samsung phone. You could use the dock with an iDevice but you would have to charge using the USB port on the back panel. The best part - it is the only phone accessory with vacuum tube amplifier technology.
Samsung was also showing off transparent display technology. The words on this display case are actually a still image from a video. I will post a video of this so you can see it in action.
That’s it for my coverage of CES 2013.
Thursday – 1/10/2013 – CES Day 3
I spent today at the LVCC. It was so strange to not see Microsoft at the show. I think they missed a huge opportunity as their booth was always very popular. Nonetheless, the convention center was bustling with activity.
The DTS booth was showing off their Play-Fi technology which enables mobile devices to wirelessly stream high-definition audio to multiple audio systems at once over Wi-Fi. The dancers were entertaining.
Sharp was showing off their take on Ultra HD with a screen film called Moth Eye. The name comes from a characteristic of a moth’s eye which absorbs light rather than reflecting it. The film is intended to reduce glare and still show bright colors.
This picture will give you a better feel for Moth Eye. The left third of the display is uncoated and showed more reflections from the convention center lights. The right third has a non-glare coating. The center third is covered in Moth Eye. Sharp should consider selling this film as its own product.
The place to be at the Central Hall was the Samsung booth. It was constantly crowded with people and it was common to wait to see the products on display.
Samsung offers a wide range of products. Here is Secrets’ Piero Gabucci admiring one of the Series 9 laptops.
While the new UHD sets were all the rage, the new Samsung F8000 LED HD TVs were gorgeous. I would take one of these in a minute.
Samsung’s OLED display prototypes were mesmerizing - if they were only available now at attainable pricing.
At 110”, this Ultra HD display from Samsung will make some folks forget about projectors.
This was definitely the most “green” booth at the convention center. The plants were real.
There was an endless array of vendors showing phone and tablet accessories.
Headphones were everywhere.
As if I didn’t have my fill of headphones already, Comfy Tunes was showing this pair of earmuff headphones.
Skinit was showing portable wireless speakers with sports themes for your next tailgate party.
The ViewSonic birds were entertaining the crowd.
Sennheiser was showing their new Momentum headphones. These headphones retail for $349.95 and come in brown or black. The earpads were incredibly soft and comfortable. It was nice to see a premium brand focused on comfort and quality rather than just fashion.
The input jack on the Momentum articulates to accommodate different needs.
Sennheiser had a real treat on display. Here is the Orpheus electrostatic headphones and tube pre-amplifier. The Orpheus was introduced in 1991 in limited quantities and sold for $15,000. If you can find one today in good working condition, it can fetch upwards of $30,000.
As if seeing this amazing product wasn’t enough, Sennheiser had an Orpheus on display in their listening room. Listening to the Orpheus was a humbling experience. The sound was fantastic – effortless, detailed and natural. I just stood there in amazement at what was easily the best sounding headphone product at the show. I can only hope that Sennheiser revisits this type of product in the future.
Sherwood had a tiny booth at the show. Here is their R-807 7.1 channel receiver which offers WiFi-Direct.
Here are the DT 880 headphones from Beyer Dynamic. The headphones come in 32, 250 or 600 Ohm models.
In front of the convention center was a large tent for Gibson and Onkyo.
Lots of happy musicians were playing with the guitars.
Onkyo was showing some custom headphones branded for Gibson.
Here’s a modern take on the Wurlitzer jukebox.
Onkyo was showing their new ES-HF300 and ES-FC300 headphones. Both headphones feature titanium drivers, detachable cables, and come in white, black or violet. The headphones are priced at $179 for the ES-HF300 and $149 for the ES-FC300 and should be on the market in March. The difference between the two is the inclusion of an audiophile grade cable on the ES-HF300. In my listening at the tent, the better cable seemed to be making a big difference in the sound. Here is the ES-FC300 with the flat elastomer cable.
Here is the ES-HF300 with the premium 6N copper cable.
In addition to the headphones, Onkyo will be offering a premium app for your favorite iDevice which will support playing high resolution audio files. The application even includes an equalizer which can be adjusted using the touch interface on your device.
Onkyo was also showing their new IE-HF300 and IE-FC300 in-ear monitors. The IE-HF300 is priced at $129 and the IE-FC300 is priced at $99. The difference between the two models is the premium cable. The IE headphones will be available in the May timeframe.
I was done at the LVCC for today and wanted to head back to the Venetian to meet up with our team. This was the crazy line for the bus.
Back at the Venetian, I took one last quick look through the innovation award cases. This is the Da Vinci Dual DAC from Light Harmonic. One DAC is dedicated to PCM and the other is dedicated to DSD playback. The inputs on the Da Vinci Dual DAC support up to 32 bit 384 kHz PCM and up to DSD 128.
After a very long day, it was time to enjoy some appetizers and drinks with great friends.
That’s it for today.
Wednesday – 1/9/2013 – CES Day 2
Today I was back at the Venetian and my first stop was at Antelope Audio. Antelope Audio makes some amazing equipment for the professional recording industry and they are leaders in clocking technology. Here’s a look at their demo room. The speakers are Marten Django XL which retail for $14,995.
The equipment in the rack is where all the magic happens. Starting from the bottom of the rack, we find the Isochrone 10M which uses a Rubidium atomic reference generator to create a 10 MHz reference signal. The staff at Antelope explained that their Rubidium clock produces a signal 100,000 times more accurate than a crystal oscillator. Moving up the rack, we find the Isochrone Trinity master clock. This device uses a 64 bit DSP and supports up to 384 kHz. By itself, the Trinity uses an oven-controlled crystal oscillator or it can be fed a reference signal from the atomic clock. The next item in the rack is the Eclipse 384 which is a 384 kHz A/D and D/A converter. The first product at the top of the rack is the Orion 32 which is a 32 channel A/D and D/A convert which support both MADI and USB interfaces. The Orion 32 allows for the streaming of 32-channel 192 kHz digital I/O through a custom-built USB interface.
Antelope Audio was demonstrating their A/D and D/A expertise by playing vinyl content from a Townshend Rock 7 turntable ($5,100) using a Helius Omega Ruby Tone Arm ($5,225). Switching between analog and digital was imperceptible and the sound was fantastic. I had no doubt that the digital signal was a faithful reproduction of the live analog source. The Antelope Audio demonstration gave me a whole new appreciation for what needs to happen when mastering high resolution music in the professional studio. For digital sources, Antelope Audio was using a Music Vault Diamond server ($3,900). The Diamond includes a professional AES/EBU digital output and has 2 TB of storage along with 2 TB of storage for automatic backups. The Diamond uses dBpoweramp to ensure accurate rips of all content.
Antelope Audio was also showing a few other products that will appeal to the audiophile community. The first is the Voltikus paired with a Zodiac+. The Voltikus is a heavy-duty audiophile-grade power supply. The Zodiac+ is a 192 kHz D/A converter that also includes an oven-controlled clock.
Here are the Antelope Audio Voltikus and Zodiac Gold in a gold finish. The Zodiac Gold is a 384 kHz D/A converter with an oven-controlled clock. It is available as a Gold package which includes a remote for $4,495.
The other product that Antelope Audio is introducing is the Rubicon preamp. The Rubicon was not on display in their suite but I found a unit behind glass in the innovations award area. The Rubicon includes a rubidium atomic clock, 384 kHz A/D and D/A conversion, a phono preamp and it supports DLNA streaming. The Rubicon has a very distinctive look and will be available for around $45K.
Here is the Auralic Merak monoblock power amplifier which uses a combination of linear and switching circuits which Auralic calls Hybrid Analog Amplify technology.
This is the Auralic Vega digital audio processor which supports all hi-res music formats includes DXD and DSD.
Support for USB was everywhere. Here is the H300 integrated amplifier/DAC from Hegel Music Systems.
Here is the Puccini from dCS. It is a complete digital front end offering upsampling, clocking and a built-in CD/SACD player.
This is the Debussy DAC from dCS. It includes an asynchronous USB input, supports 24/192 kHz, and supports DSD over PCM.
This is the Bladelius Embla silent replay system from Sweden’s Bladelius Design Group AB. The unit has no moving mechanical parts and includes an analog preamp, a D/A converter, supports playback of high resolution audio files up to 32 bit, 192 kHz, and can connect to external USB storage. It comes with a touch-screen interface for $9K or without for $6K.
This is the Bladelius Thor MK III integrated amplifier. It includes a USB DAC and a phone stage. It retails for $3,500.
This is the Bladelius ASK power amplifier. It includes one two-channel Class AB amplifier and one two-channel analog Class D amplifier. The unit retails for $7,000 and includes two different Standby power modes one of which only requires 0.5 watts. The new low-power requirements are very green and were very common from European manufacturers. It will catch on here in the states eventually.
This is the Bladelius Ymer Mk.II fully balance power amplifier. It provides 2 x 300 watts and retails for $12,000.
Here’s a look at the Manly demo room.
This is the ProLogue Eight CD player from PrimaLuna.
I stopped by the NAD suites for an update on their latest products. They were showing some proto-types of their latest digital audio products with a really small and compact form-factor. From left to right, we have the D 3020 Digital DAC/amplifier ($399), the D 1050 USB DAC ($499) and the D 7050 digital network receiver ($899). The D 3020 provides 2x30 watts, includes an asynchronous USB input supporting up to 24/196 and supports direct Bluetooth connections from smartphones and tablets using aptX. The D 1050 USB DAC support up to 24 bit/192 kHz and includes AES/EBU, coax and optical inputs. The D 7050 provides 2x50 watts and includes internet radio, AirPlay and UPnP streaming. It also includes an asynchronous USB input. All three products make for easy access to digital content.
NAD was showing the new model of the VISO1 wireless digital music system called the VISO 1 AP. The new model no longer has a docking station and includes transport controls built into the aluminum frame. The VISO 1 AP support Apple AirPlay and aptX Bluetooth connectivity and retails for $599.
Here’s the NAD DAC 2 wireless USB DAC. It retails for $299 and supports 24 bit/96 kHz.
The NAD M50 digital music player ($2,499) and the M52 digital music vault ($1,999) were on display. While both products had been previously introduced, the news at the show was that both models are now shipping.
The NAD M50 also has its own iPad application.
This is the Sopranino self-biased electrostatic loudspeaker from ENIGMAcoustics. This is marketed as a super tweeter. The demo was far too loud for my tastes but it was otherwise convincing.
This is the Momentum preamplifier from Dan D’Agostino. The volume is controlled by the ring around the gorgeous dial.
This is the Momentum amplifier from Dan D’Agostino.
This is the stunning Master Innovation Wood TT-2 tonearm from Germany’s Clearaudio. It can be yours for $34,500.
This is the Innovation Wood Universal tonearm from Clearaudio. It retails for $15,000.
This is the Innovation Wood Compact Magnify tonearm from Clearaudio. It retails for $10,500.
For those of you needing a professional cleaner for your vinyl collection, here is the Double Matrix from Clearaudio. It retails for $4,000.
Cambridge Audio was showing the new azur 752BD universal disc player and the new azur 351R 5.1 channel home theater receiver.
Peachtree Audio was showing off their Grand Integrated X1 hybrid tube preamplifier and DAC. It retails for $4,499.
Simaudio had their special Pink Floyd edition of the Moon 810LP balanced MC/MM phono preamplifier on display.
The new Moon 740P balanced preamplifier from Simaudio.
The new Moon 870A reference balanced amplifier from Simaudio. The 870A features 300 watts/channel.
Germany’s Burmester had some gorgeous equipment on display. Here is the 111 music center which includes a preamplifier and integrated DAC. It retails for $49,995.
This is the Burmester 069 belt driven CD player. It retails for $52,495 with an internal power supply or $67,995 with a reference line power supply.
This is the Burmester 956 MK 2 power amplifier. It retails for $17,495.
This enormous amp is the Burmester 909 MK5 power amplifier. It retails for $73,495.
I went into the Soul Electronics suite to see their display. I was surprised to see Tim Tebow showing off a pair of his SL300TEBOW edition headphones in person. They are currently on sale for $224.95.
Here’s a look at the internal construction of the Ayre preamplifier which retails for $18,500. The unit is actually upside down and the bottom panel has been removed.
The MBL suite was packed with people enjoying the MBL Radialstrahler speakers which radiate sound in a 360 degree pattern.
Boulder Amplifiers, Inc. had their 3050 series monoblocks on display. The amps are enormous and the design is really unusual. A pair of these amps will set you back $205,000 and each one requires a 240 volt circuit. Due to the power requirements, these were not operational in the suite.
This is the power cord for the Boulder amps.
This is the new reference surround processor from JBL Synthesis. It retails for $10,500 and features 7.1 channels of processing, 8 HDMI inputs, 24 bit/192 kHz DACs and two 32-bit floating point DSP engines.
The new Mark Levinson No 52 reference dual-monaural preamplifier was on display. It retails for $30,000.
This large subwoofer is the Revel Ultima Rhythm 2.
This is the new Project Everest DD67000 three-way speaker from JBL. A pair will set you back $75,000.
Revel introduced an update to the Performa3 Series speakers. Here are the F208 3-way dual 8” tower speakers ($5,000/pair on the left) and the F206 3-way dual 6.5” tower speakers ($3,500/pair).
Here is the Revel C208 dual 8” center channel. It retails for $2,000.
Here is the Revel C205 dual 5.25” center channel. It retails for $1,000.
Headphones and headphone amps were everywhere. Here is the HP100 headphone amplifier from Stello. The price was TBD.
I stopped by the McIntosh suite to see what was new. The McIntosh McAire is an all-in-one solution capable of receiving streaming content from AirPlay over a WiFi network. The product includes two 4” woofers, two 2” midrange drivers, and two ¾” tweeters. The McAire supports USB docking and retails for $3,000.
This is the 60th Anniversary Edition (1949-2009) MXA60 two-channel integrated audio system. It includes a CD/SACD player, an AM/FM tuner and is rated at 75 watts/channel.
This is the new McIntosh MT5 precision turntable.
One big change at McIntosh was the inclusion of a D/A converter and digital inputs on all of their updated products. The digital inputs include optical, coaxial, and USB.
Here is the new D100 two-channel digital preamplifier paired with the 50th Anniversary Edition of the McIntosh 275 two-channel amplifier.
Starting from the top, here are the new MA7900 integrated amplifier, the MAC 6700 receiver, and the MA5200 integrated amplifier. All include the new D/A converter and digital inputs.
My last stop at the Venetian was at the Scaena suite. These amazing speakers make use of multiple small drivers to create some beautiful music. The custom speakers will run around $200K.
On my way back to the Monte Carlo, I stopped at the Vdara hotel to see the Olive One prototype in person. The prototype unit was really beautiful with a glass and aluminum exterior. The dial that you see in the picture will be replaced with a continuous piece of glass when the product is released this summer. At $400, this is one media server that will be flying off the shelves.
That’s it for today. I will head down to the Las Vegas Convention Center tomorrow.