The Hub: It's SHOWTIME! Preview of CES and THE

Another year gone, and a new one begins. For audio show followers, that means it's time once agin for the Las Vegas twin-bill of CES (the International Consumer Electronics Show) and THE (The Home Entertainment Show). Both shows will be running January 6-9, with the CES audio exhibitors in the Venetian tower, and THE at the Flamingo, same as last year.

Speaking of last year: the 2010 show previews were couched in language generally reserved for a patient in an intensive care unit, using terms like "cautiously optimistic", and "stable but critical". In comparison, 2011 sounds like that same patient forgot the ridiculous act that broke 54 bones and landed him in the ICU in the first place, and is back on an even larger and more powerful motorcycle, headed for the jump-ramp. This year, expect big, bad and bold.

Being a trade show, CES exhibits tend toward the outrageous, so as to snag the interest of potential distributors and dealers. THE is, well, SORTA public, being open to anyone belonging to an audio society, and so the pitch is more to the end-user, like RMAF. Bang-for-buck is king.

As we've pointed out before, the CES audio exhibits in the Venetian are a tiny part of a massive circus of a trade show where everything from 3-D TVs to shower radios can be found. If CES is an elephant, its audio exhibitors are a mouse on the elephant's back. The exhibit rooms atop the Venetian are sufficiently hard to get to that the tendency is to stay up there once you get there, hunger and dehydration be damned.

The standard exhibit rooms on the 29th and 30th floors often contain marvels, but the most outrageous sights are often found in the big penthouse suites on floors 34 and 35. On 35, we'll see not just a new product but a new company from Dan D'Agostino. Across the hall, Magico will be showing their new model Q3. Magico is one of the most audacious of audio anufacturers, promising perfection and coming pretty close to it with the Q5, introduced last year. The Q3 is the '5's slightly smaller sibling; both share aluminum skin-on-skeleton constrauction, five custom Nano-Tec drivers and are just under four feet high, but the Q3 is slightly narrower and shallower, and weighs only (!!) 250 pounds to the '5's 420 pounds. The Q3's price is considerably lighter, as well: $34,000, compared to than the Q5's $60,000.

If Magico can be characterized as "audacious", Silbatone Acoustics on the 34th floor is fully deserving of the label, "outrageous". Owners of one of the world's largest and most incredible collections of vintage audio gear and presented by "Sound Practices" guru Joe Roberts, Silbatone is showing the one of a kind SGW-24 retro-nuevo system utilizing field-coil drivers (from the unfortunately-named G.I.P.), modeled after classic Western Electric 4181 woofers and 594 mid/tweeters. Authentic W.E. 24A horns and 597 tweeters will be used; the woofer enclosure is a Silbatone-built rear-horn unit. Silbatone will also be showing their own beautifully-built, over-the-top tube preamps and amps. Truly an audio geek-fest!

Other new products are more attainable but still noteworthy. In 29-232, Bel Canto Design will launch a rarity, these days: a new FM tuner, the $1,500 FM1. The FM1 features "analog receiver architecture" and both analog and digital outputs. Downstairs in the Veronese ballroom, Parasound will launch the John Curl-designed Halo JC 3 Phono Preamp. Coming from the designer of the legendary Vendetta Research phono preamp, the $2350 JC 3 is surely worth a look and a listen.

Over at THE, the biggest news is in two new speakers. In Conference Room A, Magnepan launches the model 3.7, replacing the dozen-year-old audiophile-favorite 3.6. The 3.7's price varies from $5495 to $5895, depending on finish; enthusiastic early reports (like this one from Steve Guttenberg) indicate that the 3.7 may well be another long-running classic from Magnepan, and a steal at the price.

Zu Audio is another company known for high-value, high-performance speakers; in Room 4048 they'll be entering a whole new market with their $40,000 top of the line model, Dominance. The architecture is classic Zu, with a nearly-fullrange driver sweetened by a tweeter and filled out with a woofer. In the case of the Dominance, though, there are three 10" fullranges, mirrored tweeters and a 15" woofer. Even the smallest and least-expensive of Zu's speakers rocks...this thing may cause structural damage to the hotel!

We've only touched on a few exhibitors here. Of the hundreds of exhibitors at the shows, dozens will feature new and breakthrough products. As always, Audiogon will have complete room-by-room coverage of both shows, featuring our world-exclusive sound bytes. We hope to see you in Vegas!
If anyone is going, please check out the Octave and Dynaudio rooms and provide feedback about the Octave setup and sound. I cannot make it again this year.

I am anxiously awaiting the reports of the new Octave Phono module and of the new Magnepan 3.7 speaker.

Have fun and drop a few coins in the slots for me if you get a chance.

just got back from the ces show--
lots of computer basedproducts. msb had an interesting presentation of their has meridian with their newer small system(a killer!)and solloos.

great sounding rooms ,imo, and tme,were-- and not in any particular order the tidal/balabo, the acapela /einstein, the tad room, the gamut s7(?).... just to name a few at popped in my head instatly. had a great time!
We just got back, and yes, this year was a punch in the arm compared to last year. We showed with April Music/Stello and Triangle speakers on the 29th floor, and also cabled up the Chapter Electronics room on the same floor. Stello's Ai-500 150W integrated amp ($3500) was making Simon Lees Maggie 20.1's sing which is an incredible feat in itself. The Aura Note all in one compact single box solution sounded incredible with the Triangle Color bookshelf speakers. ($2499/$899)
For 2011 Triangle has re-voiced their speakers for a much smoother top, while still retaining extended highs.
Show highlights for me included a demonstration of the D2 Audio digital amps with tuneable front end, paired with the new Mark Levinson company "Daniel Hertz"'s M7 speakers, and megohm preamp.($200/$28,000/$10,000) Basically this demo was intended to show the prowess of the D2 digital chip technology, by pairing it with very high end speakers and DAC/pre. Source material was 16/44 FLAC, out of a laptop via USB. The chip is below $10 and positioned for $200 or less products. It made Marks speakers do things I did not hear in the floors below. If I was positioned in the mid level of electronic components, I would be very concerned... pretty soon $200 Samsung systems will be smoking mid-fi components. The rest of the show made it very apparent to me that technology is homogenizing between cel phone, computer, automobile, and home entertainment. Its great !! The Ford Focus blew me away !! Touch screen nav, complete synchronization of your phone data upon entering the vehicle, leather clad interior, great gas mileage, all for under $25K loaded, and I could have sworn I was in a BMW 3 series.
Anyways, its off to AXPONA in April in our home town next !
Arrived back from Las Vegas yesterday morning and am extremely pleased with how it went for us in Room 4036 at the Flamingo, which I helped set up and worked most of the time.

The system consisted of Sound Lab loudspeakers, Atma-Sphere electronics, AMR compact disc processor, Feickert turntable with Kuzma tonearm and Shelter cartridge, Teo Audio interconnects and speaker cables, ASI Liveline power cords, ASI Heartsong amp stands, Rethm Taalam rack, ASI Top Line feet, and a range of ASI resonators. We also demonstrated the new in-wall/on-wall hybrid speakers from Sound Lab, the WallStat IIs.

A complete system listing as a downloadable PDF file is available here.

It was gratifying to hear so many rave comments from listeners, including a well known reviewer who said it was the best sound of the show and the best he's ever heard Sound Labs.

Brian Walsh
Was there a media black out of this years festivities for some reason? Even the old standby EnjoyThe Music has crapped out on us this year. Where all all the pics and commentary from the show?