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

Las Vegas
Day 3, Saturday, January 7th, 2006

Track 1

The Continuum, Wavac, Venture room

The Oskar Heil, Jolida room

The Cogent True-to-life, Welborne Labs room

The Studio Electric, Lotus Group room

The Almarro Room

The Usher room

The Von Schweikert, darTZeel, Emm Labs* room

The Acoustic Zen room

The Pipedream room

The Audio Aero*, WLM room

The Burmester room

The Sapphire, Wavac 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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Venture speakers and Wavac amplifiers, Continuum turntable and PranaWire cables. Any questions? Oh, how does it sound, you ask?

[Well, not sure if I wrote this somewhere here before, ...I think I am getting lost in this report a little - I wonder if this happens to the other show reporters as well...]

I listened to a number of LP selections in this room, including Stevie Ray Vaughn, I think, while in the oh-so-sweet spot. For me, it was... kind of ho hum. Boring.

Why the lack of almost any emotion? The PranaWire is the most emotional cable I have heard - someday we will talk about this in our blog. The Wavacs are known for their extreme neutrality - perhaps this flavor is what we are hearing?

And I found some of the exaggerated transients of simple guitar plucking to be annoying in its artificiality and unbalanced in comparison with the rest of the music. Perhaps these amps ($250K), which in the past seemed to me to try hard to do the transient thing right, like a single-ended triode but with lots of power, just were not a good match for these speakers, which seem to be a little laid back and even dead-pan.





The 2nd Continuum turntable at the show this year.





Wavac amplifiers





Continuum turntable







Oskar Heil speakers were sounding nice, as always. The Heil driver handles everything above 700Hz in a very dynamic and very detailed and musical manner.





The Oskar Heil Kithara speaker





The Oskar Heil Kithara speaker















Jolida's Music Enjoy amplifier



Jolida amplifier



One of the Cogent True-to-life loudspeaker horns. The sound in this room was awesomely deep and dynamic and rich and open and....I found them to be very enjoyable. The only problems were that the music had a tendency to focus on the horns (aka the room being REALLY too small), and ... where would we put this thing? The black triangular section in the center is a giant subwoofer horn.

We played our test CD in this room: Radiohead Amnesiac, track one. Besides the tendency to focus on the horns (i.e. the sound was strong center, or coming from the horns, not much in fill between the two, well three, locations). We also got something to buzz when the bass got to be a little too much. For a prototype, this speaker, excuse me, system, kicked butt.

The Welborne 2 watt amplifier, at about $1000 (Neli knows this, one of our good friends is building one of these) did a great job. Even the modded Denon CD player, which has its sonic signature, but which did not make too much grinding noise during the demos, did its part. Part? Part of what you might be wondering while thinking just how insane is this little hobby of ours...

Hard to describe, but this system had this effortlessness, both microdynamics and macro - but not like the very efficient Avantgardes, which always have this 'clacky' kind of sound (and other problems). Here it was like the speaker got out of the way of the music. Which is impossible, because the speaker is what makes the music. But it sounded that way, ...kind of.

It had similar microdynamics like the Tenors on the Karmas, and, speaking of which, I would love to hear the Tenor 15 watt amps on these speakers. [Or the Lamm ML2.1. Or a really small Audio Note. And the Meitner]. But unlike the Tenors, these microdynamics were rich with harmonics (the Tenors have a tendency to be the very slightest bit lean sounding).

These guys make the Field Coil Compression speaker drivers. The drivers are, memory fails, but about $15K each. So not for the faint of pocketbook. Hopefully a different subwoofer can be used that will integrate with the horns. Hopefully a larger room or a different horn design will address the soundstaging issues and hopefully transparency and the rest of the sonic attributes important to me will fall into place.

The fact that this system did not do what I like my systems to do - to produce a true-to-life re-creation of the recording event - and I still liked it means that, sometimes, I think I really like the rush of listening very near-field. The Acapella* Fidelio II speakers at HE2005 were also kind of like that, though their presentation was more realistic.

Can't wait to hear what they come up with the Denver RMAF show in October 2006!

Neli says, and she knows: "The Welborne amps are not $100 amps. The kit costs maybe 2K (with no tubes), Jim has bought a bunch of upgraded parts for his, and Ron Welborne had god-knows-what-very-high-quality-parts in his *personal* amps there at the show ... I think that's his Teres table in there, too, and his Welborne-modded Denon. There were still problems  in the digital playback -- I really wish we coulda played a record in there.

Also, they're more like 6 or 8 watt amps -- single 300B per side, I didn't get up & look at which kind of 300Bs were in the amps, but from the pictures -- they're TJ mesh plates. Jim ordered NOS front-end tubes for his, so one could presume that Ron might've too. 

The one pair of drivers is $13K (maybe). The other pair is $7K. They'll give you the plans for these current speakers, which I think of as early prototypes."

Mike says back: "Oh."

Mike elaborates: "So maybe putting on of the very high-end amps on the horn will not result in as much as an improvement as I once thought. I've heard really inexpensive tube amps sound pretty good on high-end speakers, for example the Oskar Heil Kithara and Acapella Violons. So in this room one has to wonder how much of wonderful sonics were attributable to the amp and how much to the speakers, or maybe it was a synergy thing.

Anyway, it sounded great and they say 'the speakers get all the credit'. And they really do when they so dominate the room like these - perhaps unfairly. No, it is undoubtedly unfair."





The triangular black thing is the subwoofer, which is a giant folded horn, similar to the Acapella Triolon Full Horn (available only in Europe because they build part of it into the front wall of the listening room).





One of the Welborne amplifiers on a Symposium vibration control platform.





The Teres turntable with a side view of a horn in the background.




The Welborne Laboratories amplifier on a Symposium Ultra vibration control platform.




The Welborne Laboratories amplifier used.








The Welborne Laboratories amplifier used.




The amplifier used to drive the subwoofer.




Cogent's Field Coil Midrange Compression Driver.





It gets dark near the end of the show each day. And those without more than a shirt walk quite swiftly in order to ward off the chill.




This system from Studio Electric sounded quite smooth and musical.
























Another subwoofer flying over, in conjunction with the moon.




Almarro was sounding good again this year, though we preferred the fuller sound on the larger speakers (who? us? with the 7 foot tall speakers in our living room? Nahhh.....)




The fit and finish of Almarro products has really improved over the years.












The Usher room with very aggressive pricing and a look and sound reminiscent of JM Lab.




The Usher CP-857 II for $7,735. Love those model names. Looks like JM Lab. Has the same tweeter as JM Lab. Sounds like JM Lab (or maybe a little better).




Usher CP-6311 for $2100. These are cute little speakers and seem to be aggressively priced. Didn't get to hear how they sound.












Usher is making their own electronics, also aggressively priced, in concert with the "Let's Make Everything" approach popular with manufacturers these days.
















The Von Schweikert speakers with darTZeel amplifiers and Emm Labs* digital front end and newly introduced Grand Prix Audio Monaco turntable




Grand Prix Audio turntable, Meitner* CDSD, darTZeel preamp, Meitner DAC6




A poster for the new Monaco turntable.








The Grand Prix Audio turntable




The Grand Prix Audio turntable








The darTZeel had a clear top, so we peeked inside... Looks well thought out as most, 'simplicity is better' designs do.




Photo of the insides of the other darTZeel amp, which allows us to see what look like the heavy metal (discrete :-) traces used in the circuit.




Acoustic Zen room with their new center speaker and $3900 1000 watts subwoofer. In both of the Acoustic Zen rooms, everything: the dynamics, tone and harmonics, presence were all very, very good for a system anywhere close to this price.

Soundstage depth was not very deep - as pointed out by a 'its a hotel power problem' kind-of-guy. I would love to hear a demonstration of that, if true, since I usually resort to things like speaker placement and vibration control - always good to have another tool in the ole holster, as they say. Have to say, in support of his theory, that a lot of soundstages sounded shallow over there at the St. Tropez.

But the musicality is here. These speakers are enjoyable, something much of the high-end forgets about in their pursuit of this or that aspect of perfection.




The $3700 Acoustic Zen speaker with a different finish. A steal, people. This is so much better, more musical and balanced, than the B&W and JM Lab competition at this price point.



  • Resolution Audio Opus 21 CD player (modded by Steve Huntley of Great Northern Sound)
  • Modwright Preamp with NOS Tung Sol tubes
  • Red Dragon Audio Leviathan Signature Series Monoblocs with optional matching custom stands
  • Acoustic Zen “Adagio” full range speakers (30Hz – 25kHz +/- 3dB)
  • Acoustic Zen power, speaker and interconnect cables.  
  • Custom amp stands by HHG Stands (
  • and the EDGE Electronics GAV multichannel amplifier


    The Red Dragon amplifier


    The Red Dragon amplifier











    The new Acoustic Zen subwoofer.



    The new Acoustic Zen subwoofer.



    The new Acoustic Zen subwoofer.


    The Acoustic Zen 'center' speaker.



    The Acoustic Zen 'center' speaker.






    The Butler Audio TDB 5150 amplifier



    The Usher surround processor DV-3 and Denon 3910 DVD player.








    The lineup of Acoustic Zen power cords and a couple of speaker cables.




    Pipedreams, the speakers and company, is back, with a new, slimmer design for both the towers and the 'depth charge' subwoofers.





    Smaller Pipedreams speakers, one on a Rix Rax 'rocket' speaker stand, and a Butler amplifier.






    The main system was using Conrad Johnson electronics and perhaps something else, not sure what that black box is.


    Conrad Johnson and Emmlabs* / Meitner CDSD transport and DCC2 DAC / linestage.





    It is nice outside... ahhhhh




    Globe Audio Marketing: WLM speakers, Audio Aero* Capitole amplifier and Audio Aero Capitole CD player.

    This system sounded nice and open and rich. Similar in nature to the Acapella* Fideleo II speakers driven by the Einstein amps. This is one of a few systems that is 'fairly' reasonable priced and actually... 'makes music'.

    Neli says: "The Globe Audio room. In the display with the Capitole amplifier, on the left, they've got the control boxes for the WLM speakers (playing) and the subwoofer (not playing) (not suitable in that rather small room). On the right is a Prima Integrated amplifier, that woulda been running the subwoofer if appropriate. "








    WLM speaker




    On the left, is the control boxes for the WLM speakers and subwoofer, in the center is the 50 watt Audio Aero Capitole push-pull amplifier and on the right is the Prima integrated amplifier




    The new Audio Aero* Capitole Reference CD player.




    The new Audio Aero* Capitole Reference CD player.




    The Audio Aero* Capitole amplifier with new silver face-plate.




    The Audio Aero* Capitole amplifier with new silver face-plate.








    The other room in the Globe Audio Marketing suite had bi-amped WLS speakers with two pairs of Audio Aero Prestige 40 watt monoblock amplifiers.

    Neli says: "The statement system in the larger section of the Globe Audio room had two pairs of Prestige amplifiers, and also the SuperPAC tweeter (additional $3K) (very worth it) on the WLM Gran Viola speakers. The Prestige was acting as a linestage for the Wilson Benesch 'table. This was *really* nice and rather better than RMAF, which I attribute at least somewhat to that cool new tweeter.

    The arm on static display to the left of the turntable is the legendary Breuer, now available from Globe Audio."




    Turntable, Audio Aero* Prestige CD /SACD player on a HRS* (Harmonics Resolution Systems) equipment rack in burl walnut.




    Turntable, Audio Aero* Prestige CD /SACD player on a HRS* (Harmonics Resolution Systems) equipment rack in burl walnut.




    Turntable, Audio Aero* Prestige CD /SACD player on a HRS* (Harmonics Resolution Systems) equipment rack in burl walnut.




    The Audio Aero Prestige CD / SACD player




















    The little WLM Aura monitor speakers.




















    Regular readers of our show reports know that we have found the sound in these all-Burmester rooms problematic - and this show was no different. As the industry as a whole seems to be improving its sound, year-by-year, often by questioning previously inviolable beliefs about what technologies lead to good sound, the Burmester room seems stuck in a time-warp, falling farther and farther behind the average.

    It's beautiful. It's well-designed. It's expensive. But as a whole it sounds artificial, forced, a parody of real music (perhaps, because this mimics the sound at many dealerships, it may still have a viable economic life, yet... but the high-cost would one would think elevate the expectations of any potential buyers).

    I would love to see this system with different cables. Then, if that didn't work, with a different source, perhaps even analog. Something to differentiate it from, and elevate it above, the big JM Lab and B&W wall-of-sound, it-has-bass-and-detail-so-it-has-to-be-great systems.... and right now it is less musical than those systems, ...and it shouldn't be.

    I know, I go on and on, just so they will fix all this and we can with good conscience (sic) get the reference preamp... :-)




    The reference preamp - the 805 MK5
















    A better picture of the reference preamp - the 805 MK5




    Wilson Sofia speakers, VTL amplification




    A display of VTL amplifiers







    bel canto electronics





    thiphi/Audio - A number of companies seem to be making high-end speakers for desktop computers, and most of them are very cool looking. Didn't see anybody with a computer setup though so we could actually hear what the speakers might sound like.




    thiphi/Audio - A number of companies seem to be making high-end speakers for desktop computers, and most of them are very cool looking. Didn't see anybody with a computer setup though so we could actually hear what the speakers might sound like.



    Tannoy's Prestige loudspeaker. somebody's 'Emille' amplifiers


    Tannoy's Prestige loudspeaker




    Sapphire Ti-C SE loudspeaker $68,999, WAVAC amplifiers. The sound in this room did not make any particular impression.

    Many rooms sounded 'OK' at the show (or were playing 'demo tracks' drums and simple electronics that rendered no clue as to how they sound (not saying that this happened in this room - like I say, it was not memorable except that it was another room using Accuton ceramic drivers, and, presumably in this price range, the Accuton diamond tweeter).

    Many of the ceramic driver speakers sounded good - so one, the exhibitor if no one else, really needs some methodology to differentiate and set one above the others. An outrageously expensive or unique source (for example the Continuum turntable) or amplifier at least gets people to take the system seriously and sit down and listen. You'd think this system would have done it for me...

    Maybe it was the rather cold and neutral nature of the other components that really made this system unmemorable, because for me personally this kind of sound does not sound realistic, and even more important, is not enjoyable - so why bother? Might as well get a Music Hall turntable and EPOS speakers and Almarro amps and be done with it.

    Or perhaps Oskar Heil speakers, Audio Note amp and Audio Areo Capitole CD player.

    Or perhaps Acapella Triolons, Audio Note Gakuon, a Walker or Brinkmann turntable, and Meitner digital source... OOPS, this is what we got now (well, except for the Gakuon :-) .. or maybe it should be :-(



    Sapphire Ti-C SE loudspeaker


    Fundamental K2 $22,799




    dCS transport, dCS Verdi, Weiss MEDEA DAC.




    Alon by Acarian $4500 Lotus Elite speakers. I thought ALon was now Nola - but what do I know? Threshold 5/350e Classic Stasis $2000 amplifier.


    Threshold 5/350e Classic Stasis $2000 amplifier


    More Threshold gear.


    EMM labs* / Meitner Design CDSD transport and DCC2 DAC / preamplifier. Threshold Stasis R 5.0 $5500


    New Audio Physic Scorpio speakers, Burmester electronics.


    New Audio Physic Scorpio speakers


    Lovely Burmester gear.







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    All pictures in this report are freely copyable and distributable.

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