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!
You know I am biased... Bryston had their big moment with the relatively new 28BSST 100w mono blocks. These Dynaudio speakers had to behave! Brian Russell was there conducting his cool demos and being Bryston ambassador and salesman extraordinaire as usual.
All the Japanese majors were there too, with Marantz with designer Ken Ishiwata in attendance,Yamaha, Onkyo, Denon, Pioneer and Luxman all well represented and some of the British establishment in force with Musical Fidelity, Arcam, Naim and Linn. Not a French company in view like Jadis or YBA, but some great names like BMC, Classe, Parasound, Krell, Burmester, NAD and Ypsilon.
BMC gets my vote for the best looking unit!
It has taken a while, but thanks to the good offices of Syntec and Bryston, my 3B is back home with new boards from the 3B-SST current model!
So, after 23 years of good service, it is ready for another life, and the jury is out there to forecast which one of us will last longer...
Below, photos of the old boards, showing external signs of fatigue, but internal stress brought them down in the end!
So, enjoy life to the full today, as you don't know what your credit limit is!
Talking of which, I had a very enjoyable listening session today and I can confirm the transplant and the wait were worthwhile!!!
Well, this is not MY reference system...
But it was certainly very adequate to listen to the new Martin Logan Ethos!
Thanks to the very friendly and knowledgeable team of my friend Adam Carlino at AudioConnection, I think I was the first person in Sydney at least to have the chance to listen to these fabulous speakers.
I will summarise my findings by saying it is the first time I am considering upgrading from my cherished Microphase speakers in the last 25 years...(yes, I know, I am biaised!)
But let's start at the begining:
I currently use a REGA P1 (in its NAD jacket...) with the new RB250 arm(I also have a REGA P3 - vintage 1984...currently on loan to my daughter) and a recently acquired Ortofon RED MM cartridge feeding a NAD 7140 receiver (1984 vintage) used only as a preamp/FM Tuner and then into my Bryston 3B (1994 vintage).
I use a Pioneer DVD/SACD player as a digital source.
I also recently got an iPhone than I am keen to try as a pure digital source.
I have been very happy with this system for many a year and even after visting the HiFi show in Paris, I didn't find anything that took my fancy at a reasonable price.
I have been investigating upgrading my preamp and am considering buying either a NAD C165BEE (#1500$) or a Bryston BP26 with a MM phono stage (#5000$ for comparable features).
So the question is: Is it worth spending an additional 3500$ to get a complete Bryston amplification, or should we spend that money on upgrading the front-end, namely the turntable?
Obviously, it is only by trying the different combinations that you might be able to find the answer, and this is almost impossible to achieve as it would be almost impossible to find all this gear at ONE dealer, willing to spend the time to put such a system together with the hope that one might something out of this exercise.
My ideal and theoritical reference system today would look like this this:
Michell Orbe turnable with Origin-modified Rega RB250 (as the one fitted on the rega P1/NAD555), probably fitted with a Grado Platinum (6500$)
Bryston BP26 with external power supply, remote control and phono stage (4500$)
Bryston 3B power amp
Martin Logan Ethos (10000$)
Total price of the upgrade: 21000$
My second choice would be to upgrade my Rega turntable with Isokinetic kits and arm using Origin Live mods and Grado Platinum cartridge, a new C165BEE NAD preamp, my current Bryston 3B amp and Microphase speakers - that would cost me around 3000$ and would probably satiate my appetite for a better system for many years to come. And that is a 700% price difference!
Will I get a 700% improvement in my listening pleasure???
I let you be the judge...
In the meantime, my current system is MY reference system as I know perfectly all its weaknesses and strengths and this is totally adequate to review other systems against it
BTW, the Martin Logan Ethos are the best value for money speakers I have ever listen to and they provide REAL music and enjoyment:
It was really fabulous to see the expression of surprise and delight on my dealer's face as we listened together to a live recording of "Private Investigations" from an old Dire Straits album called "Alchemy" and my best test record...
It was recorded in 1983 on a Rolling Stone mobile studio and is a magical piece of music, engineering and it was (unknowingly at the time...) my first encounter with Australia, as Brett Whiteley, one of the most famous Australian painter, did the artwork for the cover.
Brett Whiteley in this particular work could be labeled as the Aussie Salvator Dali, my most favourite artist of all times (Album Vertigo VERY 11 #818 243-1)
Just found out that this is now available as a DVD/Blu-Ray album (http://www.mark-knopfler.info/d2010.htm). My birthday is coming soon...
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.