Any member feedback from C.E.S. 2006?

Anyone have any comments or discovery of some exciting new products?

I'd like to read some comments on:

New Wadia SACD players
New VTL amplifiers
DarTZeel preamp
Vandersteen Quatro
Any replacement for the Nordost Valhalla?
Shunyata Helix AC cables
Any standout rooms?
A standout room for me was the Ginko Audio Tubulous speakers with the Modright tube preamp, CIA Digital monoblock amps, Scoutmaster turntable and modied 3910 digital. The speakers are something special and look to be a bargain at $2450.

The most unusual amp I saw and auditioned was the Gaylord Audio 200WPC Triode and watercooled. $59,000 a pair! I found the sound rather bright but that may have been the Legend speakers. There was lots of air, detail and a wide, deep soundstage.
The Quatro now comes as an option with wood up both sides, and up the front to the bottom of the drivers (~ 75%). The full sock is eliminated in favor of just a small grill over the drivers. The insides are the same. This gives buyers a choice of looks. I believe this adds about $3K to the price. It is a striking change for the Vandy line.
Nordost gave an excellent demo of their cables, swapping in interconnects up their entire line, with obvious sonic improvements with each swap. He said there are no plans to replace Valhalla at this time.

The Gaylord maps were memorable, although they are oil cooled, not water cooled. Water would evaporate too quickly, probably short something out.

Overall, I noticed a couple things:
1. People were playing music way too loud. An acoustic bass being bowed should not be too loud to shout over; the decay at the end of a cymbal strike should not sound like a shop vac.
2. Most systems sounded vry good with the demo discs that most people were using. These were typically high quality recordings of intimate jazz ensembles - piano, drums, vocalist, maybe horn(s). But I noticed that when I played my non-audiophile discs, many systems had an aggressive upper midrange. I don't know if this was due to the rooms, the equipment, or just not enough time to tweek.
3. There were a couple standout rooms in which even my lowly recordings sounded very good, and the audiophile stuff was even better:

AUDIOPAX - They were demoing new solid state monoblocks and new speakers. This was a standout room last year, and was even better this year. Last year, I thought their sound was a good blend of analytical and musical sound. This year, the sound was more musical in that it had all the resolution, frequency extension and analytical qualities, yet didn't make you think "this is a bit analytical" Just musical with the rich qualities of real music.

BURMESTER - Very powerful, clean and musical, while being highly resolving. This is some of the most impressive gear I've come across. The casework has to be seen to be appreciated, and musically one of the best in the show (IMHO).

ASCENDO - There were a couple systems set up. One had a Reimyo CD player, CAT JL2 (I think) monoblocks, cna't remember pre. This system had excellent sound. I made a note that it might not have gotten the very, very deepest of bass notes, but it got awfully close. The other systems were set up in an upstairs room, and sounded good, but not quite so impressive. I blame the room for this, as the floor was quite flexible. I could lift my heels a half inch off the floor, and let myself drop, and the whole room would shake, and I only weigh 150 lbs.

All of the above systems were very powerful, able to handle large-scale music with finesse, were natural sounding with more intimate music, and could play my non-audiophile CDs musically. They are also terribly expensive. I couldn't pick out a favorite based on sound, but since the entire Audiopax system cost a fraction of the others, it has to be the standout. Plus, they were some of the nicest people there.

One other standout room was the Von Schweikert hall, with VR-7SEs being driven with an Oracle CD player and VAC amps. Similar sound to the onews mentioned above, but I didn't get a chance to use my CDs.

Also, if anyone heard the Joseph Audio room early in the show, the sound got a lot better later on. On my first listen, I couldn' tstay in the room. I went back later, and the sound was very good. Apparently something had not been set properly, causing the amplifiers to be overdriven.
The Quattros sounded great also. One of the most natural and coherent at the show
Hey Narrod,

Those were watercooled? I thought it was just an accessory aquarium. Figured the designer wanted the listener to gaze at something during the audition to distract from the $$$. At least that's what I was doing.

I didn't have a serious listen at Ginko this time but sat around for awhile last year when those were hooked to Ayre gear. They sounded great then.

Another good room was Totem, where the Winds were hooked to an Ayre stack. Pipedreams, Soundlabs & Zu were all good as well.

Plenty of great stuff at THE Show as well but I'm on audio overload & it make take awhile to sort things out!
The new Esoteric P-03 and D-03 look incredible on the Soundstage website. I wonder if it's true that they will keep DSD all the way to the anaolg outputs instead of coverting to PCM. Anyone know what the updates are in the
X-01 "Limited"?
From translating the Japan Esoteric website, it looks like the D-03 will be using the Analog Devices AD1955 Dac chip.
I thought the sound, as usual, was best at THE Show. I heard four speakers that impressed me. First the Zen Acoustics little guys with the Red Dragon switching amp. Second the Tonian $1500 speakers which have to be the best buy for the money. Third were the Ars Aures big speakers. With low phase distortion, they gave an excellent sound stage and realism. I could listen all day with the Art Audio 845 amps. Fourth and best, were the Cerious Technologies satellite speakers with powered subwoofers. They were no doubt helped by the H-Cat, but their sound stage realism was dumbfounding. I have never heard such accurate bass. They are also incredibly priced at $7800.

The Acapella Violon Mk IIIs were also excellent, but their price is offputting. The little one, also pricy, were also excellent.

APL had a complete system. The sound and the price was outstanding. It is very difficult to consider a $20k mod of the Esoteric player which removes everything except the transport and chassis. It would be worth very little used.

I heard the Australian, megabuck turntable. It was very good, and I would be very interested were it to cost $7500 total.

The big MacIntosh 110 drivers speakers were awful. I would take them if they paid me enough.

I heard the DartZeel preamp and amps but could not really get a feel for the sound given that the speakers were overloading the room. The sound was much better at the RMAF. I would love to have them in my home to find out what the fuss is about and whether I agree.

Much to my disappointment, the Consonance 211 amps were not at the show.

Finally, I thought the Soaring Audio system with their Falcon media center hard drive running their amp sounded quite good. Overall, there were many hard drive digital systems there and all sounded good. There was no comparison with better players, such as the Reimyo or Exemplar, however.

THE Show needs to make an agreement with Hooters who now owns the San Remo hotel. That would be a hoot.
Overall I thought it was a good show. A few high level observations;

1. The music being played this year was not as good as last year. I walked away with only 3 new (to me) artists.

2. There were more good sounding rooms this year than last.

3. My most repeated comment was "Sure it sounds pretty good, but how much did you say that costs!?"

A few specific impressions

Nordost power cables, swapping a stock power cord to a Vishnu on a plasma display made the images simply come alive. Color, texture, motion capture and blacks all improved. This really makes me wonder what they could do for audio.

Continuum / Peak Consult room had really good sound, one of the better rooms at THE Show and CES. An assessment of value varies, but it should have sounded that good for what the system cost. Continuum table, Boulder phono stage, WAVAC mono block amps, WAVAC pre-amp (I think), Empress speakers (Peak Consults $25 or $30k offering) not sure what cartridge or cables. I went in this room with high expectations and was not dissappointed.

Danish (Swiss?) Statement room: For $500k this system should have rocked...and it did. Best I've ever heard a four tower speaker system integrate.

Von Schweikert V9SE / Dartzeel / EMM Labs: Awesome sound that got better on day 2 of the show (smoother mids and highs w/less bass overload). The new pre-amp is a stunning piece of gear and in my experience you'll not find better guys in the biz than the Dartzeel guys. New Grand Prix 'table seemed to be promising and I'm sure it was helped by the Dartzeel pre-amps built in phono stage. One of the best rooms at the show.

MBL room: Two years in a row now these guys cranked the volume up to 21 and its only enough for me to say...yup, awesome bass...yup they play loud...yup, big

Usher room: Awesome sound and my pick for biggest surprise and one of the best sounds at the show. The big $16k Dancers and their little $7k brother are simply a stunning speaker. The (full!) line of Usher electronics also seemed to exhibit great promise. Finally a room with killer sound that is relatively affordable and simply spanked a lot of the big buck rooms.

Nuforce room: Again using Usher Dancers (the $7k ones) I get what everyone is raving about. This room simply rocked. One of my favorites and...GASP...its affordable!

Accappela / Chapter audio: Great sound but forget the models displayed.

Prima Luna / Upscale Audio room: If I ever were to buy a speaker based on looks it would be the Sonus Faber Amati Anniversarios (sp?) in this room. Oh and the sound was not bad either! The Prima Luna pre-amp and mono-blocks(!) sounded good. Source was the Ah! CD player.

Vandy Quattros / ARC: Good sound, can't go wrong with that combo but $3k for the wood finish! We'll see how that goes with the consumers.

BAT room: Good sound, Wilson Max 2s were a little slow and thick in the bass. Maybe a room problem?

Audio Note Japan room: Awesome sound, but I would have expected that from a $160k pair of mono blocks driven by a $85k pre-amp and a $25k (47 labs Pi tracer) CD player. The value(!?) in this room was the speakers...Art Audio (I think) 2 ways for $30k.

JAS Audio: Totally new to me company with full line of electronics and good sounding speakers using all ceramic drivers.

Boulder actually had an active display with their new (affordable) electronics and B&W 802Ds and sounded good.

Apogee's were reincarnated and being displayed in some room with good sound

Did I miss the Walker 'table anywhere!?
Never did get into the Magico room

Ok, I'm done playing reviewer for now. There was much more of course, but its escaping me at the moment Perhaps more later.
I was wondering if anyone heard the Merlins?Thanks,Bob
1. RCM "Bonasus" 2 channel push-pull tube integrated was very good at $6000 price point, 16watt/channel 8 ohm,
2. Nuforce stuff was suprisingly good.
3. AudioNote best-in-show??, even sounded good with Finish heavy-metal band, demoed' to show it can do anything.
4.Power surge at THE Show wiped-out some equiptment, recorded as high as 200 volts for awhile, The Audion guys had to run HomeDepot power cord from other room to replace blown power conditioner.
5. New Yamaha "speaker", about 4 ft. wide, 5"high, 4" deep. Fits under video screen, has 42? small speakers, amps, processors that "beam" sound to 5 locations, very very convincing 5.1 effect, esp.good for apartments, good WAF.
6. BlueCircle Amp sounded very good with small speaker.
7. Cary room sounded good.
8. Herron room sounded good.
9. More later as I check out some of my limited notes.
I also liked the Ginko Audio Tubulous speakers with the Modwright preamp, and Modwright modified Denon 3910. CDs sounded great that the speakers seemed like a great value for $2500.

Right near that room was a Boulder amp driving a new $40K+ speaker from RBH Sound with what was it, 6 beryllium midrange drivers and three metal woofers. I’m generally not a fan of metal drivers but that room had detail and dynamics, bottom end, imaging, and was definitely one of the best sounding rooms.

I sat through the a Nordost cable presentation, and came away again impressed with the Valhalla, and actually surprised that I could hear differences in their various cables. The speakers there were Eden I think, with a ribbon tweeter, and sounded good in that room and two others I heard them in.

There were some electrostatic speakers from Hong Kong by KingSound. $6K a pair for panels larger than Maggie 3.6s, with base that seemed as low as SoundLabs, but more beamy. Pretty impressive for the price.

Probably the biggest surprise was the ASR Emitter amplifier. In going from room to room at the Show I just happened into it. The speakers there at the time was a smaller pair with cone drivers retailing for about $10K I think. The CD player was the BlueNote Stibbert that I’d heard in several other rooms so it wasn’t making the difference in the sound. But the detail on cymbals, and woodwinds and strings seemed extremely lifelike and dynamic to me. I’m not a fan of Harry Pearson, but maybe I’ll have to reconsider my position about that because that room definitely produced sound that’s stuck in my head. It sounded so alive.

Another big surprise was in the media sales area at the Alexis Park there was the Stibbert CD player (again, it seemed to be in many locations) driving a $1K AKG 1000 headphones and also the $3K+(?) Stax headphones with the tube stage. There was no contest: the AKG were superior in sound, and far superior in comfort. They just rest about your ears and the panels hang down not touching ears at all. They definitely don’t block out any sound, but they sure sounded good top to bottom, and did I mention dynamic? A pleasant surprise for sure.

I listened for a while in the VMPS room to their patented or patent pending wave guide. It certainly seemed to produce a really wide sound stage that was a benefit to ribbons. I wasn’t impressed with the tube amps driving them. They seemed slow. The Ampzilla solid states amps have been in the VMPS room in the last several years, and my memory is that they were much faster and better, and provided a better showing for that VMPS speakers. So maybe the amps are to blame for my feeling under whelmed with the room.

The MBL and Merlin rooms always have great sound. I could easily live in either room, even though the sound in each is always very different.

Other disappointments were the Bosendorferner speakers. They looked beautiful, but didn’t disappear at all. Some serious further development seems needed there. The Von Schweikert room also seemed to be producing dull and sluggish sound. Maybe it was just me.

Saw and heard the new $90K turntable that graced Stereophile’s cover. It was at both the Show and the Alexis Park. It looks so funny with its big tone. Reminds me of old record player tone arms from cheapo box with lid record players from 40 years ago. But it sounded fine. Nothing earth shattering though, except to my wallet.

Those are the highs and lows for me. Definitely a good show. The Platters Drifters and Coasters performance at the Sahara was enjoyable, even if it was a little loud. Maybe that was because I was slightly left of center and nearly on axis to one of the reinforcement speakers. There’s nothing like live music. Except maybe those annoying ASR Emitters . . . and there’s no dealer in my area to hear them again.
What about VMPS with this new patent Idea?
Bookner , Von Schweikert had many rooms , are you refering to the VR9 system??? I found the VR Jr excellent { first time for me } , the VR SR ok , the VR 7 dreadful but the VR 9 excellent... personally .
Good performance
1. How about the connoissier int. amp. and Audio Reference speakers. Best bang for the buck.

2. NAIM n-Vi also brilliant.
Another good product from NAIM even though it is a little bit over priced.

Worst performer:
1. ARC and Wilson room
2. Sumimoto
3. VAC
The Ascendo room you are refering to had two M-s speakers, two Cat JL-3 Signature monoblocks, a CAT SL-1 Ultimate Mark II preamp, Reimyo CDP and VR Revelation cables. The Ascendo designer Jurgen Scheuring (sp?) was there the whole time and spoke willingly and at length. Frank Tchang also came in periodically and demonstrated his resonators, which was very entertaining.

I also felt that many rooms were too loud--i.e., louder than "natural", which kept me out of them. I think this volume issue is an unfortunate cultural propensity rather than an effect of small or competing rooms, since even the van Schweikert VR7s were played too loudly in their huge isolated room at THE. I didn't have anyone balk if I asked them to lower the volume, but there wasn't always an opportune time to ask.

A lot of the systems sounded fine when playing the ubiquitous small jazz ensemble stuff, and fell apart with more technically demanding orchestral music, regardless of the quality of the CD. This left me feeling that I couldn't begin to assess a system unless the exhibitor would let me play something from my own selection.

Room size and shape vary considerably, and construction is consistently flimsy, all of which must be a huge frustration to exhibitors who are paying a lot of money to be there. The environmental limitations have to be taken into account when assessing the gear, though some setups seemed to overcome it in varying degrees, while others did not.

The von scheikert I room I was referring to was at The Show, it the golden ears section, a room 4 times the size of the the other rooms at the Show. I think the speakers were about $35K/pr. Can't remember the model number, but it was real disappointing to be in such a great room, one with some size, and the music just wasn't there when I was there Saturday afternoon. I've heard them sound better, but not this time for, for me anyway.

The constant directivity wave guide on the VMPS 30 speakers was pretty impressive. I'm not sure I understand the physics of why it does what it does, but there certainly was a benefit. Wide dispersed sound, even, holographic, and almost as if the sound were coming from an omidirectional speaker like the big MBLs, or better than what I've heard from Pipedreams on their good days at various shows. The sound didn't seem to come from the speakers at all. It just imaged. The tube amps seemed to hold the speed of the system back because ribbons tweeters and mids are noted for being fast. I understand that VMPS responds well to tubes, but those there didn't impress me.

I think VMPS speakers are voiced with Ampzilla 2000 solid state speakers, which is a very fast amp. So, I hate to admit it, but I think Mr. Cheney might just be on to something with his wave guide.

I'd bet a home theater speaker system with the wave guides would likely be seamless all the way around. I'd love to hear that.
Bookner , I agree. The vr7 speakers were showing in the large room at The Show and I found them less than engaging as well. I was however impressed with the vr9 room at the Alexis . I was not sure which system you were speaking of. I commented in greater detail about my impressions of the show in another CSE 06 thread misplaced in the Speaker Forum .
Thanks Bookner for your time.