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CES

2012 CES, Part IX

Magico, Boulder, Hansen Audio/Tenor Audio/Kubala-Sosna/Critical Mass Systems, Clearaudio, MBL, Marten Design, Audia Flight, DEQX, Furutech, Dynaudio, Air Tight/Franco Serblin, Sorasound/Classic Audio Loudspeakers, Scientific Fidelity

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Magico

There are two things that more than meets the eye with the all new Magico Labs Q7 loudspeakers. First of all, the company’s flagship, all-aluminum 4-way speaker weighs a lot heavier than they look. They are a hefty 750 lbs each! Although made mostly of aluminum, the chassis was not extruded from a single piece of metal. It is held together by over 100 pieces of aluminum, copper and steel, held together by hundreds of fasteners. Secondly, the price of this flagship model has increased substantially compared with the previous Q5 model ($59,950). If only my stock portfolio can have the same price increase percentage as these speakers, then I could probably afford an upgrade every year. The Q7 is priced at $165,000 per pair. I am still debating with my wife whether we should buy a condominium or a pair of speakers.
Sensitivity is rated at 94 dB which means they can easily be driven by almost any amplifier. The Q7 will be available towards the latter part of 2012.

Boulder

Behold, the all new Boulder 3050 mono power amplifier. The 3050 is capable of delivering 1,500 watts of continuous power into any load, peak power output is a staggering 6,000 watts. If you look at the chassis carefully, you will not find a single piece of fastener. That’s because the chassis is machined out of a single block of aluminum. Each 3050 unit weighs a hefty 380 lbs each, and will set you back $180,000/pr. If you need an excuse to buy them, you can always tell your wife you needed a giant paper weight, and don’t forget you’re not buying the Condo.

The back of the unit reveals that the 3050 will likely require a 30-amp outlet.

Hansen Audio / Tenor Audio / Kubala-Sosna / Critical Mass Systems

I went to this room three times for no reason other than the fact that it was one of the nicest sounding room at the CES. If not the best sounding, it is certainly ranked up there with the very best in my book.

The Hansen Emperor E ($69,000) is hand build in Richmond Hill, Canada. The factory is located not more than 20 minutes from where I live. They sure made me proud to be a Canadian.

The Emperor E is a 6-driver, 3-way floor standing speaker using Hansen’s proprietary hand assembled drivers. The speakers have a backward firing tweeter. The woofers and drivers are designed, assembled and made at the Hansen factory. Nominal impedance for the speakers are 6 ohms, with a sensitivity of 89 dB. The pair on display has a real leather finish from top to bottom. They weigh 485 lbs in their crates.

The Tenor 350M Monoblocks were hooked up to the Hansen speakers. The 350 are a dual mono, dual chassis, 350W OTL (Output Transformerless) amplifier. The solid cherry front panel has 16 coats of piano lacquer painted onto them.

Jim Fairhead (President, Tenor Audio) was giving me a walkthrough of all their equipment. The Tenor Line 1 Preamplifier sits on top of the accompanying Power 1 unit. The dual mono, dual-chassis preamp retails for $75,000.

Another interesting piece which caught my eye is the all new Tenor Phono 1 phono stage ($50,000). Very little information was provided, other than the fact that it will soon be released. I would love to demo one of these in my own setup; again for the 45th time, honey we are definitely not buying the condominium.

Clearaudio

New from Clearaudio is the Master Innovation turntable ($26,000). Nope, you cannot play 2 LPs simultaneously with the bottom platter. The bottom platter spins and drives the top platter. The top platter is completely detached from any motor drive, and is decoupled from the bearing by a magnetic field. The cartridge is Clearaudio’s top-of-the-line Goldfinger Statement which retails for $15,000.

MBL

The MBL 101 X-Treme speakers ($260,000) always command a lot of attention at the CES. The sheer physical size of the Radialstrahler and the accompanying woofer tower projects a magnificent soundfield which extends beyond the physical boundaries of the already large exhibit room. No one will challenge the fact that they are the most exotic and the most unique speakers at the CES.

Ready for shipment in March, is the new Corona Line of MBL equipment:

MBL C31 CD Player – $9,200.
MBL C11 Preamplifier – $8,800.
MBL C51 Integrated Amplifier – $11,100.
MBL C21 Power Amplifier – $9,200.
MBL 116F Speakers – $32,000 / pr

Marten Design

The Django is the new model from Marten Design for 2012. Three bass drivers per unit are combined with a ceramic tweeter and a ceramic mid-range made by Accuton. As in the more expensive Coltrane models, the Django has a level control for bass response. Sensitivity is rated at 89 dB and impedance dips to 4 ohms. The Django retails for $15,000 USD.

Audia Flight

Italian manufacturer Audia Flight showcased two new products this year. The Strumento n◦4 Reference Power Amplifier ( $25,000), featuring a full balanced circuitry with 200W per channel output. The Strumento n◦1 Reference Preamp ($16,400) is also a fully balanced design which comes with an optional 24bit/192kHz card.

DEQX

Australian company DEQX (pronounced “Dex”) gave me a full demonstration to their new HDP-4 Speaker/Room Calibration Preamp Processor. The demo system comprised of:

· New DEQX HDP-4 Preamp Processor
· Paraound Halo Power amplifier
· Gallo Acoustics Reference 3A Speakers
· Integra Multi format Disc player / Music Server

The HDP-4 is actually a multi-function device housed in a single box. It is a fully functional preamplifier unit with remote control. It is a 24bit/192kHz capable DAC driven by the latest generation Burr-Brown 32bit DACs, a Cirrus Logic ADC converter, together with upsampling and reclocking features. It is a room correction device which allows you to measure your room’s main listening position. It is also a speaker correction device which allows you to anechoically measure and correct your passive speaker’s frequency response, and even time align them with one or two subwoofers. The HDP-4 can also function as an active crossover capable of handling driver correction. You will get all these functions in a single chassis which retails for $4,995.

I purposefully sat at the back row of the room which was also raised slightly on a balcony position. I was given the remote control to toggle between 4 settings which had been programmed into the demo unit. With the HDP-4 in bypass mode, there was no room or speaker correction and the unit was simply function as a preamp. In this mode, I thought the music sounded decent but the soundstage was somewhat narrow. The voice was projected from a somewhat low position, as if it was coming from the floor.

I switched to the second programmed position which added speaker-only correction, I immediately noticed a different frequency response to the speaker. The boomy bass presentation was completely cleaned up, the stereo image became much cleaner and more focused.

When I switched over to the third programmed position with both speaker and room correction optimized for the front row seats, I noticed the holographic image improved further. The voice solidified even more and became focused in the center, although the height remained low and incorrect.

Finally, I switched to the fourth program which optimizes the room and the speaker for the specific spot where I was sitting. It became apparent that everything came together. The voice was projected from the right height, it was focused and carried weight and a proper spatial dimension. I was thoroughly impressed! The HDP-4 is indeed a powerful little box.

The HDP-4 is software controlled, and in order to achieve the right results the room must be measured and calibrated with a microphone. For those of you who like me, are unsure about navigating through the complexity of the machine, DEQX offers an online remote access system where they can help you setup everything through your computer.

The HDP-X will be available in the spring of 2012.

Furutech

Furutech is one of the greatest success stories in the audio accessories market. The company was little known 10 years ago, but it has now become one of the biggest players in the accessories market, taking market shares from companies such as WBT and Wattgate. For the past couple of years, I have witnessed a steady increase in the number of manufacturers which uses Furutech connectors in their products.

As I reported in my TAVES show coverage, Furutech introduced the Cruise Portable 24bit/192kHz Headphone Amplifier. Now at the CES, they introduced improved version of the product called the ADL Esprit DAC and Digital Preamplifier ($999). The Esprit combines a 24/192 kHz Wolfson Dac and a 24/192 kHz Asahi Kasei ADC which allows users to record and playback from hard disk in both analog/digital inputs. The product will be available in a couple of months.

Dynaudio

Moving onto my favourite brand of speakers, which of course is none other than Dynaudio. I say this with reasons. First of all, I have owned a pair of the Evidence Temptations for many years and to this day, I have yet to find another pair of speakers within my budget which are good enough to entice me to replace them. Secondly, my loyalty to the brand has been reinforced by the excellent service which I have received from the factory.

In August of last year, a problem had developed with three of the drivers on my pair of Temptations. Knowing full well that they could be out of warranty, I contacted Emilios Mandalios of Dynaudio to see if they can be repaired. “Send all the drivers down to me, and let me see what I can do”, said Emilios.

Three weeks later, I received 8 new drivers for my Temptations at no charge. “Covered under warranty”, said he. Talk about a company which takes care of their customers. At the CES, I made the point of hunting down Emilios to personally thank him for taking care of my speakers. Sure enough, I found the man and I happily shook hands with him, expressing my gratitude to their service.

The Evidence line of speakers has been out on the market for many years, I was hoping to see Dynaudio come up with some sort of a Top of the Line replacement for the Temptations and the Masters. Unfortunately, I will have to wait a bit longer. This year, their new product is the “Xeo”, the world’s first remote wireless active loudspeakers. They come in 2 models, the Xeo 3, and the Xeo 5.

The Xeo 3 bookshelf speakers will be priced at $2,300/pr, and the Xeo 5 will be at $4,500/pr. Both models come standard with a remove transmitter and a remote control. An internal amplifier with a 50W output will power each of the speakers.

The transmitter unit offers 4 input choices:

· Minijack for iPod, iPad, iPhone or an MP3 player
· RCA Inputs for Audio systems, TV, DVD Player, or Docking stations
· TOSlink for Apple Airport Express, Logitech Squeeze Box, Sonos, CD Player, Docking stations
· USB for Mac, PC, Laptop or Notebook

This is God’s answer to my prayers. I have a system in my living room, my dining room, my bedroom, my basement, and my study. Now, with the remote wireless access, I can finally place a pair of speakers in my bathroom driven by nothing other than my iPhone!

Air Tight / Franco Serblin

Over at the Air Tight room, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Atsushi Miura (founder and designer) who introduced me to their new ATM-3011 Monoblock Amplifier.

The ATM-3011 ($60,000) is a 6550-based tube amplifier capable of delivering 200 watts per channel with only six 6550 tubes. The rest of the system consists of Franco Serblin Ktema speakers ($39,995/pr), the Air Tight ATC-2 Preamplifier, the ATE-2 Phono stage, the ATH-2A Reference Step-up Transformer. Analog source was the Transrotor Fat B S Turntable, an Audiocraft AC-3300 Tonearm and the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme phono cartridge.

Sorasound / Classic Audio Loudspeakers

Over at the Home Entertainment Show (T.H.E Show), I met up with Mehran Farahamd of Sorasound who showcased his Amazon Model One turntable ($8,995) with a Triplanar arm and a ZYX Omega cartridge.

The system was paired up with the Classic Audio Loudspeaker’s T-1.4 Reference ($37,500 apprx). The T-1.4 utilize field coil magnets to energize the components.

Scientific Fidelity

My visit to the Scientific Fidelity is the most usual one encountered at the T.H.E. They have some of the most interesting products on display but unfortunately they have no product brochures, no information, no product list, no press kit, no prices, and nobody that speaks English inside the room. In my opinion, that’s money not well spent on the part of the exhibitor. I supposed we can only admire and gaze upon their inventions.

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