STEREOMOJO SPECIAL REPORT
CES & T.H.E SHOW 2008
Ah Las Vegas. Stereomojo puts its motto to rest since what happened in Las Vegas from January 7 -11, 2008 not only does not stay there, we report it to the world!
There was a surprising amount of new high end audio products here that did not appear at the Rocky Mountain Fest from which we reported just a few short weeks ago. Many exhibitors told us their products were just completed days before the show. Because of customs and shipping snafus, some never even made it or arrived very late. Or damaged. On our list of "must see" vendors were over 300 rooms spread out among 6 different hotels in various locations around the city.
Just getting from our rooms to the displays in the Venetian was a 15 minute trek through a maze of long hallways and three elevator rides. An impossible task, but we did our best to bring you the newest and most interesting gear for 2008 and beyond, that was not covered in our very extensive coverage of the Denver Show.
Please note that, despite what other publications may report, it is nigh impossible to do critical and accurate sound evaluations at shows like this, though it is somewhat possible in some situations to ascertain an overall impression, and that's what we will try to do for you. Some rooms are heavily sound treated, other use no treatments at all. As we will reveal, some systems have technical issues that vendors try to conceal that are not their fault, but things happen beyond their control. For all these reasons and more, the roll of publications like Stereomojo are vital in informing you of a component's real performance and value through the review process. When we found an unusual product that met our stringent requirements, we asked for review samples - especially if it one not likely to be covered by those other print and web mags.
Enjoy. If you have questions, please write us.
We were invited to a private debut of a remarkable speaker by a new company named Vivid. These speakers were not shown for the masses, but were set up using top of the line Luxman separates in a penthouse at the Mirage hotel by invitation only. The speakers were designed by Laurence Dickie who is highly noted for the Nautilus speakers he designed during his days at B&W.
Frequency Range: 23Hz to 44kHz (30Hz - 40kHz +/- 2dB)
Sensitivity: 91dB, 6 ohm nominal, 4 ohm minimum
Power handling: 800 watts
Size: 67″h x 14″w x 31.5″ d
As you can see, the Nautilus motif is still is play and not just as an artistic flare. When we asked Laurence if the top swirl had an acoustic purpose, he said, "Absolutely. Nothing about the speaker is superficial and everything has an acoustic function. It is part of the speaker's resonance control and baffle."
Distributor extroadonaire Phillip O'Hanlon, whose "On a Higher Note" company distributes the Vivid line,tells us that each owner of the custom, hand made Giya's will receive a scale model, museum quality encased sculpture of their speaker with a gold plaque engraved with the owner's name. The speaker itself will be part of a European art museum collection.
Considering the many speakers we saw that were well north of $100,000, the Vivid G1 Giya seemed to be a bargain at $54,000/pair.
On a funny note, we saw many people walking around with plastic bags bearing a "Vivid" logo. Lots of companies hand out promotional items such as bags, so it was no surprise. However, what I later found out was that those bags were were not Philip O'Hanlon's work, but were bags containing purchases from the other show right next door. A porn convention. It seems Vivid is also the name of a large porn film company. More on that later.
Contrary to how it appears, these ruggedly handsome guys are NOT porn stars.This is our publisher flanked by the top brass from Luxman. The Japanese amplifier company recently was reintroduced to the US with much success. We are currently reviewing a Luxman integrated. All indications are that Luxman's success is well deserved. The Giya's were being driven by Luxman massive and gorgeous monoblocks.
As we entered the On a Higher Note penthouse suite, we were greeted by a sound not heard in years. It was the squealy noise of a tape reel being cued up on the custom Studer machine above. It brought back so many memories of long days and nights sitting at a mixing board. These were not just any tapes though, these were master quality tapes from a new company named "The Tape Project" which has begun a subscription service with about 6 titles of mostly jazz classics per year.The goal of any format, whether it be LP or SACD is to get as close to the master tape as possible.
According to them, "Our duplication process begins with the actual analog master tape. From that we make analog running masters on one inch two-track format. The one inch tape format transfer results in a extremely low loss of information, which we consider more like 1/2 generation than one full generation. These running masters are copied in real time to a bank of finely tweaked Ampex ATR-100 decks, yielding a "1-1/2 generation" copy. You just aren't going to get any closer to the original master, short of buying a record label or two".
All we can say is, their tapes and machines were used as the source in several systems at the show and the sound was outstanding each time.
The LSA Group from Nashville made another strong showing with their ultra high quality and value products.
We were pleased to see them showing off their "Best Value Integrated Amp" for 2007 award. We still haven't found anything that gives you the power and quality of the LSA Standard amp for only $3k.
Brian Warford tells us that the new pull out all the stops "Statement" amp is far superior to the Standard and the Signature which is my reference integrated. "It makes the Signature sound as if it's broken", he said. When he saw an arched eyebrow, he continued, "When we first fired up the Statement next to the Signature, we actually thought something was wrong with the Signature - the improvement was that drastic".
We'll see. The LSA Statement amp will soon be on its way for review.
Everyone knows the MBL name, makes of some of the most exotic and expensive gear in the world. But what's new is the partnership between MBL and the new "Music Culture" company, "MC". MC produces three different lines at different pricepoints, but their top Reference Line is completely designed by the engineers at MBL. While not as gold laden and flashy as MBL, the Reference line is impressive in look and feel.
As you can see, the make LOTS of different products. MC is in the running for our "Best New Product Line" at CES.
We have been promised the first ever review of this new product. The Podium line Is not just a new planar speaker, it's a new technology altogether. It's not a ribbon speaker or an electrostat and it sounds very impressive. Most planars are hindered by a very narrow sweet spot and are hard to drive. These have an efficiency of over 100dB (!) and NO sweetspot! You can place them pretty much anywhere and get an astounding stereo soundstage and image. Watch for our review.
Here's another unusual speaker from a Finnish company called Gradient. It's pretty small, but the sound is big. The baffleless drivers are tilted back so as no to bounce the sound off the floor causing a nasty early reflections big, open sound. We asked for a review.
Salagar debuted their new speaker Sonnet S207 at CES. You see it in front of the larger Symphony for which we are just wrapping up the world's first review.
Salagar speakers all come with their own amps built in. You can drive them from your CD player if you want. The Sonnets were accompanied by the new Sonata subwoofer. When I said I thought the new sub/sat combo sounds a bit better than the Symphony by itself, I was told, "We think so, too." There is also a massive center channel speaker if you want to do surround.
This is Jozefina Krahulcova and I bet you can't guess what she does. If you can tear your eyes away and look behind her on the shelf, there is a clue. While she could be a supermodel, she actually is the CEO of Eateur Audio Team, manufacturers of fine vacuum tubes.You know, 300b's, Kt88's and the like. "We bought an old Tesla factory in Prague and hired outstanding craftsmen to make our own tubes for the growing high-end tube amp market." The EAT brand as it's logo reads, does not sell re-badged tubes not do they sell their wares to other companies to be re-badged. "Everything is made in our own factory to our specifications", she said.
I actually have a pair of EAT 300B's sent to me by Roy Hall of Music Hall who distributes them. They will be part of our upcoming 300B shootout of 5 brands - the first by a major publication.
In the same room, Roy was showing for the first time, his complete new lineup of upgraded Music Hall tables - the 2, 5, 7 and 9.1's.We have completed the listening part of our exclusive first ever review (are you sensing a trend here?) of the top 9.1 model. It includes highlights from a 1 hour explosive interview with Roy where he speaks his mind about the industry, reviewing, reviewers, other products and a myriad of other subjects. And he names names.
You will NOT want to miss this one.
Here's a lousy picture of a great new product, the new Gill and Art Audio integrated amp dubbed the Lissa.The front panel is highly reflective, mirrored stanless steel with some fingerprints. so that accounts for the bad pic, but trust me - it's beautiful.
The Lissa was driving Ty Lashbrook's Tyler Acoustics Linbrook tower speakers. When I asked Ty what he thought of the Lissa, he grinned and proclaimed, "I bought it! The minute I heard it through my speakers I knew it was something special. I can't say anything better than the fact that I bought one for myself!"
The retail price starts at $2995 with a $500 charge for Dual power transformers and $500 for remote.
The Lissa incorporates a very robust, regulated power supply using the best Lundahl C-Core power transformers, “Hexfred” diodes, and low drop out regulators. A further improvement is the use of Lundahl
amorphous core input transformers creating a more natural sound and preventing any source equipment voltage offset from damaging your speakers. The Lissa also incorporates our processor controlled
series/shunt attenuation circuit developed for the Alana Pre-amp. This provides 74 dB of attenuation in 1 dB steps with independent left and right channels (allows balance adjustment).
• Proven design based on the LM3875 non-inverting chip amp
• High current, fully regulated, power supply (dual mono optional)
• Transformer coupled input for offset protection and gain
• Low loss, high performance series/shunt volume control with display
• Four relay controlled inputs.
• Optional machined aluminum full function remote for volume, balance, mute, and source
• Extensive use of top quality components including
o Lundahl amorphous input and custom C-core power transformers
o International Rectifier HexFred Diodes
o Linear Technology high current, Low drop out regulators
o Panasonic, Elna, and Black Gate capacitors
o High quality binding posts and RCA jacks
o Heavy gage powder coated chassis with chrome face plate
• 45 watts per channel into 8 Ω (20-20kHz ± 0.5dB >.05% distortion)
• Input impedance 10 KΩ
• Dimensions: 16” x 15” x 4.5”
• Weight: 35 lbs. standard, 40 lbs dual transformer version
GO TO PART 2