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Blog Note: My CES 2013 coverage is split across two blog posts. This blog covers Press Day and Day 1 of CES.
Tuesday – 1/8/2013 – CES 2013 Day 1 – Part 2
I visited Cary Audio Design and was delighted to see that they moved up to the 35th floor at the Venetian. The 35th floor is where the larger demo suites are usually found and the price tag of most of the systems on that floor is six figures. The good news is that Cary Audio Design didn't raise their prices. The quality of their gear more than earns them a place on the high-end floor and they were also showcasing their products with some other high-end speakers and components.
Here is the beautiful Cary Audio Design CAD-211 Founder's Edition mono-block amplifier.
Cary Audio Design was introducing two new digital to analog converters. The first is the DAC-100t which is a 24 bit/192 kHz tube D/A converter. The digital section was designed in cooperation with Gordon Rankin and Cary Audio designed the analog section. The DAC-100t has an asynchronous USB input supporting both Mac and PC and the product uses ESS SABRE 9023 DAC chips, one each per channel.
Cary Audio Design was also showing some new products in their direct-to-consumer Audio Electronics product line. Here is the Lightning D/A converter. Almost every manufacturer was using an Apple MacBook Pro as a source device for content.
Here is the Audio Electronics Nighthawk headphone amplifier and the Cary Audio HH-1 headphone amplifier. Both are full Class A with the Nighthawk using a discrete preamplifier stage and the HH-1 using a tube preamplifier stage.
This innocuous-looking device is the Signal Completion Stage from BSG Technologies. The product makes use of a patented technology called QOL (it rhymes with “coal”) which claims to restore missing phase information from the sound reproduced by audio systems. I was not familiar with their technology, but I can tell you that the demo was pretty impressive. The music played on their system seemed much more real and engaging when the QOL processing was active. The Signal Completion Stage currently operates in the analog domain. The device is sold direct to consumers, retails for $3,995 and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The BSG Technologies rep told me that they are rarely returned.
Focus Audio was showing their Liszt Sonata 34 watts/channel amplifier. The Sonata retails for $12K and can be configured as an integrated amplifier with volume control or as a direct input power amplifier.
The circuit board on the left is the volume control. The Sonata uses premium parts throughout including a single Tantalum resistor in the signal path of the volume control which Focus Audio says maximizes the product's natural sound.
The last bit of news for the day is technology related. I had a conversation with some folks at Tymphany regarding developments around Skifta. Tymphany is a company which specializes in acoustic technology and they are a provider of technology for the speaker industry. Skifta is a media-shifting technology which was developed by Qualcomm. Skifta allows users to access video, music and pictures from mobile devices and stream that content to DLNA or UPnP capable devices over WiFi. Tymphany is actively working on building technology that can be used to send audio directly to speakers via the Skifta protocols. This will open up some interesting possibilities for distributing audio if speaker manufacturers jump on board. Time will tell, but we may be hearing more about Skifta at the next CES.
That's everything from my Tuesday at the Venetian.
Tuesday – 1/8/2013 – CES 2013 Day 1 - Part 1
I started my day at the Venetian and my first stop was at Paradigm. The beautiful 30th anniversary limited edition Inspiration and Tribute speakers were on display. Here is the Inspiration ($1,499 each) which can be used as a bookshelf or stand-mounted speaker. The plinth that supports the speaker is made from polished carbon steel.
I stopped in to see the latest creations from Sandy Gross and his team at GoldenEar Technology. Sandy was demoing the new Triton Seven tower speakers ($699.99 each) which use passive bass radiators. The speakers sounded great and had excellent bass response without the use of a subwoofer. The Triton Seven is the third speaker from the left in the following photo. The Triton Seven speakers will be available this summer and make another excellent addition to the GoldenEar product lineup.
Bryston also had their new Model T mini bookshelf speakers ($2,550 pair) and the Model T Signature 3-way passive speakers on display. The Model T Signatures retail for $7,495 per pair with a pair of PX1 external passive crossovers. They are also available for $6,495 without the passive crossovers.
Torus Power was showing a prototype of their new in-wall power conditioner. This is a really great idea for those wanting to install a power conditioner for a wall mounted television. The unit installs in the wall and also provides two USB sockets for accessory devices.
Parasound was also demonstrating their new CD 1 CD player. The new player has a retail price of $4,500 and takes a whole new approach to CD playback. The CD 1 makes use of computer technology to read and continuously buffer approximately 40 seconds of data from the CD during playback. Buffering the data allows the CD 1 to re-read individual bits to ensure playback quality. The buffering also allows the data to be re-clocked which reduces jitter. The result was a player which sounded fantastic in the demo.
CES covers almost everything you can think of. Here's a look at the Lego Mindstorms product which allows kids to build and control their own robots. The kit comes with all the parts to make the robots shown on the table and additional designs can be downloaded from the internet or created with imagination. Each of the robots can be controlled with apps for Android and iDevice.
Astell & Kern were showing their AK100 portable high-fidelity music system. The portable player is capable of playing 24 bit / 192 kHz content which Astell & Kern refer to as Studio Mastering Quality Sound (MQS). Audio files can be copied to the player from any PC and supported formats include FLAC, WAV, OGG, ALAC, AIFF, WMA and of course MP3. The player makes use of Wolfson WM8740 DACs and can be used as an external DAC thanks to its external optical input. The player sounded great and comes with 32 GB of internal memory which can be expanded to 96 GB using two dual micro SD card slots.
Monday – 1/7/2013 - CES 2013 Press Day
I arrived in Las Vegas on Monday morning and thought I would have plenty of time to grab some lunch and head over to Mandalay Bay for the Samsung press conference at 2:00 PM. This is my third time covering CES so I was already prepared for the crowds. The press conferences were moved from the Venetian to Mandalay Bay and I naively thought that would make the prospect of attending a little less stressful. Boy was I wrong. Lunch was completely gone in the press room by the time I arrived and the lines for the Samsung conference were simply incredible. The line snaked down the hall multiple times and then wrapped around another corner.
The press conference opened with an introduction from the president of Samsung Electronics, Boo-Keun Yoon. His speech and the overall presentation had a common theme: discover the world of possibilities. Samsung stressed their understanding of consumer needs and how their products help connect everyone in the family to shared content through easy to use technology such as content recommendation and gesture and voice control in their Smart TVs.
The first big announcement was the F8000 LED TV. The F8000 series is the first Samsung Smart TV to come with a quad-core processor to quickly toggle between apps, online services and streaming content.
The F8000 series will be available in a variety of sizes ranging from 46” to 75”. Pricing was not announced but the sets should start to become available next spring. The F8000 series will also offer Samsung's S-Recommendation feature which will provide all members of the family content recommendations based on interest and even time of day. Samsung also stressed improvements in their voice recognition and gesture control interfaces. An increasing array of third-party applications is also available making these so much more than just televisions. Samsung also showed their Smart Evolution kit which allows a consumer to upgrade a 2012 television to the capabilities of the new 2013 models by simply attaching an upgrade module to the back of their current television.
Samsung also talked about a new 55” OLED TV. The KN55F9500 will also be the first TV to offer multi-view which allows two viewers to watch different programs in full 1080p resolution on the same screen. I can just imagine what that feature will do to family communication, but I can imagine that it might come in handy when watching sporting events.
Samsung also showcased innovations in their cameras which now allow for stills and movies to be shot in 3D via a 45 mm 2D/3D lens. They also showcased their phones and a new refrigerator which had a compartment that could be turned from refrigeration to freezer at the touch of a button.
I left Mandalay Bay and made my way to the Las Vegas Convention Center for the Sony press conference. On my way, I passed a very lively dish network character.
Sony showcased their new Xperia Z phone which boasts a 5” 1080p display. The Xperia Z makes use of near field communication technology which allows the phone to transfer audio and video playback to Sony compatible devices such as headphones, TVs and speakers just by touching the phone to the compatible device.
The main message from Sony was 4K. They introduced two new Sony Bravia 4K Ultra HD TVs in both 65”and 55” models. Pricing was not announced but the TVs should be available in the spring. Sony also talked about being the first to market with a 4K video distribution service for consumers. Sony also showed a 55" 4K OLED prototype display.
It was very clear from both Samsung and Sony that they believe that 4K is the next big thing. In terms of overall marketing presentations, Samsung would be the clear winner in my book. They have a wider range of products and the overall message was more consumer friendly. When it comes to 4K, content will be king and Sony has a distinct advantage thanks to their extensive film catalog and their 4K technology which is widely used in the motion picture industry. Either way, 4K is definitely in our future.
That's it for my coverage for today. I am off to the Venetian on Tuesday.
Start of Coverage - 1/6/2013
After taking some time off for the holidays, I’m starting the New Year by heading off to Las Vegas for the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. I arrive tomorrow, which is press day, with hopefully just enough time to make it to the Samsung press conference. Last year was a long and tortuous wait for seats at the Venetian conference center, so we'll see if moving the press conferences to Mandalay Bay will make a difference. I will then head over to the Las Vegas convention center for the Sony press conference. I also plan on attending the Digital Experience! event at the MGM on Monday evening which should offer a nice preview of some of the new gadgets and technology being announced this week.
CES 2013 officially opens on Tuesday the 8th. I will be covering the excitement at the Venetian on Tuesday and Wednesday and will then head down to the LVCC on Thursday. My blog coverage starts late Monday night.