CES 07 Show Report

As you know , High End CES was at the Venetian , not the Alexis . Horrid tales of unionized restrictions and extraneous costs were in the air from exhibitors. From the attendees point of view , it was difficult to locate anyone not on the 29 floor up . The Venetian however is magnificent in itself. To not be lavished in its beauty , majesty and offerings is to have missed the gondola .

The majority of rooms filled the 29 th floor . There were exhibitors on the next few floors and they were indeed worth seeing as many of the upper floor rooms were more spacious. There were of course some who were showing in the Mirage , Hilton , Golden Nugget ect. Across town The Show was going strong at the San Tropez . I was at the Venetian 2 days and The Show 2 days.

Overall, I was not overly disappointed in the sound many we able to get in their rooms at the Venetian in comparison to the Alexis. Show conditions are rarely ideal and the stress and work it takes to get it reasonable is intense. The main problem was the inability to move furniture which included this awful dresser that was protruding into the room . In some rooms it was more detrimental than others depending on the set up.

Wilson WP 8 speakers were in many rooms . Their sound was detailed and never belied the source and chain . Whether you feel they are musical and involving or not , to deny they are less than resolving for their price isn't something that will come to mind .
MBL was showcasing a new exciting prototype that has 2 separate bass towers. The speaker has the familiar cylindrical drive units but the cabinet was tall and there were 2 drive units per speaker with the high frequency driver between them . This was without question a significant improvement in design IMO. There was greater detail and image specificity but the greatest addition was the bass integration that has been vastly improved. Projected price is 180k . I believe I heard the exhibitor say the bass units were powered however. This was possibly the finest reproduction of a sonic landscape I have yet encountered in a show condition .

The Vandersteen 5 room was ...................................................once again exceptional sounding. This man makes great speakers . That's simply not contested and year after year it is proved to any who need proof .

Magico was showing in 2 rooms that I found. The smaller pair was balanced, linear and highly resolving. The larger pair was less so with bass integration abnormalities. I am sure it was the room and I am also sure others will slam me for this observation .There is a lifelike " you are there in the recording studio presence " with this companies speakers that is difficult to describe . Blindingly fast transients with luxurious and multi layered midrange reproduction attributes that take the listener by surprise. This is a speaker company to watch. I also liked the TAD room again . This speaker seemed to be improved a touch as bass was lightning fast this year. The TAD speakers are capable of astonishing dynamic swings and seemed well designed as I cannot detect much if any colorations and are exceptionally musical . Every year I find myself writing of his room.

Avatar Acoustics has a large ballroom suite downstairs and was showing Frank Changs new speaker line as well as the AMR {Abbingdon Music Research } player and Amplifier . Both of which are well designed and very flexible. . Frank tuned the room with his Resonators and his speakers come with Franks specially designed isolation feet. The Top of the line Karan amps drove Franks speakers. The sound was natural and very non hi fi sounding.

Acoustic Plan , a company unfamiliar to me were showing off their design in a nice sounding room I personally found very musical. {I cant for the life of me remember if they were at the Venetian or the San Tropez } The Veena speakers that were being shown were of open baffle design and one of the few rooms that played my Patricia Barber , Live in France with the same scale and presence that the MBL room did. I was to say the least humbled by his achievement ! He offers a integrated amp in an alluring cobalt blue that was sexy as it was sweet sounding. Separate outboard power supply as well. Worth searching out.

My friend Joe Laverncik of Critical Mass was showing with the Lamm , Metronome and Kubala Sosna in a large suite on the upper floor to excellent results with WP 8 speakers. The sound was suspended well behind the plane of the speakers and changed effortlessly in size and scale with each recording.

Personally , I liked the Triangle speaker room . Showing the Grand Concert speakers I felt at ease with the density of the soundfield as it projected a dimensional image that was rich in harmonics , capable of tight , deep bass and was extended in the upper frequencies without drawing attention to any one facet of its prowess. Gorgeous finish and craftsmanship.

Again , the Burrmester room was amazing. Maybe its just me ... I tout them each and every year but I always leave their room making New Year resolutions that include owning one of their systems one day . I find their sound unique and eerie in its ability to make me want to lose the ability to walk. There are 2 dozen more rooms at the Venetian I would like to comment on but I will not bore you to death . I will have to comment on one more room before moving to The Show .

The Hansen room must be mentioned . The company was showing the Emperor . To bow down , bring gifts and sacrifice goats would not be enough for this reference design . I heard no flaws . It was in tremendous control of what its offerings bestowed upon all who entered its sonic domain . Enough talk of sonic invisibility , I want a speaker that sells me on its virtues. Holisonic , coherent , with no trace of crossover , the Emperor effortlessly unleashed a dynamic spectrum that you felt in your sonic soul. It was impossible not to close your eyes when listening . It was like having Joel Robuchons 16 course menu degustation . Your other senses are shut down to facilitate the sensual magic of the moment. Hansen is a company to keep an eye on IMO.

I ran into some industry friends that were humble enough to take a moment to stop and chat with a nobody like me. Clement Perry and his posse of golden ear friends and I had a nice relaxing moment together. These guys from StereoTimes webzine are as serious as it gets about their audio. When they visit an exhibitor, they give intense respect to the owners and designers by spending serious listening time to their systems followed by many questions in an effort to appreciate and understand what the designers were showing. Standing back and watching Clement was a real treat for me. His respect and dedication for others and what he is trying to do for our industry is humbling. If the High End ever fails , it will not be due to his lack of effort!

I also ran into the great recording engineer Steve Hoffman who was stretched thin at the show . As you may know , everyone wants a piece of him . He gives packed room lectures several times a day to fans that are mesmerized by his astonishing memory as he effortlessly tells truly fascinating stories of yesterday and today's music legends and the recording sessions he presided over. Just as many want 20 seconds of his time to do an " ear check " of their room setups. Since Steve has many recordings at his disposal that he personally created , who better to have judge the sound of your room than the one who mastered the recording . He should charge for that service ! Its also incredible that a guy so revered in our industry can be so unassuming . Never precocious or haughty , Steve is genuinely at ease with himself and it makes all who are around him comfortable. Long live this man , for without him and his continued efforts to preserve decaying priceless master tapes , we will be left with less to cherish and pass to future generations.

That's it for the Venetian .

At the Mirage my friends at Aerial were showing the 20 t speakers in an all Ayre electronics suite . I'm a fan and friend so I will simply say the each and every year , Mike Kelly and company chose this location for its Sonics and quiet atmosphere . The results speak volumes if you took the time to stop by.

Next stop was The Show. I like it here . Its less hectic and the exhibitors are less stressed. You often can actually sit for a while without the incessant chatter all around your head that permeated the Venetian rooms .

The Nova Physics Memory player sounded good and is getting some good press. It was in the Scaena speaker room and was a good sound. The Scaena is a tall Iso-Linear array speaker design .There are 2 sub cabinets that are active driven by 32 bit SHARC DSP and 24 bit crystal a/d d/a . Lightning fast , thunderous low frequency response and no apparent audible crossover .

The Ventura , Concert Fidelity , Sound Application room was an obvious standout . The sonics were life like , the bass integration seamless and articulate but most importantly , the top octaves were liquid smooth . Excellent sound this year. Concert fidelity was also in the Escalante room compliments of Suda and Mike Verretto. Sourced by Mikes own APL Hi Fi player { disclaimer , I am affiliated with APL } , the sound was also clear , detailed and full of recording ambience.

I really liked the deHavilland room as well. Just music. Nothing to get all worked up over but that seemed to be the point. Glorious sound that sucked you into its warm web of comfort listening. I can see the cult following they have. Its a no brainer if you think about it..... involvement is the key to enjoying your musical library. This gear had the ability to snare your subconscious . I found myself languishing on the couch talking to the highly respected Jason Serinus of Stereophile for some time. { I met Jason at RMAF in Denver and saw first hand how powerful a force he is in our community. He came to our room to assess the Sonics of our APL Hi Fi ESP Concert Grand room and within about 40 seconds nailed the attributes and deficiencies of our sound perfectly .} He has a fabulous ear , make no mistake about that.

I ran into Clark Johnson once again . I adore his writing at Positive Feedback online and he always takes time to stop and talk to the little people of audio like me . Thanks Clark !

On an opposite note , I got a chilly reception in the Lansche Audio room . The speakers were in a beautiful maple finish and were producing some lovely sound but the snide response I received from the designer when I took a moment to ask about their design left me bewildered. I often find myself taking up for the high end when my customers tell me stories of snooty salespeople . That day I got a plate full of... Haughty a la Mode .

There was one room that I must mention and will attempt to do so without seeming like their National Sales Rep . This will be a challenge however .

It is a speaker company called Respons from Germany.The owner designer is the soft spoken but intelligent and intense Reider Persson . At near 200 lbs per side and cabinets 2 inches thick , this speaker nearly broke my spine when I did the knuckle rap test. Very well made utilizing top shelf Scanspeak drivers , this speaker was the only other speaker besides the MBL and Acoustic Plan that had me reaching into my back pocket to find my checkbook. High frequency extension was extraordinary with a delicate whisper that was present when needed . This extension handed off seamlessly to a midrange that held the mystical allure I am addicted to in a system . The Respons speaker was bloody rich and ripe with full harmonic texture yet striking in its delineation of fine detail and nuances of recordings I have memorized. What a balancing act ! Bass was impossibly perfect with the ability to exude creative character to upper bass instruments like bass strings and yet controlled enough to open the floodgates and pound your chest with a driving impact that was an experience to cherish. Someone else thinks highly of their product as the electronics that were provided were all Audio Research including the Ref 3. At 26 k , its is a certified steal . Someone has got to pick this line up for America !

No show report is complete without a foodie section .

New to Vegas in the past year is the perfect landing of the planets finest living chef Joel Robuchon . He opened 2 restaurants side by side in the MGM . The Mansion is his uber luxurious spot and L atelier De Robuchon is the tapas side. Separate and distinct. Recently opened is yet another Michelin 3 star { the highest they award btw ] restaurant by the super star chef of Paris , Chef Guy Savoy . This is in Caesars Palace . Finally , the other must do evening of gastronomy would be Alex Stratta in the incomparable Wynn hotel. These 4 dining destinations are the pinnacle of dining in Vegas and arguably America on any given evening.

We did 2 this trip. The Mansion Joel Robuchon and Alex Stratta at the Wynn.

Alex was first. We did the menu degustation with the suggest wine parings . We added 6 courses to the degustation . It was a meal to remember for a lifetime. Very possibly the single most enjoyable meal I have had on American soil in my lifetime of culinary exploration . Foiegras, sea urchin , chanterelles , truffles , beluga , every concoction of foams imaginable , and the single most scrumtrulescent { Will Farrell made that up on SNL } sweetbread that may have ever come out of a Master Chefs grasp. A fatty Kobe beef tartare would have cemented my desire to capitulate to this life if I was forced to chose , culminated an evening of gasps , oooooohs and awes. Chef Stratta came out to speak to us or at least to see what pigs were dining with him , im not sure .

The Mansion Joel Robuchon was 2 nights later . A 3 hour , 16 course food fantasy journey was a cerebral exercise in imagination and wizardry. Too artistic in presentation to interrupt , the dissection of each course was a study in food synergy . Far too arcane in conception to dissect , the 16 perfectly orchestrated courses were a sensual kaleidoscope of flavors and textures . Know your stuff before booking this Temple of Cuisine for you may leave perplexed and embarrassed that you had not a single clue what just happened or what you just ate. It was incredible from start to finish with no missteps. Wine parings were exemplary and the sommelier was fanatically attentive.

Vegas , it stays with me .

Brent Rainwater
Very enjoyable reading - thanks a lot. Due to business commitments I could not make it this year - after 4 years in a row, so I was very disappointed.

Thank you for helping me imagine what it was like.

A big thanks for conveying the real essence of such a show experience, just as you lived it.
Each description of personalities, demonstrations, and tables laden with food & drink, actually made for a vicarious "you are there" feeling.
It seems that bringing many of these transcendent audio experiences into the home will still require at least a modest win on Deal or No Deal.
i attended ces and will be composing a show report for Audiophilia.com.

i will try to summarize my findings.

with the exception of a few exhibits, the sound was mediocre.

i used an acoustic guitar cd as a reference. very few stereo systems represented the timbre of the instrument accurately.

the attendeance in 07 seemd less than what i experienced in 06. on the plus side, i found a few products i want to review.

the experience of being in las vegas is always interesting because you can't predict what treasures or trash you will encounter.l
Each time I attend and read others' reports of what they heard, I am once again convinced that I need to go myself. While I concur with much of what Brainwater says, some of what he says is grossly at odds with my impressions and he omits most of the fine sounds that I heard.

I think he missed the best speaker in the Magico suite, the Version 3s. I could not stand the sound in the MBL and Hansen suites and had a very interesting conversation in the Lansche Audio suite and was amazed that they could take the corona plasma tweeter down to 2500 Hz. I must say that I found their price out-of-line and was not impressed with it.

The TAD demonstration was also disappointing. Years ago when I first heard the Model 1s, I thought it had exceptional frequency response but was so inefficient that you had to use poor sounding high power ss amps. The Model 2s are clearly superior but are still inefficient. But the overall impression I had was wood. They sounded like wooden boxes. I think Andy Jones' Pioneer XE speakers are superior.

My primary impression of Vegas this year was crowded. Each year I vow to get a car and stay in the real Las Vegas and to eat there also. I hate this pseudo Venetian or other culture and the poor food at high prices you get on the strip.

I thought the Venetian worked out okay and enjoyed walking to the mezzanine rooms but the partition rooms were very poor for demonstrations. The cheaper rooms in the Tower were better than the rooms at the Alexis Park, however, much to my surprise. THE Show was clearly hurt by the CES decision to move away from them. How will they respond next year?
Hi Tbg ,

There were hundreds of rooms and many were crowded so there were less than ideal circumstances to evaluate the gear but occasionally one gets lucky and gets the sweetspot and no ambient room chatter. Seeing all of the great rooms is an impossibility so I am sure you and saw vastly different itineraries. There is only so much time in a day.
The Lansche Audio room experience was in all probability an anomaly and was directly related to show condition exhaustion . I do however stand fast on my opinions of the rooms I found exceptional and would suggest differences of opinions are what makes us all unique .Thanks for taking the time to post.
Hope to see you next year !
I now look back on my experience in the Lanshe Audio room and feel it was most certainly a situation of show exhaustion . It was around noon on Thursday , several hours before the conclusion of CES. I can only imagine how tired they must have been at that point.
Also regarding my favorable impression of the MBL room which seems to be in contrast to some feedback I have heard..... I went there the last day of the show and felt it was remarkable. It was obvious that the room was playing a part of what I was exposed to { the speakers were too far apart and the listening position was too close due to various uncontrollable conditions }. I took this into consideration and assumed the slight high frequency glare was due to these circumstances. There was also 2 huge windows a few feet behind each speaker. Considering the room , I felt what they achieved was amazing. I was just informed that the speakers were a "working prototype" and there would be some changes forthcoming. Also , there were numerous adjustments throughout the 4 day period and the sound settled the last day.
I wanted to thank everyone for the private e mails concerning my experience at Lansce Audio. Seems I am alone in my experience. I was recently told that his lack of understanding English could have contributed to my observation . This may very well have contributed. I rest this issue.
for the first time in years, i missed the show. i was told however that next year customers may be invited.
Just let me correct you Brent ;). Reidar Persson is swedish and so are his Respons speakers ;) Nice reading indeed :)
Mibviking , correct Sweden... I recieved a followup e mail from the company expressing thanks for my comments and interest in their fabulous speakers. I cant get them out of my head. I will own a pair one day. Too bad thay have no US distributor. So many great European products at the show not represented here in the States.
On another note, I am somewhat discouraged by the various reports of people not finding anything to like at CES , RMAF ect... All I seem to read is how everything left them disappointed and how they miss the Alexis or how poorly the set up was and how their own systems leave them wanting nothing more ... I see this from consumers as well as manufacturers as well as reviewers . I read it in forums as well as magazines and webzines alike. It is certainly obvious that show conditions are not ideal but it is what it is and to be hyper critical of something that is out of their control is simply unrealistic.
The danger I see in these pervasive attitudes is the message it sends the tens of thousands of young aspiring audiophiles around the world that are thirsty for the fever excitement and interest it takes to get involved and be a part of our fragile high end community. I see the effects all around me starting with the obvious poliferation of mp3 and i pods to the dissapearance of Stereophile from my local Books A Million . I was told it just didnt sell well enough to stock.

Manufacturers and distributors put much time effort and monies into setting up and showcasing their lifes work at these shows. It is their continued involvment that keeps this hobby alive for the rest of us to enjoy. On a personal note , I really cherish the opportunities we have and take advantage of them . I cant wait for the chance to go to shows but thats just me. I really love this stuff.
I would also like to see a more cooperative spirit between manufacturers and industry personnel in general. Humility is a virtue and personally , I would like to see more concerted efforts to work together which in turn would benefit the industry as a whole. I am not looking through rose colored glasses and understand the nature of business and competetion . I do however feel the need to inspire and entice the younger generation to become involved and active in high end audio. This is a responsibility I would like to think we all share. Just my 2 cents.
I assumed this was a well know fact but maybe it needs pointing out.

For shows , audio gear is broked down , boxed and shipped across country via truck for many days before reaching its destination . Its often frigid cold and between the delivery employees and the holding area at the show , gear gets moved around quite a bit. It often sits for a few days more in cold storage areas before finally making its way to its final showroom destination . Here the rush begins to set up the system and desperately get some burn in time on it . If you get 24 hours you are lucky. It takes at least several days for any stone cold system to even begin to gel in my experience.
Brainwater, also many components were completed just before being shipped to CES. Most equipment is at it best the last day of the shows, just before it is broken down for shipment.
there is no excuse for not selecting components that are fully broken in.

exhibitors arrive a day or two before the show starts, so they have ample time to leave a system on for 24 hours before attendees visit them.

i believe some manufacturers are not concerned about the sound of their stereo systems as well as many dealers who are also not concerned, as well as some audiophiles who have other agendas than "good sound", when they configure a stereo system.

it is possible to achieve "good sound" at CES if one takes the time to achieve it.
Mrtennis, there is no excuse?? Pulling together all that goes into a speaker or component is not an easy process. Most small manufacturers lack the resources to allow new items to reach full maturity before demonstrating them and selling them.

I do think they often shoot themselves in the foot, however.
Admittedly , I have gotten a kick out of the private feedback I have received over this Thread. Mostly positive , some silly , others disagreeing on one aspect or another of what I heard and commented on , some fussing about my foodie section {ok , that's the silly part } ... so on and so on . That's the fun part of creating something like this : getting so many differences of opinions and talking to so many passionate audiophools like me.
One part that generated the most controversy was my speaking highly of the MBL room . I stand by my comments and add that I will indeed one day own a pair. The disagreement stems from so many issues that I cant isolate any one . I knew I would "take it on the chin " as most of my friends who heard the room at CES didn't agree with my assessment then.
What I was comparing the speakers to was MBL rooms at other shows like past CES s as well as RMAF and The HE Shows . I have never been fortunate enough to hear a properly set up pair in a dedicated , treated environment. Each time I heard them at past shows , they had the MBL magic but I never felt the bass integrated seamlessly . It was a problem I thought would be alleviated in a treated dedicated room . I did however feel that this recent redesign addressed the integration issue successfully. For the first time { at a Show } , I was pleased with the handoff to the bass . JV in this months TAS felt the opposite I see but I wonder... since {I think } he owns the 101e s , is he comparing his in his own set up to the new model in a show environment .
All I can say is that if they improve this redesign significantly , I will be very happy indeed. Broke mind you ... but still a "phool for Audio".