You will probably agree that I have milked the CES franchise for a bit too long as the CES 2013 is in a couple of days...
So I thought I would recap here what speakers I really liked or discovered at the Show. I am not going this year, as I am going for a short trip to France to see my family and take care of my children that are or will be in Paris for their studies on an exchange from their Australian Universities.
Hopefully, I will have some time (between Cotes-du-Rhone and Camembert...) to research there some more French vintage products and I can entertain you again "on topic!
And to stay on my favourite brand, here is a shot of the new Thiel speakers on the Bryston stand (ah,ah, you didn't see this one coming, did you?).
The combination of Bryston amplification, 24/192 multichannel live recordings from iTrax and matching Thiel monitors and subwoofers ended up being one of the most sensational demos at the Show.
We are all familiar with the beautiful Nordic sound of Electrocompaniet electronics.
They evemn make their own version of the OPPO player.
But what is less known is their recent foray into loudspeaker design.
These fine little monsters are a very capable team and are built as two separate cabinets, my favourite arrangement, just in case you have not noticed already...
Very good demo and great conversation with the Director all the way from Scandinavia, who happens to know my ex-distributor in Norway, Martin Viktorin - small world!
Kondo + Audio Note Japan - Reincarnation of an ancient art
Beautiful to look at, beautiful to listen to, beautiful to talk about...
It is the nirvana for a lot of audiophiles in Japan, and for some of us, mere mortals, elsewhere in the World as well.
The closest system I have heard from the Pierre Riffaud/Tosca/Ocelia combo (punt intended...) I listened to at Point Musiques in Paris over my last trip.
It is craftmanship of the highest order, as well as technically very sound and painstakingly researched and executed.
A few kilograms of finesse in a world of brutes - better than chocolate? You tell me.
Nothing to do with mushrooms, although these shapes...
Morel is an Israeli company more famous for their drivers (I am about to trial one of their tweeters...) than for their speakers, but hopefully this will change as these beautifully crafted products sound as good as they look. Stay tuned!
REGA - Another first for BMRs in High End speakers
First spotted in Paris on an unofficial release, these speakers are taking advantage of the wide bandwidth of a 4.5" BMR driver to work from 300Hz to 6kHz. Rega has engineered a new tweeter just for the purpose to improve the high end over the BMRs that can go up to 22kHz, but tend to have some ringing over 5kHz.
In the bass, they use two drivers of different sizes in separate enclosures for a smooth and extended bass response. Again the BMRs have trouble getting the right level below 120Hz, hence the separate subwoofer arrangement.
Copmared to Naim, who decided to reengineer the BMR drivers, REGA uses a standard unit and spent the money on a complex filter and beautiful cabinet. And BTW, it sounds great as well!
Waterfall Audio + Tributaries cables
Waterfall Audio have a very good business in the US of A, thanks to a good distributor who pushes the WAF factor into the CEDIA type market and also gets a lot of press in lifestyle and decoration magazines.
They teamed up with Tributaries, a relatively new range of high-end cables, where my friend Helma Paulson (ex Export Manager for Audioacess and Harman Kardon) is doing a very good sales job (she could sell ice to Eskimos, really...) and she almost convinced me that these cables were actually make a difference! Maybe I should ask for some samples....
Audiolineaire, Focal and other French ambassadors
Audiolineaire were present with their leathered speakers (unfortunately my photos don't do them justice...so, I won't post any) Focal were hiding in a private suite at the Mirage and couldn't find them (mind you it was lunch time whenI got there, so maybe that's where they were hiding...) and Cabasse were absent but for their Japanese distributor who distributes Devialet in the US - go figure!
In the New Year, I will give you a (short...) report on T.H.E. Show which is held concurrently at the Flamingos.
In the meantime, I thank all of you that ventured to this site, some more than once - I love Google Analytics - and I wish you a very Happy New Year and many happy returns in 2013.
I will try my best to continue to entertain and inform you. See you in January!
Audiolineaire - Choose your leather - A "Haute Couture" speaker
There is no end to people's creativity when it comes to designing speaker: timber, glass, acrylic, stone and now leather...
Obviously it is only a wrap around or more precisely a snap on cover - you can see the decorative panels at the back of the photo left.
These are really well made speakers and reasonably simple in design, with two 16cm woofers and a ribbon tweeter in a bass-reflex enclosure, and are specified as a 2.5 way, which means the bottom woofer is used only in the low frequencies and the top one is used as a full range.
The whole thing works quite well, very balanced, with an accurate reproduction of the timbres of instruments. The ribbon tweeter is delicate and the manufacturer claims 96dB/1W/1m efficiency.
It was certainly one of the good surprises of the Show
Atohm - One of my favorite brand of French speakers
Thierry Comte, the amiable owner of Atohm used to be the Technical Director at Triangle for many years, until he decided he could have more freedom to design speakers his own way.
Thierry makes his own drivers, and very good ones at that, and he is happy to sell them to other manufacturers (Waterfall Audio is one of his good clients and friends) and also to the DIY market at La Maison du Haut-Parleur - I will write a report on my visit to their Paris store soon on my "Interviews" page.
And he is not inventing new speakers every year - the GT1, GT2 and GT3 having around for a while and are not going anywhere any time soon. Why change something that works bloody well indeed?
The GT3 in particular is quite a complex object on the inside, although looking quite mundane on the outside, but close your eyes and you can enjoy music - efficiency, low coloration, very low level of distortion in particular in the bass make for a very accurate, energetic, feet tapping experience. I am a fan!
And as you can see in the photo left, I am not the only one!
Antelope Audio - Pro DAC and Atomic Clock for your CDs
This is not for the faint hearted! And it is fitting for my last post reviewing this Show.
This company makes products closed to my heart, as I used to be a Time & Frequency expert, as well as quite versed in A to D and D to A conversion during my 15 years at Hewlett-Packard selling Test & Measurement equipment (Now Agilent Technologies).
Antelope designs Rubidium clocks to drive accurately and steadily ADCs and DACs for the professional audio, video and cinema markets.
If you go to a good movie, or if you own some recent Blu-Ray DVDs, chances are, Antelope would have been used at some stage of the process - see video below:
You might have read my ramblings in previous posts about the ineptitude of upsampling a native 16bit/44.1kHz file as you are not going to extract any new information in the process. There might be a small benefit in the smoothing of the resulting signal, but it will not be more accurate.
Improving the clock's stability and jitter performance however will result in a more accurate reading of that same native file, hence the raison d'etre of Antelope products.
When you then apply upsampling to a 16/44.1 file, or if you can correctly convert a native 24/96 (Qobuz anyone???) or 24/192 file (Blu-ray DVD), then you have a winner. And this is exactly what the various DACs in the Antelope range will provide you with.
Added value: they were using a Bryston 4B amp to drive British PMC MB2i speakers, so no wonder the result was quite striking.
I could have talked to you about the amazing demo of the JBL Everest where I discovered the Michael Jackson posthumous "This is it" Blu-Ray DVD - a must have - or the new B&W Diamond speakers or the new iPod-based systems from Yamaha or a myriad of other products, but I chose to review the products that I liked, or that intrigued me or surprised me, or the products that were presented by passionate, honest and amiable people. At the end of the day, you will find a lot more information about this Show on the Web, but this my personal take on the things that I value most at that particular phase of my HiFi journey.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my prose as much as I had pleasure writing these articles.
I have a few more surprises in store for you over the next week or two, my Christmas gift(s) to you.
I will then leave you in peace for a month or so, as I am going away to California with my family to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in San Francisco where we got married, with a quick detour by Las Vegas to attend the CES and report back to you.
Thanks for keep coming back to my site and Merry Christmas and all the best for 2012.
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.