this year (the high-end audio portion) was slightly more upbeat with a little more foot traffic than 2009, although there were fewer exhibitors than last year. On the other hand, T.H.E.
has a nice new home at the Flamingo
with a friendlier atmosphere, better sound, and better navigation then previous venues. THE rooms were less crowded and more likely to present good listening conditions, whereas CES rooms were usually crowded and just plain noisy with chatter, bleed-through and cross-hall systems blaring. Nonetheless, Albert Porter
and our photographers made it to every single room of both shows, capturing over 2,500 pictures which we have nearly finished uploading and organizing by room, and by each exhibitor.
In the past, we have recorded videos of some systems as they were playing music. We were surprised that one could actually hear differences between systems, given that the recording device was a camcorder, and the audio was stored within compressed video files played back on AudiogoN's YouTube channel
. We think it says a lot about the resolution and dynamics of the systems themselves, in that you could throw away roughly 80% of the data, yet the system's sound would still come through with personality intact.
So this year we tried to increase the resolution of captured sound with the use of a Sony PCM-D50
, a highly rated portable recorder with built-in microphones and 24/96 resolution. We tried to record in as many rooms as possible; we got about 70 in all, and we have included the sound sample within each room's page. Beware that I (Audiogon Arnie) am a complete amateur at live sound recording (or live reproduced sound?). Also, the Sony's built-in mics picked up more of the ROOM's sound than I would have liked, but with an interesting result. It sounds as if it recorded the overall sound ENERGY in the room, which our ears apparently filter out.
What is remarkable though, as you will hear, is that it sounds as though the performer was IN the room performing, more so than a stereo system reproducing the performer. Even with a simple portable recorder, the resolution and dynamic capabilities of these systems become quite evident. You will hear it if playing through a decent computer system or on your big rig. If you have a USB dac to run through, definitely use it. If you have a volume control on your computer taskbar, turn it ALL the way up to prevent loss of dynamic range.
For those interested in the technical details, the Sony PCM-D50
records in .wav format onto MemoryStick cards. The built-in microphones are physically-adjustable and somewhat directional, so we pointed them directly at each speaker, and placed the recorder at listening height. We used Audacity
(open source audio editing software) in conjunction with the LAME
mp3 encoder (also open source) to edit and compress the files. Next show, we will research external microphones and preamps, perhaps even build them into a dummy head: an Audiogon Test Dummy, if you will.
Below are some of the standout rooms, where the recording device, speakers, and room came together really well. There are many other rooms with recorded sound, just look for the black speaker icon when looking at a list of rooms in these shows. Please keep in mind that if a system sounds "weird", then it is mostly due to our inexperience at capturing live sound.
Complete THE coverage: Room by Room | By each Exhibitor
Complete CES coverage: Room by Room | By each Exhibitor
Some good examples:
Berning + Eficion
Proac, Audio Research
Acapella + Einstein
Ypsilon + Tidal
Zanden + Wilson