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CES 2013 & T.H.E. Show Report  2013
CES 2013 Show Report & CES Coverage   T.H.E. Show 2013 Las Vegas Report
CES & T.H.E. Show Report 2013
Coverage By Steven R. Rochlin

  Welcome to my CES / T.H.E. Show 2013 coverage and will do my best to post coverage daily during these events! Those of you who read my recent editorial within the January Review Magazine know about my recent surgery and will do my best to get as much online as possible. Of course not even limited mobility and various states of pain will slow me down as plan to post a lot of product information over the coming days. So sit back, relax, chill... and follow me as we discovered the many great new high-end audio products launched at T.H.E. Show Las Vegas and CES 2013.

As many of you know, there are various large press events before the opening of the main show. Thanks to the Internet, i was able to virtually attend each one without ever leaving my room. Seems to me there is a major push for higher data rates in every way; from processing power to 4G LTE bandwidth and Wi-Fi. The industry knows we are all seeking music, movies and more in the digital realm and ways to enjoy them not only within our homes, but anywhere in the world. It is great to also see 4K video gaining steam to improve upon 1080 and hopefully one day 32-bit/384kHz will make its way into mainstream too.

Once one distills away all the press event hyperbole and grandstanding, the bottom line in the migration away from the physical for music/movies and moving further into the virtual/digital domain. The Wi-Fi standard of 802.11ac, according to Wiki, "will enable multi-station WLAN throughput of at least 1 gigabit per second and a maximum single link throughput of at least 500 megabits per second (500 Mbit/s)." Thus in a year or three you may have fewer wires needed behind our high-end system. For those curious, am already getting 400Mbit/s wireless bandwidth connection to the Nexus 10 tablet on my current high-end network that was just updated with a Netgear R6300 Wi-Fi router. i expect many high-end audio companies to offer 802.11ac plus the slower legacy connection types on their units soon. The explosion of manufacturers releasing USB DACs and music servers over the past three years has been eye-popping. Unless you are an analog purist odds are you have a USB DAC, controller, or some such already in your audiophile system. During T.H.E. Show Las Vegas and CES 2013 i expect to see not just more of such devices, but new and interesting twists plus of course more manufacturers with supporting Apple, Android, and perhaps Windows 8 apps too. Of course there should be an abundance of casket-sized speakers, delicious-looking turntables, glowing tube amplifiers, tasty tweaks and much more launched this week too. And with that said, let the show begin!

 

Up first is the highly respected Nagra from Switzerland with their new Melody preamplifier that uses discrete transistor topology. Situated beneath the Nagra Jazz in terms of pricing, the Melody engineers worked especially hard on reducing the noise threshold so that the machine can match the quietest sources currently available, be they analogical or digital. The circuits have been entirely designed with the most silent components. Those which have a direct influence on the sound are painstakingly selected for their audio qualities. The transistors are measured, sorted and paired up: 60% of them are rejected after testing. Nagra's Melody preamplifier can be operated by remote control (volume, mute) and offers five Cinch inputs and two switchable outputs, one XLR and one Cinch. The unit can also be equipped with an optional Nagra external power supply and a phono circuit with bipolar transistors, directly inspired by the highly reputed Nagra BPS phono preamplifier. There is a "state-of-the-art multiple power supply in the works" according to Nagra. CES 2013 also provided a timely moment for Nagra to provide a peep at its MPS multiple power supply project which is in the final phase of development. For Nagra, the inventor of the portable tape recorder, power supply to its machines is an area which receives the greatest attention and in which the company is constantly innovating. This is where a large part of the intrinsic quality of the electronics stems from according to the company, as they must be silent, stable and powerful whilst at the same time being energy efficient. The idea behind the Nagra MPS project is to provide an ultra high performance state-of-the-art power supply which can be used to power several Nagra units simultaneously. The Nagra MPS power supply possesses four outputs, as an optional rechargeable battery can be installed on one of them that would constitute an ideal solution for powering a phono preamplifier in total silence, for example. The engineers have even designed in a home automation loop: by connecting a remote control, the machine can be switched on via a simple phone call so that it can already be up to optimal operating temperature for a listening session when the user gets home! Nagra's MPS power supply should be ready to ship during the second quarter of 2013.

 

GoldenEar Technology. is at CES 2013 introduction two new loudspeakers: the Triton Seven ($700/ea) high-resolution tower loudspeaker and the SuperSat 60/60C ($800/ea). The new Triton Seven set a new price/performance and value standards for the company with its driver compliment and unique cabinet shape. Whilst the cabinet is both acoustically purposeful as well as strikingly attractive, the driver compliment includes an impressive for the price D’Appolito array. A High Velocity Folded Ribbon Driver (HVFR) for the uppermost range is mated with a pair of spiderleg cast-basket 5.25" bass/midrange drivers. These driver were newly developed at GoldenEar's Arnprior, Canada engineering facility and have been specifically designed for exceptionally long-throw for tremendous dynamic range and extraordinarily deep bass response. The Seven also incorporates a pair of side-mounted sub-bass radiators that are located on either side of the cabinet. Overall frequency response is from 29 Hz to 35 kHz with a sensitivity of 89dB/W/m at 8 Ohms. GoldenEar Technology's SuperSat 60 and 60C are larger, more powerful versions of the award-winning SuperSat 50 and 50C. They are designed to complement 60" and larger video screens when used as left and right channels and mounted vertically next to them. Within the sculpted cabinet constructed from aerospace-grade aluminum and finished in piano-gloss black has four GoldenEar 4.5" bass/midrange drivers with Multi-Vaned Phase-Plugs configured in a two-stage D'Appolito Array surrounding their signature High-Velocity Folded Ribbon high-frequency radiator. Two 4" x 7" quadratic planar low frequency radiators complete the driver complement. Frequency response is from 50 Hz to 35 kHz, sensitivity is 91/dB/W/m and impedance is 8 Ohms.

 

Wireworld Cable Technology has their new next generation of cable and connector technology at CES2013. The new Series 7 cables incorporate a number of innovations, including a new composite insulation materials called Composilex 2, and HD-Grip self-locking HDMI connectors. Many of the new cables include distinctive coins that commemorate the company's 20-year anniversary. All of the Series 7 cables feature Composilex 2 insulation technology, which minimizes the triboelectric noise produced by conventional insulation materials. The benefits of Composilex 2 are especially noticeable on Series 7 HDMI cables, audio interconnects and power cords, where the reduced interference greatly improves performance. Wireworld’s HD-Grip HDMI connectors solve the common problem of cables becoming unplugged. The self-locking function of HD-Grip is as simple to use as a standard cable, while the increased retention force compares favorably to other more complex solutions. In addition to self-locking, HD-Grip plugs also feature upgraded contacts with proprietary silver + gold plating that improves audible and visible clarity. All six levels of Wireworld Series 7 HDMI cables were upgraded with HD-Grip connectors and Composilex 2 insulation to provide superior performance and value. Series 7 also includes an extensive line of professional and musical instrument cables, featuring what is believed to be the world's first 0.25" phone plugs with silver-clad copper contacts. Developed through the advanced measurement technique of 'waveform differential analysis,' these cables promise "dramatic improvements in waveform fidelity for both analog and 110-Ohm balanced digital applications. With five levels of microphone, instrument and digital cables, musicians and engineers will now have an exciting new way to upgrade the sound quality of their productions" says the company.

 

High-end audio electronics manufacturer Valve Amplification Company (VAC) has proudly unveiled their new Statement iQ Power Amplifier and Statement Series Preamplifiers at the 2013 CES. Known for designing audio amplifiers that use vacuum tubes, VAC founder Kevin Hayes states, "The VAC iQ System is the result of 18 years of research and development by VAC, and represents the first time in history that each tube in a vacuum tube amplifier can be held continuously at the optimal operating point, regardless of how loudly or softly the music is playing; it also takes the worry out of maintaining a tube amplifier. We are excited to offer this sound experience for the first time to the attendees at CES this year." In addition to unveiling the Statement iQ Power Amplifier, VAC's new Statement Line Amplifier and the new Statement Phono Amplifier complete their product range at The Venetian Towers. VAC's new Statement Phone preamplifier represent the highest expression of fidelity that can occur when all cost constraints are removed from the design and manufacturing process. The VAC Statement Phone Amplifier is designed for extreme, perfectionist applications. Four separate phone sources can be accommodated, each of which may be of the moving coil or moving magnet type. MC sources may be operated with conventional single-ended wiring or may be used fully balanced. Gains of 52, 70 or 76 dB may be selected, matching virtually all cartridges. Load impedance is selectable for the 52 dB input, while load capacitance is selectable for the higher gain inputs. Mono operation is selectable when needed to compliment vintage recordings, The hand wired, eight twin triode, Class A1 audio assembly is bonded to a massive brass mass loading block that is decoupled from the chassis. Critical resistors are of the costly 'naked' metal foil variety. Equalization is achieved without negative feedback, which does wonders in preserving the organic nature of the sound. All interconnecting wires are carefully routed and directed by spaced nonmetallic guides. The transformer coupled output stage is modeled after the Statement Line Preamplifier's high current, low impedance, fully balanced circuit. It is carefully decoupled from the early input stages; even the tubes' heaters run from an independent supply. Both single-ended and balanced outputs are provided. The audio and power supply chassis are machined from high grade non-ferrous aluminum, and processed through a series of plating steps. The resulting AICuNiCr chassis possesses superior RF rejection properties for greater resolution and subjectively blacker backgrounds. Similar care is taken around the wideband audio transformers. The massive separate dual mono power supply has substantial energy storage and high inherent regulation. Both resistive and inductive elements are used in concert with high speed capacitor assemblies for the high voltage supplies, while active voltage stabilization is included in all of the heater supplies.

VAC's new Statement 450 iQ Power Amplifier builds on the performance of the original Statement Series and takes it to a new level with a series of critical enhancements, including the new VAC iQ Intelligent Continuous Automatic Bias System (patent pending). The VAC iQ System is the result of 18 years of research and development by the engineers at VAC, and represents the first time in history that each tube in the output stage of a vacuum tube amplifier can be held at the optimal bias point (underlying true quiescent current) at all times, regardless of how loudly or softly the music is playing. The result is sound that is always the best it can be, reduced distortion and noise, longer tube life, elimination of gas current 'run away' tubes, and increased reliability, all without any effort by the user. The VAC iQ System also alerts you when a tube is growing weak or has failed. In short, with VAC iQ tube drama is a thing of the past. The VAC Statement 450 iQ also features newly improved output transformers (56 pounds per monoblock) with "smoother, more extended frequency response" according to the company. The input and driver tubes are contained on a mass loaded assembly that is specially decoupled from the main chassis for enhanced recovery of ambience and very fine nuance. Input signal handling has been changed to a more pure, direct connection. Various changes to the power supply compliment and support the new circuits, while multilayer AICuNiCr plating to certain sections of the machined chassis further improve detail recovery. The VAC iQ Continuous Automatic Bias System is a true breakthrough in power amplifier design.

Lastly, the new VAC Statement Preamplifier represent the highest expression of fidelity that can occur when all cost constraints are removed from the design and manufacturing process. The heart of the VAC Statement Line Preamplifier is a high current, low impedance, balanced Class A1 triode vacuum tube amplifier. Its inputs and outputs couple to the outside world through high precision wideband transformers. While inherently balanced in design, the transformers themselves accomplish conversion to single-ended operation in a sonically transparent way when required. The avoidance of negative feedback and use of transformer coupling eliminates unwanted stray interactions between the source components and power amplifiers, such as long chain interactions between feedback loops, which tend to coarsen the sound and flatten the sound stage, such as may happen when a DAC is connected directly to a typical amplifier. Volume is controlled by a very costly, massive, one pound multi-section potentiometer some 2" long and nearly two inches in diameter, with machined brass shielding between the sections and against the outside world. For remote function VAC engineered a custom drive assembly with a very fine degree of adjustability. This is the best sounding remote volume control in the world -- nothing like the ubiquitous $9 Cirrus Logic CS3318 'digitally controlled analog' solid-state IC chips or banks of relays or transistors switching arrays of resistors seen in other preamplifiers. The audio and power supply chassis are machined from high grade non-ferrous aluminum, and processed through a series of plating steps. The resulting AICuNiCr chassis possesses superior RF rejection properties for greater resolution and subjectively blacker backgrounds. Similar care is taken around each of the six wideband audio transformers. All interconnecting wires are carefully routed and directed by spaced nonmetallic guides. The hand wired audio assembly is bonded to a massive brass loading block, which is isolation decoupled from the main chassis, greatly increasing detail retrieval. The massive separate dual mono power supply has substantial energy storage and high inherent regulation. Both resistive and inductive elements are used in concert with high speed capacitor assemblies for the high voltage supplies, while active voltage stabilization is included in all of the heater supplies and the 12 volt trigger supply. In addition to the five regular line inputs, three of which may be used with balanced sources, there is also a fixed volume input for use as a slave in a multi-channel home theater system, or with other sources that control their own level. The 'cinema' source may also be balanced or single ended.

 

B.M.C. Audio is at the show with launching the PureDAC ($1600) unit that combines an advanced headphone amplifier with styling and affordability. B.M.C.'s PureDAC has separate volume settings for its built-in preamplifier and reference-level balanced headphone amplifier. Designed principally for Lifestyle and Design-conscious consumers, the PureDAC is the first entry in a new PureLine Series of components that will be more affordable than B.M.C.'s Reference-level models. Additional products in the PureSeries line will include the PurePhono Preamplifier, compatible with both moving magnet and moving coil type cartridges, and the PureMono Amplifier, with B.M.C.'s exclusive Current Injection technology. The PureDAC delivers a DAC with a balanced, reference-level headphone amplifier, a balanced preamplifier, and B.M.C.'s exclusive Digital Intelligent Gain Management (DIGM), a volume and amplification control system that calibrates gain without dividing or downgrading the input signal. The PureDAC rear panel shows both digital and analog connectors as well as the special B.M.C. Link for connecting to other B.M.C. components. PureDAC's headphone amplifier and preamplifier both have separate volume controls and employ B.M.C.'s exclusive Load Effect Free (LEF) technology. LEF handles a speaker's current demand separately from the voltage demand, increasing the amp and preamp’s efficiency and the quality of their audio reproduction. The preamp is integrated with the DAC's current-to-voltage converter, which converts and filters the DAC’s current, eliminating the need for an extra stage. The PureDAC also boasts a high-resolution asynchronous USB interface, digital AES/EBU, optical TosLink and coaxial inputs, balanced analog outputs, RCA output jacks, and a special B.M.C. link for connecting directly to a B.M.C. amplifier. Its balanced output is ideally compatible with amplifiers featuring B.M.C.'s exclusive Current Injection (CI) technology, which enhances signal purity and the musical presence of the PureDAC’s audio reproduction.

 

B.M.C. Audio's new AMP CS2 ($8,390) stereo integrated amplifier is notable for a built-in option that automatically changes it from operating as an integrated amplifier with B.M.C.'s exclusive Load Effect Free (LEF) technology into a stereo power amplifier with LEF by simply connecting it to a B.M.C. digital-to-analog converter (DAC). The AMP CS2 delivers two channels of 200 Watts housed in a sturdy aluminum chassis with large Power and Volume buttons and an easily read Power Meter. The AMP CS2 also features a full package of B.M.C.'s unique and exclusive technologies, including LEF Amplification, Current Injection (CI), and Discrete Intelligent Gain Management (DIGM). Short, pure signal path and instead of compensating for distortion as other amps do through a negative feedback loop, the AMP CS2 simply avoids it by the exclusive LEF circuit. Users can take advantage of the built-in upgrade option by combining the AMP CS2 with a B.M.C. DAC, which transforms the CS2 into a stereo power amp, while retaining all of B.M.C.'s exclusive technologies. A fully regulated power supply with a large 2kW toroidal transformer, and energy storage by specially designed balanced current capacitors, provide the muscle behind the music. In addition, an innovative electronic stabilization circuit filters voltage ripples and other disturbances out of the high power supply voltage, ensuring exceptional tranquility and dynamic stability.

 

Parasound is here at CES 2013 with their Halo CD 1 ($4500) high-end CD player that "represents a radically different approach to extracting the best possible sound from a CD" says the company. The new Parasound Halo CD 1 uses new CD playback and processing technology that is the result of a collaboration between Parasound and Holm Acoustics in Copenhagen, Denmark. "The CD 1 demonstrates that CDs can sound significantly better than anyone has imagined possible," said Richard Schram, Parasound's president and founder. "The full potential of the 16-bit CD format is realized for the first time in the CD 1." The Parasound CD 1 uses a new method for playing CDs that is based on using a CD ROM drive instead of a conventional CD drive and a Linux-based computer to read and process the CD data. The CD ROM drive in the CD 1 runs at 4x the speed of a conventional CD player drive in order to accumulate a vast amount of data. An on-board Intel ITX computer, running the Linux operating system kernel and Holm's proprietary software dramatically improves the reading of CD disc data. It analyzes CD data and reads every part of a CD as many times as are needed to significantly reduce errors and, accordingly, the negative effects of error concealment. The result is claimed to be a nearly bit-perfect data stream. In addition to its Holm-designed CD processing technology, the Parasound Halo CD 1 is in all aspects a high-end audiophile player in keeping with the legacy of Parasound's Halo product family. It has a rugged aluminum chassis with extensive shielding for electrical and mechanical isolation. It has three separate power supplies for the analog and digital circuits. The outputs use premium balanced XLR connectors, gold-plated RCA outputs, and S/PDIF Digital audio outputs via 75-Ohm BNC, coaxial, and TosLink optical connections. A unique 'Discrete OpAmp' selector gives users the option of listening to the analog outputs directly from the low noise National LME49990 Op-Amps or via discrete transistor output stages. The discrete output stage uses individual transistors in a Darlington configuration that operates in the feedback loops of the LME49990s.

 

RATOC Systems has announced their RAL-DSDHA1 and RAL-DSDHA2 new DSD Direct playback enabled USB DAC. Both USB DAC units include WM8741/2 with use of the DSD Direct mode. They also support DoP(DSD on PCM ver1.1) format and operate with popular Music playing back software such as Audirvana Plus on MacOS X, foobar2000, HQPlayer and JPLAY on Windows. These USB DACs are fully compatible with USB Audio Class 2 standard. The RAL-DSDHA1 includes two independent accurate audio master clock oscillators and provide accurate clock to DAC. RAL-DSDHA1 also included powerful Headphone amplifier which can drive high impedance 600 Ohm headphones. RAL-DSDHA2 has 10 MHz external Rubidium Oscillator input and balanced Headphone output. These functions recreate music from high rez PCM or DSD64 recorded music source.

 

Grand Prix Audio is at CES 2013 debuting their Silverstone 4, a new Silverstone version featuring four support columns. Many of the company's customers have expressed desire for an open architecture, four column design by Grand Prix Audio. They have responded to the market with an extremely high performance offering. This model, and soon their other designs, will feature the newest aesthetic from Grand Prix Audio -- fine leather. This leather aesthetic will open up many possibilities where our current aesthetic will not fit. In the coming months they will also offer a carbon fiber look and texture leather. Grand Prix Audio also introduced their new brand 'Grand Prix Artisan' with new Woodcote design. Grand Prix Artisan is the company's line of wood isolation component stands and cabinets featuring the high quality isolation engineering packaged inside a fine furniture design. Some will feature wood inlay and custom design features so as to be one of a kind pieces of art. The Woodcote is Grand Prix Audio's entry level wood isolation stand that features open architecture, a four leg design and adjustable shelves.

 

---> Part 2 of our CES / T.H.E. Show 2013 report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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