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International CES / T.H.E. Show 2007 Report
    
Bonus Coverage By Dick Olsher
Click here to e-mail journalist.

  Goodbye Alexis Park, hello Venetian Hotel and Casino. CES high-end exhibitors ushered in 2007 with a new upscale venue on the Las Vegas strip. Not everyone was happy, however, with the standard room layout in the Venetian Tower - a sunken living arrangement reduced useful space available for system setup. Some reluctantly opted for larger but much more expensive suites. Traffic at the Venetian was strong, while it was noticeably down at the rival The Home Entertainment (THE) Show which previously was located next door to the CES venue.

As usual, the following represents my personal views and Show highlights. I confess to having missed some rooms entirely, as my three days in Vegas was hardly adequate to allow total coverage.

Usher Audio believes that Beryllium is the next big thing in music reproduction. A stiff, lightweight, and well damped material makes for an ideal cone diaphragm. Unfortunately, common materials that are lightweight and well damped, such as paper, are not very stiff. The Dancer II Beryllium series, incorporates beryllium tweeter and midrange drivers for enhanced pistonic motion and transient precision. Designer Joe D'Appolito was on hand to answer technical questions. We agreed on the importance of basing a speaker design on superior drivers. My thesis has always been that it is impossible to squeeze good sound from inferior drivers. Metallic cone drivers such as aluminum, titanium, or magnesium alloy when properly deployed can result in stunning clarity. However, lack of adequate internal damping means that when such drivers do eventually reach their breakup frequency, they ring severely and consequently require more complex crossover networks to tame these resonances.

 

   

TEAC's Esoteric Division is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Seen here is President Motomaki Ohmachi offering a toast during a press function. Esoteric will be expanding its product base this spring with the addition of a speaker line. What is special about the MG-10 ($5,500/pr) and MG-20 ($9,200/pr) is that both feature an all magnesium driver complement. Esoteric feels that magnesium provides better internal energy dissipation relative to aluminum or titanium. In addition, the woofer cone is damped with two thin coatings for enhanced resonance control. Manufacturing will be conducted by Tannoy in the UK. My first take of the MG-20 tower was extremely positive: wonderful clarity, but without the metallic aftertaste that often accompanies metal drivers.

Of course, it did not hurt to have the new and truly reference caliber Esoteric X-O1D2 SACD/CD player ($16,000) at the front end.

 

Tube gurus Dave Berning (left) and Dennis Had in a jovial mood. The good news is that the Berning Company through its newly created ADVANCED Division will be bringing to market several new products based on the ZOTL technology - Zero Hysteresis Output Transformerless circuit. Production facilities are in Montreal Canada and product availability is fall of 2007.

 

Hemp Acoustics' Perry Pecker proudly displays a HEMPosite™ guitar. Hemp denotes Cannabis Sativa when this plant is grown for industrial purposes, mainly fiber, for which cultivation licenses may be issued in the European Union and Canada. In case you're wondering, Hemp Acoustics manufactures drivers principally on an OEM basis using HEMPMatrix™, HEMPylene™, Hemp?™ cones and XBL2™ motor technology. The latter technology is made possible through an alliance between Adire Audio and Hemp Acoustics. Hemp is said to offer higher tensile strength than wood pulp, banana fiber, or glass fiber, and is claimed to sound more natural as a cone material relative to paper, Kevlar, Kenaf, aluminum, magnesium, ceramic, or carbon fiber.

A line of open-baffle compatible drivers is also under development. First to market will be an 8" full range (OB8) and a matching 15-inch (OB15). Adire Audio's Dan Wiggins is finalizing an innovative Open Baffle DIY Loudspeaker. The Kenobi baffle was on passive display and I predict that it will transform open baffle design practice. I can't wait to get my hands on review samples.

 

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