Photos by: Jeff Dunson
2017 marked the 50th anniversary for CES, which is quite impressive. It was also an eye opener for me as I realized that I have attended almost all of them. The show has evolved a lot over the years as the CE industry has evolved – now featuring displays of drones, medical equipment, surveillance equipment, wearables (whatever they are), vehicle technology, robotics, artificial intelligence and more. Basically, if it has anything to do with electronics it was there. As a result, I am coming to the realization that I don’t think I have a lot more shows in me. I find all the “strange” stuff interesting but not related to all my years in High Fidelity. A positive note for me: this year’s CES showed more and varied new turntables and cartridges..
My approach to the show this year was to have more fun, visit with old friends and associates, and only talk about items that personally interested me. My time was limited, so I needed to be far more selective, which meant that I ended up skipping a lot of rooms from companies I felt did not represent high value for the money, companies I had never heard of, and companies that are not dedicated to high end audio. What I did see included some very innovative products and some remarkable values as well. I found some old-school products revisited, and the rejuvenation or reinvention of some areas of audio.
I had the opportunity to listen to Beyer’s T1 Tesla Hi-Fi circumaural headphones ($1,099), a semi-open design driven by their A2 headphone amp ($1,499). These are typical of what I expect from Beyer: super comfortable, great sounding and very well built headphones. This model places the driver forward in the ear cup (similar to several of the STAX designs), so I expected the image to move forward. Regrettably, that did not happen and the sound remained within my head. The phones retail for $1,099 and definitely represent an excellent example of high-end phone technology. I would like to compare them to other similarly priced phones before I make an ultimate evaluation, but, for now, they do sound very good.
Swan was showing many of the same speakers I have seen before. If I had to guess I would say Swan’s theme for the show was “Over the Top Speakers.” Last year they displayed a prototype of the largest Bluetooth speaker I had ever seen, the MS-2, which is now in production. The MS-2 looks like it was engineered by B&O in Denmark. The MS-2 supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and line input signal sources, which means it can support both mobile devices (phones and tablets) and traditional line-level audio components as sources. At the top is a module with a pair of 5” 2 way speakers mounted in a mid-range/tweeter module with the drivers angled slightly, driven with 140w of power. The bottom houses a 10” long throw woofer with its own 150w amp. I would have thought that the $4,995 price tag was insane until I saw the Sonus Faber Bluetooth speaker. If you have the money and are looking for the ultimate in its class, this may be the speaker for you.
Swan was also showing two pairs of over the top in-wall speakers. The OW-8 has dual 8” woofers, dual 6.5” mids, 4 ribbon tweeters and a pair of dome super tweeters, priced at $7,000 per pair. The second was a scaled-down version for $4,500 per pair. Both are designed to fit between standard stud spacing and they look really good, but regrettably this was a static display, so I can’t talk about the sound.
Swan was also showing their $41,000 2.8 towers at the Venetian Hotel, but I didn’t get the opportunity to hear them when I got there. But I have heard them before and would classify them in the same general class as Genesis Technology’s Genesis 2 series speakers, the Nola Reference speakers, and some of the Wilson Audio products, but at a fraction of the price. I guess there is an advantage to building in Asia.
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