CES 08



Over the years that of stopping by the Esoteric suite, this was the first time I recall seeing a standalone preamp. In 2008 Esoteric released the C-03 preamp at $9,500.00. This is a two channel preamp that is just as attractive as their new A-100 tube amplifier ($18,500.00). Source components are also fairly new, the P05/D05 separate transport and DAC combo ($7,000.00 each) recently introduced in the fourth quarter of 2007. Just like last year they were using the MG20 loudspeaker ($8,400.00) that uses magnesium drivers and also like last year this room was very detailed with excellent clarity in the high frequencies, life-like bass information, and a romantically engaging midrange.

Gershman Acoustic/VAC/ Magnan Audio Cables


The Canadian dollar or the Loonie as it is officially known is gaining ground on the U.S dollar and the folks at Gershman Acoustic seem to be doing the same within the speaker industry. Just across the border Gershmann Acoustic continues to manufacture excellent sounding loudspeakers and the Avant Garde ($8,200.00) is a prime example. It is a beautiful speaker that throws off a huge soundstage even though it has a relatively small footprint. At just 3 feet tall, a foot wide, and a foot deep and weighing just 75 pounds the Avant Garde is really impressive. It is a three way design with a frequency response of 24Hz to 24Khz. The Pyramid shape helps to prevent internal standing waves and reduce refraction. Sharing the room with Gershman was the VAC Phi 300.1 150 watt stereo amplifier ($18,000.00), Phi Beta class A triode preamplifier ($14,500.00), and Phi Alpha DAC ($7,500.00). Cabling was Magnan Audio (Silver Interconnects $1030.00 per meter, Signature speaker cable $1090.00). The discs that I played had a very sweet, three dimensional, detailed, and enticing performance. If I were looking for a speaker in this price range this would be one of the first places I would start.

Nagra/Verity Audio


This is the second year in a row that I was pulled into the Nagra/Verity Audio room as though I was on a retractable cotton cord. Excellent sounds could be heard in the hallway and even better sounds in the room itself. The Verity Audio Sarastro mark II’s ($40,000.00) were vertically bi-amped by two 100 watt Nagra stereo pyramid amplifiers ($6595.00). The CDP CD player ($13,500.00) was connected to the PL-L tube based preamplifier ($8,495.00) and this was one of the more captivating rooms with a musical performance that was just as lovely as the Swiss Alps.

Genesis Advanced Technologies/IsoTek Systems


With Gary Koh at the helm, GAT has released a number of new models including the Genesis G2.2 ($63,000.00) loudspeaker. This latest version of the G2 improves on the previous generations. Genesis also unveiled their new line of Reference amplifiers ( photo left, $7,000.00 as configured) with some interesting technology. Each amplifier comes with a separate power supply with the ability to add a separate power reservoir to further refine the sound. Again at this years demo Mr. Koh was using the Genesis G5.3 loudspeaker ($16,000.00) with an Esoteric P-05/D-05 transport/DAC combo ($14,000.00). Power conditioner duties and power cords were handled by the IsoTek Systems Titan ($3,550.00 plus Multilink $850.00), IsoTek Sigmas ($2,150.00), and IsoTek Optimum series power cords - total around $2,000.00. I recently reviewed the exceptional Sigmas line conditioner and it was one of the first line conditioners that I have auditioned that didn’t exhibit any unwanted side effects such as lean bass, rolled off highs or compressed dynamics.

Since this is a fight town if I were to give an award for the ‘pound for pound’ best sounding loudspeaker regardless of weight class it would have to go to the G5.3! This is a full range speaker that will cover the entire frequency range and will go as low as 16 Hz and extend upwards as high as 36 kHz. It has its own internal amplifier for the bass drivers; the midrange driver is made of titanium and the tweeter is a ring radiator ribbon. I was mesmerized by the sound and the G5.3’s ability to appeal to the emotions with a highly detailed, relaxed and life-like presentation that competes with products that are normally in the upper twenties or lower thirty thousand dollar price range.

Tweaks that work!

HIFI Tuning Fuses
High end audio fuses. ($29.95 small size, $39.95 large size). These are the Gold standard for fuses. The HIFI tuning fuses are made in Germany with gold over silver caps, pure silver wiring, a ceramic casing to control unwanted resonances and then cryogenically treated. I couldn’t try these out at CES but as soon as I returned home I installed a pair in the Margules Audio U280sc power amplifiers and Art Audio Concerto II monoblocks and I could immediately hear a positive change in the sound quality. The transformation was so amazing that I would equate it to the substitution of NOS Telefukens or Mullards for a common brand of new issue tubes! That is how profound the difference is; at least with the above mentioned brands of amplifiers. Harmonic and tonal integrity are the fuses strong points. I guess it’s true that the product chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, I wouldn’t hesitate to give Robert Stein a call at Ultra Systems and if you want even more detailed information, our own Mitch Moreno has a review here of these incredible products.

New Discoveries

NFS (Not For Sale) Audio
NFS Audio is run by a bunch of guys who enjoy putting on a festive and entertaining demonstration with mood lighting, colorful artwork, and hanging door beads. The demo included the highly acclaimed Ferguson Hill FH001 horn loudspeaker from the U.K. that uses a single Lowther driver ($20,000.00). The FH001 extends upwards to 20 kHz but only goes down as low as 150 Hz. To compensate for a lack of low end frequencies NFS used a small 9 inch Carver bass subwoofer. Electronics included a Krell Kav-300i integrated amplifier, Esoteric DV-50 CD player, AcousTech Ph-1p phono preamplifier ($1500.00), with an analog setup consisting of the Sota Millennia turntable with vacuum ($8600.00), Triplanar tonearm ($4000.00) and a Lyra Helikon cartridge.

However the highlights of the room were two products that contributed significantly to the excellent sound. The first is mechanical and the second is a liquid enhancement that is consumed orally. Utilizing the latest in laser technology these guys actually used a laser to enhance the sound quality. I was told that the reason for the improvement is because, “The laser stabilizes the air molecules, so they can better interact with the drivers and as a result the sound becomes more coherent”. They also had on hand a liquid enhancement that is ingestible. After having a few glasses of this wonder tonic the audiophile should experience a reduction in distortion, a wider soundstage, and a greater appreciation for the music. Their room was constantly packed with attendees, some of them spending a considerable amount of time in their suite so it is safe to assume that the enhancements were really working!

Audiophile Air
Similar to the reactions that I would expect from a startled six year old caught playing with matches, I surprised an exhibitor when I caught him spraying what looked like a can of air freshener into the corners of the room and around the speakers. It didn't make the room smell any better, so I asked him what he was doing and I was told that he was trying to clean up the sound! Curiosity piqued, I asked the exhibitor how it works and he told me, "You know how certain atmospheric conditions can result in an improvement in the clarity of the sound? Like how your voice can travel for miles across a still lake on a moon lit night! Or how if you go mountain yodeling your voice seems to travel for miles on end between mountain ranges in thin air?” Well supposedly some professor in the UK created a secret formula and found out a way to bottle it. It's called Audiophile Air… and knowing products designed specifically for audiophiles it will probably be expensive. The target date for the release of Audiophile Air is set for April 1st. What’s next, a magic cream that helps your skin better absorb sound waves?

The End


Having spent all four days at this year’s consumer electronics show, it seems like there is never enough time in the day or night to cover enough of the show, catch a bite to eat, and take in some quality entertainment. This year the only live music event that I attended was the electric sounds of Mary J. Blige over at the annual Monster conference (I’m known for going to hear live music every night somewhere around town). This was a great show that even had an ex Warner Bros executive friend of mine drooling at the chops and commenting that this was the best he has ever heard her sing - period!

But at least I did get a chance to take in some very nice eateries off the strip. For Italian food I stopped into Piero’s by the convention center and the service and the food was wonderful. I went over to Pho Kim Long off Spring Mountain (try saying that ten times very quickly), and the food was so fresh and delectable that after just five minutes this was the only thing that was left!  [the price of admission alone HAD to be seeing you beat that lobster shell with those two spoons! CP]. Happy listening and I look forward to another great CES next year.