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CES 2012-Full Coverage

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John E. Johnson Final Notes

There are a couple of things that I noticed this year's CES had lots of: One is switching amplifiers. Many companies are moving in this direction, in part because they deliver more power for less money, but also because they are efficient and high tech. The one shown above is the new Anthem M1, which, at 35 pounds, will deliver 1,000 watts RMS into 8 ohms, and 2,000 watts RMS into 4 ohms. It is a very advanced design that circumvents some of the problems that plague older designs. For one thing, it has lower distortion at high frequencies.

Here is a close-up of the heat pipe in the M1. The output devices are located underneath the copper tubing indicated by the red arrow. They get hot, and a fluid in the copper tubing evaporates, removing heat from the output devices. The vapor travels through the tubing to the area indicated by the yellow arrow, where the heat is dissipated through heat sinks, and the vapor condenses back into liquid. A wick transports the liquid back to the area by the output devices.

The second thing I noticed at the show was a proliferation of headphones, ear buds, and headphone preamplifiers. The new Bryston headphone preamp is shown above. It is equipped with special output connectors for some of the more sophisticated headphones (electrostatics, for example).

Earthquake is getting into the pro market with this high powered amplifier made for concert use. It delivers 3,000 watts RMS into 4 ohms for each of the two channels. It uses a conventional input stage and a switching output stage. It weighs 135 pounds and will cost in the range of about $2,500.

This is a view of the inside of the Levinson No. 53 switching monoblock that I reviewed some time ago. You can see the enormous power supply capacitors in the bottom two corners, and this is just one side of the amplifier. The entire circuit you see here is duplicated on the other side. I was told that some overseas customers are purchasing 5 of these at a time for use in their home theaters. That's $125,000.

Levinson also showed some new processors and preamplifiers. Very likely, we will get our hands on some of these.

Pass Labs demonstrated their new two-chassis pure Class A monoblocks. The model illustrated is the XS-150 which delivers 150 watts for each monoblock. There is also the XS-300. They are the largest (physically) power amplifiers they have ever built. They won't be available for a while.

Pathos is unique in more than just sound. Notice the clever use of their name in the design of the heat sinks. This is a new model of integrated amplifier that delivers 10 watts per channel of pure Class A sound.

Turntables continue to dominate many high end audio exhibits. This one has two tonearms, one of which is at the top of the picture and is a conventional design, while the one on the right side folds down and allows the cartridge to slide in a linear fashion across the LP.

On the video side, Vivitek had numerous projectors on display, most of which were 1,024 x 768 in resolution rather than high def. They are small, and meant for small screens with the projector sitting on a coffee table.

This Vivitek projector uses an aspherical mirror in front of the lens to project over the top of the projector and back. This allows it to be close to the screen, and yet project a large image. The spec sheet is shown below, and the specs indicate this unit is made for board room meetings with the windows not being totally blacked out.

4K and even 8K video displays were at the show, seemingly aimed at the consumer market, and with the implication that their availability is not too far off. The problem is that the latest statistics show that Blu-ray players are in only 17% of American homes, and only 23% of American homes have HDTV. The broadcast industry is still tingling from haven spent hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading their studio cameras and transmission circuits to HD. Even now, if you watch a football game in HD, it is obvious that some of the cameras are standard def, scaled to 720p. Many consumers don't even know what Blu-ray is, and don't care about high definition. It's the content that is most important, not how sharp the actor's chin whiskers are. 4K and 8K resolution are fine for commercial theaters, but I just don't see going beyond 1080p being popular as a consumer purchase.