Publisher Profile

2018 CES

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Day Three at the Venetian Tower

My first stop at the Venetian Tower was the only HiFi Company on the 30th floor. I visited with Oscar Ciornei President of Soundcast. Soundcast produces some very cool, wireless technology. They have simplified and completely updated their line for 2018. They now have one transmitter called the VGtx ($99.99) and five new speaker models VG1 ($149.99), VG3 ($299.99), VG5 ($499.99), VG7 ($799.99) and the VG10 (699.99). I listened to the VG5 and VG7 and was impressed with their performance considering their size and price. These offer lots of flexibility with both Bluetooth and long-range transmission of up to 150 feet. I have tested the old line and can confirm that is a conservative estimate. I got close to 300 feet under ideal conditions with their old systems. Also, you can stream High Res using built-in amtX low-latency.


Nothing else on the 30th so we moved down to the 29th floor, where I ran into another old friend of mine, Walter Schofield of Emotiva. They have been factory direct since their conception some years ago, but have decided this year to expand their line to a select number of dealers nationwide.

On display was their T-1 tower speakers utilizing a pair of 6.5″ woofers, a 5″ mid and a Heil ribbon tweeter on top. I spent some time listening and thought they should retail for about $2k retail per pair. I am not often wrong, but Walt explained they are only $699/pair, definitely a super value. The bass was nicely defined to below 40Hz. Their S-10 woofer wasn’t active at the time, but it is a 10″ powered by a 350W class AB amp at only $599. The main amp is called BassX A-300 stereo power amp, also a class AB at 150/ch at just $399. The PT100 preamp/tuner includes both a MM/MC phono preamp stage and a 24/96 DAC, as well as built-in Bluetooth for a stupid-low $299. Their matching CD-100 CD player is also only $299. I have to say, this is the type of product I really appreciate as they offer well-built products with great performance at a super competitive price.

Just down the hall in a short distance was HiFI Man. They were displaying their Sundora Planar Magnetic headphones, boasting a 6Hz to 75KHz frequency response and 27 ohm impedance for $499/pr. I found them comfortable, clean and extended. I listened to three different combos of their High-Res players and headphones and was impressed, as the source improved the headphones were totally transformed. I recommend if you’re planning on buying a pair of headphones of this quality and performance, don’t cheap out on your source as it makes a huge difference in what you hear.

Across the hall were NAD/PSB/Blusound and now Dali. I have always appreciated Dali’s Danish design and sound and had the opportunity to listen to their new Callisto model driven by Soundhub.  The Callisto is a self amplified, dual 6.5″ tower speaker with a 1″ dome and a ribbon super tweeter. The pair runs just under $5,700. The Soundhub Preamp uses the Blusound module for streaming 24/96 material, and has two upgradeable slots as well. I listened to Dire Straights on the system, which sounded good in HiRes, but fell short of Analog performance.

NAD was also showing their new C-558 turntable, which was developed along with out friends at Pro-ject. The table has a definite Pro-ject vibe and they are offering it for $649.

Speaking of turntables, my next stop was Clearaudio, where they were showing off their new Concept Active turntable. They have modified their beautiful Concept table by adding a phono preamp and headphone amp and mounted their excellent Concept MC cartridge. All that for $3,200 or $600 less if you opt for their MM cartridge. I was given the opportunity to listen to the table using a pair of Audez LCD-3 headphones ($2k), and hands down the best sound of the show so far. All I can say is nothing was missing!

I usually skip rooms that just show DACs, but since the sign or the door said, “ESS,” I expected to see Hiel speakers. What I discovered was ESS as in Sabre DACS. I have always liked their technology having listened to the Sabre DACs in McIntosh, Audioquest’s Dragon Fly, Oppo, Pioneer, Yamaha, Denon, Marantz, Audio Technica and Accuphase to name but a few.  We had a short conversation and moved on.

Totem was here showing off their updated Signature One. This is not a re-issue of their first speaker the Model One, but a complete re-design that pays homage to the original. I thought it sounded a lot like their Mani 2 but without the stacked woofer design. You have to give credit to Totem, they get a lot of bottom-end out of a small box!

Gary Koh President of Genesis Advanced Technologies has been busy again, but this time with electronics. He was showing his new Gold Phono ($8k) one-box M/C phono Preamp. What is totally new is he has engineered it to have the RIAA Phono EQ integrated into the amp circuitry as opposed to a separate EQ pre-amp stage. This, Gary explained, eliminates loading issues and gives you 65db of total gain with extremely low noise.

The system on display included: His update of the Model 5 now called the Maestro ($30,000/pair) driven by a Viola Integrated amp, the table was a VPI Vanquish with a Transfiguration Proteus D mounted on a Fat Boy tonearm. The phono was, of course, his new Gold Phono, and all the cables were Genesis designed.

Richard Vandersteen was also introducing new electronics. He was showing his own MS-HPA mono amplifiers for $15,000 per pair. I first met Richard at the Chicago CES in 1977 when he was introducing his original Model 2. So, we spent some time just reminiscing. I did get the opportunity to listen to some Beethoven Piano Sonatas and felt the image was properly sized, with excellent sound stage (something Vandersteen is well known for). The presentation was so realistic, I felt I could recognize the brand of the piano being played.

Pro-Ject had a number of new tables on display. Starting with their new Juke-Box E ($499.95), which is based on their Essential III with the addition of their Stereo Box built-in.

The VFE-BT had built in Bluetooth transmitter and phono pre-amp. They won a 2018 Innovation Award for its unusual design.

They were highlighting their Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra 175th Anniversary Special Edition turntable with the Ortofon Cadera MC cartridge. There are only a few tables still remaining for sale at $10,000. If you are lucky enough to actually get one, it comes engraved with your name on a special plaque.

The last new piece I saw was their new Pre-Box S-2 Digital Pre-amp ($399). It also has a Phono pre-amp built-in which makes it a pretty complete solution for many people. It supports MQA decoding with 32/768 and DSD S/2. So if you are a Tidal fan, this is a no brainer for you.

For those of you that remember Tivoli or if you’re my age, the KLH and Advent Radio Como will be a great find. This is an updated version of those old classics. When I had my retail store, I can’t tell you how many times, I would get calls from people looking for a quality Table Radio, and all I could recommend is they look for a good old Advent on the used market. Now, those people have a solution.

If you never heard the name Sandy Gross, he was one of the original partners at Polk Audio. Then he founded Definitive Technology, and a few years ago came out of a short retirement and founded Golden Ear. When I entered the room, the only thing there was a single speaker on a stand on a table with Sandy sitting close by. This is his new Digital Aktive 3 powered, wireless loudspeaker. The design includes Bluetooth and Chromecast WiFi streaming capability. The speaker was designed to be a KEF killer at $2,200/pair. It has a 6″ woofer, a pair of 8″ passive radiators and the same Heil tweeter, and is basically the top of his Titan Reference. As I said before, it was a static display so I will have to wait to hear them.

A little farther down the hall at the Venetian Hotel was the Marantz/Definitive Technology room. They were displaying their new Marantz AV8805 Pre/Pro and MM8077 separates Dolby Atmos 7.7.2 system at approximately $23,000. After months of research, I finally placed my personal order for the step-down version SR8012 AV receiver, so needless to say, I may be slightly biased. Although my speaker system will be significantly different from the Deftechs, the system was superb. Needless to say a very impressive demo.

Continuing down the hall, Kanto Audio was the next room I visited. They are a 10-year-old Canadian company demonstrating three amplified speakers. The YU2 ($249/pr) uses a 40W class D amp driving a 3″ bass driver and a 1″ dome tweeter. With its built-in soundcard, it can stream high-quality audio directly from your computer’s USB port, or connect directly to any 3.5mm AUX jack. The YU4 ($389/pr) upgrades to a 4” Kevlar® drivers and 1” silk dome tweeter and increases the amp to 140W peak and Inputs adds Bluetooth™ 4.0, RCA with Phono Preamp Switch, AUX, 2 x TOSLINK. The last model is the YU6 at $479.99/pr. Again, a larger 5.25″ Kevlar woofer and more power. I did listen to it and considering it’s size and price, I thought it to be pretty good overall.

Speaking of small powered monitors, Audioengine was next. They were introducing the 3rd generation of their speakers. They have added Bluetooth and updated DAC with APTx HD support. Their A5+is still an affordable $499/pr with their bamboo version an additional $70. They have also upgraded their remote to all aluminum. Nice touch!

News Flash! KLH has been sold to Dave Kelly (previously of Klipsch) and he is bringing back the classic KLH-9 full range electrostatic speaker. The projected price is $24,999/pair. They are also releasing an updated Model Eight table radio with updated features.

According to CTA’s press release, “5G, smart cities, AI, IoT, AR, VR shine at CES 2018 – More than 3,900 exhibitors showcased world-changing technologies that spanned more than 2.75 million net square feet of exhibit space across Las Vegas – the largest show floor in CES’ 51 year history.” So, apparently what defines consumer electronics consists of everything but what I have always thought of as electronics. Much of the innovations involved enabling control using Amazon’s Alexa or Goggle voice service.

By the mere fact that audio isn’t even mentioned, says a lot about the future of CES. I spoke with several executives from the HiFi segment and universally was told that they would either not come back to CES next year or were going to reduce their presence at the show. I said I wasn’t coming to CES at the close of the show last year, but changed my mind at the last minute and attended anyway. But sadly, because there just isn’t enough HiFi to make the trip worthwhile, I believe this is my last year at CES. I think instead, I will concentrate of venues like CEDIA, Rocky Mountain and of course CAS. I believe it is time to change the name of CES to the World Technology Show. Just a thought.

Page 3: Gallery (14 pictures)

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