CES 2004 Best of Show

Everyone out there who were lucky enough to go to CES this please enlighten the poor souls who didn't with their top 3 in best of sound. I'd love to know what everyone thought about the show and theit top three sounds they heard.
The worst sound was that of a guy falling in the pool at Alexis Park, I really got a big kick out of McIntosh's multi-kilowatt home theater, Thiel's surround sound featuring their new sw-2 subwoofer, and Jeff Roland design group two channel system
I wanna hear about the hot chicks.
Nothing special this year. TAD room was pretty good.
My favor room is Joule Electra(preamp LA150 & OTL monoblock), Joseph Audio(Pearl)and Audio Aero Capitol CDP and David Elrod power cords and Linestage PC. The sound was so smooth, seductive and awesome.
I agree, Joule/Joseph was certainly one of the best rooms. Another was the Marten Design/EAR room with EAR electronics driving the new Coltrane Alto speakers, $22K (not to be confused with the original Coltranes). Also, the Musical Surroundings room with the Acapella Arts horn speakers (have I got the name right?)--wonderful!

Other good ones: Fried, Plinius/Harbeth and also Harbeth/Plinius.

The new Vandersteen Quattro was news to me--had that been shown before? It's a $6500, tall svelte pyramid with powered subs.
Can anyone comment on the turnout?

I have a friend who went out this year as an exhibitor, and I heard through a mutual friend that his assessment was that the turnout was astonishingly low this year. And, despite the vast number of companies in high end these days, he seems worried about the state of the industry(don't worry about my friend, he is retired, and only makes a very small product for fun).

Anyway, I would have enjoyed it, as with the number of exhibitors, I would be like a kid in a candy store.
Why does the Joseph Audio Perl alwys get a rave year after year? This year paired with different electronics than in the past. They must truly be damn fine speakers, as simple looking as they seem. Yes, I've heard them too, in the pst, with Manley electronics and they were truly exceptional.

My experience may speak to Trelja's comments.

While I'm a hardcore two-channel guy and have vastly more dollars invested in my two-channel setup versus HT, I thought this year represented the first time I was wooed by multi-channel.

In particular, the DTS room in "the zoo" was by far the most impressive multi-channel demo I saw. Of course, we're talking about approx 12 Halcro bridged amps powering 6.1 surround with Ayre, reference JBL, Straightwire associated equipment and one of the best projection images I've seen. Unfortunately, I doubt many people saw it, since it was out of the way and you needed a special ticket to get in.

Besides a quarter million dollar (or more) worth of equipment, the demo disk had incredible material and they gave each audience member a copy. This started quite a buzz and many people who couldn't get in the demo were inquiring about just getting the disk.

Among other things, it included a band who purposely mastered their material to simulate you being in the middle of the stage with them (very cool). Of course, the DTS channel separation and overall integration was suberb and negated many of the typical multi-channel negatives. The setup was perfect and all material supremely mastered. Rear-channel material truly seemed ambient and not like it was specifically coming from a rear/side speaker. Dynamics were unparalleled and overall it made even the nice McIntosh, Faroudja/Meridian and other HT rooms sound pedestrian, IMO. Even the very impressive (and expensive) Halcro/Wilson/EMMlabs multi-channel audio room didn't have the same impact on me.

In any case, my oberservations were that multi-channel audio and HT is starting to advance to a level that can excite even hardcore audiophiles. Sure, many of the two-channel rooms mentioned were exceptional, but were they any better than what we just saw at HE2003? Any special new technology in 2 channel audio other than the surfboard corian speaker (Glacier Audio) that was everywhere?

Hence, the turnout for a state-of-the-art show like this could be waning for 2 channel. Yes, that's a reason to sigh, but there's also a reason to be optimistic about what is to come in multi-channel. I'm choosing to look at the glass half-full, but I'm sure there are many that disagree.
Sorry, one correction: Gilmore not Glacier Audio with the surfboard styled speakers
Trelja: Traffic at the St. Tropez was brisk (my first time at T.H.E. Show so can't compare to previous years). Heard complaints from San Remo vendor about low turnout. San Remo had 5 or 6 rooms (that I saw) compared to 40 - 60 at St. Tropez.

For my "Best of" list, see my posts:
"Informal T.H.E. Show Report - Day I" and
"Informal T.H.E. Show Report - Day III".
Hmmm, lets see, best of the Show, well, Blue Circle was getting decent sound out of a brand new pair of ML Ascents by the end of Saturday (a little "tight" on day 1.. )
The Lamm room was sounding good, as was the Wadia room on Saturday (warm up time !)
Penn Audio (Finland) had some great sounding small speakers as well.
Focus Audio had a beauty of a new speaker ($23,500 US) it had promise, but needed a bit bigger room.
Although, I too have to admit that the best "sound" of the show was the big splash in the pool ! hehehehee...
Theil, as always, was one of my favorites. they never fail to have an excellent H/T demonstration, as well as 2 ch music. This was the first time I ever heard the Totem acoustic Forrest. maybe it was just the music or the fact that I'd been walking all day and final sat down for a listen. But I was very impressed. I think the thing that stood out the most to me was a speaker by Morel acoustics. It's call Renaissance chorus. It measures 8 7/8" D X 8 7/8" W X 8 5/8"H. It looks like a small box sitting on the floor. The sound that comes out of those things is incredible. Also the Cardas cable rooms. Very friendly people. I also got to listen to George himself (I think it was him,the room was packed, but they did call him george), but whoever it was sure had a passion for cables. There were many other great rooms, most of them I've never heard of since I'm only at the mid-fi level of this hobby, but there were also some rooms that sounded terrible or not what I'd expect from high end audio. Maybe its like biggpappakrell said, some of the rooms needed warm up time.
I too was taken by the Blue Circle/Martin Logan Ascent setup. The Innersound room was fantastic, but the sweet spot for the speakers was incredibly small (1 person wide only). The Alon/ Antique Sound Labs Hurricane/ CJ 17 demo was also great. Finally, the Sim Moon/ Dynaudio demo was extremely powerful and clean.
Mantra speakers and their associated equipment was clearly the best sound. The ESPs in Wavac with the really big 833s was awesome but too expensive. The TADs were great if you just want to be impressed and not listen to music.
The mention of th eJoule/Joseph room was of interest to me because several folks last year thought the Herron/Joseph room was their favorite. Anyone hear the Herron room? Were they paired with Joseph again?
I was curious if any were able to get the chance to hear the Meadowlark Audio Nighthawks paired with Rogue monoblocks at the show?
I did. Very good sound. I've always wanted to like Meadowlarks, but never have. These I liked.
I may be mixing and matching with THE Show, but the consensus in my group of the rooms we heard was
- Walker Audio with the Proscenium feeding Viva monoblocks driving Zingali speakers. One of the gang descibed it as sounding like 'sex' - he doesn't get out enough ;-)
- Cabasse with Audio Research front end and electronics
- Rethm (I'll put this in because everyone else really liked them, me somewhat less so)
- Innersound (as long as you keep your head in the sweet spot vise)

We start diverging from there, but I liked
- Avalon Eidolon Diamonds driven by Ayre gear
- Vandy 5A's with Audio Research up front
- Ref 3A Royal Virtuoso driven by very inexpensive gear (The whole darn room costs less than some of the source components being displayed, and sounded great)

Can't recall all the details, but also recall liking:
- Cain & Cain with Art Audio
- VonSchweikert VR4-Jr
- Thiphi inexpensive dimunitive HT setup with the processor built in to the center channel, just plug in a DVD and go.
What happened to Final Labs with their battery powered gear?

PS: I am also interested in checking out some pics of the fine models that complemented the shows. Is there such a site for that exclusively? >:)
By far, for me, it was the Halcro/Wilson room that impressed me. I don't think it was the equipment so much as the multi-channel recordings of classical music that was recorded by, and presented by Peter McGrath. I have never heard a recording of a singer that sounded so much like an unmiked, live recording (tenor from La Traviata). The solo piano recordings played at exquisitely soft levels was also breathtaking.

For something closer to the real world, I liked the sound from the Gershman loudspeaker ($14k), the JM Reynaud Trentes, a Triangle speaker ($6k), the smaller, non-monitor Alons, and a speaker with a Heil AMT driver. Although the upper bass seemed a bit lightweight, I really liked the Gradient speaker (open, airy sound of a dipole) and it is also compact and nice to look at.

On the pricier side, the TAD speaker was very interesting: explosive dynamics and very natural tone, BUT, extremely hard and metallic sounding on top (not nearly as bad as at CEDIA). The Overkill Audio speaker with a Manger driver was also interesting (dynamic and coherent), but it did suffer from being very directional from the upper midrange on up.
I liked the Mantra speakers a lot, but then I own Trios and am somewhat horn biased. The Pearls were very nice, I see why they get lots of votes. The TADS were maybe the most impressive box speakers I have ever heard, but they should be for the price. The Acapella violins were the sweetest highs as usual.
I too liked the Halcro/Wilson room. Although some of the recordings had voices comming from behind us, most of the multi-channel recordings were good. The system was in a great room which helped a lot. I also liked the Ascendant speaker by Avalon. They gave a deep spacious sound for chump-change (10k) compared to the Wilson/Halcro 250k system and was a welcome price tag. The CD Duevel speaker was very interesting and I would like to hear more. It was an omnidirectional 2-way-fullrangehorn. They had a 91db sensit., 40-20khz response, and are made in Germany. They had a wide sweet spot and were fast and dynamic. A bit of bite in the upper midrange was the only flaw I heard. Digital was playing so I don't know where the bite was comming from. Analog is a better source for me to hear systems with. The Vandersteen 5 was also good. The Lamm system was also very warm, spacious and great sounding ( solid state system). The Gilmore system was there in the flesh minus the ad flesh...I had to see if she made it there. No luck this year, maybe next year. O yes, the system driven by Atmasphere sounded pretty good, but not as good as the Audio Artistry system several years ago with the open baffle design. A good year, I will be back. How about an Audiogon dinner one night so those Audiogon members who attend can compare notes at the show? Jallen
I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned the BAT listening room setup with a two channel system with Avalon speakers up front. To my ears their setup stands up well against any two channel system at the show.
Jls3, I too thought the TADs were impressive, but I did not think they played music. I very much sought them out for a listen and left thinking I no longer needed to find the money for them.

I always loved the tweeter on the Acapellas.
Many fine rooms. Silverline Sonata II was awesome. There was an Indian maker of exotic looking speakers, name sounds like Rythm, sound was incredibly beautiful. Joseph Audio and Cary rooms were wonderful. Thiel 2.4's integrated with their subwoofer amazingly well, best high end audio sub integration I've ever heard. Many small exotic vendors (mainly at THE show) with extremely efficient speakers sounded wonderful. Granite's demonstration room sounded fantastic. I loved the Gilmore sound but my friends did not, go figure. Buggtussel (spelling?) showed very well.

My friend loved the Harbeth room, I thought it was nice. Ref 3a's have sounded better to me, not sure what was wrong. Lot's of tube gear and LP at this show, very heartening.

New model Proac, I forget if it was D25 or D38, did not sound so good to me, but I've loved Proacs in my home before while not liking them at shows. Bel Canto - I LOVE their 845 tube SET stuff but at this show they demonstrated their solid state gear, which continues to strike me as grainy in the highs.

I attended Thursday and Friday, attendance did seem a bit light, I figured it would pick up over the weekend.

Great show! (We never even got to the porn star awards show across the street!)