The Hub: 2010 CES + THE coverage online

CES 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:

Bamberg Audio

Berning + Eficion


Proac, Audio Research

Acapella + Einstein


Ypsilon + Tidal

Zanden + Wilson


Fantastic coverage Arnie.
Thank you.
does anyone know who's music they play in the Proac room? I really like the music. I would like to buy the cd.
Thanks for bringing the show home to us!!!
Wow - That Was Fun! Now, how about a play list for all the great tunes I just listened to?

Other comments:

1. listening on headphones really highlights differences in the various room and system sounds. Some recordings startlingly good - much better than lossy downloads.

2. Room noises add interesting layering, confuses brain into thinking the whole thing is live (or is that the ProAcs?)

2. Audiofeelia, I think it is Boz Scaggs "Thanks to you" off his 2001 "Dig" release.
Thanks for the samples! Where were the mics placed for these recordings? Were they consistently placed at ear height in the listening position or did placement vary from room to room?
Thanks for the kind words and feedback. All of us at Audiogon love to hear about things that our members enjoy or learn. We hope it adds a new dimension to our show coverages.

Ketchup: the mics were at listening height in most cases, but were closer to the speakers than the listening position (about 3 feet closer). When I tried moving back to listening position, there was too much of the room ambiance in the sound. Being so close to the speaker probably changed the frequency response at the mics, since they were off-axis a bit. Which might also explain some of the dramatic variations in sound (some speakers have better off-axis response, etc).

Knownothing: re Playlist: after we and the exhibitors have recovered from the show, we hope to ask each one of them what song they were playing. Next show we will try to get that info while in the room...
Audiogon arnie, Thanks - that would be awesome.
Arnie, you may have noticed that we had a recording setup going on in the Lake Mead 1 room; we were recording live musicians and then playing back what was just recorded. In the future it might be interesting to compare what you recorded as opposed to what we did- we will be doing that again.
Ralph (Atmosphere), I did indeed attend one of the recording sessions in the VMPS room, and made some notes on the mics and preamps being used. The live vs recorded listening session was quite interesting for sure. The VMPS being run by your amplifiers came incredibly close to the live sound. It was only the bass loading of the room that didn't quite match live sound, but in general it was very impressive.
Thanks- The woofers were not driven by our gear :)

Thanks for all the coverage BTW, even though I was there I did not get to see any of CES at all.
Yes, great idea. Anyone know the artist playing guitar on the Wilson room?