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International CES 2009 & THE Show Report
Consumer Electronics Show 2009 Report & Coverage   The Home Enteetainment Show
Phil Gold's CES / THE Show 2009 Design Awards
Article By Phil Gold



  Ok, so 2009 may not be a vintage year for breakthrough designs at CES, but some of the sounds make up for that. That counts for nothing here as I cover just the looks. If it is looks that count, then these ten components are best of show.

1. PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport and DAC
A rather different looking prototype memory player made the list last year. This year a matching pair of digital components from PS Audio tops the list. The Perfect Wave Transport reads your CD into memory and plays back from a large memory buffer (64 MB). It is claimed to be the first transport capable of Reference recordings DVD based 24-bit/176.4kHz HRx Masters. You can connect the PWT to the internet so it can access to the song titles and cover art of your recordings. The matching DAC features upsampling to 176.4kHz or accepts native signals up to 192kHz via an I2S protocol on an HDMI connection from the Transport. It also features a high quality volume control so you can attach it directly to your power amp. This combination is a shot right out of the park on the technical side and in the looks department, and should be arriving in stores in the spring.




2. Angelis Labor Sophia Preamplifier
As preamps go, this one is a beauty. It's a dual mono two chassis design with a tube based power supply and an active tube based audio circuit. You can also pick up the identical looking Aratis monoblocs power amps. You could then go overboard and pick the Gabriel magnetic levitation turntable as your analog source. This beauty can mount four tone arms at once. Angelis Labor was founded in February 2008 in Bologna, Italy. As a special touch, a rear mounting plaque stating the name of the buyer, the serial number and the date of sale will follow within six weeks of purchase. I'm thrilled to see such high achievement form a new entrant.




3. Vienna Acoustics – Klimt "The Kiss" Speaker
This is the second speaker in this wonderful new Klimt line from Vienna Acoustics, after the floorstanding “The Music”. To fully appreciate this design you have to see it and you have to hear it – this has to be a candidate for the world's best pedestal speaker, supported by just a slim frame at one side. The top half of the speaker, which houses a coaxial tweeter/midrange driver, can be rotated for the best sound. The fit and finish on these Klimt models is to the very highest levels, and the proprietary drivers so distinctive as to deserve removal of the protective grills. So which would I go for? I'd take “The Music” if my listening room could take all that bass energy without overloading, but “The Kiss” would be the better match and they both look just as good, and far beyond anything this respected company has produced before.



4. Sennheiser HD800 Headphones
I've not been a big fan of Sennheiser's high end headphones in the past. They have never really grabbed me musically, and I am not a big fan of the tight head-clamping either. You can count me instead in the AKG camp with the brilliant K1000 and more recently, the spectacular K701. But Sennheiser must have been reading my mind. Instead of a new tweak on the HD650, they've produced a clean sheet design to tackle my two pet peeves head on. The HD800 promises much improved comfort and a far more natural and spacious sound, albeit at a rather elevated price of $1399.95. Taking a cue from AKG, the sound comes at an angle to the head for a more speaker-like soundstage. I can't wait for an extended visit. The design itself is more futuristic than previous Sennheiser offerings and seems to me an ideal match of form meets function.



5. Sleek Audio SA6 Wireless Earphones
This is my first ever winner from the Sands Exhibit Hall. These canal earphones spring from Sleek Audio's extensive experience in the custom hearing aid market. Users can tune the SA6 earphones to match their own preferences using the VQ system which permits the treble and bass ports to be changed. The SA6 is further customizable to the precise fit of the user's ears from wax impressions of the ear canals. The icing on the cake is a simple connector at the earpiece which lets you use the phones either wired or wireless using the SA6W-1 Kleer wireless technology, which provides up to 10 hours of listening on single charge. I love it, and I'm planning a full road test. 



6. Gemme Audio Phoenix Green Gem Loudspeaker System
This is not your grandfather's radiogram.
The Phoenix Green Gem (Phoenix standing for rebirth) is a an elegant bass cabinet with two matching satellite speakers, handmade for those few who can afford the $50,000 price tag and want to make a visual, as well as audio, statement. This spatially coherent design features BREATHE bass loading technology in which breathing holes are used in place of the usual bass reflex vent tubes. Although each of the two 15-inch drivers has a 6mm excursion capacity, in practice they barely move even under demanding low bass musical content. This translates into lowered distortion and high dynamic range. Each Soprano mini speaker features a 6-inch midrange and a 1-inch horn super tweeter to cover the higher frequencies. The three cabinets combine to give you an efficiency of 100dB/W/m. You can close the doors on the Bass cabinet when not in use to show off the wonderful finish.



7. Magico V2 and M5 Speakers
I have enjoyed my time with Magico speakers in the past, but nothing prepared me for how wonderful the $90,000 M5 sounded in Vegas, nor how magnificent the $18,000 V2 could be at its much lower price point. These are the speakers I'll be taking with me to that desert island. And they look every inch the part, with the unvarnished wood cabinet constructed from laminated strips of 17 ply Baltic birch plywood with solid aluminum baffle making a very distinctive impression.



8. Primare DVD-I10 Integrated DVD/CD/Tuner/Amp
I could easily pick any product in the Primare range for a design award. You'll find the consistency of excellent design there that marks the best design houses, like Meridian, Luxman, PS Audio, Quad, Conrad Johnson or VAC. This particular design is the Swiss army knife of audio and AV components. It sells for a very reasonable $2495 and its list of features include 2 x 75 w Class D amp, sub out, iPod interface, 1080p DVD, RS232, HDMI out, AM/FM radio and headphone output. Like the other Primare components the DVD-I10 is available in black or titanium finish.




9. Ayra C1 and C2 Speakers
Lars Christensen from Raidho Acoustics was happy to show me the new Ayra speakers – the C1 and C2. They boast some pretty impressive technology and superb fit and finish, including a wonderful Walnut burl veneer, black piano finish and all possible paint colors. The C2 (around $24,000), making its first US appearance, employs two advanced ceramic 4.5” drivers paired with a sealed planar ribbon tweeter. Designer Per Bendsken stands proudly by a black piano finish C2.  The C1 (around $15,000) drops one 4.5-inch driver and features the most unusual stand, which allows the speaker to sway back and forth as if on a shock absorber, eschewing the normal approach of a rigid support in favor of a light weight non resonant approach.



10. Avalon Aspect Speakers
Avalon Acoustics has come up with a very simple new shape for its Aspect speaker A. This floorstander has legs which are an extension of the sides of the speaker. The tweeter is a 1-inch proprietary composite Neodymium based unit while Twin Nomex Kevlar composite cone 7-inch drivers provide the muscle in this high efficiency design. The Aspects will retail for $8495 a pair.




Click here main CES / THE Show 2009 page.








































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