Coverage of CES and T.H.E. Show (Las Vegas January 8-11, 2013)
After two years of not being able to attend CES and T.H.E. Show, I returned to Las Vegas in January. While attendance at CES was up, the number of exhibitor rooms at the Flamingo and the Venetian were down. There were less than forty rooms at the Flamingo and two fewer floors at the Venetian, possibly due to the economy, the high cost of showing in Las Vegas and the success of regional shows. Attendance was also down at T.H.E. Show and mixed at the Venetian tower rooms. While some exhibitors were standing room only (Magico, Lamm, larger Wilsons, Constellation, Soulution, MBL), others deserted.
As in past years, hotel rooms are not acoustically benign environments. Most equipment will sound dramatically better in your home. Likewise, it is usually difficult to sort out the sound of particular pieces in a system. If a system sounds good, you generally assume that all the components are working well; however, if the sound is less than optimal, it is often difficult to know where the problem lies. Having said that, sound in general was good and in some instances excellent.
For the sake of consistency, I tried to play portions of Rubinstein playing the Liszt Piano Concerto #1 (Triangle Concerto) (originally a Shaded Dog Living Stereo RCA recording from the early stereo era, LSC-2429, now an RCA/ BMG re-mastered set on CD) in as many rooms as possible. In some instances exhibitors were only playing their own music files or rooms were too crowded to permit this.
Think of the following comments as a walking tour of rooms which I visited, arranged by venue, essentially in the order in which I saw the rooms.
Scaena 10th Anniversary Silver Ghost speakers, VeloceLithio LS-1 preamp and Saetta Lithio mono amps, Kronos II turntable with Dynavector arm, Silver Circle: the most interesting aspect of this system was the electronics, which are battery powered and thus completely isolated from the vagaries of the power grid. Female voices were well portrayed. The sound was liquid with good depth. A recording on vinyl with Ray Brown and L. Almeida (Jet 33004) had excellent bass. Bass was generally nicely integrated with the remainder of the spectrum. On the Liszt recording, triangles were delicate and piano was reproduced realistically. The system was a touch lean to my ear and the triangle a bit forward.
Wilson Max 3 speakers, Lamm ML 3 Signature mono blocks, LL-1 Signature preamp, LP-1 Signature phono, Kubala Sosna cabling, Kronos turntable with Graham Phantom II Supreme 12” arm:this system created a huge soundstage and was tonally gorgeous. Imaging was a bit diffuse. The Liszt was clearly voiced very differently than with the Scaena speakers. Notes were very clear with excellent decay. Piano was voiced more toward the upper bass and lower midrange. While dynamics were quite nice, the horns were a touch prominent. I found myself wishing that instead of the Max 3, Wilson had used this opportunity to showcase the XLF. Given the cost of the electronics and the pre-show hype, I found myself somewhat disappointed.
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