Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sights and Sounds of CES - Photo Blog

The best-sounding room on the 30th floor was the marvelous Estelon speakers. A proprietary marble composite material is paired with some exquisite workmanship to produce magical sounds that both harnesses power and allows for fine detail. Loud, soft, a very well-balanced and natural tone that allows the music to stand first and foremost. Because it is all about the music, not the price, which in this case was around $44,000. Very impressive, especially when paired with the Burmester power amps and equally at home doing the Beatles and Nat King Cole.

Ayon Audio's sound jumped out at me from the hallway - beautiful tube monoblocks powering $90,000 Legacy speakers. Austrian-made tube magic that looks as good as it sounds, which is superb by any standard, with fantastic soundstaging and natural dynamics.

DeVore Fidelity shows off their newest creation, a retro-natural sounding floorstander with a gorgeous furniture quality multi-ply zebrawood facing. And extra points for being one of the few rooms to be spinning a steady diet of vinyl.

Calin Gabriel of Shunyata Research explains the finer points of power purification. Shunyata is one of the few cable companies to back up their claims with research and testing. Attention to detail and matching of wire sizes are but a few ingredients.

Our good friends at the SoundOrg paired the impressive Rega DAC ($995) with Dali speakers. Add an Ipad, an Airport and you have magic. How impressive was the Rega DAC? I texted in my order for one from the room (no room service) and it will arrive when I return to Connecticut.

But only if it stops snowing and they stop serving me free margueritas.

KEF's Q900 sounded stunning. Eight inch woofers? Check. One inch tweeter? Check. A breakthrough at $1595/pair? Checkmate. The best sub-$2000 speaker I've ever heard and performance-wise surprisingly (and maybe a bit scarily) close to the $5000 XQ40s that I live with and love every day. Really a breakthrough at the pricepoint and proof that the "high-end" of audio performance does not necessarily refer to price.

NAIM Audio had some of the most innovative products on display. With a eye towards fine packaging, superb sound, and input and output flexibility and foresight in the design. Part server, part DAC, part amp, the NAIM line makes sense in many, many ways. Plus Jenny from NAIM is exceedingly cool, races motorcycles at Miller Motorsports Park, and is a knowledgeable and passionate IndyCar fan.

Actually while I'm thinking about it, I've definitely noticed a changing of the guard. Gone are the pompous and stuffy shirts of the old guard audiophiles that look down their nose at music and in their place are younger, energetic and passionate music people that allow the enthusiasm to infuse their products.

(more later)

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