CES 2014: Most Interestings of Show (part two)

[Similar to the RMAF 2013 show report – we will put the politically correct version for all ages and levels of audiophile, along with well over 1000 photos, over on Ultimist – and we will put the more opinionated report here on the blog, which we will call ‘Most Interesting of Show’, for people who are focused on Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences.]

Again, in no particular order… [if I forget to mention a brand of cable or rack, and you think it needs to be mentioned, please let us know, either here or in a personal email. Oh yeah, and anything else I got wrong? Let me know about that too 😉 (Neli does try to correct my bad grammar, but sometimes she has a hard time keeping up with my fingers when they are on their wild grammar-killing sprees)].

Nola Concert Grand Reference Gold speakers on Audio Research electronics and Nordost Odin cables. Krolodesign’s Tomo equipment rack

They were playing the reel-to-reel both times I visited this room. These are really fun and open sounding speakers and ever since our Dunlavy 4a days we both have a fondness and appreciation for this type of sound. Very much this can be a Be Here Now (or else!) kind of sound [well, at least you New Agers and Psychologists out there will know what I mean, anyway].

Unfortunately, even with the very high-bandwidth (dynamic and open) looking speakers [and Nola is known for this type of sound], and the very high-bandwidth ODIN cables [and these cables are known for their high-bandwidth as well], and, of course, nice tunes from the tape player (in many ways still the best source available), the sound here was kind of muted: the dynamics flat and harmonics blanched.

It was my impression listening to these speakers that they were extremely transparent and responsive [yummy] and it seemed that one could listen to them and hear everything going on upstream [who doesn’t love diving into the music and peering around at everything going on – the gear and the notes and the musicians and… – just like diving off a coral reef. kind of.]. I would love to hear this system using a more powerful amp, and if they are going to stick with ARC electronics [which they have for many years now, so why wouldn’t they. They used the Reference 75 amps here this year, BTW] perhaps the 200 watt ARC or larger might be fun next time. [no matter how efficient a speaker is, it does not seem to always be the whole story. The type of amp and the type of sound you want to get also comes into play in our experience].

Zanden electronics driving Magico S5 speakers

This looked to be a wonderful combination of the very musical Zanden with the very accurate Magico. However, although the Zanden seemed to drive the speakers fine [at the volume that was being played] it didn’t come off as being special in any way that we could easily gather from my two visits and Neli’s one. The digital seemed to do a better job than the analog here, but there was less excitingness than what we would have wished for.

Cessaro Chopin speakers on Electra-Fidelity and TW Acoustic
What the previous two systems missed this had in spades. Dynamics, excitement, harmonic color. Got here too late, they were packing, when Neli and I went for my second visit at the end of the show. Trying to think if there was a room with more excitingness [no, you are right. it is not a real word. but it should be, no? see a few posts back for a discussion about what this word means if you care (and can’t figure it out by context :-))].

Horns do have an advantage, I think, although the SoundLab / WAVAC system was also exciting to a degree as well [and it is an electrostatic speaker]. The Acapella (horn speaker) / Einstein system was pretty exciting when playing the TechDAS TT, but was too polite to be exciting IMHO when playing digital. Oh, the EmmLabs MTRX amps on the [sorry, but really not so great] Sony speakers was pretty much a hang-on-to-your-calm-audiophile-demeanor kick ass kind of sound, too. The Kharma room also had some good excitingness, but in a less relaxed and casual manner than this room here.

Anyway, I think this was the most exciting system at the show unless you have a hankering for a $100K TT or $130K amps [or both :-)].

This room may have even sounded this good last year, but I think they were answering a long question by an attendee when my long-suffering self got there during the photo safari part of the show. Glad I got to hear it [a little!] this year. I originally thought these were the Horning speakers. I originally thought these were Tron amps but now, although very blurry in the photos, it appears they may not be [I spent most of my camera time there photographing the cool spectacle that IS the TW-Acoustic TT (with 3 arms no less) and the speakers].

UPDATE: as per the comments: The amps were a “special edition of the Electra-Fidelity A3-500 300B amplifiers utilizing the circuit design and hand wound transformers of Jack Elliano at Electra-Print. The output transformers are wound with solid silver and the design features a proprietary low IMD circuit. Manufactured in Las Vegas, NV.”

Zellaton speakers on CH Precision
Only spent a short time here and only want to note that, although at RMAF 2013 this got some little buzz which seemed overblown at the time, this system here did do enough right that it put itself up into the top 20 or 30 or so rooms. In other words perhaps there is something going on here after all, and although it was on the list for a second visit this show, other events pushed any such visit into the realms of time-machines and the twilight zone.

Vandersteen 7 speakers, liquid-cooled M7-HPA Vandersteen high-pass amp, Aesthetix electronics, Harmonic Resolution Systems rack
The always cheerful and enthusiastic Ms. Vandersteen was searching for a particular LP when I visited here so I got to photograph the system and new amplifier without… actually… disturbing… anybody’s listening experience [yes!]. But. I also did not actually get to hear this system. [WHAT was I thinking? Sometimes I worry about my decision making processes breaking down like an old Buick in the high country]

The Vandy 7 speakers have a built-in active subwoofer and now the new Vandy amp handles the frequencies above this – providing a 100% Vandersteen-built amplification stage for the 7 speakers. Interesting idea. Neli heard this system a few times and it sounded good to her but did not call attention to itself in a way that made her consider it to be remarkable in any specific area. This could be exactly what a purist might want out of a system – someone who perhaps eschews the possibly [they would say] exaggerated audiophile attributes and / or overt musicality which others treasure dearly. [uh, this is where you, the reader, need to step up and think about what YOU want for the sound of your system]