CES 2003: Which products impressed you?

For those who had the opportunity to make it and for those who could not, fellow audiogoners please provide your feedback. Thnks
Brief account: The not so pretty Phoenix, chinese horns sounded most like live music, second Avangardes trio with their small integrated amp, Avalon Eidolon Burmester and Pipedreams were also very impressive. Talons were biggest disappointment.
The new VPI turntable.
All the LAMM electronics.
Pipedream Loudspeakers.
Bel Canto new DCD is very imppressive. See my response under the other CES 2003 posting by F_S Audio.
Theil speakers impressed me the most, maybe because I've never heard them before, but I couldn't close my mouth during the HT demo or the music demo. On the lower end Klipsch had three new speakers to replace the RF3II that sounded pretty good. They toned down the horns a bit, so it doesn't sound to bad on acoustic or jazz music. The only thing that I didn't like was several speaker manufactures didn't have their speakers hooked up. Granted, I couldn't afford some of those speakers, but it would have be nice to hear them since there's no local retailer.
This was my first time attending CES and I had a great time. I finally understand how difficult it is to get a good impression of equipment at these shows because of the gabbing masses, open doors, muliple playing systems and sub-optimal room environment. Regardless, I had a great time and I'd probably go again.
For the most part I avoided the loud boom boom rooms and mostly visited the quieter ones, so I may have missed out on some good demos. Here are some impressions of rooms I remember at the Alexis Park Resort.

The first place I visited was the Spendor room. Lot's of tech people talking here, but I managed to get a quiet audition in a separate room of the S3/5 and new S3/5SC monitors. Amplification I believe were by a company called Talk Electronics. This was my first ever listen of the S3/5 and I was surprised how easy and mellow they were. I could listen to them all day, but I also felt they lacked some life. The S3/5SC with the upgraded crossover had a much more extended and peppier presentation.

I've always been curious about Unison Research, so I ran to that room. In the main room a Unico [not the Unico-i] integrated was hooked up to a pair of Opera speakers. Lively, musical, with a large, focused soundstage, this was definitely one of my favorite rooms of the whole show. But, I forgot to return on day two and take pictures here!!!!

Who says the French are rude? The people in the Triangle/Cairn room were friendly and lighthearted, and the Celius floorstanders on hand sounded big and bold. Concert piano sounded very impressive. Open, fresh, and very involving. Also a very focused sonic image possibly due in part to the toe-in of the speakers, but lacking some bottom end and a bit glassy when pushed hard, overall a very good set up. Very lifelike. Nice!!

Audio Analogue was also using Triangle speakers in their room, Zays to be specific, with their monster Maestro integrated to push them. Big, big sound, but a vague sonic image possibly due to the flat alignment of the speakers without toe-in. A very nice room hosted by very nice Italians. My first experience with AA left me quite impressed. I remembered to take pictures here.

The Totem room was one of the most inviting. A warm, cozy setting with a beautiful African motif, candles and a gorgeous brunette [better looking than most of the women at the Adult Expo, maybe it was her suit] who kept kneeling and adjusting the McIntosh electronics while I was sitting on the couch. A second system in the same room 90° off-axis to the main McIntosh set up was being run from a Plinius 8200 integrated. Very nice as well. Both set ups exuded an open, natural, musical experience. My first experience with Totem speakers left me very impressed.

The McCormack/Grand Prix Audio room had stacks of silver-faced gear sitting on carbon fiber and acrylic stands. Speakers I believe were Wilson Audio. Lot's of people and loud music that came to a stop about fifteen seconds after I got to the doorway. Many people were eager to bend Steve McCormack's ear so I just did a single swoop through and left.

As the owner of Response 1SCs and Tablette 50 Signatures, I entered the ProAc/Modern Audio room with pride. The showcase speakers looked like Response 3.8s but with bigger drivers [I didn’t check to see what they were], and the electronics behind them were delivered by Audio Research. I've read a lot about the synergy between ARC and ProAc here on the 'Gon, so this was going to be interesting. These big speakers were set way out in the room away from the back walls and they absolutely disappeared. The center focus was outstanding, with a very smooth character, but I couldn't help thinking that something was missing. Maybe a loss of some sonic cues due to a slight roll off at the top end? I'm not sure, but in my opinion my little ProAc setup wasn't that far behind this one.

I thought a break from music was in order so I paid a visit to the Music Tools suite. I've seen pictures of their Alica component stands here in the Audiogon classifieds, and I wanted to see them in person. Beautiful Italian racks [yeah I like those too], and Cristiano was a great host explaining the design and construction behind the Alica. Definitely a purchase consideration in the future.
While I was in the rack mood I swung over to the pARTicular room. Volkmar and Anne were very friendly and patient. The racks are stunning as well, more like sculpture. But Volkmar assured me that function wasn't completely thrown away in favor of form. They were offering discount show specials on certain pieces to avoid having them shipped back to San Francisco. I was ready to reach for my wallet!!

By this time, I started to realize my best experiences were with people from foreign lands and I sometimes felt ignored by my fellow American hosts. Hmmm...

So that led me to another “foreign” suite. Blue Circle! As the happy owner of Gilbert Yeung's BC21 and BC22, I was excited to meet the man himself. I had heard he was a bit eccentric, but I wasn't prepared for the crazy, fun time I had there, the highlight of my two days at CES! A hint as to what was to come was the loud Hawaiian music being played through Martin Logan speakers as I entered the room being fed by the new BC21.1 preamp and BC28[I think] hybrid amp. This combo was both musical and extended without being overly bright, and I was surprised at the powerful bass. On hand was Kevin Allen of Harmonia Audio, one of Gilbert's best dealers and partner in crime. If I wasn't talking to Gilbert about the possible mods to my setup which even included adding the AG Series purpleheart faceplates. power supply upgrades or being entertained by this mad genius, I was given a full tour and demonstrations by Kevin. Kevin showed me the effects of the BC86 Noise Hound with a neat demo, and introduced me to the Blue Circle MusicRing Power Conditioner. These are two great, fun guys!

I completely missed out on the Pipedreams room and only peeked into the Lamm suite because it was so crowded. The Manley suite was always packed, and EveAnna Manley was constantly surrounded so I didn’t get a listen there. I guess being a rookie at these hifi shows I didn’t key into any new developments and probably missed out on a lot. I didn’t scrutinize what new sources were playing, I just went in and listened and tried to get an impression of the room as a whole. For that I apologize to my fellow Audiogoners. I had a great time and the impressions I have freshest in memory are of the fantastic people I met.
Some of the super models in the automobile area had nice gear.
Thanks for the thorough review! Great job! I too am a Blue Circle fan and it hadn't occured to me to ask Gilbert about the AG faceplate...did he quote you a price? All the best,
I also want to thank Albert Porter and Peter Schartzman (PeterS) for the fine dinner conversation on Friday evening.

Yes, Gilbert Yeung is a wild man. We talked about some preamp mods and a custom BC86 Noisehound for an ungrounded outlet.

I was also surprised when Gilbert saw my real name on my show name tag and knew I was Sugarbrie from AudiogoN.
(There are spies everywhere !!!)
Gunbei's assessment of the rooms were quite similar to mine. Thank you for taking the time to share your observations.
BY FAR, the VIDEO equipment was the most exciting at the show!!!....AND I'M A DIEHARD AUDIPHILE!!!
As fun as it is to hear all the audio systems at the show, i must admit that the video projectors, scalers, HD decoders, video software, screens, video interface cables, etc, was all the buzz!
Given the state of the new DLP and HD2 chip technology, you can get a virtual WORLD CLASS picture, even hi-def 1080 picture that's just jaw dropping, for reasonable money!!!
I wsa just astounded at the pictures I was seeing from DVD, DVHS, and Hidef broadcast, on these DLP's and scalers at the show! From the afordable little Plus Piano(small 70" screen max), Runco CL500 and Optima $3k-5k offerings, to the Sharp9000, Marantz'S, JVC'S,Runco's, and especially SELECO's $10-12k DLP projectors, THE VIDEO QUALITY WAS JUST MIND BLOWING!!!...I MEAN REALLY REALLY GOOD!
That and the improvements in video scalers(internal and out-board), screen material improvements, and future software upgrade "hinting's", all just made me smile.The CRT's are DEFINITLY going "bye-bye", and DLP ruled supreme at the show indeed.
When I saw the SELECO $12k DLP projector do DVD's and Hi-def, I was jUST FLOORED! It was an honest to goodness open window picture on hi-def...JUST GORGEOUS!
I can easliy see myself NOT GOING TO THE MOVIES in the next 5 years ever! Why?..when I can get a wall sized picture of BETTER QUALITY and refinement than what I'm getting at the local cinema!?!
That and the "hint" of "hi-def" 1080 rez DVD's on the horizon a virtual "inevitability", I can certainly see the local cineplexes are in for some "pocket-losses"!!!!
Anyway, the video from these DLP displayes was just "oh-too-good", and getting more and more affordable!
Anyway, if you didn't check out the video at the show, and just hit up the hi-end audio, you DEFINITELY MISSED OUT!
While the audio just keeps chugging alone, the VIDEO IS DEFINITLEY MOVING! And while I'm not really a multi channel audio fan(2 channel is fine), I am a multi channel movie fan, and you can't maximize that experience without a huge WORLD CLASS VIDEO IMMAGE!(more important than audio I'm going to admit...even from a 20 year audiphile).
With what I saw the other day, I am VERY VERY PLEASED at what' in-store for home entertainement indeed. It was a good show....
Hi Vik, thanks for the compliment. That was my rookie attempt at a show review, more like personal impressions.

We were having such a fun time I didn't want to press Gilbert on pricing at the time. I was showing Gilbert and Kevin some examples from my digital retouching portfolio which I was shopping around at the AVN Expo and we were having a good laugh about the befores and afters. I told him I'd send an e-mail with some mod options and see what he thought, then we'd discuss pricing. Once I find out I'll drop you an e-mail. Kevin had mentioned that a fellow wanted to have his BC8 monoblocks modded to have the AG hardwood faceplates and that's what gave me the idea. Apparently, on a whim Gilbert told the guy he could do it. Nothing stops Gilbert, and I guess that's where the purse preamp and high heel monoblocks came from. BTW, they sounded quite good.

Sugarbrie, I was at the Blue Circle both Friday and Saturday. It's possible we were there at the same time. It's great Gilbert figured out who you were without you telling him, after all you are one of his biggest boosters.

Being around Gilbert and Kevin made me very happy to be a Blue Circle owner. I know most people involved in high end audio or most hobbies buy only what performs best, but the people behind the products is also very important to me. People like Gilbert and Kevin make this hobby that much more rewarding. Although they may protest, if any of you Blue Circle fans would like to see a funny picture I took of these two crazy guys, drop me an e-mail and I'll send it to you.
Gaudio_eek, only on rare occasions have I had a chance to compare my hearing and tastes with fellow audiophiles, so I was a bit apprehensive about posting my impressions. It gives me great assurance your experience was similar to mine, now I know I can rely more on the reviews I read on Audiogon and that my ears aren't completely different from others'.
Gumbei, I was at Blue Circle with Gilbert early and late on Friday. I have a couple crazy pictures also. He introduced me to Kevin as Sugarbrie, so Kevin knew also. George Stanwick of Stanalog Audio knew me both as me (I've referred him business) and Sugarbrie, but did not know the connection.

I also liked the sound I heard at Wilson Audio, Quad, Mission, Music Hall, Thiel, Van den Hul, Dr. Hsu's subwoofer demonstration, and many others.

It was also fun to get talk to folks like Bill "Conrad" and Lew "Johnson", Michael Chang (lightspeed), Steve McCormick, A.J. Van den Hul, Richard Vandersteen, Roy (Music) Hall, Dr. Hsu, and the son of Y.B. Andre (YBA) about the Passion Integre.
Gunbei, I took a lot of pictures so I can share them whenever they are available. I could not borrow a digital camera (spent too much on audio!) so had to use my normal camera. Will develop the pictures today and ask for the jpeg copies. I'm quite impressed by the synergy between the Talk Electronics and Spendor. Talk Electronics Thunder 3.1 Balanced also uses the Anagram Technologies chip and software. The new Unico CD player is also incredibly musical and was able to reproduce tons of texture. Wood sounds like wood and metal sounds like metal. Must be the tubes doing their job! It also handles crescendo nicely. Excellent PRAT.
Venture Audio room had the most impressived looking and sounding amplifier and speakers.

The Monster Gamut amplifier was impressived,but not the sound. (with pipe dream speakers)

The best sound was Audio Note KONDO from Japan. MAGIC.
Sugarbrie, Kevin and Gilbert were complaining about the huge breakfast they had Saturday morning and how mortified they were that they had to take a cab for the half mile trip back to the Alexis Resort. I'm trying to think of a diabolical way I can manipulate the digital photos I took of them.

It was the first time I saw the Hermes 2 but I forgot, was it Gershman speakers that was sharing a room with Kora?

I missed the Audio Note room as well!
Gunbei, I was at the Audio Note room. You did not miss much.
Really? I also missed the 47 Labs room, I didn't even know they were there, I wanted to see their cabling up close. I looked through the CES Program for them but must have missed them, and didn't see them on the kiosks. Rats.
To "amend" my last post on this topic, I think I mistakenly discussed the "Seleco" brand DLP as being very impressive. aCTUALLY, I believe I ment the Sim300 DLP projector. I think that's the one I saw for like $12k or something new. It was VERRRRRY good looking indeed.
I was very impressed with the Harmonic Resolution Systems demonstration of their platforms, damping plates, and their pucks (Nimbus isolators). I brought a set of their Nimbus Isolators home and lost much midrange and higher frequency glare that I'd never knew that I'd had. They also improved the lower frequency extention and generally improved resolution across the frequency band. I'll definitely be purchasing more of their products.

I also enjoyed pizza and great conversation with Albert on Saturday night at a woodfire pizza joint. All in all, it was a wonderful show.
This is a late post, and I am by no means an expert on all things high-end, but no one mentioned the PS Audio room over at the Residence Inn across the street from the main hall. Also I don't believe anyone mentioned the Plinius room with Harbeth speakers. Both of these sounded very good in my mind though in very different ways. The Plinius sounded very neutral and clear but not sterile through the monitors, whereas the PS audio setup sounded incredible through the new Genesis speakers and their new preamp. They switched back and forth between the HCA2 and Classic 250 and I found it hard to discern a difference, which is surprising consididering the price. The Genesis had powered subs though so I suspect the 250 would have asserted itself more in the bass department if asked to drive a full range speaker. I also agree the Totem room sounded very good with an extremely relaxed and natural sound. I hate to say it, but many of the rooms it wasn't so much the sound as the attitude that turned me off. Many that shall remain unnamed looked with disgust at any person unknown to them such as myself, and some even refused to give you the time of day unless you were clearly there to fawn over them or purchase mass quantities of their products. Audio snobbery is alive in full force at CES. Maybe that is why I liked the Totem, Plinius, and PS Audio rooms so much, they gave an unhurried relaxed presentations, and were very friendly and happy to chat.
Sbrtoy, I experienced the same "audio snobbery" as you in many rooms, that's why I made mention of those rooms where I was treated hospitably. Whenever I left a room after a negative experience I kept asking myself, "Why? And for what reason?". It makes no sense.