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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 4 By Rick Becker



  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 the Venetian Towers . One of these was the YG Acoustics room that I caught last night and reviewed in Part 3. I ambled by the door to Sunny Cable Technology and was invited in by one of the presenters. Noting that they were somehow affiliated with Laufer Teknik I accepted the invitation and was very pleasantly surprised. The H2-10W loudspeaker shown here has a 9.5-inch mid/high horn and a 10-inch bass driver in a 155 lb. bass reflex cabinet. With 90dB/W/m efficiency and an 8 Ohm impedance, you would have expected tube gear driving it, but instead, it was sounding very good driven by Ayre solid state gear — and this in spite of the rather live sounding room. In fact, the recording playing had significant reverberation in it so it made the room seem about five times larger than it was. ($8800 in piano black; $9600 in birdseye maple — a beautiful high gloss finish shown here). An available center channel is half the price of a pair if you wish to do surround sound. I felt like I was starting the day off on the right foot, here. It was a very pleasant surprise.


As I stepped out of the Sunny room I was hailed from across the hall by Anssi Hyvonen of Amphion Loudspeakers from Finland whom I haven't seen since I praised their presentation in Montreal maybe six or more years ago. They have since been reviewed very highly by the print press. The first of three systems in the room included an Audio Analogue Maestro CD 192/24 CD player ($4800), an Audio Analogue Maestro Duecento 200 watt Integrated amplifier ($12,800) and Amphion's flagship Krypton 2 loudspeaker ($20,000) with their signature breathing triangles bored into the sides of the cabinet. The entire Amphion line uses variations of a titanium tweeter and the Krypton uses a special paper midrange with a cardioid dispersion pattern to control side reflections. With 87dB/W/m efficiency and 4 Ohm impedance, solid state gear is a good choice and the Audio Analogue line from Italy has been one of my favorites over the years. The Maestro series is the top of their line but don't be afraid to drop a little deeper into their offerings. They are versed in solid state as well as tube design and even offer an off-grid battery powered preamplifier. The music on some familiar cuts was excellent, here.


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 from Sweden . Two balanced XLR and two unbalanced RCA inputs are in one module along with the input selector and the attenuator, which are relay connected to the second unit for both pre and power amplification. At a cost of about $100,000, pieces like this are destined for the special few and are as much a work of industrial art as they are an achievement of outstanding music reproduction. In retrospect, as I break in the Phenix Green Gem loudspeaker for review, it occurs to me what a fine match these two components might be. Output impedances of 8 and 16 Ohms on the Lars are available by special request.

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 Canton ’s Reference 3.2 loudspeaker with a ceramic dome tweeter in a 3-way bass reflex design that is claimed to range from 18 Hz to 40 kHz. The cabinet is formed from high pressure laminates, utilizes a downward firing port and is finished in a high luster gloss over wood veneer. The drivers utilize an S-shaped surround that allows more perfectly linear excursion. Efficiency is listed at 89dB/W/m, but I have no information about their impedance or the rig that was driving it. This seems to be very competitive at $16,000 with a very refined sound.


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.


Vince Bruzzese 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 Wilson Max 3 designs, but without their sophisticated adjustability for seating distance. Acoustically, it is a breakthrough product for Totem, with noticeably improved transparency, focus and dynamics. It also plays way above its size, making it ideal for people who prefer speakers to be more heard that seen. (It is still available in wood veneer if that is your case). Vince mentioned additional changes in the crossover. It was driven here by Ayre electronics including their monoblock power amps, again raising my esteem for the brand. Also at the Totem campground were new in-wall and in-ceiling versions of the Tribe series that boasts an outstanding midrange driver of Totem's own design. Vince shared with me the existence of a new 7-inch midrange driver that may find its way into a new 2.5-way loudspeaker in time for the Montreal show (April 2-5, 2009). If you're there, be sure and check out the Totem camp.



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