CES 2017 Show Report Day 4 Coverage
Emotiva’s Emersa line, part 1.
Emotiva’s Emersa line, part 2.
HiFiMan was showing off a new flagship planar headphone prototype called the Edition 6. They will eventually slot in above the current flagship HE-1000 V2. Using similar materials but sporting a redesigned shape and curved magnet structure to reduce unwanted resonances, the Edition 6 are fairly inefficient and will require a good amplifier to get the most out of them. Price and availability is TBD.
Here is Sandy Gross, introducing and discussing the design of the GoldenEar Triton Reference. And for the record, I must concur with my colleges, that these speakers are stunning piano black columns of sonic awesomeness!
A few more shots of the GoldenEar room and the Triton Reference.
Paradigm product walk through, part 1…
Paradigm product walk through, part 2…
Rob Sample introduces the new Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier.
Devin Zell from Martin Logan discusses their new outdoor living speakers.
Denis Chern from Martin Logan talks about the new Impression 11A loudspeakers.
Introduction of two new NAD master series components.
A walk through of NAD’s custom install products.
A walk through of NAD’s Classic Series product.
Note: the NAD C388 Integrated Amp/DAC actually has an MSRP of $1599.00.
See, even Robert likes the PSB M4U 8!
PSB’s Paul Barton introduces the new PSB M4U 8 wireless Bluetooth headphones
Morel is an Israeli company that makes high quality audio drivers. While I was familiar with that aspect of their business, I had no idea that they made complete finished speakers for the home as well. We were introduced to an unconventional looking pair of speakers called “The Fat Lady”. They had a full carbon fiber enclosure along with carbon fiber woofers, midrange and soft dome tweeters with neodymium magnets. Priced at $34000.00, they looked properly memorable. The speakers that were playing music were the newer Morel Soprans. They also had enclosures made of composite and glass resin with polymer composite woofers and mids and a soft dome tweeter as well. Price was $12000.00 and they sounded quite special.
Next item of note at Harman are the updated Revel Performa3 line of speakers. While still at the concept stage, they were labeled as almost final by Harman reps. The F208Be and the M106Be that were on display featured the same enclosures as the previous generation but used newly developed crossovers and drivers. In particular the mid range and woofer drivers are now ceramic coated aluminum and the tweeters are now pure beryllium (hence the BE in the model name) with massive motor structures. Harman’s Kevin Voecks held a short demonstration for us and, in true Revel fashion, the sound was quite exquisite.
Revel was also showing off the Concerta M8 compact speaker system and matching B8 compact subwoofer. These looked to be incredibly flexible with a handy mounting system that allows a wide range of positioning. They are available in 3 automotive style finishes: black, white and a fine looking red.
Paid a visit to Harman’s booth at The Hard Rock hotel to get a sense of what was new and exciting from their various brands. Firstly, in celebration of JBL’s 70th anniversary, they are releasing a retro-inspired mini studio monitor speaker for the home audiophile with limited space. The JBL 4312M II studio monitor is a 3-way compact speaker with a 5.25” pure pulp woofer, a 2” pure pulp mid range and a 0.75” titanium dome tweeter. It is also magnetically shielded for flexible placement near monitors and other equipment. Originally made to meet Japanese market demand it may see eventual release stateside too. Price TBD.
Next is the larger JBL 4312SE. Also made in celebration of the anniversary, it is meant to be seen as a descendant of the tried and true JBL 4310/4311 studio monitors of the 1970s. Also a 3-way design, it features a 12” Aqua-Plas pure pulp woofer, a 5” poly-coated pure pulp mid range and a 1” aluminum/magnesium alloy tweeter set in a waveguide. Price is TBD.
Both sets of speakers are mirror imaged and sold in matched pairs.
In probably one of the most interesting and effective demonstrations we attended at the show, Lexicon took us to a private conference room where 2 unusual, hourglass shaped, speaker arrays were situated on stands. They were set up about 15-20 feet apart, not following the back wall and we were seated in a V, among a sofa and some chairs. The speakers were called the Lexicon SL 1 and they used arrays of 4 woofers, 16 mid range drivers and 12 tweeters in a 360 degree arrangement combined with 22 channels of onboard amplification and powerful DSP to steer the sound (through beam forming) and adjust the sweet spot in almost any configuration via an app. As the demo went on each listener was treated to their own personal ideal sweet spot, one after another, regardless of where they sat. Then pairs of us were given sweet spots and then it was subsequently enlarged to cover whole sections of listeners and then finally a 360 degree omni-directional dispersion pattern. All this was being done in real time with just the app, a source and the two speakers. The kicker though was that this wasn’t just some gee-whiz type of demonstration, the sound quality, timbre and bass response coming from these speakers, in whatever form of steering they were using, was genuinely epic, rivaling what you would expect from the best speakers available. Revolutionary.
Jumping off Piero ‘s previous post, here are some more detail shots of the whole Mark Levinson line including the stunning new 515 turntable.
The Joseph Audio Pearl 3. Always a pleasure to see and listen to.
I visited HyperX which specializes in computer memory, keyboards and peripherals but they also have a line of gaming headsets. In particular, the new Cloud Revolver S model featuring hardware Dolby 7.1 Surround decoding. For $150.00 the sound seemed genuinely clean and immersive with plenty of bass when called for.
Pioneer and Onkyo had three new DAPs on display. Two were updated versions of previous models with ESS DACs, DSD, MQA and balanced outputs while the third was an entry level unit, also with DSD and balanced output. They were also showing a prototype cellphone that was built to be a dedicated Hi-Res player as well. It featured two SIM card slots, expansion SD card slot and all the Hi-Res bells and whistles of the other players. It was, again, mainly for the Japanese market but viability was actively being determined for the US. It was solid and heavy by current cellphone standards.
Here are some additional photos of the Technics s room at The Venetian. Of particular interest was the display sample of the direct drive motor in the new SL 1200GR turntable. Listening to it play via the new SU-G700 integrated amp and then on through the new SB-G90 loudspeakers was to experience “musical liquidity.”
The folks at ELAC have been mighty busy over the past year. Robert already touched on the statement Concentro loudspeakers (more pictures included here) but Andrew Jones, Chris Walker, Peter Madnick and their teams have been working on plenty of other things. A prototype zone music player with concentric drivers called the Discovery Z3 and a new music server prototype for extremely large libraries called the Discovery Q are for starters, both are powered by the Roon subscription service. A bevy of in-wall and in ceiling speakers including a subwoofer for a complete stealth ELAC HT system was also on display. They also had just completed the prototypes for a new line of speakers called the Adante series.
These are step up models from Andrew’s previous ELAC designs and features a dedicated stand mount monitor at $2500.00 a pair, a tower at $5000.00 a pair and a center channel speaker at $2000.00 each. The Adante line continues the use of concentric drivers for the highs and mids, all the drivers however were titanium on the current prototypes and that was yet to be locked down as the final material choice. Andrew explained that the stand monitors, which were on active demo, had a different design for achieving bass extension. The actual bass driver resides inside the sealed cabinet and fires into an enclosure that ducts the sound and pressure out to a pair of ports.
The output from these ports energizes the front mounted 8” passive radiator to help deliver smooth and deeper bass response. It was also nice to see them offering a pretty walnut veneer as a finish option beyond the usual black and white up till now. So how did they sound? Very much like the Uni-Fi’s that I heard last time around, but bigger and cleaner and with significantly deeper bass response. I was worried that the titanium drivers might be a little harsh sounding but I didn’t get a sense of that from any of the demo material. Vocals sounded extremely good, if slightly forward. I’ll be looking forward to reviewing these once they hit production sometime in Q2 of this year.
Paid a visit to Audio Technica to check out their new line of phono cartridges. Now that I have my own turntable, I hope to get a chance to review some of these. Actively being played however was the new $5000.00 AT-ART 1000 moving coil cartridge. Completely handmade in Japan, at a rate of 20 per week, it features a diamond-tip stylus, solid boron cantilever and titanium suspension. It is the company’s statement piece.
I visited the TAD/MoFi room and checked out the new TAD ME-1 stand monitors. ME stands for Micro Evolution and they look for all the world like miniature versions of TAD’s Compact Evolution 1 (CE-1) that I had shamelessly gushed over in my review two years ago. They sounded very much the same as their larger brothers too, which is a very good thing, with a size and depth of sound that belied their smaller size. Powered by a combination of TAD electronics and the Spiral Groove SG-1 turntable, the ME-1’s had an especially smooth and enjoyable midrange that found me sitting though several classic Mo-Fi selections on vinyl. A subsequent digital vocal and piano track featuring Prince was also particularly satisfying not only for the voice rendition but for the piano reproduction as well. It was palpable.
CEO of TAD Labs, Yoshihiro Hirano was understandably proud of the final production ME-1 and was pleased at the listener response and the efforts that the Mo-Fi staff took to help the speakers sound just right in the room. He also confirmed that Mo-Fi is now the official distributor of TAD speakers and electronics in the US. Price: $12000.00 per pair.
Another great and rather surprising application of beam forming technology, at the complete other end of price spectrum, was found in a room occupied by a small company called Comhear. Based on concepts and research conducted at UC San Diego’s Music Technology Program, Comhear has developed a small sound bar called the “MyBeam.” It contains 12 small drivers, powerful DSP and when paired with a small subwoofer (a 5” one was used in the demo) uses beam forming to help create a fully immersive sonic experience. The results are very much like a binaural recording but without the need of headphones. The experience can be tailored for near field (3-4 foot) seating or mid field (8-10 foot) seating.
Dr. Mark Waldrep from AIX Records, who has partnered and consults with Comhear, conducted a demo for us. The setup consisted of an OPPO Bluray player’s digital output fed into a Benchmark DAC whose analog outputs are fed to the sound bar and sub. Cynthia, Nick and myself each sat though the demo and the results were startlingly real, particularly at the near field seat. Discreet sounds seemed accurately mapped all around me and the results were pretty stunning coming from such a small device. The MyBeam, as it is, is meant for the commercial and industrial markets. Mark is putting together a crowdfunding campaign to adapt the technology for the home AV market. In that iteration the sound bar will be called the YARRA and may incorporate additional refinements such as head tracking ala Microsoft Kinect. Mark is working on a website and future announcements will be available at www.beamsonic.com.
Here is a short video of Cynthia listening to part of the MyBeam demo.
Stopped by the Dynaudio room to take a listen the brand new Contour 60 tower loudspeakers. These very handsome towers are made in Dynaudio’s R&D and manufacturing facility in Denmark. The speakers feature many proprietary technologies, including new high excursion midrange and bass drivers and the top line Esotar2 soft dome tweeter.
The sound coming from Contour 60 was extremely dynamic with solid powerful bass and plenty of finesse in the upper frequencies. Vocals too, had plenty of detail and depth. I found them very easy too listen to. Price for these towers is $10000.00 for the pair, $11500.00 for special order finishes. The Contour Line also includes a matching center channel and stand mount monitor.
Dirac was showing off some new technologies that it had in the works.
The first was Dirac VR which is meant to augment the visual part of a virtual reality experience with a more perfected audio presentation that helps complete the illusion. Dirac VR uses patented Head Transfer Functions (HTF) that better account for smaller movements in the head in relation to the torso. It also allows the use of Dirac’s room correction know-how to acoustically optimize an imagined virtual space. It was demonstrated to me by using a laptop with the installed software and a modified set of headphones that had a head tracking device incorporated. I selected what ever track I wanted and as I listened through the phones and turned my head, the performance stayed fixed in the same spot but it was as if I had turned in a real performance and it was effectively simulated. It was eerily convincing.
The next technologies were called Dirac Power Sound, which is an acoustic enhancement for small speaker devices, and Dirac Panorama Sound, which helps create a more immersive sound experience from smaller, more condensed speaker applications such as networked zone speakers. Power Sound was demonstrated to me through music played through a small Bluetooth speaker from a laptop running the software. The sound was indeed more powerful sounding. The bass had more presence and was stronger. Panorama was demonstrated through Bluetooth playback from a smartphone running a custom app to an OPPO Sonica network speaker. Turning the enhancement on and off through the app quickly illustrated a much wider and fuller soundstage, without fuzziness or bloat was able to be experienced with Dirac Panorama Sound. It was a very enlightening experience!
Silicon Valley startup company Sweet Vinyl was showing off their new vinyl playback and archiving components, the Sugarcube SC1 and SC2. The Sugarcube components are meant to digitally remove clicks and pops from vinyl albums as you play them, in real time, and are typically hooked in your system between the phono outputs and preamp inputs or in a processor/tape loop. The Sugarcubes also can perform automatic meta data identification if you decide to archive your albums as digital files. The SC1 is analog line in/line out and is primarily for playback and identification. The SC2 is more powerful and has one touch recording to a USB stick, HDMI connectivity, USB input, and smartphone app control. I heard the process demonstrated at RMAF and it seems to work as advertised. This may be a boon for those who have old or rare album collections and want to archive them.
The last room I visited at the show was the Harman Luxury Audio room and they just happened to have a set of Revel Salon Ultima 2 hooked up and playing. After all the stuff I’ve heard over the course of 3 days, and then yet again over multiple shows, I always seem to come back to these speakers as a benchmark. And sure enough, after 10 minutes of listening, they realigned my expectations of what good sound is. 9 years on and these things are still a touchstone. My desert island speaker…over and out.
The debut of the new 515 Turntable for the 45th Anniversary of the Mark Levinson brand has generated a huge buzz. Working with VPI Industries in New Jersey, the 515 features a 3D printed arm, a 20 pound aluminum platter and isolated high torque AC synchronous motor. Pricing should be about $10,000 without cartridge and available sometime later in April/May. Sooo looking forward to reviewing this turntable!
The entire lineup celebrating the 45th anniversary including the 515 turntable, the 519 Audio player and the 523 preamp.
The JBL 70th anniversary studio monitors with the classic 3-way arrangement available in two sizes. The large 4312SE and the 4312E.
I won’t be the first from the Secrets team here to praise the new Triton Reference speaker from GoldenEar, in fact it’s show-wide praise including an innovation award. I had reviewed the Triton One last year and deemed it “epic”, not that I was wrong, the One is epic but the new Reference goes to another level. Although visually it is very much Triton, it does stylistically have some significant differences clearly in the side glossy panels. But that’s just the beginning, I’ll be sure to give you all the good stuff in my review coming up later this spring.
The sound was extremely well-balanced, a trademark of the Triton series. Excellent imaging and the soundstage had breadth and depth. The bass was dialed in just right too!
Apologies for the poor quality image in the dark room.
In keeping with my quest to find a good virtual reality setup that would enhance my home theater, I braved the long line at the Panasonic booth to check out their V/R offering. I think I would have been better served using that time in the Chili dog line. Panasonic’s offering was a HUGE disappointment! To start off, the fit was ridiculous! It had side arms meant to clamp onto the side of my head but they were utterly useless. I spent the whole demo using a finger to hold them onto the bridge of my nose like a nerd holding up his specs. They should have consulted with Navin Johnson from the movie “The Jerk” and utilized his opti-grab device to help hold these up. Their fabled 220 degrees of visual range was no consolation, either. The resolution was bad, they weren’t very bright and it was just immensely underwhelming. Sony is definitely way ahead of the game in the V/R department.
With the rising popularity of sound bars, I noticed a trend this year of bars with directional firing drivers to utilize reflections off of the walls of your room to enhance the surround sound experience. While the results are impressive, I can’t help but feel like they pale in comparison to the technology that Carlo, Cynthia and I witnessed in the Comhear suite. As covered by Carlo, the MyBeam technology was Immensely impressive! The near field demo was mind blowing! I could actually hear footsteps walking from front to side to rear around my head without the help of headphones or rear speakers. More impressively, it was being beamed from a sound bar (and small separate sub woofer) nearly the size of a blu-ray player. It really was a cool experience!
(Btw, the B&W speakers in that last photo were not hooked up and were there just to drive home the point that the imaging was being created solely from the sound bar)
As cool as the MyBeam technology was in the ComHear booth, truly the most exciting thing I witnessed at the entire show was the Lexicon SL 1 speaker demo. This was true high fidelity beam forming sound. Through the use of two 360 degree hourglass speakers we were each treated to our own personal sweet spot even though we were sitting in different parts of the room. In real time you can manipulate the position and/or size of the sweet spot to whatever part of the room you want. The sound was amazing and it was incredible to see reactions of people as soon as the sweet spot was dialed into their position. Start saving now, these will cost a fortune when they are released!
How would you like 2 terabytes of portable media storage that’s compatible with every single device you own? Link is a pocket sized device that is waterproof, drop proof and is able to connect your devices through bluetooth 4.0, USB type- C and 802.11ac Wi-Fi at speeds of up to 1900Mbps. They promise streaming of up to 15 devices at once and battery life of up to 8 hrs during streaming. It’s also loaded with an Octo Core 64bit processor and 4GB of DDR4 ram. Starting at 349.99 and going all the way up to the 2TB version for 1,149.99, I’m excited to test this out at home.
There was a modest section set aside at the Sands convention center dedicated to Virtual reality. Unfortunately it left a lot to be desired. Maybe the most interesting booth was a crowd funded company named OSSIC. They featured a set of headphones geared towards rendering 3D audio in real time as you moved your head. Granted, this technology already “wowed” me at the ComHear booth and the Lexicon demo WITHOUT headphones but this showcased the technology paired with virtual reality goggles. Upon putting them on, the headphones “measure” your head including the space between your ears and the size of your actual skull. This allows them to calculate objects in your virtual goggles in relation to the placement of your head in space. The demo included a handheld trigger that I could use to “grab” spheres representing different parts of a song and fling them to different parts of my audio space. As the spheres flew around my virtual room, the audio adjusted accordingly regardless of the placement of my head in the “real world.” If I flung a sphere in front of me to the room behind me, I could hear it “fly” over my head in sync with the orientation of my head. I’m not sure of the full application of this yet, but it seems like something that could be useful for total home theater immersion in the future.