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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



Silbatone could easily have rocked the house with their $30,000/pr. Aporia full range horn speakers driven by their outstanding J300 Mk2 tube integrated amplifier, also now $30,000, which is said to be much improved over the version our editor reviewed, containing even more silver. The Aporia uses a full range Manger driver seen earlier at this show and incorporates a special diffuser to broaden dispersion of the driver's flat surface. The loudspeaker can be used free standing in the room, or mounted in-wall. Each unit weighs about 240 lbs and is constructed of sturdy, non-resonant material so children and small pets will bounce right off it. The amplifier is substantially more vulnerable and an absolutely gorgeous piece to look at in person. Joe Roberts recognized my affiliation and filled me in on the details. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people engaged in conversation without any music playing. In retrospect, I should have stuck it out a little longer in this room.


Some say that presentation is everything. If you lean in that direction you might want to have a look at the pARTicular line of component racks. There was no literature available and the room's host was tied up in conversation, so I don't know how well endowed with vibration absorbing technology their many styles might be. They certainly look like a very high quality product with a lot of design and dimensional possibilities.



There was a lot of pre-show publicity about the Thiel Zoët system which is a multi-room technology involving Class D amps planted in Thiel SCS4 monitors that get fed bit-perfect audio from a computer server via Ethernet. Of greater interest to me, at least, was the CS 2.4SE Special Edition loudspeaker ($8000) shown here along with the Thiel Smart Sub that has been out a while already. The Special Edition features include a special veneer with a very rich looking dark stain, new spike feet, a special name plate on the back, and a re-designed crossover with Clarity Caps from the UK. It was powered by a pair of new monoblocks from Bryston that in addition to improvements to the electronics, sport a very handsome new faceplate and handles that significantly elevates the look of the entire Bryston line. Shown with its lid removed is the 28B monoblock that is rated at 1000 watts, but actually puts out 1200 to give you a little extra headroom. It was developmental work on the 28B that was spread throughout the entire new SST2 series of amplifiers. In another photo, James Tanner is showing off the bevy of digital inputs on Bryston's new stand-alone BDA-1 DAC for $1995. Outputs include both XLR balanced and RCA single ended. Jitter is said to be immeasurable and the S/N ratio measures 140 dB, unweighted. Wow! Bryston is noted for the superb build quality of their products designed for both the pro-audio and audiophile sides of the fence.


From the Second Floor conference rooms I trucked through the Casino like James Bond on a mission and ascended the Venetian Towers to the 31st Floor to pick up one last room on that floor. The Kubala-Sosna Research room was not to be missed or skimmed over lightly. You meet the nicest components at either end of a Kubala-Sosna cable…in this case their new Elation! Series with $600 for a 1m interconnect, $7200 for a 2m SC1speaker cable and $2050 for a 1.5m PC1 power cord. It's hard for me to conceive of cables costing this much, but it is also hard to argue with the quality of the music in this room. The digital front end was a McIntosh MCD-500 CD player, which I did not hear. The analog front end was the Continuum Criterion turntable with Copperhead arm ($56,000) equipped with a Koetsu Onyx Platinum cartridge ($8,000k). As you would expect at this price, this unit is loaded with technology including a very silent vacuum system for holding down the LP. The moiré pattern on the plinth in the photo is a combination of reflections and the carbon Kevlar plinth. Amplification was by Tenor with their first time showing in the U.S. of their phono stage ($25,000 cdn) and preamplifier ($40,000 cdn) to go along with the 350M monoblocks ($90,000 cdn) that I wrote about in the last Montreal report. At $130,000 cdn for the pre and power amps, they are right up there with the Lars in price, through suited for largely different loudspeakers. Aesthetically, they take on a more conventional shape, but execute it to the nth degree with the wood faceplates and polished metal knobs. I particularly liked the red Tenor logo in the center of the preamp that turns blue when the signal is muted…or was it the other way around? In any case, the music that came out of the Hansen Emperor loudspeakers ($60,000 cdn) was captivating. I can't say black would be my favorite color choice with the silver mounting rings of the drivers and the white cones of the midrange and bass drivers, but I'm sure there are others that would be more suitable, particularly the silver seen in their literature. At over $300,000, this room was one of the highlights of the show.


Dropping down one flight to the 30th Floor I realized it was Saturday mid-morning and I still had six long hallways to cover at the Venetian and half of the Alexis Park yet to cover. First up right out of the concrete stairwell was the Ultralink/XLO room where the Dynaudio Sapphire loudspeakers sounded considerably better than I recalled from Montreal last year. The front end in use was the Wadia iPod transport/docking station. The digital signal was sent to their new 922 mono-DAC system ($33,000) that includes a controller and two monaural-DACs that each fed a Pass monoblock amplifier to drive the Sapphires. XLO cables tied things together, presumably. Also on display was the new Wadia 381 CD (only) player at $7000 for the basic player with additional inputs and outputs raising the price. A new 571 CD (only) transport was also shown.




I dropped down a gear and accelerated into the Scaena Loudspeaker room. There was no shortage of heavy hitters at the Venetian and this room was one of them. Designed in part by Mark Porzilli of Pipedreams and Memory Player fame, the Scaena sounded much better this year driven by the new VTL S-400 Reference Stereo Amplifier with a dCS digital front end. The speaker cables, at least, were Nordost ribbons. Speaker positioning probably also played a significant role this year. The towers were more than half way out into the room with the listening position near the back wall. The large subwoofer was placed up close to the distant front wall. The speaker system is two towers, the external crossovers, one amplifier for the subwoofers and the two 18-inch subwoofers themselves which are housed in round bored-out resin cylinders that rest on heavy aluminum cradles. New wire and capacitors in the crossovers and new wiring in the speakers contributes much of the improvement, I'm told. You also need to know the Scaena is a scaleable design, meaning that it can be designed with fewer or greater number of midrange drivers, planar ribbons and subwoofers to suit your needs or room. The price will vary accordingly. I took a traditional photo of the entire tower, but what stopped me in my tracks was the mother of pearl-like finish on the seemingly white cones. That's the money shot! I've seen nothing else like it out there, short of custom motorcycles. The curved surface forces the light to dance on these loudspeakers to reveal the lustrous coloration. Elvis would have bought these on the spot, but if you need something more sedate, talk to them. It was a pleasure to meet George Bischoff and Sunny Umrao again and have the opportunity to listen to a few brief cuts from my compilation CD. Had I not been under time constraints, I would have loved to have heard the entire disc.



I had the honor of meeting Jeff Rowland in his room where his beautifully machined components were making very fine music in combination with the Thiel 3.7 floorstanders. New this show was a preamp, shown here, for $18,500 with a separate power supply. This was a rare opportunity for me to hear a rig with his gear and it was certainly very smooth sounding and easy to listen to. It was also the first time I noticed the black tops of the components are also engine lathe turned to complement the turning of the anodized silver faceplates. Absolutely gorgeous. And in conversation, Jeff reminded me that he has been doing Class D amplifiers for eight years, now.


California Audio Technology seems to be a custom installer that works the pro audio and home theater market, as well as outdoor spaces, yachts and aircraft. They showed a huge loudspeaker costing upwards of $200,000 per pair depending on finish driven by their own amplifier ($23,000) that puts out 600 watts per channel.



---> Next Page (Part 5)














































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