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Consumer Electronics Show 2010 Report & CES Coverage   The Home Entertainment Show (THE Show)
CES / T.H.E. Show 2010 Top 10 Design Awards
Report By Phil Gold

  This is not exactly a vintage year for CES. Attendance at around 110,000 is well down from two or three years back, while some familiar names have gone out of business or are struggling. It is not all gloom and doom. Some companies are doing gangbuster business and there is a lot of fuss about 3D TV, which, because of my lack of binocular vision, I cannot comment on. In the world of audio, there were a startling number of new CD Players and SACD Players, and many Blu-ray players include SACD playback, including a new line from Sony. Many of those new digital players now have DAC inputs, often asynchronous, and an increasing number are set up for streaming audio. I heard some spectacularly good sounds, especially up on the top show floor at the Venetian  from Dr. Ray Kimber's room featuring his own recordings, EMM electronics and Sony (yes, Sony) speakers, and TAD, where their wonderful speakers were complemented this year with their own D600 disc player incorporating their own drive mechanism and the TAD M600 Power amplifiers. But this is not a show report it is my annual design awards where style and ergonomics carry the day. This year I have some excellent offerings. Enjoy.


1st Prize: NAIM Audio UnitiQute
This small box is one of the biggest products at the show, exemplifying the convergence of digital sources. The UnitiQute is the first high-end remote controlled all-in-one audio player to offer so many sources: FM & Internet Radio (plus DAB in supporting markets), MP3 / iPod (Authenticated digital iPod connection), Streamed audio and USB. The streamed audio can work in wired or wireless mode, accepting high resolution WAV or FLAC files. The UnitiQute outputs 45 wpc so just add speakers and you're off to the races. Expect a US price of $2000 and availability in March. The designers have succeeded brilliantly in incorporating all the technology in such a clean component, and I award them my top design award.


2nd Prize: Bladelius Embla
Sweden's Bladelius Design Group really strut their stuff with the stunning new Embla replay system. When playing from the built in flash memory there are no moving mechanical parts. Inside the Embla is a proprietary DSP design, allowing complete control over the timing and reading of the discs, a world-class DAC and an analog preamp. Embla allows you to play directly from CD or store a CD in the internal memory for playback or even archive to external USB based storage. You can also access files on a network drive or stream music from a PC. Embla comes preloaded with a database with album and track names and will display album art if connected to the internet via its Ethernet port. The price is $6000 or $9000 depending on configuration. And did I tell you how beautiful it looks?


3rd Prize: Ensemble Dironda Player and Drive
I enjoyed the Ensemble room at T.H.E. Show enormously, since the Swiss firm places an emphasis first on the music itself, and only then on the components. The exquisitely designed series of Sondoro components feeds the floating Natura speakers ($19,540). Sondoro comprises the Fuoco hybrid integrated amp $11,450), the Dironda CD Player/Drive ($12,490) and Isolink Duo power corrector ($5230). The Dironda is a top loading CD player and features a Philips CD Pro2M die cast frame professional drive, mounted into a milled aluminum base serving as a well for the CD player to sit in. This base rests on a multilayer constrained-mode damping block filled with specially made buffers absorbing resonances from above and below. If used as a drive, the digital output id 34bit with 48, 96 or 192 kHz upsampling.


Bergmann Sleipner Reference Turntable
The Sleipner turntable from Denmark's Bergmann Audio is fully air supported and air centered. It features a parallel tracking tonearm and dispenses with conventional bearings. This $18,000 turntable has clean sharp lines and weighs 88 lbs, while the silent air supply weighs a further 44 lbs. The air supported platter is a massive 27 lbs. hard aluminum alloy while the plinth is a sandwich construction of many materials. The drive mechanism is belt driven from a DC motor. The air-bearing tonearm is fully adjustable and features a one piece armtube and headshell made from molded carbon.


Marten Coltrane Momento Speaker
Momento is the newest speaker from Swedish manufacturer Marten and to my eyes, the best looking, and their classic lines cleaner and more appealing than the tombstone look of the Coltrane. In fact photos do not do it justice. The subtle curves and exquisite woodwork simply ooze eye appeal to match the absolute reference sound quality you expect from a $165,000 speaker. Speakers of this size are meant to drive large listening spaces, so the lower octaves have received the most radical attention. Momento employs four 9-inch ceramic Accuton drivers and four rear mounted 9-inch aluminum Accuton passive radiators, while the bass response is user adjustable. An Accuton 7-inch midrange is mounted centrally, just below the tweeter, a 1-inch Jantzen Audio 1-inch diamond model. Internal wiring is Jorma Prime. The all important supports are polished stainless steel with black Diamond pucks and cones. The sides of the speakers are piano black and the wood finish is oak, maple, cherry or walnut.



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