The Agony, Odyssey, Ecstasy, Meandering
And Wandering At
The CES And T.H.E. Show 2001
Article by Karl Lozier
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I had decided long ago that this year I would arrive early for the annual show. It officially opened Saturday, January 6th. I arrived on Thursday and by early Friday the
5th I was in full swing. It was interesting to see how setting up the various demonstration rooms evolved. Cries such as "where's the guy for the ten thousand dollar British turntable - it won't even turn on?" "Has that other amplifier arrived yet?" Get some longer cables; these won't reach now that we had to move the speakers out further, etc., etc., were common. Other rooms were seemingly models of careful planning and efficiency. Most speaker placements were being done by eyeballing and plain old listening; not many rulers were being pulled out for exacting measurements. The motto being, "if it's sounding good, then the placements are good, period."
I had started my wanderings next to T.H.E. Show's office in the St. Tropez Hotel; hopefully editor Rochlin can expound on the subject, but T.H.E. above does not stand for nor imply "the CES" (Consumer Electronic Show). In fact, next year T.H.E. show will become The Home Entertainment Expo. My start was in Herron Audio's room (voted Enjoy the Music.com's best sound of the 2000 show); it was sounding fine again this year. Herron's amplifiers were being promoted and featured cool running solid state as contrasted with his now rather famous tubed preamps and phono amps. Audio Physics loudspeakers completed the chain but a personal highlight feature for me was Immedia's turntable - a simple appearing design, very well built and with great esthetic appeal. I'd love to sample one. Turntables abounded at T.H.E. Show, were not routinely being used for a number of reasons.
PS Audio was near by and now has an extremely wide range of his well know "power plants" including one that is almost unbelievably humongous. He also introduced a very small variation, that does not regenerate electricity but does cut down about forty decibels noise and distortion products on your home's
A.C. outlets at a very reasonable price. Though good and impressive overall, the sound from Edge Electronics' fine line of preamps and amps was a tad disappointing; almost as if their was some phasing problems between the bottom two drivers of the loudspeakers being used. I'm hoping for review samples from Edge.
Both St. Tropez and Alexis Park (part of CES) hotels had various models of the Avant-garde speakers on demo in a number of rooms. Visually these speakers are stunningly beautiful in function follows form design with bold colors. One of the St. Tropez rooms with the smaller model had particularly outstanding, perhaps unbeatably impressive sound with pop and jazz records. The presence was palpable and real - like wow! Classical music reproduction was more problematic. I did not get to hear a good recording on the system and the combination of a very "forward sounding" system reproducing a closely
mic'ed large orchestra may not give a good semblance of what a concert goer is used to hearing. I got to hear two models of the highly regarding Wisdom loudspeakers, each model seemed to have a very smooth response, no peaks or emphasis but somehow slightly lacking in a feeling of spaciousness. Either I've grown too accustomed to bipolar or dipolar radiation or room acoustics were to blame.
Fans of the Pipedreams speaker systems, found no fault with their demo, I didn't either. Vince Christian loudspeakers were back again this year and still have a classy, but simple modern design in gray, and are all ready to go to market after some delays. These are a bargain and well suited to moderate size listening rooms. In addition to Ray Kimber's impressive display of his various cables and connectors, featuring an almost overwhelming number of choices; very impressive sound was coming out of the adjacent room. The room was labeled
"DiAural" - yeah the patented crossover technology developed by Kimber and used in the above Christian speakers as well as many others. The sound was impressive, particularly since it was claimed to be "just thrown together" and the DiAural technology was mainly responsible; I've got to think that Kimber's knowledge and attention to detail should get some of the credit. Some of Kimber's well known select series of interconnects are promised for review. Close by was Vandersteen's room and as last year, the featured speaker system was literally the top of his top-of-the-line model 5; that is everything except the subwoofer section. Again, it sounded just fine, very good in fact, as long as no really deep bass was present.
Genesis' room was even more impressive. My old model V has again evolved, this time into the model 501. One woofer per side has been eliminated resulting in very slightly less bass extension; the midrange dome replaced by a titanium cone and a second mid-bass coupler is added to the rear panel. Amplification is by built-in switching amps for the woofer (servo controlled). Even more impressive was the new model 425. It is exactly a foot taller than the 501 (or model V also) sports a new two foot long midrange ribbon, 4 top end small round ribbon tweeters, and the mid-bass coupler and two 12 inch woofers (one on each side of each cabinet) and a 1,000 watt woofer system amp. This prototype has great potential and I placed its sound quality in the area of Genesis' thirty to forty thousand dollar models with their justly famous bass responses. Retail price is said to be an even twenty thousand dollars.
A couple of old names have been resurrected: IMF speakers [no longer headed by Irving
M.(Bud) Fried and Garrard]. Garrard can update/repair your old model or sell you their new model turntable and tonearm. I spent quite a bit of time in the Sound Lab room, a fairly large room by show standards, perhaps about 18' x 28' was my guess. The room was shared with Hank Wolcott of amplifier fame as per our recent review. He promised I'd get his forthcoming small amp for review within a few months. Jim Aud of Purist Audio, designer or the well known Dominus series of wires and cables featuring particularly smooth sweet sound with outstanding RF interference, rounded out the room. I had the ideal seat and Jim was next to me. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, I turned to him and said, "I'm getting sick", he said, "what's wrong?" I replied that I would have to return home and listen on my own system, not the Sound Lab loudspeakers! He laughed and commented that he knew exactly what I meant. My comments are simple about that room. I heard the best, most natural sound, closer to being in a good concert hall the in the area of rows H to L center, that I've ever heard, period! The sound was simply there covering every inch wall to wall and floor to ceiling, no spotlighting emphasis, no nothing except the illusion of listening in a concert hall. I should mention that the price is not outrageous. I did not hear any rock or pop music on the system. Dr. Roger West, with a good room, has simply done it! I talked with him for some hours at the show. He always collects a crowd as would be expected of one of the very few all time great speaker designers. I was embarrassed at times as he announced to all present that he and I had corresponded for almost thirty years and that he had incorporated some of my ideas into some old hybrid designs (cone woofers). I was flattered to say the least. He is also starting work on a new DynaStat model. For now, just think of his large, but thin, all electrostatic designs. To realize that little tinkly sounds and deep bass notes are coming from the same driver panels is mind-boggling.
Asides: (1) At the main CES I got tempted by a new smaller (model 1200) Marantz learning remote control though their main emphasis was on an expensive touch screen model. Time will tell if this potential will work out - I keep trying remotes for my home theater setup. Could care less for my main listening system.
(2) I stopped in my tracks when I spotted "an old friend" a neat' slinky looking indoor FM antenna about 23" long and only 4" high including the base which contains a mini amp if needed. About eight years ago it was mentioned in Stereophile magazine. I picked up some on close out and was told no more existed. Previously known as the BP model 9700; try Esaw Industries
(732) 613-1400 or E-mail email@example.com. Don't expect miracles from any indoor antenna, experiment and experiment with location. If it works for you, fine; if not you'll not be out much money.
(3) Somehow, I got invited to a function at the famous Bellagio Hotel (nothing to do with audio) and was picked up by a stretch limo. Upon arrival, I was escorted to a meeting room and tempted by all I could eat and drink. Then with the
T.V. camera on me a company rep was demonstrating a new home product typically to be used in the kitchen or bedroom; it would do everything and do it simply and quickly. I asked the demonstrator to bring up Enjoy The Music.com which she did, but was then unable to pull up any of my current articles. The cameraman turned his camera off, said sorry and left. My national chance for fifteen minutes of fame shot down at the last instant.
(4) At another CES seminar most of the interested really big companies such as HP, Philips, IBM, Thomson RCA had top level management get up and announce that by the third quarter of this year recordable DVD-Audio RW+ will be available and compatible with nearly everything in a typical home setting, analog or digital. Impressive demos followed.
(5) I don't think I'll ever forget the breakfast get together hosted by Steve Rochlin, overworked for almost the whole show time and kept under wraps all the while. Well, finally the suave, debonair fashion plate regaled the entire group while being the only one truly appropriately dressed to dine at
breakfast (Steve sez: i wore my silk pjs that feature Cat in the Hat saying
"It's Fun To Have Fun!" which, by the way, i am wearing right now
as i edit this article). To top it all off or should I say to bottom it off, his strikingly unique footwear was something to
behold (Steve sez: Ah yes, my cigar smoking Doggie slippers). Some people described him differently, but no matter, the sight will not soon be forgotten; can he top it next year?