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CES

2010 CES Coverage 11

Genesis/Weiss/SOTA/SME, EAR/Marten, Vitus/Bergman/Martin, Acapella/Einstein, Tidal/Bergman/Ypsilon, Fred's Conclusions

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Genesis/Weiss/SOTA/SME

Many of the rooms sufferred from having more speaker than the room would accommodate, but not this room. The Genesis 7.1 FS speakers were a slender tower no more than 3 or 4 feet high and perhaps 8 inches wide. They were being driven by a Genesis GR 180 with MDHR amp using Genesis cabling. Source components included the superb Weiss Jason/Medea combination and a SOTA Millennium Mk III tweaked for maximum performance by the Tweak Studio. An SME Series IV.iv was mated to a Magic Diamond phono cartridge and connected to the legendary FM Acoustics 122 phono stage by Nordost Odin cabling. The sound was dynamic, detailed and particularly on vinyl, very natural.

EAR/Marten

Why is it that you know that certain rooms/manufacturers will always be creating music and not merely loud noises. I have been impressed by the care and dedication that goes into the EAR electronics. This year was no exception. While the EAR turntable and CD player were quite good, it was the Paravacini-modified, custom Technics 1500 reel-to-reel tape player that was clearly the star in this set up. It’s difficult to beat open-reel tapes played back on a professional machine. The EAR electronics was mated with a pair of newly introduced Marten Heritage Getz speakers firing down the room’s diagonal. I have always liked the Marten speakers, particularly the Coltranes but felt that their price often limited the market for them. These new speakers were quite nice at a price around $20,000. Imaging and soundstaging were very good as were dynamics and bass impact. The top-end was nicely extended.

Vitus/Bergman/Martin

This suite contained two new audio products which were being introduced at CES, the Martin Memento speaker which is essentially a scaled down single-box version of the Coltrane Supremes, and the Bergman linear air bearing turntable and tonearm. Electronics were provided by Vitus. The system benefitted from a great deal of synergy among the components. Female vocals were very nice as was top-end extension. The Vitus electronics were very tube-like in the best sense of the word.
Bergman introduced their first turntable at last year’s CES with a price around $20,000. The new table does not replace the original but represents what can be accomplished with more money. The metallic platter is between 2.5 and 3″ thick and utilizes an air bearing as well as a vacuum record hold down. It weighs 12.8 kg. The tonearm remains a captured air bearing design but the portion that holds the cartridge and moves along the bearing is now a single piece of carbon fiber which, according to the designer, results in a rather significant improvement in the sound. The arm has a new VTA mechanism which is calibrated to yield a repeatable result. The interface between the record and the platter is a polymer material whose impedance closely matches that of the record. The motor is a brushless DC design that uses a Hall sensor to regulate speed. This is a belt driven platter. The plinth is a polymer but is quite heavy at 39.8 kg. While it is virtually impossible to evaluate the turntable except as a piece of the system as a whole, I would very much like to have one to compare in my own home playback system.

The table was a prototype but the final version should be priced at around $50,000.

Acapella/Einstein

Another new product introduced at the show was the Acapella High Violoncello II speaker. As is usually the case, they were showing with Einstein electronics including their 60-watt OTL monoblocks. The Violoncello’s look was very similar to the Violons with a horn at the top above the Acapella plasma tweeter and then the woofers. The primary differences are in the number and type of woofers and the crossover. In the past, Acapella speakers have not presented a very easy load for an OTL amp to drive due to a drop in the characteristic impedance at a narrow band of bass frequencies below 2 ohms. With the Einstein OTL this has the effect of reducing the power which the amp can deliver to about 10 watts from the normally available 60 watts. The changes to the speakers have addressed this issue in two ways: a different configuration of the woofers and replacement of capacitors in the crossover with transformers. The end result is that the speaker’s impedance never drops below 5 ohms.

None of this would make any difference had the sound of the speakers not been fantastic in combination with the Einstein electronics. The room was nicely sized for the speakers. The system had excellent focus and bass impact. Transients were clear and well defined with the speakers nicely capturing the initial strike of percussion instruments. Male voice was particularly nice. The top-end was airy and extended. I can only say that those considering the Wilson Maxx 3 speakers should seriously audition the Violoncellos. Although they will not have the huge and overwhelming bass of the Wilsons, they will be much closer to the musical event.

Tidal/Bergman/Ypsilon

In this instance, the speakers were the smaller Tidal Contriva Diacera SE’s. Electronics were provided by Ypsilon, most notably their new, lower priced hybrid amps which use tubes for both the input stage ( Siemens C3g) and rectification (EZ81). This amplifier is a game changing product for Ypsilon and may well put them on a much bigger map. For a little more than a third of the price of the large Ypsilon monoblocks, they deliver 220 watts at 8 ohms, 60 of which is class A, and sonically eclipse the larger amps in every way. These amps are so good that they have resulted in a major redesign of the larger hybrids as well as the flagship all-tube monoblocks heard at last year’s CES.

Focus, imaging and depth were excellent. The top-end was extended but at the same time delicate and extremely sweet. Note that the very best sound was achieved playing records on the Bergmann Sindre turntable through the Ypsilon phonostage with the preamp set on passive mode.

Conclusions

This year’s CES was one of the best in recent memory. T.H.E. Show was considerably better than it has been in the last several years. Prices were insane, but I really did not pay much attention to prices as my primary focus was on the sights and sounds. The mood was upbeat and the economy seems finally to be improving, particularly in China and the Far East.

My initial inclination was, as in years past, to talk about the two or three rooms which, given my particular priorities, sounded the best IMHO; however, given the numerous rooms that really sounded good, this does a real disservice to those which escape mention. Instead, it seemed much more interesting to talk about the products that fired up my imagination. In no particular order, these are as follows:

1) the Ypsilon Aelius Hybrid monoblocks

2) the Bergman turntable

3) the Tidal Sunray speakers

4) the Steve Dobbins turntable and Reed tonearm

5) the EMM Labs XSD1 SACD player

6) the Lamm ML3 mono amps

7) the Audio Note (UK) Gakuon amps and M9/S9 phono preamp

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