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International CES 2009 & THE Show Report
Consumer Electronics Show 2009 Report & Coverage   The Home Enteetainment Show
CES & THE Show 2009 Report
Part 3 By Rick Becker

 

  Continuing from Part 2 and am now on the 31st floor of the Venetian Towers…

 

The song "Lady in Red" comes to mind when I recall the little AUX system from Italy . It starts at $1500 for the three piece system in a rugged Stage Black. Add $100 for Alpine White or gloss black. Add $500 for the Alfa Romeo Red shown here, which will be a branded product through Alfa, as will the red and black woven leather cover version that matches the Alpha Romeo interior. The woofer unit seen here on the floor contains a 400 watt Class D amplifier and the satellites house a 4-inch full range driver. I don't recall the input capability, but it seems most everything these days has a USB input. This system was stunningly beautiful in the Alfa red and a very high quality lifestyle product. Seems they've missed an opportunity by not branding the gloss black version through Harley-Davidson.

 

I thought Acoustic Energy's Radiance 3 loudspeaker was one of the most sanely priced loudspeakers at the show. At $3000, it was hard to quibble with its fine sound. The silver metal surrounds on the drivers give it more of a lifestyle look than I personally care for, but I'm a full generation ahead of its target audience, so what do I know? If you can't use a floorstander there was a beautiful two-way monitor with the same tweeter and mid-woofer for $1200 that should also be an excellent value. Grille cloth for both models attaches with little magnets, keeping the façade very clean looking. For home theater AE showed a powered subwoofer in a clean black finish, along with powered small monitors at $600 each, making for a tidy $4000 surround system. Remember those small Class D Blueblade amplifier modules I mentioned in Part 2? I don't know if they are used here, but the concept is identical. Also on display was their new AE USB DAC for $1500. With a USB input only, this DAC is compatible with Mac, Windows and Linux. The line out is through balanced Neutrik jacks and there is also a headphone output with two settings. A special circuit isolates the ground of your computer from the ground of your audio system and the heavy cabined is treated with vibration damping material to keep the music clean.

Bladelius Design Group is a Swedish company founded by a guy who used to work for Classé. I owe them an apology for neglecting to take a photo of their fine Scandinavian designs. I took video notes of their Thor Mk II integrated amplifier with 165 watts per channel in Class AB that goes for $3750. It has a complement of both balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs as well as a machined remote control. Check them out on the internet.

 

  

LA Audio from Taiwan manufactures a broad line of hand wired tube gear that was a feast for the eyes and ears. Three items caught my eye. The rep said the A-3300, a 35 wpc push-pull with four 300B tubes for $3150 is probably their best sounding unit. But what really grabbed my attention was their new 25 wpc M-5 integrated with a black metallic chassis and remote control for $1050. No excuses for not trying tube gear now! The purist in me gazed at their beautiful P-88 monoblocks with a 211 tube driven by an EL34 for $4700/pr. Lots of eye candy here.

 

    

My video notes failed me in The Beatles Room because I was so blown away by a playback of an unreleased Beatles song, complete with studio chatter, given to the presenter here. The video was obscure because of the darkness, but l later realized the loudspeaker was a rarely seen Manger 109 AG monitor. The Manger driver is a unique nearly full-range design that extends out to 35 kHz. The monitor is $12.5k in wood or $15k in piano black as shown here. They were placed on Boston Audio Design TuneBlocks which appear light grey with the photo flash. The Manger was being driven by the Delta Sigma North Pole Series integrated amplifier which is said to be flat to 3 MHz and sells for $27000. It is rated at 150 wpc, but claims 2000 watts on peaks, Class AB. The source was an equally expensive Bow Technologies CD player. Sometimes the music just transports you and in this case it took me all the way back to the Sixties. This was one of the golden moments of the show for me.

 

Another really cool room at CES was the J-corder room filled with colorful rehabbed and rebuilt Technics reel to reel tape recorders playing through a vintage pair of Epicure towers seen here to the left. They specialize in Technics decks because of the original build quality and the anodized color options offered by their metal construction. A particular stunning machine was a black beauty, a $25000 remake of a Master Pro deck with gold plated hubs that will take two or four inch masters. They said they would consider rebuilding decks of other manufacture so if you have something worthwhile, give them a shout.

 

The K & Q Sound Genesis room was very interesting with its open baffle loudspeaker constructed of solid cherry with a separate outboard crossover also housed in cherry. It was driven by their own tube amplifier with a 300B tube driving another 300B to produce 7 watts per channel which tells us the loudspeaker is very efficient. From behind, the tweeter looked to be a small horn driver. Shown here is Mr. Quoc Nguyenngoc whom I had the pleasure of meeting. Quoc has a PhD from MIT and has been in the speaker and system building business for thirty years. The speakers are $7800/pr. and the amplifier is $6800. The sound here was very respectable and again challenged my antiquated opinion of open baffle designs.

 

Hanss Acoustics brought samples of all their turntables to CES, but the one you want to hear about is their most affordable T-20 model, selling for $3080 without tonearm. The company is based in Hong Kong but the tables are manufactured in mainland China incorporating a German bearing and a Czech motor. There is a magnetic suspension on the three feet as well as on the platter itself. Should you desire to lock down the platter suspension, you can do this by turning a knob beneath the platter. The platter is driven by three bands of silicone. Weighing 4.8kg, the platter is composed of machined and anodized aluminum and topped with a cork mat and shown here with a record clamp. The plinth is a sandwich of a black material that was not identified between two thinner layers of aluminum. At the back corners of the plinth were protrusions for mounting two tonearms. The curvaceous plinth carries over throughout their line in various multiples to accommodate thicker platters, and perhaps even an upgrade path. It is a very elegant design topped off with an impressive LED speed readout on the plinth that read 33.333 rpm. Hanss also makes speed controllers, mm/mc phono stages, a digital stylus pressure gauge and a heavy duty record cleaning machine.

 

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