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CES 2014 Show Coverage

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Robert Kozel Show Coverage

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CES Final Day Report - Robert Kozel

I started my day at the Las Vegas Convention Center with a very quick visit to the North Hall. I typically don't get time to visit this hall which has a lot of the automotive technology and countless companies showing accessories for phones and tablets.

Even in the North Hall there were companies showing the ever-popular headphone. Here are some products from California Headphone.

While we don't cover the car audio world, there was an incredible array of audio products to turn your vehicle into a mobile dance club. Here is just a quick sampling of two of the amazing cars on display. I hope they come with ear plugs.

The Pioneer booth had the flagship Elite SC-79 AV receiver on display. The SC-79 was a CES 2014 design and engineering honoree.

You see many companies at CES trying creative approaches to get your attention. Check out this display. It looks like something out of a Bond movie.

I made my way over to the Central Hall and was amazed at the throngs of people. The crowd at the Venetian had seemed particularly light the last two days with so many people being delayed due to the arctic freeze earlier in the week. The shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at the LVCC were intense and popular booths like Samsung and LG were very difficult to get around. Here's a look at the Samsung floor.

On the audio side of things, Sony was highlighting their high-resolution audio products. Here is the NWZ-ZX1 high-resolution Walkman. It features Sony DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) processing which upsamples incoming signals to near high-resolution quality. The NWZ-ZX1 supports 24-bit/192 kHz high-resolution audio formats such as FLAC and it will support DSD. Pricing and availability are yet to be announced.

Sony was featuring live performances by Elaine Faye and the Big Bang to showcase high resolution audio recording.

Sony was recording the live performances on the Sony PCM-D100 linear PCM recorder which retails for $999. The PCM-D100 is one of Sony's professional recording products and it records in linear PCM at 24/192 kHz and DSD at 2.8224 MHz.

After a live three-song set by Elaine Faye and the Big Bang, the audience was invited to come into an adjoining room and hear the same performance played back from the DSD file recorded by the PCM-D100. The file was played using Sony's HAP-Z1ES high-resolution audio player. I have to say that the demo really left something to be desired. Elaine's vocals were drowned out by the sound of her band, and it really didn't sound like the performance that I had just heard. When I asked about that, I was told that I wasn't listening to the performance that just took place but rather to a recording that had been made earlier in the week. While I can understand not wanting to have any technical difficulties in a demo, I felt that Sony was cheating the audience with this approach. The Sony rep handed me a PCM-D100 and a pair of headphones and I was able to listen to the recording of the performance that I had just heard. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Elaine's great vocals coming through as I remembered them.

Sony was also showing their UDA-1 USB DAC amplifier. It supports the DSEE processing engine and supports ALAC, FLAC, LPCM up to 24/192 kHz and DSD 2.8 MHz and 5.6 MHz.

Sony was showing the PHA-2 portable amplifier. It supports ALAC, FLAC, LPCM up to 24/192 kHz and DSD 2.8 MHz and 5.6 MHz. The PHA-2 has three USB inputs and features a high quality PCM1795 DAC. The PHA-2 will retail for $699 and will be available in March.

The Moneual booth was very creative and featured lots of personal robots to keep your home clean.

A major theme at the show was connectivity to your automobile. Samsung was showing Galaxy Gear watches that interfaced with the BMW i3. The same type of connectivity was also being shown at the Intel booth.

The stars of the show were the stunning 4K UHD displays like this 85" beauty from Samsung.

Here is a gorgeous 98" 4K IPS display from LG.

Just in case you had any doubts that 4K would be immediately followed by 8K, here is a 98" 8K (QUHD) display from Samsung.

There were numerous booth displays addressing the concern of available content for your 4K television. Sony highlighted that Netflix would be streaming in 4K in the first half of 2014. Sony also highlighted working with YouTube on delivering 4K content in Google's VP9 video compression format.

Samsung was showing some pretty amazing upscaling technology on their UHD displays. In this demo, you could almost make out the book titles in the upscaled image. The whole goal of the technology is to make sure your existing content can look great on that new 4K UHD television.

While all the major players like Samsung, LG, Sharp, Toshiba and Panasonic had 4K UHD, OLED and curved televisions on display, there was also plenty of competition from other brands like HiSense, Konka, and Changhong. In case you don't recognize the name, Changhong is a major Chinese electronics company that was founded in 1958.

The curved televisions were beautiful but I am not convinced that it is the right solution for every room. The argument is that the curved displays provide a more immersive viewing experience. It definitely depends on screen size and seating position. With these 105" 21:9 panoramic televisions from Samsung and LG, an immersive picture should never be a problem.

As I was leaving the LVCC, this vintage Crosley convertible coupe caught my eye. Crosley was showing their lineup of portable turntables. Many models would not only play your vinyl but let you record from vinyl to digital via USB.

After a very long day, Piero, Cynthia and I enjoyed a fantastic meal at Brand Steakhouse at the Monte Carlo. The steaks were Tomahawk ribeyes and they were worth fighting over.

CES Wednesday's Report - Robert Kozel

The Vitus Audio suite was using this gorgeous red Da Vinci DAC from Light Harmonic. The Da Vinci DAC was used in many of the high-end rooms this year.

The Vitus Audio demo room was also using the Sinfo power distribution unit (a.k.a. power strip) from Fono Acustica. The power strip's conductors are made from precious metals. The Sinfo retails for $10K.

AVM-TEC was showing the Alluxity Pre One preamp. The Pre One features five inputs, two outputs, and a dedicated bypass output. The Pre One uses two gain stages per channel and uses a relay-based volume control. The Pre One is modular in design allowing for future upgrades.

Krell was showing their new iBias high-efficiency Class A amplifiers. Krell says the iBias technology eliminates crossover distortion allowing for performance that rivals a traditional Class A amplifier while being more energy-efficient than Class G and H designs. The iBias circuitry monitors the amplifier's output transistors and instantly adjusts the power (or bias) based on demand. This results in much less power being wasted and it reduces heat.

The Krell Chorus amplifier is 200W/channel and comes in a 5 channel version for $7,500 and a seven channel version for $9,500.

The Krell Solo monoblock amps come in two models. The Solo 375 is 375W for $8,750 and the Solo 575 is 575W for $11,250.

The Krell Duo is a two channel amplifier and it also comes in two models. The Duo 175 is 175W/channel and the Duo 300 is 300W/channel.

Krell also built-in network monitoring and control into the new amps. This allows a customer or dealer to monitor the amp and check things like channel temperature and fan operation. Krell was showing a simple iPad app to monitor the Duo 300 in the demo room.

Kharma International was showing the new Kharma Elegence DB11-S speakers which won an innovation award for design and engineering at CES 2014.

Focal was showing their new Dimension sound bar and subwoofer system. The Dimension has five ultra-thin speakers which allows the sound bar to have a very shallow depth. The optional subwoofer can be used as a stand for the display. The Dimension sound bar and subwoofer deliver 450W/channel for a 5.1 speaker system. The Dimension sound bar lists for $1,199 and the optional subwoofer is $499.

Here's some beautiful gear from PrimaLuna.

Antelope Audio was featuring renowned Audio Mastering Engineer Doug Sax as a guest speaker. Doug was gracious to share some of his insights into the history of the recording industry and into the resurgence of vinyl records. Doug is the CEO of The Mastering Lab which is entering its 47th year of business. The Mastering Lab will be releasing a series of limited edition LP records of music from their choosing which will represent all that the vinyl format has to offer. The limited edition records will be pressed at Chad Kassem's Quality Record Pressing facility in Salinas, Kansas.

Antelope Audio had the Rubicon on display. The Rubicon is a 384 kHz digital audio preamplifier with a Rubidium atomic clock. On top of the Rubicon is a gold-plated stepped-relay volume-attenuator which provides very accurate stereo balance at low volumes.

Antelope Audio is now shipping the Zodiac Platinum DAC and Voltikus power supply. The Platinum DAC uses an ultra-low jitter USB for streaming up to DSD128 and 384 kHz PCM. The Platinum DAC also upsamples lower-rate DSD to DSD256. The Zodiac Platinum DAC retails for $5000.

This is the new A6 speaker from Angel Sound which took three years to develop. A pair will cost you $65,000.

The S8 speakers from Angel Sound can be ordered in your favorite color.

This beauty is the prototype of the new Dan D'Agostino integrated amplifier. Pricing is estimated to be around $45,000. The integrated amplifier's internal components are connected to a thick layer of copper which is then sandwiched against a layer of aluminum to create a gorgeous and extremely functional heat sink.

Estelon was showing their X Diamond speakers which are $69,900/pair. They were powered by Chord Electronics SPM 14000 monoblock amplifiers which are $86,000 each.

Here's the Chord Electronics CPA 800 preamplifier which retails for $45,000.

Silverline Audio was showing their Bolero Supreme ($15,000/pair) and the Minuet Supreme Plus ($699/pair).

Silverline Audio was also showing their Grandeur Mk II which retails for $24,000/pair. I enjoyed taking a break for a few minutes and listening to some classic James Taylor tracks on this beautiful system.

Scandyna was showing these creative Podspeakers. The speakers support Bluetooth and atpX streaming technology.

Velodyne was showing off their vFree headphones which come in a variety of styles to suit your tastes or wardrobe. The speaker covers are removable and you can even create your own personal design.

These 1500 watt Class A/B monoblock amplifiers from EMM Labs are $130,000/pair.

This is the demo room for Triode Corporation, Acoustic Zen Technologies and Kronos Audio.

The demo system used the Kronos Audio Sparta turntable ($21,500) with the Helena tonearm ($6,500).

The system was powered by a pair of Triode TRX-M845 monoblock amplifiers which retail for $22,500 each. The system sounded fantastic for what some might consider a more budget friendly (approximately $100K) approach to the high-end audio world.

These are the Pari Passu Caprice speakers ($35,000/pair) from Emilai, Inc. The speakers are made in Japan and are covered in hand stitched non-synthetic leather.

NAD was showing the new M12 Direct Digital preamp DAC. It retails for $3,499.

psb Speakers was showing the Alpha 1-100 sub/sat system which retails for $499.

Here is some beautiful gear from LA Audio.

WiSA was showing the latest developments in high-end wireless speakers. The demo room was using a complete system from Bang & Olufsen. The speakers were BeoLab 17 compact speakers, BeoLab 18 audio columns, and a BeoLab 19 subwoofer. The multi-channel demo was transmitting wirelessly using a transmitter in the Bang & Olufson television. The demo was very convincing and sounded excellent, all without any speaker wires.

Cary Audio Design was showing their new DMS-500 high-resolution media streamer. The DMS-500 supports AptX Bluetooth, USB hard drives and memory sticks, internet radio, and DLNA. It has a full complement of analog XLR and RCA outputs as well as DAC inputs so you can connect legacy digital products. The DMS-500 supports 32-bit/384 kHz streaming and it supports DSD64. It retails for $4,995 and will be available in Q2 2014

Here's the new Astell & Kern AK240 portable media player. It uses a dual Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC with integrated amplifier. The AK240 supports DSD128 and up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM audio. It has 256 GB of internal storage and has one microSD card slot. Pricing was not available.

McIntosh was showing their new MHA 100 headphone amplifier.

It wouldn't be CES without seeing some of the ultra high-end audio rooms at the Venetian. Magico was showing The Ultimate horn speaker. These enormous speakers are $600,000/pair!!

The last stop of the day was a trip to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to visit Harmon. As was the case with many companies this year, Harmon decided to consolidate all of their products into one area offsite from the convention center. The show floor was beautiful and gave a great perspective on all the Harmon product areas from automotive to high-end audio.

Here's the Mark Levinson NO 585 2x200W integrated amplifier with DAC. It will be priced at $12,000 and should be available in summer of 2014. The network connection on the rear panel is used for control purposes.

This is the Mark Levinson MC-14 Surround Processor. It is a 7.1 channel processor and will be priced at $10,500 with availability in summer of 2014.

As I was leaving the Harmon show floor, I spotted Secret's Editor-in-Chief Dr. John Johnson.

That's it for today. I am off the Las Vegas Convention center tomorrow.

CES Tuesday's Report - Robert Kozel

As I checked the departure displays at the airport on Monday evening, I was concerned that I might never make it from Cleveland to Las Vegas for the 2014 Consumer Electronic Show. The deep arctic freeze that gripped much of the country earlier this week had cancelled so many flights.

After hours of delay, the plane left the subzero temperatures behind and I was finally on my way. It was so nice to walk to the Venetian on Tuesday morning and take in the sights of Vegas under bright blue skies and warm temperatures.

The show opened this morning and I spent my day covering the Venetian. Paradigm was showing the Soundscape 42" five-channel powered soundbar. The Soundscape has three 1" satin-anodized pure-aluminum dome tweeters and four 4" polypropylene cone woofers. It has a built-in amplifier which supports 7 channels at 50 watts peak / 25 watts RMS. The Soundscape is $1,499 and should be available this January.

Here's the Soundscape without the grill.

Paradigm was showing the updated Soundtrack 2 System which includes a very thin powered soundbar and wireless subwoofer. The Soundtrack 2 System now includes support for Bluetooth and aptX streaming. The Soundtrack 2 System has one 1" satin-anodized pure-aluminum dome tweeter and one 4" composite cone woofer. It has a built-in amplifier which supports 2 channels at 50 watts peak / 25 watts RMS. The Soundtrack 2 System is $899 and should be available in January.

Paradigm was showing the updated Millennia CT 2 speaker system. The Millennia CT 2 offers a new onboard control interface, support for Bluetooth and aptX streaming, Dolby Digital and a redesigned remote. The Millennia CT 2 has one 1" satin-anodized pure-aluminum dome tweeter, one 4" satin-anodized pure-aluminum cone woofer, a built-in amplifier which supports 2 channels at 40 watts RMS, and a 80 watt RMS subwoofer. The Millennia CT 2 System is $849. An existing Millennia CT system can be upgraded to a CT 2 for $149. Both the CT 2 and the upgrade should be available in February 2014.

The new Anthem MRX receivers were on display. They were introduced back in September at CEDIA 2013 and all three models are available now. The second generation MRX receivers offer an enhanced version of Anthem's Room Correction called ARC 1M and offer support for 4K video upscaling and 4K pass-through.

Here's the rear-panel of the MRX 710 which supports 7 channels. The MRX 710 amplifier is rated at 120 W (2 channels driven) and 90 W (5 channels driven). The MRX 710 retails for $1,999.

The MRX 510 is $1,599 and supports 7 channels. The MRX 510 amplifier is rated at 100 W (2 channels driven) and 75 W (5 channels driven).

The MRX 310 is $1,199 and supports 5 channels. The MRX 310 amplifier is rated at 80 W (2 channels driven) and 60 W (5 channels driven).

Martin Logan was showing the new Crescendo wireless stereo speaker. It supports AirPlay and Bluetooth and uses two Folded Motion tweeters. It is available in gloss black and walnut. The Crescendo is priced at $899.95 and will be available in the first quarter of 2014.

Martin Logan was showing a preview of a new Motion speaker with a larger Folded Motion driver. Pricing is estimated in the $3,000 - $3,500 range.

GoldenEar Technology was showing their new Triton One flagship speaker. Each Triton One speaker uses a high velocity folded ribbon tweeter, dual cast-basket 5-1/4" midrange drivers, three 5" x 9" quadratic ultra-long throw sub-bass drivers, four 7" x 10" quadratic planar infrasonic radiators, and a built-in 1600 watt ForceField Subwoofer amplifier. The Triton One speakers are priced at $2,499.99 each and will be available in the spring. The demo system sounded very nice with a large, detailed soundstage and excellent bass response. I look forward to spending much more time listening to the Triton One speakers in the future.

GoldenEar Technology was also showing the SuperCinema 3D Array XL. The 3D Array XL uses interaural crosstalk cancellation to create the performance of discrete speakers. The 3D Array XL uses three high velocity folded ribbon tweeters and eight cast-basket 4-1/2" midrange drivers. The demo was very convincing and was unique from the perspective that it started with showcasing the stereo performance of the array before moving on to movies. The 3D Array XL is priced at $1,499.99.

Tri-Art Audio was showing some of their unique designs. The cabinetry of the products is constructed from bamboo and the product names definitely bring back fond memories of the FlintStones. Here are the Bam Bam mini monitors. They retail for $1,600 for a pair.

The Tri-Art Audio Bam Bam mini monitors can be expanded to include a 5" base box ($1,650 for a pair) as well as a 7" subwoofer base box ($3,200 for a pair).

Here is the beautiful Tri-Art Audio Pebbles turntable. It retails for $1,295.

In case you were wondering, Tri-Art Audio makes a complete line of Bam Bam components including a passive pre-amp ($1,295), amplifier ($1,995) and integrated amplifier ($1,750).

Bryston was showing their new BUC-1 USB converter. It has an asynchronous USB input that supports up to 192 kHz / 24 bit, outputs for S/PDIF (RCA and BNC), and an AES/EBU XLR output. It retails for $749.

Atlantic Technology was showing a new prototype soundbar which made use of small 2" drivers and their H-PAS bass technology. The soundbar sounded very good in the demo. No news yet on pricing and product name.

Arcam was showing their top of the line AVR 750 receiver which has Class G amplification, seven HDMI inputs and support for 4K upscaling and pass-through. The amplifier operates in Class A mode most of the time but can deliver extra power whenever needed for demanding music and movie soundtracks. The AVR 750 amplifier is rated at 120 W (2 channels continuous output) and 100 W (7 channels driven).

Arcam was showing this very tiny Bluetooth DAC called miniBlink. It has an audiophile-grade Burr- Brown/TI PCM5102 24-bit DAC and supports aptX streaming technology. It will be available in Q1 2014.

ENIGMAcoustics was showing their Sopranino electrostatic super tweeters. The Sopranino is a fully passive design which is intended to extend the high frequency harmonics of an existing speaker. A pair runs $3,690 and comes in an elaborate box.

ENIGMAcoustics was also showing their new Mythology M1 compact full-range speakers. The speakers use custom made drivers which are then paired with the Sopranino electrostatic super tweeter. The speakers sounded great in the demo and retail for $15,000 a pair.

Stymax International Co. was showing their oBravo HAMT-1 over-ear headphones. Stymax says that the oBravo HAMT-1 headphones are the first to incorporate a folded ribbon tweeter.