Our 2003 Las Vegas CES and T.H.E. Show Report

A version of this report with pictures (sorry for the long download time) is at http://www.audiofederation.com/dealership/newsletter-january-2003/index.htm

My wife (Neli) and I (Mike) attended C.E.S. 2003 at the Alexis and T.H.E. Show at the San Remo, both in Las Vegas. We, unfortunately, did not make it to the high-end component of C.E.S. at the main Las Vegas convention center. From what we understand that is where the mainstream companies like Madrigal/Mark Levinson/Revel, B&W, Sumiko (Sonus Faber, SME), Krell etc. show their stuff.

This is a highly opinionated review - this is what *we* heard. So *please* do not be offended if *your* favorite speaker did not sound right to *our* ears. For better or worse, we are stuck with (to) these ears, just as you are yours. This show report emphasises the rooms that exhibited very high-end, the tip-top state-of-the-art. If we had time, we would have loved to visit each and every room and spend the time to play our test CDs and chat with the exhbitors. But because time is so limited compared to the large number of exhibits, we decided to sample the icing (yum!) and leave the cake for another time. This approach is fraught with the peril of missing something significant -- not being exhibitors, we wish that CES lasted long enough for us to hear every room.

We stayed in the MGM Grand hotel - reportedly the largest hotel in the world. The walk from our 21st floor room to the San Remo was 10 minutes, to the Alexis Park 20 minutes. Not too bad. People might wonder what negative impact the sound of all that traffic does to one's listening capability and over what duration (ah, that explains everything, I hear you saying :-), but we did our best. There was also a shuttle between the San Remo and Alexis Park that ran quite frequently (the shuttle even had a TV so the NFL playoff games could be enjoyed enroute). The weather the first day we arrived was a delightful 74 degrees (coming from Boulder this was most excellent :-). But that was just a spoiler as the rest of the show the temperature hovered in the low to mid 60s (during daylight hours, then dipped into the 40s after sunset - and it was dark each day before 6:00pm, when the shows closed for the day). If you haven't been to Las Vegas, be forwarned: people smoke here.

We had driven down, bringing toys from up north (Audio Aero Capitole mk II CD Player, Shunyata Anaconda Vx power cords and a slew of Nordost Valhalla). Driving the equipment over to the San Remo in our mostly unpacked car we discovered the evil-that-are-speed-bumps: there is a special kind of horror associated with hearing your CD player in the trunk of your car land after a 6 inch sub-orbital flight. A word to the wise: watch out for them speed bumps, they are up to no good.

The show at the San Remo was divided up into three areas: floors 8, 9 and 10 in the gold tower which contained about 55 exhibitors, four largish banquet rooms on the first floor (Wisdom Audio, Lamm Industries, Accoustic Dreams, and VAC/Pipedreams/RixRax), and then four large rooms next door in the San Remo conference center (Edge Electronics, Halcro, Halcro again, and Audio Research).

The show at the Alexis Park was the same as always: about 15 2-story buildings (numbered 13 through 28 or so), each building containing a courtyard from which about 40 rooms of about 3 or 4 basic sizes are accessible.

A disclamer: We are dealers for Acapella Audio Arts, Audio Aero, Edge Electronics, Nordost and Shunyata. We do try to be as honest (and some may say ruthless) as always regards our reporting the sound of these lines at the conferences, whether they sounded fantasic or completely sucked, but we must necessarily hold back (some :-) on our exuberence, or perhaps even disappointment, in the name of good taste, when referring to these lines or their direct competitors.

Many rooms continue to tweak and improve their performance each day of the show, sounding their best on the very last day. Certainly if one goes to a room the first day and the sound is excellent, then one's visit was worth one's investment of time (and, oh yes, there is not enough time to visit all of the rooms, never mind the subset of rooms that one really would like to hear, and so time is one's most important resource at a show, that and a good pair of comfortable shoes). We 'tried' to make very quick visits to all of the rooms we really would like to hear (running shoes may be of help here), and then set aside specific time on the last day to re-hear the rooms that had problems that first day. The intervening 2 days can be spent doing business (if any) and just browsing the rooms, looking for the 'surprise hits', those rooms that are unexpected (to us anyway) 'standouts' (because of the large number of rooms, word of mouth is a very important factor in finding those surprise hits and for this we also rely heavily on the daily posts on Audiogon, Audio Asylum and EnjoyTheMusic.com).

Ubiquitous components: Audio Aero Capitole mk II CD Player, Gamut CD-1 CD Player, Shunyata and Elrod Power Systems powercords

Test CDs: Gypsy Passion - New Flamenco (Narada) (track 1), Getz and Gilberto (track 1), Brent Lewis - Earth Tribe Rhythms (track 1), Jerry Douglas, et. al., Skip, Hop and Wobble (track 1).

Day -2, Tuesday, January 7th

Lots of uncrating, setting up room treatments, complaining (justifyably so) about the difficulty of having to optimize one or more sound systems in just 2 days. Many exhibitors use the same room year after year, so that the setup, once optimized, can be reused each year. Others, such as those in the San Remo (this is the first time T.H.E. Show has been held here) have to try not to panic and just do the best they can in the time allotted and with the materials available.

Day -1 Wednesday, January 8th

Most systems are up and running. Optimization phase commences (and continues throughout the duration of the show).

During the shipment of a number of Tenor amplifiers, some scoundrels managed to abscond with a couple of crates that contained one of the two brand new (truly awesome looking) Tenor 300 watt monoblocks and at least one 75wp monoblock. Besides being totally rude this meant that we were not able to hear the 300s this show and would have meant that 2 rooms would have gone Tenor-less had not a couple of audiophiles interrupted their lives, packed up and shipped their personal amplifiers to the show. This was handled so adroitly and seamlessly that had we not been told about the fiasco, we would not have even noticed that a near disaster had been adverted, and we would have thought that the 300s were being shown but not heard. More about the Tenors below, but sometimes one just has to stand in awe at how many great people are involved in this hobby. A special thanks from all of us attendees must be given to Audiogoners mikel and oakrow (thanks guys!).

CES and T.H.E. Show open - Thursday, January 9th

The Edge Electronics/Wisdom Audio Room - San Remo Conference Center.
There were three systems in this room: a big Wisdom Audio M-75 system, a little Wisdom Audio (Rush) system, and a system using custom-built speakers, all of which were driven by Edge amplifiers. The Big Wisdom Audio system was driven by the new Edge Reference 800-watt per channel awesome-looking pyramid shaped monoblocks, Edge Signature 1 preamp, and an Audio Aero Capitole mk II CD player. Nice, big sound, very smooth, but somewhat uninvolving. The smaller Wisdom system was not able to be demoed because of a CD player that did not survive transit to the show. The system with the custom built (by Steven Norber) speakers (using 4 ceramic midranges and a top-of-the-line JM Labs tweeter), was driven by alternately the Edge Signature 1 400-watt/channel monoblocks and the new 800-watt/channel Reference monoblocks, Edge Signature 1 line stage preamp, Gamut CD-1, Aesthetix Io phono stage and the new VPI HRX turntable. This system was really quite nice to listen to, especially when playing a particular Louis Armstrong LP (no I do not know which one). The speakers seemed to generate quite a bit of positive mention from people we talked with. In contrast with the Wisdoms; they have quite a different style - you like either one or the other, but probably not both.

Halcro rooms - San Remo Conference Center
Halcro was there in full force. Large banners, lots of people in suits. There were two Halcro rooms, one with EgglestonWorks speakers (Savoys?) and one with Wilsons (surround sound configuration with Maxx's in front, a Watch center channel, and Sophias(?) in the rear). The surround-sound music was not subtle and was more like 'effects' than music. However a Mahler piece playing in 2-channel showed very nice separation. And, of course, a Kodo drum CD sounded very dynamic - it really highlighted those big Wilsons. We visited the Halcro rooms on the last day, Monday, but unfortunately they were closed - we were curious to hear our own music in the Wilson room and to see what front end components they were using to generate such nice separation on the Mahler disk. Also we heard good things about the EgglestonWorks room as well. We find the Halcro amps to be a little too neutral for their own good (i.e. cold and uninvolving). On the other hand our personal preference is for equipment that (ever so slightly) emphasizes musicality over neutrality, and, the Halcros we have heard have always been paired with speakers that, in our opinions, emphasized neutrality over musicality (Wilson Maxxs, Revel Salons, Rockport Antares). However, hearing the EgglestonWorks speakers, being much more musical, with the Halcro might have disavowed us from our currently held beliefs about the Halcro's (lack of) musicality. But we skipped this room, hoping to get back later. Argh!

Audio Research - San Remo Conference Center
Audio Research, Magnepan speakers. Best I heard the Magnepans sound but... , what a strange setup: 4 maggies, 2 side by side directly in front, and then the standard 2 in the front left and front right positions. Soundstaging was weird, a tunnel of instruments, very narrow and very deep.

Tri-cell room - Alexis Park
The system included Acapella Violins, Accustic Arts Drive-1, Accustic Arts Amp-1, Accustic Arts pre, and Cardas Golden Reference. Typically awesome Acapella midrange and highs; bass a little loosey goosey. Plenty of power from the amp. We loved the look of the blue horn with white enclosure, especially for rooms with white walls. Imaging a little off. Came back a few days later, bass had tightened up considerably, imaging quite nice. There is a reason we like these speakers so much.

We chatted awhile with one of Acapella's two designers, a Mr. Hermann Winters, who was over from Germany accompanied by his wife Inge. Very knowledgeable and passionate about producing the best sound with the best engineering. Honestly, almost all designers we meet are very friendly, passionate, and fastidious engineers (even you Bob Crump ;-) - who love their work and care deeply that their products are the best possible given time, budget and technological limitations - what a great hobby/business this is!

Audio Aero rooms - San Remo Gold Tower
One system included small Wilson Benesch speakers, Audio Aero Capitole 50 watt push-pull amplifier and new Prestige CD/DVD/SACD player. The speakers were not broken in and not of the quality for us to evaluate the sound of the much-awaited $15K Prestige player. The look of the player is more refined than that of the Capitole mk I or mk II, and it looks to have 2 joysticks for front panel operations. The 3 disks on top of the box are symmetrical with the 3 that separate the coupled transport and dac chassis - but look kind of out of place, just sitting there. HRS (Harmonic Resolution Systems) slabs (on top of the players) and isolation platforms were used with the AA equipment.

The other system included a Capitole mk II CD player, Capitole 50 watt push-pull amplifier, and a (vertically) stacked pair of Quad ESL 57s. Personally never liking Quads because they have sounded bloated in the past (apparently driven by an under-powered amplifiers?), this system sounded very nice. This is how everyone said the quads sounded - and it was great to finally 'hear' them.

We chatted with Adrian Van Doom, the Audio Aero amplifier and CD player analog designer. A very nice down-to-earth kind of guy who still proudly prefers vinyl, even over his vaunted Capitole mk II CD player. One thing we came away with was that he designed the AA equipment to be connected by balanced cables - and that the improvment over single-ended should be quite significant. We can't wait to try this ourselves. He also thinks that Balsa wood is an excellent isolation material, and that components on a few blocks of Balsa wood would sound much better than much of what is out there passing for isolation tweaks.

SoundLabs rooms - San Remo Gold Tower
Ultimates in one room, Milleniums (M1) with a Buggtussel subwoofer in the other. Now the strange thing about this is that they were both playing off of the same source, so you could not hear one without hearing the other. This made it quite difficult to tell exactly where each note was coming from. We did not get back to this room and so never did find out if this was just someone fooling around or whether the two systems were irretrievably and permanently attached to each other.

Kharma/Lamm room - Alexis Park
Lamm ML2 monoblock amps, L2 preamp, CEC transport, DCS DAC and upsampler, Kharma 3.2 reference monitor speakers, ($50K?! of) Kharma cables. This was the system that was shown at the Stereophile HE 2002 in New York City that many thought was best-of-show and which we liked very much but bemoaned the lack of bass. Perhaps the speakers in NYC were not broken-in or whatever, because this system had much more in the bass department. Though the system still did not possess the deep bass one might expect of a similarly priced solid-state amp driving a similarly priced speaker like, say, the B&W Signature 800N, Revel Salon, or even the quite musical Avalon Eidolon - it was very, very ... musical... in a way that the afore-mentioned speakers will probably never be. Not that they may not be capable, but because they are so hard to drive - and it is so hard to find big, powerful amps that are also musical. In any case, this system would be great for an audiophile in a relatvely small to average sized room where they wanted music but had close neighbors (or family members) who did not.

Tenor/Kharma/Audio Aero - Alexis Park
Tenor 75wp monoblocks, Audio Aero Capitole mk II, Kharma Midi-Grande, Shunyata power cords. OK. Now, we all go to these shows hoping to get blown away - to experience sonic bliss previously believed to be unachievable. But, in reality, you really go to each show not really expecting very much - after all, so few real breakthroughs are acheived in audio - just refinements on a theme. Thanks to Jonathan Tinn's Tenor/Kharma room - we, and many other people, got a good taste of Sonic Bliss at this year's CES.

This system was musical, lively, timbre-ly accurate, blah blah blah. If there is a word for it, it had it. It not only had PRaT, it had what might be called inner PRaT. This was apparant during a Flamenco CD we played in many rooms this CES. The songs on this CD not only have a lively beat, but within the beats there were quick little riffs the guitarists would play - and THESE riffs would also have PRaT. After listening to this room, we listened for inner PRaT in other rooms - though some did have a little, they did not do it with the ease and gracefullness of this system in this room. If we have any criticisms it would be that the sound could be more 'open-sounding' (it sounded a little closed in, most likely the size of the room was at fault here. Remarkably, only two sound treatments were used - a sound-absorbing panel against the wall on each side of the room to the side/front of each speaker). Also, there was not a lot of 'air', the highs not quite as pure and happy, happy as they might be. And, though ceramic drivers do many things very well, they can have an attack that is a little too sharp - causing notes to be etched in time, rather than organically grown. We believe there to be better speakers than the Kharmas (even the Exquisites have some, a very few but some, competitors), and there are better amps than the Tenors for that matter - but better systems than the Kharma/Tenor? Certainly not at this show. No mistake about it, this is a world-class system design.

Tenor/Talon/Audio Aero - Alexis Park
Tenor 75wp, Talon, Audio Aero Capitole mk II. The bass was not as detailed and light on its feet compared to the same system using Kharma speakers. There was also not the midrange magic - that sweet ease with which the rhythms intertwine. Not a bad sound - the Talons are presumably just a little harder to drive than the Kharmas.

Tenor/Rockport/Audio Aero - Alexis Park
Tenor 75wp, Rockport Antares, Audio Aero Capitole mk II. Did not get a chance to spin our test CDs in this room, but from our listening it seemed to have the same pluses and minuses as the Tenor/Talon room. The Rockports also seem to emphasize neutrality over musicality, and this seemed to overwhelm the inherent musicality of the Tenors.

Piega (Sanibel) room - Alexis Park
Boooo. Piega C2 and C3 only. We were really looking forward to hearing the C8s, the C40s, even the P10s. Preferably with the Goldman amps that HiFi Farm pairs them with. Somebody, please bring the top line Piegas with a system to match to the next show... please?

Acoustic Dreams - San Remo
VYGER turntable(s), Lumenwhite speakers, Ayon amps (renamed from VAIC), Hovland preamp. They had some room treatment problems here the first day - but it was much improved by the end of the show. Still not as involving and alive as some of the other rooms at the show this year. The VYGERs are certainly visually stunning turntables and, as we are hunting for a top-notch turntable these days, we appreciate the bend-over-backwards service that Acoustic Dreams provides with all of their products that they distribute or manufacture. We are keeping an eye on the VYGER as they slowly make their way into the U.S. I am not sure how many people know it - but Acoustic Dreams also make equipment racks - very nice equipment racks (though expensive). There is some nice technology involved in the rack manufacture that has us quite impressed.

Pipedreams - multiple rooms:
1. Gamut 200 watt amps, Gamut CD player. Supra cables. Produced a hard sound, minimal micro dynamics.
2. Gamut Dreadnaught amps (if they aren't called this, perhaps they should be :-), CD-1, Valhalla cabling. Too loud, hard sounding.
3. New VAC monoblock amps, Rix Rax equipment racks. This was the best sound of the Pipedreams rooms. In our opinion the Pipedreams lack the ability to render fine detail - but they are tremendously responsive to midrange nuances in dynamics - and so pairing them with a good tube amp seems like it works just fine. We enjoyed listening to music in this room.

TG Audio, CTC, Parasound, SoundLabs room - Alexis Park
Featuring the Parasound Halo JC-1 that just got rave reviews from Mike Fremer in Stereophile. Too much mid-range energy for our tastes, lacking finese and inner detail. Bob Crump then put on Marcus Miller's "Tales" CD. Nice and open, the Soundlabs certainly were not lacking for any power. We're getting the CD, by the way. Heard this system got better (less midrange energy) nearer the end of the show.

MSB room - Alexis Park
MSB CD player (not the new DVD/SACD/CD combo that was display-only), MSG amps, Lumenwhite speakers. Competant sounding, but nothing special (we really came to hear the new combo player - hopefully we will be able to hear it at HE 2003). They did give away free DACs in exchange for a business card though: it is of the size of a business card and is a circuit board that runs off of 3 9V batteries. Cool.

Ensemble room - Alexis Park
As yet unreleased ~$7K transport, ~$7K DAC, solid-state amp, pre, and $9K speakers. Very nice, sweetly detailed, musical sound, posessing a little of that same inner PRaT that the Tenor/Kharma emotes. The overall sound had, all I can think to call it is, an burnt orange wood tonal quality to it. I can leap to conclusions and blame the speakers which, though appropriately sized for the room, are not quite up to the quality of the transport/DAC combo - but this is just guessing on our part.

Hovland room - Alexis Park
Hovland HP-100 pre, Hovland's new $9K Radia solid-state amp, Lumenwhite speakers. This was also a very nice, sweetly detailed sound, posessing some of that same inner PRaT that the Tenor/Kharma emotes. It had a certain refinement and life that was very pleasant. Because Hovland has previously produced only very tubey equipment, my expectations were low. Not going back for a second listen, we do not know if these low expectations influenced our opinions of the sound. Hovland pairs very well with those Lumenwhites.

Genesis - Alexis Park
A rare 2-story room with a static display downstairs and music playing (by invitation only) upstairs. We figured the likes of us were not welcome upstairs so we continued on to the next room.

Lamm/Wilson room - Alexis Park
Lamm ML2 (sometimes) and Lamm ML1 (other times), L2 preamp, Stereovox cables, CEC transport, DCS upsampler, Wilson Watt/Puppy 7s. Surprise. The Wilsons sounding... musical? Very. The 7's are known to be a definite improvment over the 6's, by which it is usually meant that they have all the positive attributes of the 'Wilson sound' and won't bite your ears off. In the Lamm room they sounded very nice - perhaps a little tame, missing a little bit of the Wilson slam and effusive detail, but keeping that Wilson refinement and putting the whole package to good use: making music. Neli says: "Lamms made the Wilsons sound gOOOooooOOOOd!".

Moondog Audio -
Welbourne Labs amps, Maya Horn. Very musical, very tubey, lacking some detail. Room resonances around 1000 - 5000hz were painful.

Avantgarde - San Remo Gold Tower
Avantgarde Trios, Avantgarde Basshorn. Not sure we can fairly evaluate the sound. The bright red horns were awesome looking. And Mike really liked the looks of the chrome bass horn assembly. Boy, it's big, tho.

Wisdom Audio - San Remo banquet room
Wisdom Infinite, Gamut CD1. Very nice sound stage. Probably the most realistically sized and feeling soundstage that we have heard. Not the ultimate in imaging or anything, just a nice 'true to life' feel. Nice big sound. Very smooth, top to bottom, and no lack of power. Capability is all there, but no PRaT, no excitement. Perhaps needs more work on the front end (a turntable maybe?). Wisdom is working on a new CDP that unfortunately was damaged in transit to the show.

MBL room - Alexis Park
100% MBL system. We listened to the reference system as well as their smallest, most modest system with approximately 1 foot tall bookshelf speakers. Very nice sound - they were playing the reference system quite loud but it did not overwhelm or stab the ears like other systems do in such a small room. Is it just us or does the MBL equipment really win the award for the most gorgeous overall look award? Those speakers are just so ... cool. And the top-line transport/DAC (sigh). A 100% Burmester system is just a little too shiny and mirror-like and Hovland components are perhaps the most attractive of all but they are each so striking in themselves that they try to each steal the limelight from each other and do not work well (visually) with each other. Hmmmmm... back to the sound... The sound was first class as usual, missing just a tad of inner-dynamics and life. This room was always crowded.

Lamm/Klangfilm Bionor ballroom-sized horn speakers.
Lamm ML2, L2, CEC transport, American Sound??? turntable . These speakers are each approximately 10 feet wide by 8 feet tall. What can we say: huge sound, able to render big band sound in a realistic size and seperation. Very real and powerful with an ease that I had not heard before. But, I do not know what Neli was thinking but what I was really thinking was that this looked like it came out of an old movie theater and that if we had a room big enough in our house, I could put these speakers along the front wall, put a front projection video screen between them, and recreate Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Miles Davis on demand. OK, it was the last day of the show and I was tired. I thought it really showed a love of the hobby for these people to go to the trouble to bring in these HUGE speakers (they had to disassemble part of the external wall just to get them, still in many pieces, into the room), pay for a room to set them up in, and play tunes so that we can all share this experience.

Burmester - Alexis Park
100% Burmester, both a mid-priced (for Burmester) system and the top-of-the-line system. Both sounded very nice, and it is good to see that they are continuing to filter down technology from their leading edge components throughout the rest of their line of equipment. The sound? It was the Burmester sound: very detailed, lots of finesse, very competant, but not very muscial or involving (i.e. we would like more PRaT). We have a Burmester preamp in our personal system - it is very muscial and PRaTfull. All of the 100% systems (in descending order from distinctiveness of their 'company sound'): Ensemble, Burmester, MBL, even Audio Note have a distinctive 'company sound' in their rooms that makes one think (erroneously) that one has to either like this sound or go somewhere else for their components. There is a 'does not play well with others' aura to these rooms. Neli would really like to hear all of these companies mix their components into other systems too, so that she could better understand the characteristics of the individual components.

Audio Note - Alexis Park
Audio note system, using smallish, what appeared to be 2-way, corner speakers (AN-5??), and a prototype amplifier which was still in two pieces with exposed electronics. Our first visit to this room found someone playing a 1940-era LP. The music was nice but the sound was not very satisfying, sounding more like mid-fi than we expected. We did make a point of returning to this room, and this time we played our own CDs. Very nice, detailed, musical. Similar to the Ensemble and Hovland rooms, but more musical than the Ensemble, not as rich sounding as the Hovland (which after all had the larger Lumenwhites). Nice stuff.

BAT/Wilson/Shunyata - Alexis Park
BAT VK-51SE with the 75SE monoblocks, Wilson Watt/Puppy 7s. Big powerful sound. A little edgey, lacking finesse. Not as bad as Krell paired with the Wilsons, so we can understand if some listeners really liked this system, if they had not yet heard the Lamm/Wilson system at this show or the Wilson system with alternately VTL and Manley setup by Innovation in NYC at HE 2002.

Day 5, Monday, January 13th
T.H.E. Show at the San Remo continues for an extra day beyond the C.E.S. conference at the Alexis. Some rooms have already started dissassembling their equipment (notably Halcro - which was off limits all day- unfortunate because we had allocated some time to hear their Eggleston Works room and their Wilson Maxx room once more).

Best of Shows:

1. Jonathan Tinn room: Tenor 75wp monoblocks, Kharma Midi-Grand speakers, Audio Aero Capitole mk II CD player, Shunyata cabling

2. Tri-cell room: Acapella Violin speakers, Acustic Arts Amp-1 and Drive-1, Cardas cables
2. Lamm room: Lamm ML2/ML1 amplifier, L2 preamp, CEC transport, DCS upsampler, Wilson Watt/Puppy 7, Stereovox cables
2. Kharma room: Lamm ML2 amplifier, L2 preamp, CEC transport, DCS upsampler, Kharma 3.2 speaker and cables
2. Hovland room: Hovland solid-state Radia amp, HP-100 preamp, Lumenwhite speakers
2. Audio Note room: All Audio Note equipment (playing CD only)

3. MBL room: All MBL Reference system

Honorable mentions:

* Edge Electronics/Wisdom room: VPI TNT, Aesthetix Io phono stage, Edge Reference amplifiers, Edge Signature 1 linestage, Steven Norber speakers, Shunyata cabling (playing Satchmo LPs - best analog system of show)
* Lamm/Klangfilm room: Lamm ML2 monoblocks, L2 pre, CEC transport, DCS DAC and upsampler, Stereovox cabling (most awesome demonstration system)
* Audio Aero/Quad room: Audio Aero Capitole amp and mk II CD player, stacked Quad ESL 57s (they showed that Quads can sound good at a show)
* Clearaudio room: ... new Anniversery edition turntable and rack (second best analog system of show)

Rooms we really regret not getting a chance to hear (Argh!):

* Tri-cell room #2: The Oscar Heil speakers
* Halcro room #2: Halcros paired with the EgglestonWorks speakers
* Lindemann: We tried and tried and could not find this room (double Argh!)
* TG Audio room: Wanted to go back later in the show.

- Mike and Neli
I agree with you 100%! I have finally seen evaluations that exactly match the aspects I consider important. Especially since this was the first time I have been to CES and found out what was important to me in listening to all of the systems. It is nice to distinguish the differences, and not get puzzled, by all the various write-ups by having first hand experience. A must, and a lesson, for everyone.

From one old coder to another....thanks!
Mike, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thorough show report.

As someone who has written show reports for Audiogon consumption in the past, I can offer this. Don't worry if everyone agrees with you and loves you, or everyone disagrees and hates you. The main thing is honesty; our credibility is the only thing we each can bring to the table. Giving your unique opinion is appreciated, and everyone is free to their own thoughts as to what sounded good or bad.

Again, thank you!
Almost, as if i were at the show myself. Less sound! Thanks for the effort!
Great report..I was also there and have to also agree with your top picks.. unreal sonic presentation in the Tenor/Kharma/AA Capitole room.. Well done JTINN and thanks to Mike Lavigne for his emergency shipment to make that room possible.. I loved that room...

Anyone else notice the NOTICEABLY ABSENT SACD Players ?contrary to last year where SACD was used in many rooms.. this year..a few but far between..

I also want to add another top sound was the AA Capitole MKI, Joule-Electra's Heaven's Gate Monoblocks driving Talon Khorus-X and David Elrod cords.. the room was well setup and balanced... great warmth

Mike/Neli...Thanks so much for your time and effort. As Trelja stated, don't worry about whether or not folks agree with your opinions. The important thing is that you remain honest and true to yourself and just tell folks what YOUR ears heard. Outstanding report!

Regards...Mike - Father & Son Audio
Thanks, everybody, for the very kind comments.

The disclaimer in the report that this is what *we* heard, is included because the report was also posted on Audio Asylum and there are people there who take serious offense to ... well, just about everything I guess :-). Also, the disclaimer helps keep overly litigous nin-com-poops associated with rooms we did not think were mana from heaven from having much of a claim as we clearly state this is our opinion, and not fact (per se ;-).

Stenersr (coders rule! :-) has a good point: the reason to go to shows is not so much to hear what equipment sounds good or bad, but to significantly deepen one's understanding about one's own ears and sonic preferences. It is a crash course in discovering what you like and don't like... and the real exercise is determining WHY you like it or don't like it.

To my ears the VMPS room at the Alexis with passive by amping with Ampzilla2000 was at least an honorable mention, and would place somewhere as one of the top systems. Preamp not as clean this year as last year when they used the CTC Blowtorch. Triaural processor was interesting. Maybe three is better than a pair.
Curious - are products 'ubiquitous' because exhibitors all request them, or because their makers are promoting them unsolicited?
Not being an exhibitor, my guess is that they become ubiquitous for a combination of both reasons: the exhibitor wants them (because they are known to produce a good 'show sound') and they either own them already or ask for them. And, conversely, it does not hurt a manufacturor to have their products seen all over a show.

The bottom line is that if the exhibitor 'thinks' something sounds bad at shows (which is optimized for 1 - 5 minute listening sessions) or through usage determines it really 'does' sound bad in their room (which was quickly setup and so many people bring brand new, un-burned-in equipment and cables for some reason), then they will not use it (unless they have already agreed to use it and are stuck having a less than optimal sounding room).

The goal at CES is to attract dealers who will then carry and sell your product. Depending on the individual dealer, they may be more inclined to that if the room sounds good.

In answer to your real question: I do not think it means all that much except that ubiquitous components create a 'show sound' for that year. Also a lot of VPI turntables were there, seems to me.

- mike