CES 05

CES comments...
In the Sutherland room were the Avalon Vision at 23K, one of only two pair in the Universe and they sounded superb with the VPI HRX. Alison Krauss sounded nearly as good as she did live last year. I have always liked the Avalon sound...clean, delicate and very open with great dimensional contrasts. Sutherland knows how to do phono right.
Cary Audio:There was magic being made in the Cary room. The piano music being played was full of weight and body and demanded to be listened till the piece was over. I liked this room very well.
Threshold:Good news is that Threshold is making gear again and in the Threshold tradition they made great music. The Threshold S/3700e was listed at 3500.00. The system was used with Cardas Neutral Reference interconnect and Speaker cable.
Sound Lab: The M1 SL speakers with the Parasound JC1's provided a grand liquid sound that was very musical. I spoke with John Curl for some time and I was very impressed with the engineering effort that went into the JC1's.
There is a lot to see at CES and THE Show, and there were many rooms I did not bother with, and quite a number I wished I had seen. I'm amazed that there was so much wonderful sound to be heard - it was a very good show and I had a terrific time.

I understand how useful it can be to have a room on your agenda as one to come back to, providing a reference and an anchor. I was sort of "working" in AP1302 (Parasound JC-1, Sound Labs, CTC, TG Audio) and kept coming back there after my forays - for the company, the coffee and the relaxing sound. A system that did nothing wrong - and almost everything perfectly right. A classic walk-around sound - not a bad seat in the house.

My aim was to hear really good digital sources; and I tried to hear as many of the good ones as time allowed. Even this was not possible - for example, I really wanted to hear the Zanden combination, but the folks in the AvantGarde room claimed that their Zanden transport + DAC was too "green" to show off their system to the best; and they used a 32 bit Audio Aero.

I did hear many good players and although these were in different systems, I tried to focus on what the source was bringing to the equation - a difficult task, to be sure. We played the same song in a number of rooms - Aaron Neville singing "I Bid You Goodnight" on XRCD - and these were my findings.

Harmonix/Combak room - Reimyo player with Reimyo electronics and a pair of interesting two-way speakers. Fantastic resolution of inner detail and pin-point imaging in a small room. Great precision and communication. This is where I first heard the Neville XRCD, so I bought it and took it around to other rooms.

Argento room - Vitus amps, Avalon Diamonds, dCS stack. No complaints, sweet and detailed with superb extension, but did not quite communicate the emotion on this track. The Vitus amp had been damaged and could not run in Class A, so a bit unfair.

Vitus room - Audio Aero player with the same Vitus amps as above, using small Sonus Fabers. Not a particularly entrancing presentation, and I blame the speakers.

Joule, Elrod, Critical Mass Systems - a Wadia modded by GNS. The Right of Passage OTL driving the big Vandersteens - just awesome. The best vocal presence I heard at the show; absolutely melting in the mid-range, glorious indeed. A great room - though according to my companion, the bass did not quite descend to the depths on an Alison Krause MFSL record he knew well. I did not have his reference point.

Accuphase SACD and Accuphase electronics with Avalon Eidelons - pretty diffuse sound. Lots of equalization from the fancy Accuphase but the music really failed to thrill me. A mainstream high-end Japanese sound.

ESP speakers with Pathos tube amps and Accuphase SACD combo. These are fabulous speakers and sounded just unreal on a direct-to-disc LP on the Clearaudio-Phantom combination. Dynamics like I have never heard. On the CD track, did not measure up to the best - and I'm blaming the Accuphase. The ESPs have so much class.

Audio Note (UK) - Audio Note transport and fancy Signature 5 DAC with some extra mods, Ongakus and Audio Note speakers. Peter Q drove me out of the room with some "System of a Down" tracks, but we went back in and played the Aaron Neville. Almost perfect in communicating the essence of the song. "Ave Maria" from the same disc was sublime.

Ascendo speakers with the giant Convergent Audio monos, Reimyo player. Unbelievable soundstage and spread, just slightly lacking the necessary intimacy, but really great sound. Pretty ugly speakers though. This room was very popular - David Chesky, Ken Stevens and the Reimyo designer were in the room when I visited a second time.

GTT room - EMM Labs duo, Lamm, Kharmas, Kubala-Sosna cables. Very good sound, close to the best but just missing out on the dynamics. I heard Steve Hoffman's presentation here too, so had a good reference point to the ESP-APL room. I'm thinking the EMM Labs is just a bit too smooth, slightly masking micro-dynamic contrasts, but these are just impressions.

ESP speakers, APL HiFi SACD player, Jim Bongiorno amps (later replaced by Manleys). This was the best sound I heard at the show - it was at the San Tropez. I must have gone back to this room at least 4 times, after being there for Steve Hoffman's presentation. This room had the magic, revealing all the dynamics and inner detail, displaying stunning imaging and focus, fleshing out the baritone counterpoint with real chestiness. But most of all, it was swoon territory. The Manleys added mid-range reality that the solid state amps lacked, so it was better on the last day. Again, the ESPs are world class, but we heard them in another room with the Accuphase, so I had to attribute the truly mind-blowing sound in this room to the Alex Peychev SACD player. My pick for "Best of Show".

Other rooms where I did not hear the test track but where I really liked the sound.

Einstein CD player with the new Acapella speakers - a fabulous sound, augmented by fine music selections (and a really nice German Pinot Noir on Friday night). A stunning version of Papageno's song from The Magic Flute" by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and a Maria Callas aria from a 1950's recording that blew me away. I think the Einstein is really a good player.

Merlins with the Convergent stereo amp and an Audio Aero player. Bobby is a very nice person and this system was as sweet as could be. Capable of spacious, deep sound on the Gladiator sound-track; and fun, fun, fun on a CD called "The Nada" by Kevin Johansen (worth seeking out). The Merlins are incredible speakers.

Joseph Audio - Ayre electronics, Cardas cables. These are terrific speakers - they really sounded fantastic. Much better priced than the Pearls but don't give much away. I listened to records mainly here and can't recall the CD player.

Audio Physic and Burmester - great sound, though $30k for the speakers shocked me.

AvantGarde, Audio Aero 32 bit - dynamics on a big band track were out of this world, but so is the price of these speakers. $70k. Had a nice chat to the designer. They played a CD I did not know called "One Believer" by John Campbell from 1991 which impressed me, and I'll try to find.

Weiss transport (a prototype last year) and Weiss DAC with Lamm Electronics and Wilson Maxx's. Better sound than last year, but the Weiss combo is very expensive.

And there were many others I haven't mentioned that were fun. Manley amps with Coincident Super Eclipse IIIs (I have the Series II) showed their colours, sounding excellent indeed. A BAT system with Epiphany Plus kicked butt on vinyl - but what were they doing so out of the way in a small room on their 10th anniversary (BAT owner here). Did not spend enough time in the Rockport room - it was always busy.

I don't mean to offend anyone by not mentioning your favourite room.

Man oh man, everyone here is doing such a phenomenol job reporting on the show. Great information being shared.
I, too, thought the Cary room was quite special (if not in my top 3), with the big 805 amps. The biggest thing I learned at the shows was what the SET sound was. After reading about it for so long, I now understand!

Great review on the digital, and I am glad you like MY player the best. Alex was using Mine as his demo. I happen to agree.

My favorite speaker was the Tonian Labs TL M-1 with PHY
driver and Raven tweeter. It out-performed all others
I heard at any price, including MBL, Acapella, ESP, etc.
Email me if you would like a photo.

Nice review of the best rooms at CES... As always, a very educational and enjoyable time

I would like to add a couple of components which added to the quality of the ESP and BAT rooms you mention. Power devices were provided by the dynamic and non-coloring Running Springs Audio power devices, cabling by provided by Cardas Audio and Cable Tower cable supports completed the accessories list.

I also felt AudioPax room was outstanding as well. What were your thoughts?
Did anyone happen to hear the Tyler Acoustics room??
In particular the Super Towers??
Excellent reports Jallen and Metralla! Thank you!!!
Thanks so much for all the great information from the show!


Metralla reports from the Avant Garde room:

"I really wanted to hear the Zanden combination, but the folks in the AvantGarde room claimed that their Zanden transport + DAC was too "green" to show off their system to the best; and they used a 32 bit Audio Aero."

Oh sure, so they brought a brand new component, not broken-in yet to the largest CES in the world? I don't think so!
Oh my goodness, like, what else would they have said? Certainly not the truth, that the Audio Aero kicked the Zanden's butt!
Thanks Golden_ears. You could be right. I've got to learn to be a little less trusting. I did hear the Zanden combination the previous year in the Audiopax room at THE Show, and I was suitably impressed with the sound in that room. I did want to hear it again; I think the DAC has been revised.

There were quite a few Audio Aero machines at CES this year, and that says something.

The many Audio Aeros may merely say that they made them available to all. I would be shocked were the Audio Aero the equal of the Zanden setup, not that I think either are top digital units.
I am glad to hear that Ty took the Super Towers to the show. I have the prototype Super Towers. Ty made the first pair for me last May. I also have the center channel to match with the same drivers. Great sound!!

"My aim was to hear really good digital sources; and I tried to hear as many of the good ones as time allowed. Even this was not possible - for example, I really wanted to hear the Zanden combination, but the folks in the AvantGarde room claimed that their Zanden transport + DAC was too "green" to show off their system to the best; and they used a 32 bit Audio Aero."

I got to mention another fine speakers with RAVEN tweeter.

I have visited Audio Reserach room and listend to their reference power,pre, and CDP with wilson watt+puppy. It was a O.K.

Then I went to Connoisseur & Audio reference room without knowing anything about them. Rich and worm sound. Unbeliveable, You got to hear to believe this. The exhibitor drove them with 9 watts 300B int. amp. Best value and best sound of the show.

Another fine perfomer is NAIM's new n-Vi in reception area. One box all-in-one CD/DVD player / processor / five-channel amplifier. Little bit over priced, but still another good NAIM.


Before anyone else is confused, Youjoon (or anyone else), you might want to begin another thread. Because the posts prior to yours refer to LAST YEAR's CES (2005), not the one running currently.
So what was the set-up in the Cary room? I assume they were usuing the 306 SACD player? What speakers were they using?

Thanks for all the updates!