Venetian:   2 A B    29 A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 C3   30 A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2   34  35  

  Alexis Park A B   St. Tropez A B C



Venetian Floor 34
CES 2008
Consumer Electronics Show
Las Vegas

January 2008

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Previously, on the Audio Federation Show Report, it was late afternoon, Monday, and we had just finished up with the Venetian's Level 2 Meeting Rooms, and we were talking about how easily confused this reporter was with respect to the floors 34 and 35, to the point where either one was chosen, whichever one other people were getting off on, and the stairs were used to then go to the other floor, if the randomly selected floor was indeed the incorrect one.

The floors were sparsely populated, with only a few rooms in one or two wings of the 3-winged floors. One had to peer down each wing, looking for CES-colored signs sticking out above doorways that were 50 yards or so down the hall. Cisco had a couple of rooms on one of these wings, again far down the hallway, and they had a number of young women carrying signs around the casino telling people where the rooms were. In spite of that, there was hardly any traffic on these two floors, though most rooms up here did seem to have quite a steady stream of visitors.





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Imaging Ethereal Big Sound
The sound here was very ethereal, largely because there did not seem to be any imaging, per se. So, it wasn't very real, but it was startling clear and detailed and sophisticated, and enjoyable if you can relax that brain muscle that says "that violin is coming from exactly where now?"

The Emm Labs stack plus equalizer.
The new Emm Labs DAC2 is on top there. The finish is one of the new finishes, I forget the name and Neli will kill me because her old Audi TT had this finish [I prefer solid, deep, intergalactic Black] but it is black with sparklies in it.
One of the Soundlab* speakers.
OK, we are going to take a little trip in the old time machine. It was late afternoon, Monday, and we are going to zoom ahead to Tuesday night. We had a meeting with Emm Labs at 6:00 and Neli had gone on ahead hours earlier (and spent most of them in the Lamm room listening to the Lamm ML3 amps on the Wilson MAXX II). It was now about 6:10pm. Yep, this is the thing with me and meetings.

These two photos try and illustrate just what a supra-normal fantastical view Las Vegas offers at night, even without the glitter of the strip.

The Venetian. The meeting is up there on floor 34. I am hoping nobody notices I am not there yet. Unfortunately, Neli noticed.
The new Emm Labs DAC2 with a new, optional gloss black finish.
The DAC2 with a selection of some optional finishes. In fact, any color of car paint you want. Neli says: "the emmLabs pieces, the big boys anyway, are now available in custom automotive finishes, any automotive finish that you like. For folks with other auto finish pieces in their system (e.g., HRS MXR equipment stand, many loudspeakers) ... you can now match your DAC to your other stuff. Me, I like the bright colors - the Ferrari yellow and the bright red. "
A couple of shots of the rear of the DAC2.
Notice the USB port for "PC Audio", Yes, you can now use it with music servers and computers. The computer decodes MP3s and sends PCM audio data out the USB port so that the DAC2 can then convert PCM to analog.
Photo from down underneath... notice the new feet. The Emm Labs DACs are some of the most stable components we have heard, vis-a-vis being hardly affected at all by vibrations, but it will be interesting to see what affect these new feet have.
A couple of photos of the DAC2 in classic silver. Emm Labs also has a new transport mechanism, and old transports can be upgraded to have the new mechanism - which is going to happen to Mike and Neli's transport mechanisms real soon now.
The bottom component is the new TSD-1 due out in March that is the companion transport for the DAC2.
The rear of the silver-finished DAC2. Looks a lot like the rear of the glass black-finished DAC2, I know.




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Micro-dynamics Separation Powerful Sound
Generates powerful, impressive sound waves.
I am still on my way to hear the Lamm ML3 amplifiers, but I went down the 'wrong' wing see, [I told you those little signs are hard to read from where the elevators are], and so when in Rome, take photos. First the Soundlab / Emm Labs room, and now this.
Ayre amplification.
Didn't hear these, just the big boys.




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See Text
Now I finally made it to the right wing, and stopped in to see the Boulder room.

I was kind of surprised that this room didn't sound better given the type of sound that people interested in this equipment are going for. Not that it sound awful or anything - it just didn't seem like it was a good match - not impressive, midi- and micro-dynamics both kind of weak.... More refined than sounding, however, than these speakers with Simaudio electronics, which is how we usually hear them.





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Imaging Ethereal Big Sound
[This room is across the hall from the Lamm room, but we are jumping ahead to the end of the last day. Aren't time machines wonderful?] There was a lot of hype on the forums about these amps [wonder how that gets orchestrated] but my impression was that this room was mysteriously lacking that signature Avalon harmonic and dynamic [lower midrange and above] free-for-all that both Neli and enjoy so much. Now, I don't necessarily blame the amps, but let's just say that Patel-designed speakers would be on the bottom of my list of likely suspects.
Without the grill covers on, the front of the Avalon speaker is kind of ... unfinished.
This block says something like "Silver Rock"
The speaker connectors are on the back! Not sure, but this the first I've seen that did not connect on the bottom.
DCS Scarlatti transport.
More DCS Scarlatti digital pieces.
Looks like the preamp that goes with the amp.




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Ground Breaking
This is the first time we got to hear the new Lamm ML3 signature two-box amplifiers. I heard them for awhile on Monday afternoon, when this picture was taken, and then again for a longer period on Thursday afternoon.

Most of the associated equipment will contribute a softness to the sound, and the Wilson speakers a forwardness in the midrange and a disconnected bass.

So, after listening to this and that unfamiliar tune [with which I heard no problems except a certain reticence at the crossover point between the midrange and the bass] I was still unable to characterize much about what was happening, sonically, in this system]. Vladimir and Elina were kind enough to put on their Johnny Hartman (with John Coltrane) CD that I was intimately familiar with.

Using the Lamm ML2.1 as a baseline, ....

I was expecting superb control of the dynamics, that the amp would be able to grip the speaker well - like the best amps we have heard - and it did indeed do so, though not conspicuously.

I was expecting superb separation between notes, that the amp would be able to control each note's dynamic envelope well-enough that they did not come out in some kind of soup, and again, the ML3 did not disappoint, and was probably among the best I have heard in this regard. As one can well extrapolate, good separation involves not only disambiguating each note with respect to its location in the soundstage, but dynamically and harmonically as well.

So, OK, the amp performed as one would expect from one of the couple of amps that are the best in the world.

What I didn't expect, and which I was so pleased I got to hear on my very limited time with these amps, was the really exceptional control of the harmonic envelope. This is going to be hard to describe [and even harder for you to read :-)] but I visualized it as each note's dynamic envelope along with its Harmonics as a 3D 'hill'. Some taller, some shorter, some with dips and some not. All kinds of shapes. The line bisecting the hill is the traditional dynamic envelope. Now, imagine harmonics as horizontal colored stripes that create the sides of the hill, like elevation lines, but which are different widths and which can go up and down to other elevations [rise and decay of the HARMONIC].

Using this imagery, the ML3 was able to keep the harmonic stripes from decaying or washing out - it was able to paint them all as they were supposed to be painted. It controlled the harmonics in a way that gave the notes another dimension. A solidity in the 'harmonic domain'.

If nothing else, this CD, including the first track I heard, is very, very harmonically rich. So, during the 4 minutes or so of the song, there was a lot of harmonic information being delivered through the system and it was a real pleasure to hear all the shades of these harmonics, and start to have confidence in the fact that they were not going to be exaggerated nor marginalized.

The bass was detailed and controlled, though this song does not have a wealth of material in the lower octaves, and was about as good as I remember ever hearing it [I usually, however, pay most attention to the voice and melody and their exceptional emotional content].

In general though, this system did not highlight the things it did exceptionally well. In my estimation, that is because much of the associated equipment was somewhat obscuring what the amps were doing [Specifically, the speakers mess up the bass integration and their overall balance is perverted with a tipped up midrange, the platforms and rack dampen micro-dynamics, which is great for systems (especially show systems) that have a tendency to be bright, but this ain't that] In general, we have found that Super Components, like the ML3, will perform amazingly well with whatever you pair it with, but that every time you do an upgrade of something else in the system - you will find out that the Super Component was a heckuva lot better than you had even imagined it could be [kind of like getting two upgrades for the price of one]. System design 'just' becomes a matter of feeding the highest quality signal possible to the Super Component(s).

As I have to say each report, it takes only seconds to hear the faults in a bad system, and years to hear the faults in a great one. I have to say this usually about bad systems because people do not believe that I can tell how bad a bad system sounds so quickly [we all can, just go to Circuit City]. Now I have to apply this statement to a great system - it would take a long, long time to hear and characterize what this amp does really well and potential faults, if any, this amp has. At $139K or so, they are on our list but it will take us awhile to budget for them - and until then we will just have to wonder. Wonder what this song would sound like with the ML3, and what that one would sound like....

As I mentioned in the 'dailies', for me this was a show about two amps: the ML3 and the Audio Note* Kegon Balanced. We will have the Kegon Balanced here, in the near future, and be able to compare and contrast it to the Ongaku, the older high-gain Kegons, and the ML2.1... and someday the ML3. It's All Good as they say.

Zanden digital, TW-Acustic turntable, Lamm L2 Reference line stage and LP2 phono preamplifier.



Time to walk back to the Alexis Park. It is actually faster to walk than take a taxi or the shuttle. Not just because of traffic but because of the very long taxi lines and the shuttle only comes by once every 20 minutes or so. It is, however, a 30 - 45 minute brisk walk - depending on where one is coming from in the Venetian and going to in the Alexis Park or St. Tropez. There were lots of police everywhere, many trying to direct traffic, or just kind of hanging out at intersections.

From the car or bus you may have wondered "Who ARE these people walking or bicycling around?", but the  people I passed in my walks (I walked this path the first three days - the last day my feet told me to take the shuttle) were in very large part friendly and clear-eyed. Yes, there were a few that look like they lost everything in the casinos, perhaps several times - and these few do put a pal over the whole 'Vegas thing for us.

Because the Venetian is so tall, like many buildings on or near the strip, you can see it from the front of the Alexis Park.






Copyright Audio Federation, Inc.. All rights reserved.
All pictures in this report are freely copyable and distributable
if attribution is given but may not be included in multi-room show reports without written permission.

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