Anything exciting at CES?

I wasn't able to go this year. What caught your ear (or eyes) at CES? Is there anything that you'd consider a breakthrough product? And why?

The best at CES : VENTURE !

I spent an hour at Venture room and still couldn't believe on what i heard. Their speaker "Caractere Diamond" was shocking me,sorry i only describe in one word about their sound "IMPOSSIBLE".

They used their amp and small passive preamp,i saw the designer of Kharma shacking his head and looking around to see every detail of the speakers and the black box(Power Conditioner).

But the price is unbelieveble $71,000 for the speakers !
brian cheney's vmps rm-40's (retail $4300) won best sound of the show , using, among other things, a modded art di/o dac...

doug s.

Home from CES last night at midnight, several things that stuck in my mind:

Musical Surroundings room:
Clear Audio turntable with Clear Audio Insider cartridge.
Ayre Amps
Avalon speakers
Aesthetix Io phono.

Kirksaeter Audio room:
Kirksaeter Silverline 90 bookshelf speakers
Monarchy amp, pre and CD.
I brought a reviewer from Absolute Sound and a Ex Fi magazine guy into this room and ask what they thought these cost. Both guys guessed in the multi thousand price range.

Show special and best dealer cost, $350.00. All three of us attempted to buy a pair of these tiny speakers, but everything in the room had been promised by the second day of the show.

Wilson Grand Slam, Karma, Rockport and Soundlab rooms were all at the Tuscany. Each impressive, very different, each with serious flaws (show conditions) and the occasional magic that "peeked out" to let you know they are world class.

Ken from Convergent (CAT) and I got to know each other very well at this show. His amps sounded terrific and after hours we auditioned a new cable, yet to enter the kingdom of high end audio. What I heard was amazing, clearly better than the most expensive Transparent Cable it replaced. The manufacturer has promised to talk with me about advertising images, maybe I will eventually be able to hear them first hand.
We (my wife and I) really enjoyed the Acapella Campanile speakers (along with the Capitole CD player and Capitole amplifiers, Nirvana cables) in the Audio Aero room at the Tuscany. Very impressive dynamic response and the solidity of the soundstage were both head-and-shoulders above anything else we heard there (or anywhere else for that matter). The speaker has an ion tweeter, horns, and conventional cone speakers for the bass.

Wish we had also listened to the Venture "Caractere Diamond" speakers Gendut3 heard - sounds like another great, 'unknown' speaker.
It was my first experience at CES, and I learned a great deal about the audio scene.

#1: All in all, the sound is quite bad. But great sound hits you like a ton of bricks in comparison.

#2: There are two types of people in the audio industry. Great, cordial types who are really excited about their product, and then there are those who only care about the product they are selling and couldn't give a hoot about their customers or what anybody else thinks about their systems (Linn comes to mind).

3#: I had never heard Pipedreams before the show, and I hope I never hear them again. To quote a friend of mine, "they sound like exactly what they are...a million drivers trying to make the same sound in unison." It's like the difference between a solo trumpet and a very, very in tune trumpet section. The trumpet section may be playing exactly the same pitch, but I'll be damned if they sound like a single trumpet.

I had the pleasure of tagging around with Albert Porter for the majority of the trip, and we are in ABSOLUTE agreeance about the best sounds of the trip. It was a shame the Sound Labs room didn't sound as good as it could (you could almost HEAR the potential that wasn't happening), but there was some magic to be found (Kirksaeter was, by far, the most outrageously impressive sound (for the money) at BOTH shows.

CES seems like it's on the outs, and I'll probably end up only going to T.H.E Show next year. MUCH, MUCH better sound, nicer people, all in all a better feeling event. Cheers!

Albert- Ken is something ain't he? I was fortunate enough to have diner with him-among others- one evening, he is IMO like an artist that designes home audio products. He is very particular about the way things get done on his amps, and very blunt about telling you! A very funny and clever fellow, I one day would really enjoy a pair of his monoblocks in my system!
I wish I could have been .... sounds liked lots of new friends and a chance to meet those behind the monikers on A'gon.

Heard those Capellas at a dealer up here in TO last week; I wasn't too impressed, although the speakers were smooth in presentation and startling in their size. Looked like Grande Utopias with Avante Garde Duos grafted on the side.

Wish I was at the show ...maybe in '03. --Lorne
Lorne, I'd say Dunlavy SC5 or SC6's with, as you say, an Avantgarde horn grafted on the side :-)

If I may, can I ask why you "weren't impressed?", as we are considering ordering a pair of these...

The phenominal dynamics can be explained by the 4 large cone drivers and the horn - the Avantgarde also has terrific dynamic capabilities.

But the extraordinary solidity of the soundstage *might* be attributed to the ion tweeter (perhaps it is able to communicate the minute reflections of a singers voice off her arms and body) *or* it could have been the Capitole amplifiers (they do seem to make outstanding products).

Can I ask what equipment was driving the speakers when you heard them?

And (this is a funny question to ask) do you like the pipedreams? Some people (like the person (Brian) above) do not like them - so I can only conclude that whereas some people rely heavily on positional cues from their music (we are of this ilk: the solidity of the instruments is enough such that the thinking part of the mind is relieved of the task of reminding itself that there was originally a stage upon which there was a physical person making the music being listened to); others rely more heavily on other, different audible cues to piece together a pleasing musical experience.
Justacoder: the pair of Capellas I heard (all be it briefly) were at a well-respected dealer here in TO. The speakers were being driven by top of the line Audio Research amps and preamp. Source was vinyl (an Oracle). The system sounded quite good -- smooth with no "holes" but I wasn't blown away. I suspect the turntable was so-so and I'm not sure what cartridge was on the Oracle. Strangely, I felt the bass was a touch weak (could be the amps didn't have the guts to drive these monsters -- not sure of their efficency).

You need to have a long listen before you commit to or dismiss these. They certainly are attention getters. I'm used to SACD and have heavily modified XA777ES that's spoiled me rotten -- especially multi-channel SACD. But when my system sounds better than the dealer's 100K+ show piece -- I start to ask questions about synergy, room, setup and would suggest in this case that it probably wans't the Capellas. ( I could find nothing wrong with them)

I would love to here them with Tenors or another "sweet" tube amp, and a Clearaudio MR table or VPI setup. And if I was seriously auditioning, I would listened tehm with my source and material before passing judgement. Anyway, do not read too much into what I had said in my earlier post -- my observations were but a passing glance and not a full audition (they are too big and too expensive for me -- you need a humongous room for these, otherwise you'll be scraping fine laquer off your ceiling.

Regarding the Pipes -- it's well-known that these must be set up perfectly to sound good. At the Toronto show in the Fall, I listened to the outstanding room of Tenor amps and Pipes -- both before and after they were set up properly. Went from wierd sounding to a "wall of sound" -- the best I have heard. Tenor uses these to sell their amps at the show -- there is a strong synergy with the Pipes. I'm not sure how accurate or flat the response is -- I doubt they have the accuracy of say a Dunlavy -- but to me accuracy and enjoyment are not always a married pair. -- Lorne
First, the sound of the Pipedreams at both the Alexis & the Tuscany rooms was HORRIBLE! One look at these towering monsters in the teeny Alexis room, and I knew why they didn't work. I've heard these properly set-up in a good showroom, and the sound was nothing like at the C.E.S. Can't tell you why they didn't work in the MUCH bigger Tuscany room, although Plinius wouldn't be my first choice of amp for these. They really do sound MUCH BETTER THAN THIS!!! Second, Avant've got to be kidding!!! The horns do not blend well with the powered cone sub woofers...more appropriate for PA sound re-enforcement than home audiophile. I thought that the sound of the Moon Dogs was how a horn speaker should sound! Totally blew away the Duo's! And this with puny 3 watt 2A3 mono blocks. Third, the Capellas had excellent mid-range that seem to leave the rest of the frequency spectrum behind! But considering that they probably had to grease the tops of these behemoths to stuff them into a totally inadequate room, I imagine much of the problem would vanish with a proper listening environment!
Lornecherry: Thanks so much!

I suspect the bass is a little weak (compared to, say, big wilsons). They are 92db efficient. I've seen a waterfall graph of their tweeter, and it is absolutely amazing.

I also would love to hear the tenors with the pipedreams! All they had at the show was Marsh and Plinius, both solid state, and VAC.

Fatparrot: I heard the pipedreams in all 3 rooms at CES/Show, and thought their character was quite evident in al three (I agree that the Plinius room was the worst sound of the three).

Re: Avantgarde - I was refering to their dynamic capability. Live music is quite dynamic and I would like my speakers to be able to reproduce this aspect of the sound. I have found that, in general, highly efficient speakers are much better at this than low efficiency speakers.

Re: The Moon Dogs. Yeah, I went back to hear these a second time, being impressed the first time as well. Unfortunately, they were playing them too softly to tell much (except that the bass was somewhat reticent when played softly :-). They only go down to 40hz or so, which is a negative for us. What did you think of the Inner Ear room with the Tenors and Churchills?

Re: The Capellas. Thansk for your impressions. I(we) thought they did darn well considering, as you say, they had very little room in which to work (what, a 1 inch clearance between the tops of the speakers and the ceiling? :-) And so this was actually a plus for us - that they could produce decent sound in such an environment.

Re: the overall sound at the CES/Show... I think some of you people are too picky! :-) Most of the systems we hear at high-end dealer showrooms are no better (and often worse) than those we heard at the conference.

And I think the character of a system *should* show through regardless, and if it takes extensive setup and tweaking to get something to sound good (not great, just decent) - then, how do I say this, the system is inherently unstable: any slight change will make it sound bad again. And, personally, I do not want a 'persnickety system' - but maybe that is just me :-)
Lornecherry: I thought the Acapella's were very lush and polite sounding. The Audio Aero amps provided more than enough power for them. Really nice sound, just a different sound than I want in my listening room. I could easily see the sonic appeal for many people, just not what I would call "live like".

I spent most of my time on the 2nd floor of the Tuscany at the Tenor / Rockport / Audio Aero / Jena Labs / Machina Dynamica room where I was working (it did not feel like work), but I have to agree with Justacoder that all the rooms (acoustically) were much better than described. Each of the rooms had some great things going on...

Pipedreams / Plinius - Great dynamics and low distortion
Essence / Shunyata - Detail, speed and impact galore (A real surprise)
Kharma / Lamm - Fantastic transparency, texture and imaging
CAT / Wilson - Incredible soundstage and dynamics
Tenor / Rockport / Jena Labs - Incredible musicality, tonality and cohesiveness (my favorite, of course:)

The biggest disappointment for me was the SoundLabs room. I have heard these speakers sound so great and am a big fan. I am positive that they were not setup properly and this was definitely one system where the room hurt them a great deal.

Other rooms I enjoyed were, Musical Surroundings, Immedia, Audio Excellence AZ, Audio Aero's smaller room, and the Manger Swing room.

Shunyata did a demonstration with some new interconnects they are introducing shortly utilizing "stardust" technology. We listened first with the technology and then without. There was a very dramatic difference.

It was great to put faces with the names... Albert and Brian, you were having too much fun. Everyone was much younger than I thought. :)

Jonathan- Did you go for the massage that I have heard oh so much about already? lol, by the sounds of it I sure hope you did!
I loved the Pioneer ELITE DV-47A multi format player. Darn thing does it all: SACD, DVD-A, DVD-V, Mp3, CD, Video CD, CD-R, CD-RW. Great way to bypass the format wars and enjoy the music.
Thanks for your perspective on the Acapellas. I did not think we were the of the type that go for 'lush and polite', but I guess we do own Extremas... :-)

I am sorry we did not get a chance to get back to hear the Rockports after you guys got them setup the way you wanted them.. **sigh** Hopefully next time we will be slightly more efficent with our CES room traversal algorithm.
Vegasears, the bottom line about the Pioneer is "does it sound good, on ALL sources" ? Sound and Vision just reviewed the Apex "all in one" multi source digital player and it is a piece of junk ( much as i suspected ). I have a hard time believing that they could fit all of the proper decoding devices into one box, do it neatly and optimize each circuit for the ultimate in performance. That is, doing it and keeping the price somewhat reasonable. Then again, the times, they are a-changin'. Sean

The Las Vegas C.E.S. 2002 & T.H.E. Show/Expo 2002 Magical Mystery Speaker Tour Report

You can find the full report at:

*Our* "Best of Show"

Aero Audio room: Acapella Campanile, Capitole CD player and amplifiers,
Acapella - Campanile. Audio Aero stereo and monoblock amps (Capitole Power Amp and Capitole Transtrac) and Capitole CD player. Nirvana cables. 'You are there!' sound. Our lives are now divided into pre-Acapella and post-Acapella. The first few seconds of hearing (some female vocalist on) them, not really paying much attention (except to their somewhat unique looks), it was like my brain did a double take - my ears told my brain that there was someone actually in the room singing. The soundstage is as much more present and solid than the pipedreams, as much so as the pipedreams are above ordinary (high quality) speakers. This extra-ordinary 'solidity' is present about, say, 30-60% of the time. The rest of the time the solidity is closer to what the pipedreams offer. (I am assuming that the speakers were largely responsible for this).
In addition to this is the dynamic capabilities of the speaker. We play the Frisell CD (Quartet, track 1) because we have heard him in concert a number of times, and most playback systems just completely fail to capture the dynamic envelope of even a single note. They *all* sound compressed - every other speaker we played this on (Exquisites, Pipedreams, ...), sounded compressed compared to live Frisell music. This system (I cannot be sure which component or combination of components is responsible), was close enough to the real Dynamic that it would take more time than we had at the show to determine the differences.
We did not have time to do an extensive evaluation. But to some extent we do not have to. It was just so much better than anything else in the areas it excels in, and at least competent in the others, that we thought it was way and above the Best of the Show.

Kharma Exquisites, Lamm, Walker Proscenium Gold Signature turntable (Classical music on turntable only)
Kharma Exquisites, Lamm amplification (biamped with Lamm ML1-1(?)s), Walker Proscenium Gold Signature turntable. Larger room (25x30x12ft ?). A little bright/foward, not involving (perhaps the speakers were not broken in?). Went back a different day. Played Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, 1st track (So What). and Girl from Ipanema. OK sound, not very involving, not much of a soundstage. Then an orchestral classical piece was played on the turntable... *WOW*. Soundstaging, authority, involvment.

Sound Lab room: The Sound Lab U1 speaker, Purist Audio Design, Wolcott
Sound Labs U1. Unfamiliar amplification. Oh! This is what all the fuss is about... Detailed, pleasant, engaging yummy sound, able to play many genres of music. If we did not have a wall of windows looking out on pine trees and deer and the rocky mountains that these large, black panels would almost completely obscure the lower half of, these would be our choice for our personal system.

Accoustic Dream room(s): Lumenwhite, VAIC, DCS.
Lumenwhites - We saw these in 3 different systems:
a. Lumenwhite 'Whitelight'. Edge amplification. We went to this room to see the amps, based on the good reviews in TAS. They seemed musical and quick footed, hard to tell w/o knowing the speakers better. And what speakers! Five ceramic drivers - fast fast fast. This might have been the best system of the 3, but there was some smearing of notes in time - I suspect it was the cables (you know: the highs arrive first, the mids and lows stroll in on the weekend?). There is some question about how much bass these speakers really have - and this has to do with the character of the speaker as a whole: do they emit sound with a leading edge *sharper* that what the input signal is indicating? These can almost assault the senses they are so violently quick. But on vocals, they sound natural enough - with lots of detail and texture. We were later shocked to learn that they list for $38K - the fit and finish is not comensurate with this price.
b. The smaller 'Whiteflame' Lumenwhites. VAIC Classic 52-B Monoblocks amplification, DCS upsampling, Wadia 860 CD player, Accoustic Dreams cables (when in production, < $1000!). Detailed, harmonically rich, very engaging. One of the better sounds of the show. Bass was present and accounted for on these smaller speakers as well as the (slightly) larger ones. It is a very, very tight bass, however. If these speakers were not so damn expensive - this would be a *great* system for a smaller room.
c. The (slightly) larger 'Whitelights' again. Large VAIC 52-B monoblock amps. Different CD player. Same sound as that in the room with the smaller speakers.

Inner Ear room: Tannoy Churchills, Tenor Amplification, Aero Audio Capitole.
Tannoy Churchills (Inner Ear room). Aero Audio Capitole CD player directly into Tenor amplifiers. Warm, engaging, pleasant. If the Churchills had some more resolution/detail in the treble and were not so 'beamy' (almost like some horns in this regard. We had also heard these at Audio Unlimited, and so were familiar with their sound), we would just buy this system and be done with it. But they don't - the beaminess could be perhaps dealt with in a large room by sitting outside the sweet spot (i.e. pointing the speakers almost straight ahead), but the lack of detail is something we, personaly, do not want to live without (I do not want to stress this too much - it is just that after living with the Dunlavy SCIVs (which have very little detail) for a few years, we are perhaps over-compensating by prefering a *very* detailed sound).

Piega room: C40 speakers, Aloia equipment.
Piega C40 - Aloia amplification. This sounded... different. Am not sure why. It *might* be a new advance in totally boxless sound. Heard them on 2 separate occasions. Very detailed, dynamic and musical high mids and trebble. Lacking some dynamics in the very low end. Played Girl from Ipanema and a Beethoven quartet (Quartet in B flat major op. 130 Emerson String Quartet). These speakers are similar to the lumenwhites, though somewhat more musical and 2/3 the price. I would guess it would take some serious listening to really determine all of the more subtle differences. This technique of replacing large woofers (was B&W 801N the last one?) with 2 medium size woofers (was B&W 800 signiture the latest) has now progressed to using 3 mid-ranges to generate the lows (and well.. the pipedreams use uncounted many). This creates very fast, tight bass, but somewhat lacking in the dynamic punch plus followthrough that larger woofers provide.
Tireguy: Not me, but every story has a happy ending :)

Justacoder: I wish you would have introduced yourself to me, I would have enjoyed meeting you. BTW, Since I stopped using the Extrema's, my electric bill halved. :)
Vegasears and Sean,
The Apex was designed as a mid-lo end player, the Pioneer is not. The Pioneer, and the Apex too, use separate chips for DSD and DVD decoding , so there is no problem at all doing the digital decoding properly (verified this with Pioneer at their booth). Whether the d/a conversion, clocking circuitry and output paths are up to snuff for all source types remains to be seen. However, the Pioneer is clearly aimed at high end, since they have designed in a removable power cord and room correction EQ in the separate processor. Further, they have a full year's experience and feedback after their first universal player a year ago. Let's hope that this is the beginning of a new era in hi-rez.
Various models of Soundlab speakers are easily mistaken. Just to set the record straight: The speakers in the Soundlab, Wolcott room were not the $ 32,000.00 U-1's, but rather the $14,000.00, M-1's.
Thank you Albert, my mistake. I know how good that room should and could have sounded, that is why it upset me so much.

They should demo at your house next year.... Chez Porter!
I also thank you, Albert; you were the second person to correct my mistake in the trip report - I will post a corrected version over on the Asylum after awhile (this can't be the only, factual, mistake we made).

However good or bad the Sound Lab room sounded - the speakers potential showed through clearly, and we were suitably impressed (and, given that they are the M-1 and not the U-1, the price/performance ratio is amazing).