CES (Consumer Electronics Show)
T.H.E. Show

Las Vegas
January 5th, 2006

Track 2

The Metal Sound Design, Planet Diamond room

The Von Gaylord room

The Pass Labs room

The Siltech room

The Shunyata / Powersnakes* room

The HRS* room

The Kharma, MBL room (1st pass) room

The little Audio Note U.K.* room

The Kharma, ASR room (1st pass) room

The Lamm*, Wilson room

The Halcro, Classic Audio Reproductions room

... and more.

* Denotes a product carried by Audio Federation


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All pictures in this report are freely copyable and distributable.

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Metal Sound Design presented a number of their innovative speakers designs at CES this year. Planet 'Diamond' huh? Certainly not planet Earth, I tell you what. Obviously a lot of Accuton ceramic and diamond drivers are used in their speakers. The sound in here was OK - but didn't investigate too far, ....we carry enough weird speakers.

Bet you were also wondering what those bars in front of the woofer does to the sound...










The transport and DAC is from RDOT - Refined Digital Output Technology





Just a few more pictures of the speaker




















The second room of the Metal Sound Design suite had a smaller system, as is usual in these kinds of setups at the Alexis Park. As you can see there is a monitor version of their full-range speaker next door.





 A closeup of the monitor loudspeaker.





This is a speaker also. The canister contains what looks to be a downward firing woofer, and the flower contains the tweeter. No, we didn't get to hear what it sounded like.










Plitron from Verderveen - The OPUS-1 iPod amplifier. OK, this is on the need-to-have list, which although is a very long list, only contains the most primo things available.





This system wasn't sounding good yet, but they had a pair of oil-filled 200 watt triode amps for $59,000 (set of 4 pieces). These types of systems, where you have outrageously expensive electronics driving modestly priced (Legend? Triangle? Neliiiii, I forget the name of these, didn't they change their name a few years ago?) speakers, are great to show off the speakers. But for me, al lI heard was the speakers, which, although interesting a their price point, is not what I would be driving with $60K (excuse me, $59K) amps.




More pictures of the amps. There was hot things (tubes?)  in that liquid and you could see eddies in the as the hotter fluid moved up and away from the heat source. If you squinted real hard you could swear these eddies were really fish swimming around in there. Maybe next year...

















Close-up of the Von Gaylord UN1 Signature Model amplifier





Pass Labs has some (new) speakers




More pictures of the Pass Labs Prototype speakers...












Cooling fins? That means it is either an active speaker or they use a minimal crossover that gets really hot like the Sonus Faber Extrema.





Pass Labs has more than one speaker. I like the one in the center the best of the two - I do not care how it sounds.





Close-up of largest Pass Labs speaker. What makes all these manufacturers think they have the expertise, or even have the desire to, branch out into other areas of the sonic food chain? Pass Labs is just one of dozens doing it. That said, these speakers look massive and impressive.














Stack of Pass Labs amplifiers, on static display.





Siltech Cable display





Siltech Cable display




Siltech Cable display





Siltech Cable display




Siltech Cable display




Shunyata* / Powersnakes display.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display. The newish Orion speaker cable guts.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display. The Anaconda power cord guts.





Shunyata / Powersnakes display. The Python power cord guts.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display. The Taipan power cord guts.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display. The front of the Hydra M-8.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display. The rear of the Hydra Model-4 power distributor.





Shunyata / Powersnakes display. The front of the Hydra Model-4 power distributor.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display. The front AND rear of the Hydra Model-2 power distributor.





Shunyata / Powersnakes display. The line of Guardian power distributors.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display. Their mains outlet.









Shunyata* / Powersnakes display. The Aries single-ended and balanced interconnects.





Shunyata* / Powersnakes display. The innards of the Orion, Andromeda and Gemini speaker cables.





The Lyngdorf room.





The new HRS* (Harmonic Resolution Systems) MX-R equipment rack in gloss black. Yow! Hard to keep my hands from stroking this thing. Nice racky, don't you wanna come home with Mike & Neli?




Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS*) room. Displaying a few of the sizes of their M3 isolation base.





Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS*) room. The new racks from HRS now come apart for easy transport. Now you not only have mass, required for optimal vibration control, but convenience.





Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS*) room. More pictures displaying how the racks can be disassembled.





There is also an inexpensive assembly that goes on top of the rack here to support things like a large turntable or our extra large, 2-piece HRS Isolation Base for the Brinkmann Balance turntable.








Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS*) room Nimbus Couplers (go under things) and Damping plates (go on top of things)




One last look at the rack *sigh*.





The new Kharma Mini Exquisites. Very nice sounding, delicate and detailed and musical on a just quick listen though on our way through the rooms. See more pictures on Day 4.





The Kharma Mini Exquisite speakers were being driven by little Kharma amps and this MBL stack. Still some of the best looking gear in the business.





One of two systems that Audio Note U.K.* is exhibiting at the show this CES, this one is the lesser expensive one. We heard it running on a $2500 '45 tube-based stereo amplifier - and it sounded great! About $30K for the soup-to-nuts system. Note that the lack of any vibration control apparatus is now a revered CES tradition for this line of equipment - please do not try this at home :-).








The Kharma midi-Exquisites this year driven by ASR gear. Not to bad at all - need to listen longer but it in this space this may be the best, top-to-bottom performance we have heard from these speakers. Not sure if they communicated all the emotion they have had at other venues, then again the piece being played was not one of those types of pieces either. We are going back here, that is for sure. More pictures on Day 4.




A Kuzma turntable, an ASR battery-powered preamplifier and MBL single-box CD player.




There were lots of Pagode racks at CES this year. Lots.




Lamm* ML2.1 18 watt SET amplifier, L2 Reference line stage, LP2 phono preamplifier, with Wilson Maxx II speakers and Metronome front end. In the sweet spot - it doesn't come much closer to 'being here'. Outside the sweet spot the bass sounds a little compressed and non-dimensional - so try and get the sweet spot, either in the rear seats or the front, on the couch.

On the last day we got back and played our test CD - Radiohead Amnesiac, first track. This system had a lot of the same problems that the Kharma Midi Exquisites / ASR system had - even though they have no components, or cables, in common.

This track has a lot of stuff going on in the soundstage, and separation and imaging is important for its success as a musical work of art. And sometimes more than one thing is happening at a time - but not so many, like in classical music that the befuddled brains (which are even more befuddle than usual after 4 days of room hopping a the show) of M&N, and many other people of perhaps similar ordinary levels of mental wherewithal, cannot follow each of these things to see if it is in its correct proportion to the rest of the music, as well as properly isolated and positioned in its own nice little home in the soundstage.

I'd probably give this system a, say, 7 on an Olympic scale of 10 (well, at the real Olympics, that would be a 9.7). I.E. about 25% of the notes were just not where when and how they were supposed to be - which we know because we play this CD a lot (thanks Steve) and because the LP is way better and let us learn where everything is really supposed to be, and only the best CD front ends and systems can reproduce this in a way similar to the LP.


Whose at fault here? The Lamm ML2.1 and L2 do this CD just fine here at Audio Federation, so it ain't them. It could be the Wilson Maxx 2 speakers, it could be the Metronome,... it could be the rack or it could be the cables. Could be the lack of advanced vibration control.




The Wilson MAXX 2 loudspeakers, Lamm* ML2.1 amplifiers, the Lamm ML2.1 hybrid amplifiers, not hooked up by warmed up for special-request demo purposes. Silversmith Audio cables.




VPI turntable and power supply, Lamm L2 preamplifier power supply and Lamm LP2 photostage.








The rear of the Maxx 2. Touch touch, fondle fondle. Nice speaker.
















On the left, Metronome CD transport, Lamm L2 linestage, Metronome DAC and Metronome power supply.








The bel canto room




Lots of bel canto gear and the Shunyata* Hydra Model8 power distributor.




Manley amplifiers, Audio Aero* Prestige CD / SACD player.








Not sure if this is hooked up or exactly WHAT is going on here... but I saw my (well, somebody else's to be more accurate) old Levinson 39 and had to photo it.




Silverline Audio Technology room. This room reminded me of a typical stereo store with the 'wall-of-speakers and one is actually playing?' setup.




The new top-of-the-line Halcro $40K DM88 monoblocks, driving very sensitive $18K T-3 project Classic Audio Reproductions horn speakers, with EMM Labs / Meitner Design* up front on a new HRS* MX-R equipment rack. Shunyata* cables, Hydra 6 power distributor and power cords.

This was - uh - very dynamic and very-loud - but in a melodic, very-impressive and not in an ear-ringing fashion. In other words - you gotta hear this!

We went back and played our test CD, Radiohead Amnesiac, on the 4th and last day, actually a few minutes before closing so (as Peter Quortrup so fatalistically reminded us, the systems at a show are sounding their best immediately before they are turned off, torn down and handed to the UPS and FedEX guys) the system was at its best.

This did not have the same problems as the Wilson Maxx 2 / Lamm system or the Kharma Midi Exquisite / ASR system. The imaging and separation were pretty good - though not 100%. It was played too loud to get a real evaluation - loading the room a little much on certain passages - but what was missing was the finesse and delicacy and spatial and timing queues that is almost certainly the speakers not being resolving enough (you get what you pay for - and you get a LOT for your $18K here, but you don't get EVERYTHING).

There was also a lack of emotion - a problem often attributed to the older Halcro amplifiers - but it wasn't all THAT different from the neutralness of the ASR with the sexy Midi Exquisites, or the hypnotizing Lamm ML2.1 with the cool Wilson Maxx II.

And to further cement this opinion that was forming in our frontal lobes that the new Halcros were actually better in the musicality dept., we played our test CD on the Atma-sphere amps on the same speakers. The Halcros had MORE emotion and more harmonic content. OK, they had different sources too, the Halcro having the Meitner (though not exactly musical, more like 'truth'). [For some reason I did not take pictures of the Atma-sphere system... Doh!]

Anyway, with speaker positioning and other tweaks (though not as tweakable as most systems as this was pretty tweaked out already, given circumstances), this could be a system that would be fun to live with and would provide most of what the very high-end offers - plus some macro dynamics that most very high-end systems do not have.




HRS* (Harmonic Resolution Systems) mahogany equipment rack, Halcro preamplifer, EMMlabs / Meitner* CDSD transport and DAC6 DAC, Shunayta* Hydra power distributor.




























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All pictures in this report are freely copyable and distributable.

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