International CES 2009
& THE Show Report
Arriving at the Press Room just before 9 a.m. on Saturday I was lucky to grab the last apple in the basket and a large cup of coffee. No muffins in sight and even fewer people than yesterday. After spinning out a couple of emails I walked past the registration desk which gives you an idea of the attendance at this year's show. Admittedly, CES was half over at this point, but in the other direction at the Sands, there seemed to be people constantly streaming into the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo each morning.
There were a number of conference rooms on the second floor
with some important presenters that I wanted to catch before shooting up into
As I stepped out of the Sunny room I was hailed from across
the hall by Anssi Hyvonen of Amphion
Anssi then spun me around to listen to a very special rig
comprised of the Audio Analogue Maestro CD player again (and to prove me
wrong), the Lars integrated
amplifier, a very special tube unit driving the Amphion Prio 620 loudspeaker,
a two-way D'Appolito configuration with 90dB/W/m sensitivity and 4 Ohm
impedance. As you can see, it is an absolutely stunning work of industrial
design with virtually every part hand made. Putting out 20 watts per channel
at 1% THD at 4 Ohm output impedance, it is a 300B push-pull design in Class A
with no negative feedback. It uses hand-wound geometrical balanced C-core
transformers that caught the attention of Per
Lundhal, an internationally known designer of audio transformers
whom I noticed talking with Lars Engstrom.
I was also greeted very graciously by Timo
Engstrom, whom I believe is the designer of this gorgeous amplifier
Plummeting back to the real world, Anssi turned my attention to a modest system comprised of Audio Analogue's Enigma Multifunction unit ($2800) and a pair of Amphion Ion L loudspeakers ($1590). While the rig was not optimally set up, and the conversations in the room were impinging on the music at this point, it was evident these pieces were from a high pedigree and worthy of consideration at their price points. The trend toward high quality All-in-One units seems to be growing and may become a significant portal to the high-end for the iPod Generation.
I was impressed by
In a room filled with silent boutique displays I noted Hi-Fi Tuning has come out with myrtle wood blocks partially filled with beans or pebbles of some sort. Intended as vibration absorbing devices, the Sound Caviar are 100€ for set of three pieces and also double as maracas if you are moved to play along with your marimba music.
Since my friend Tom Lathrop uses Usher's Tiny Dancer in his main rig, I paid special attention to their new Dancer mini two, which at about 51 inches tall, is not exactly "mini". It bears a strong family resemblance, acoustically, but it has a much bigger sound as you might expect with its D'Appolito configured dual 7-inch woofers. Frequency response is said to be 28 Hz to 40 kHz; efficiency is 90dB/W/m for this 4 Ohm load. From what I've experienced with the Tiny Dancer, I expect this loudspeaker feels every bit as deep as 28 Hz, if not deeper. Style-wise, it is more refined and less busy than the Tiny Dancer, borrowing design elements from Sonus Faber as they have in the past. The finish, however, was a very nice flat finish with a hint of satin sheen. Priced at $4795/pr, it has the style and sound to become a category killer. A two-way version, the Dancer mini-one, is shown in the brochure but I did not notice it at the show. At about 40 inches high, it is considerably smaller than the mini two and is probably priced midway between the Tiny Dancer and the mini two at about $3800. I would expect it to be a similarly high value. Driving the Usher loudspeakers were Usher electronics: P307A preamp ($2230), a CD player, and an R-1.5 amplifier ($2520). The quality of the music I heard here suggests more attention be paid to the Usher electronics also.
was clearly on the warpath at Totem.
His revised Wind loudspeaker ($12,500) was painted in Alfa Romeo Red and
sported a chrome skid plate at the floor in the rear as well as a chrome Claw
in the front center for adjustability. The internal chambers of the Wind have
been revised, but it is still complex, creating a driver alignment similar to
the big JPS Labs and