My CES 2010 Show Report

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  • 05-08-2010, 03:19 PM
    1 Attachment(s)
    I am wrapping this up here as Dagogo is currently busy preparing for the California Audio Show.

    But I hate leaving things unfinished so here is the last set.

    IsoMike / Kimber Cable, EMM Labs/ Sony / Pass Labs

    Walking into this large room Ray Kimber was explaining to listeners how IsoMike recordings are made and discussing the new flagship Sony Loudspeakers. My first thought was SONY!! Yes with exclamation marks. You have to be kidding me? Looking over at the electronics and seeing Pass Labs, EMM Labs and Kimber cables and Ray himself touting the Sony Loudspeakers I though okay let’s spend some time here and get into a good listening seat. Ray put on a couple of IsoMike Jazz pieces from Joe McQueen and the sound was insightful and powerful. Sony? Really? Wow this is pretty good. Have to tip my cap. Next up was High Altitude drums – an impressive disc of, as you would expect, drumming. The macro-dynamics of this system was indeed very impressive – the soundstage was huge in all directions and terrific non-thumping bass depth and drive. Very well controlled and from what I could gather a pretty neutral response top to bottom. I can see why Ray was so enthused about the loudspeakers. Interestingly, some people whose ears I trust and often agree didn’t care for the sound. Still, I auditioned this room for quite some time and I think the overall sound was robust articulate and fast. I think if I had any criticism it would be in the layering of subtle details and micro-dynamics, but those are minor quibbles since the sound generated scale and drive quite well. Still, I would like to hear the system with my own recordings but this was a room all about the recording process and while Ray was not taking requests, a complaint I had about many rooms, he did at least choose extremely demanding recording material.
  • 05-08-2010, 06:25 PM
    Audio Note - picture on the main page

    Audio Note had two rooms at CES and I reported on the more affordable system earlier in the report. Audio Note is one of those oddball companies that seem to defy plausibility. They brought their top of the line TT3 turntable (price not provided but the turntable has three separate large boxes each driving one of the turntables motors and another control box for speed changes), top of the line Preamp M9 ($115,000) and Gaku-On 45 watt monoblock parallel single ended amplifiers ($185,000), CDT-Three Transport ($9,550), DAC 5 Signature ($76,500), Pallas, SOOTO, and Sogon cables and two way AN-E Sec Signature loudspeakers ($51,000) using Alnico drivers for both the tweeters and woofers. The system generated an impressive landscape of full body vocals and tremendous bottom end thunder and impeccable treble response. More importantly the sound was spot on cohesive top to bottom. The system is designed to get out of the way and bring musical nuance, subtlety, and offer first class resolution of the musical event, regardless of the music used. And Audio Note succeeded.

    I liked that, like owner Peter Qvortrup, the U.S. distributors and husband and wife duo Mike and Neli of were unafraid to play any music at any volume of any recording quality. It was interesting to listen to an LP that was rather noisy with a female soprano with obvious limitations in upper end dynamics and still being able to enjoy the music. Later another soprano, this time clearly well recorded and the music reproduction was as good as I have ever heard. I revisited the room a few times and eventually auditioned some of the harder hitting metal, techno, punk, house and trance music. If you’re thinking – why on earth would you play that kind of music on a tube based system costing over a half a million dollars? My answer would be, “why on earth wouldn’t you?” A good system needs to play everything well and any system that can’t play everything well probably has some sort of problem.

    Martin Grennall one of Audio Note’s hugely knowledgeable music guys was gracious enough to step aside despite being captivated by two duelling pianos. He put on the Evil 9 from part of the Fabriclive series and like the lower priced Audio Note system this system could truly rock with controlled deep tight bass lines and outstanding drive and dynamics and in room “pressure” of instruments. And of course we played it at ridiculous levels just to push the envelope a little. I don’t believe in best of show statements because personal taste is a factor and people respond to different kinds of sounds. That said, I can say that I heard nothing better than the two Audio Note rooms at CES. Take from that what you like.
  • 05-08-2010, 06:26 PM
    1 Attachment(s)
    Boulder / Focal

    There was big robust powerful sound with deep tight bass and open precise treble response from the Boulder/ Focal room. The Focal JM Lab Maestro Utopias look quite nice and sound like a big bold loudspeaker. They lean to the analytical side of the spectrum in that you can hear what the drivers are doing which usually bothers me but here it didnít. I canít explain why but this is one of those cases where the big macrodynamics and precise nature of the system allowed me forgive its slight lack of microdynamics and ability to get out of the way. I felt I was listening to truly technically impressive hi-fi sound. Whether it will have enough of the ďmusicalĒ lightness of touch will be a matter of taste.
  • 05-08-2010, 06:36 PM
    1 Attachment(s)
    Cary Audio / Marten / Tara Labs

    Cary Audio was showing their new 211 Founders Edition Amplifiers running $20k a pair into the beautiful Marten Coltrane Loudspeakers. The sound here was very sweet and refined and had exceptional vocal reproduction. Bass was on the lean quick side than deep and dynamic. I really enjoyed the sound here but had the sense that both the Cary and the Marten would find better partnering gear elsewhere. The Martenís might like a more robust amplifier and the Cary might be better served with an easier to drive loudspeaker. Still, the midrange was glorious, tempered and layered with a sense of beauty.
  • 05-09-2010, 02:22 AM
    Great stuff Rich!! I am almost certain that I want to attend next year's CES. The Poppa Chubby Speaker Company has just been formed...
  • 05-09-2010, 11:58 AM

    CES 2010 is over and there were many fine rooms at CES 2010 and some rooms I didn’t get much of an opportunity to audition. A number of rooms were hampered by their choice of room size while other rooms were hampered by their set-up and possibly their associated gear. Still, I have decided to select my 5 favourite budget rooms that had loudspeakers retailing for under $10,000 and my five favourite rooms with speakers above $10,000.

    Rooms with speakers under $10,000 (alphabetical order):

    Audio Note AN-E/Spe HE Loudspeakers

    Gallo 3.5 Perhaps the most surprising in that I didn't care much for the 3.1

    Kingsound Prince II Electrostatic loudspeakers Finally a panel I would be happy with - though I'd still probably want a sub.

    Sonist Recital 3 loudspeakers Least expensive speakers on the list.

    Studio Electric Type Three Loudspeakers Who? Yeah a 2 man operation took out a lot of big boys.

    Rooms with speakers above $10,000 (alphabetical order):

    Acapella High Violoncello II The most expensive on the list

    Audio Note AN-E Sec Signature Discussed above in post #27 and Fred Crowder's report for similar response and pictures

    Silbatone Aporia Full Range

    Teresonic Ingenium loudspeakers These speakers like Audio Note can be purchased in versions under $10,000.

    Trenner and Friedl RA Box