CES 08

“Too many changes”. That was the first thing that ran through my mind as Dave Thomas and I walked from our room at the Alexis Park Resort to head over to the St. Tropez for lunch. Alexis Park, which had been the previous home to the High End Audio portion of CES, was now a “ghost town”, with only a small fraction of manufacturers compared to what I was used to encountering when walking the grounds there. I can remember just a few years ago trying to find room on some stairs just to sit and eat at one of the CES funded luncheons. The place was buzzing with activity as it was alive with activity in every corner. Things seemingly were more “status quo” for T.H.E. Show at St. Tropez, with the daily lunches and the more than a few manufacturers displaying there. Not quite as many manufacturers were present at T.H.E. Show as in years past, but still, they did a very nice job.

The Venetian? That's another kind of mixed bag of experiences. The Venetian Hotel and Casino is huge with a lot of ground to cover. The Sands Expo Center at the Venetian housed the registration, the media facilities, and a large hall filled with hundreds of smaller electronic device manufacturers. The facilities for the media were over-run by folks I have no idea of who they were or what they were representing. I can tell you that every day I was there, they ran out of the normal refreshments we're usually provided with; water, peanuts, cookies. I thought the service for the media, at the Venetian, was generally poor.

There were some high-end audio rooms that were located just before you got to the registration area. But the majority of the high-end manufacturers were located in one of the towers, clear on the other side of the hotel. Talk about your human traffic jams, and waiting for elevators was a neat trick. All in all, once I settled into a routine, it all fell together. Notice that I didn't end that sentence with the word “nicely”. We can't have everything I guess. Now I want to get into my thoughts about what I saw and heard at this years CES and

In spite of those little irritants that bugged me enough to mention, there were some really nice rooms at CES, and T.H.E. Show this year and more than a few manufacturer’s representatives and distributors that did a pretty good job. I am always impressed by the efforts put forth in some of these rooms and despite being faced with the short comings of the rooms, some of these guys really do a successful job of putting the audio goods on display for us to see and hear. What follows are the rooms that I felt had sound that was some of the best available and that I found myself returning to time and time again.

Musical Surroundings
I was attracted to the sound of this room and visited it a couple of times. This room had a simple setup but none the less, was very musical, relaxed and involving. Amplification was provided by the Pathos Classic One III 70 watt/channel integrated amplifier driving Vandersteen 1C speakers ($800/pair). Sources consisted of the Pathos Dig-it CD player with tubes ($4000) and a Clearaudio Performance turntable with Clearaudio Satisfy Carbon toneram ($2,800), Benz-Micro SLR Gullwing cartridge ($2,500) and Phonomena II phonostage ($600).

Mark and Daniel
Here was a room that used stand mounted speakers to good effect. The sound coming from the Mark and Daniel speakers was big and dynamic, belying their smallish footprint. Along with the wide, layered stage these speakers were capable of throwing was a sense of realism and presence. The Mark and Daniel Sapphire speakers ($2,240) were driven by the Audio Zone Amp-D2 200 watt monoblocks ($2,395), Mark and daniel 6 channel Pre-6 ($2,500). Digital source was provided by a ModWright modified Sony DVT-MS9100ES ($3,500). Dynamic Design cables and power cords were used throughout this system.



Esoteric is moving beyond being known as just a CD player/DAC company. At this show they debuted their new electronics and speakers. Sound here was quite good being very detailed and effortless yet smooth and natural sounding. In this room Esoteric was showing with their MG-20 speakers ($9,500 w/base) driven by the A-100 amplifier ($18,500) and C-03 preamplifier ($9,500). Digital front end was Esoteric's P-05/D-05 and Esoteric's cables were used throughout. Powerline conditioner was by Isotek.

LSA Group
Here was another room where a smaller speaker was being used to good effect. The main attributes of the sound here were sonic openness and clarity that was both musical and involving. The speakers being used in the room were the LSA1 Statements ($2,500) which were driven by the LSA Standard integrated amplifier ($3,200). Digital source was a music server using a proprietary program written by John Tucker as well as one of John's Exemplar DACs ($8,800). Cables and interconnects were designed by John Tucker as well.


Edwin van der Kley was conducting a demo with the lively and dynamic sounding Siltech Pantheon speakers ($130,000). These speakers are solidly built at 63” tall and with a footprint of 22” (D) by 19” (W) and weigh in at 310lbs a piece. Aside from the isobaric loaded dual 16” woofers and the 7” midrange from Audio Technology, the most striking feature of the Pantheon is it's 19” by 5” electrostatic tweeter. Music was portrayed with a large amount of presence and dynamics yet, with a smooth character that had me enjoying my time in the room as I listened to track after track. The Pantheons were driven by Convergent Audio Technology's SL-1 Ultimate MkII preamp (around $7,000) and JL-2 MkII amplifier (around $17,000) with Siltech's own cabling used throughout.


Audio Design and Marketing
This room was over at T.H.E. Show and had sound as good as any room located anywhere. This no doubt was due to Bruce Jacobs ability to get the best sound out of a room with his meticulous setup skill. The remarkable thing about this room was not that Bruce had two distinct systems on display, but they both sounded very good. The sound was natural and lifelike. The sound was the type that made you stop talking so you could sit down and get into the music. I found myself, on several occasions, asking what music we were listening to because it held my attention and made me want to hear more. The first system was comprised of the German Physiks HRS-120 speakers ($28,995/pair) being driven by the magical Quadrature Z monoblock amplifiers from David Berning, and John Tucker's impressive Exemplar Reference preamplifier ($12,000). The analog front end was the TW Acoustics Raven AC turntable ($10,000) with a Triplanar tonearm and Dynavector X1 cartridge and Tron Seven phono stage ($4,000). The other system consisted of the excellent sounding Exemplar CDX-1 CD player ($6,500), the Belles Statement LA-01 Preamplifier ($6,750) and Belles MB200 monoblock amplifiers ($6,750) driving the Sonics Allegra loudspeakers ($7,800 photo above). Stereovox Reference cables were used throughout both systems with stands being provided by Stillpoints ESS ($6,500).



Laufer Teknik
This is another room over at T.H. E. Show that I visited a few times because I found myself attracted to the sound of the room. The sound possessed a smooth, airy high end with percussive dynamics and full tight low end performance that had weight and palpable images. Overall, I felt the sound was natural and enjoyed the timber displayed with vocals. This room featured the musically satisfying Ascendo C8 ($9,500), driven by the Behold BPA768 amplifier ($50,000) and Behold APU768 preamplifier/DAC ($30,000). Digital sounded emanated from the superb Nova Physics Memory Player ($11,500).