Report

 

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

 

 

Report
CES 2008
Consumer Electronics Show
Las Vegas

January 2008

* Denotes a product carried by Audio Federation

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.

 

The Timeline
This is the order in which the show was seen this year, and the order in which the show report was written as well. The show report reads more or less like a story (odyssey) of what it was like for us at the show. The show report continues on in the Blog, the Blog taking up where this show report leaves off... sort of.

Each page in this show report has about 125 photos. There are room by room links down below (please scroll down).

Monday

LVCC South Hall
St. Tropez A
Venetian Level 2
Venetian Level 2 B
Floor 34

Tuesday

LVCC Central Hall
Floor 30 Wing A 1
Floor 30 Wing A 2
Floor 29 Wing A 1
Floor 29 Wing A 2

Wednesday

Floor 29 Wing B 1
Floor 29 Wing B 2
Floor 30 Wing B 1
Floor 30 Wing B 2
Alexis Park A
Alexis Park B
St.Tropez B
St.Tropez C

Thursday

Floor 29 Wing C 1
Floor 29 Wing C 2
Floor 29 Wing C 3
Floor 30 Wing C 1
Floor 30 Wing C 2
Floor 35

 

 

 

Are We Purveyors of Audio Porn?

Yes. Yes we are.

Some people seem to think that the sleek line of shiny chrome, big blue digital readouts, the perfection of an unmolested mounting screw, electrons pumping threw massive cables, fine woods from around the world and, last and mostest, the glow of the vacuum tube - is all something that detracts and distracts from the audiophile pursuit.

But we don't think that [Guess you could kinda tell that from these show reports we do. But just in case, now you know]

Is It Unfair to Report What We Hear at High-end Audio Shows?

We don't think so.

Some people seem to think that protecting certain brands from being exposed as not sounding very good is best left to them or to some mystical organization that at the time when the Earth is finally consumed by the Sun, the oceans vaporized, ESPN, which is covering the event to the tune of Barber's Adagio for Strings, zooms in on a memo, scant seconds before it disintegrates with the news that, "Oh, by the way, Meridian speakers suck for music playback. Krelll with B&W speake...". And then it is gone forever.

They seem to think that it in some way protects the industry to keep reporting that everything, everywhere is hunky-dory.

With respect to show reports their argument usually involves something they call 'show conditions'.

Well, under 'show conditions', some systems [i.e. an amplifier paired with a speaker - most other equipment just adds or detracts from what is already the core sound of the system] always sound good [plus or minus some fudge factor to account for real show conditions] and some always don't. Different rooms, hotels, cities, configurations.... whatever. Wonder why that is? Maybe it is because.... oh, I don't know..... maybe that one system sounds good and the other one doesn't?

And some amplifiers sound bad on whatever speaker it is shown with, and some speakers display problems no matter what system they are paired with. We all have NO IDEA why that is, do we?

Yes, determining what is 'good' requires listening, and the hearing of and understanding of problems - not the happiest of tasks, and kind of a downer to read about as well, sometimes, huh?

And there has to be a bar: set not as high as Romy would have it, where nothing sounds good at all; and not as low as your average reviewer, where everything SOUNDS GREAT! GO OUT AND BUY IT TODAY! and not some bendy twisty randomly positioned bar that we see on many forums. So we set it in the middle somewhere - maybe not exactly where YOU might set it, but we hope it is at least somewhere in the same neighborhood.

And that neighborhood, as we see it, is delimited by sound that is, at whatever price, 'in kind' with the best equipment in the world that is tailored to deliver the particular type of sound under question. I.E. we say a system, at whatever price, is above the bar, and deemed 'good,' if its 'balance of flaws' is similar to the balance of flaws in the handful of super-systems in the world [devolving this description can go on forever, but things like compression on all sorts of levels, problems in decay envelopes and harmonic color, etc are present in all systems today. Long time readers will recognize this as the same as whether a system is on the 'path' to the ultimate system, as opposed to being off in some dead-end canyon with really high cliffs and a lot of tumbleweeds and nasty cactus, out of water and the temperature is climbing above 100 degrees Fahrenheit... and we just sprained our ankle].

So, if you are prospecting for high-end audio gold, and want to check out some canyons, fine. We are just letting other people know that 1) it is a dead-end canyon, and 2) if you want a really great system, you are going to have to come back out of that canyon and get right back on the path. And for those of us trying to minimize the drain on our finances of this hobby of ours, staying on the path is kind of a good thing.

[Yes, I know. Too many brackets [] and some sentences require multiple readings so that the original 'sentence without the brackets' can be understood. Sorry about that. It's gonna get worse by the time this show report is finally done with. I just know it.].

Unsafe At Any Volume

We are starting something new [uh, today, in the middle of the report, and we are retrofitting some room reviews] - offering opinions on how to try and make some show systems sound better next year. Not like the Mixibitors, which move components from room to room, but typical things an audiophile might try if this was their system.

The Show Tone This Year

The overall quality of the sound we hear at shows seems to be... well it is like this:

The worst sound is getting better. There were only one or two rooms that were serious candidates for Most Terrible of Show.

Good sound is getting worse. With cable manufacturers now making speakers, and speaker manufacturers making amps, and rack manufacturers making speakers... well, you get the picture... and the fact that 1) they are charging a pretty penny for their new products, and 2) they don't sound very good [or very bad, they are just noticeably worse than others at the price point], and 3) there is a heckuva lot of these out there now, is all serving to bring down the quality of the sound in the 'good' (fairly expensive) category.

[and it doesn't help that a large number of rooms use iPods or laptops with under-performing DACs.]

The best sound is getting better. But it is getting WAY expensive.

The thing to do is buy speakers from, uh, speaker manufacturers? And similarly with amps and cables, etc. And rely on the trickling down of last years uber expensive technology into the rest of their product line. Assuming that is, that they even have uber technology and that their uber technology sounds good to you [some manufacturers put out ho-hum technology year after year and get away with it because of aggressive and persistent marketing, and frequent version upgrades].

 

 

The Most Loved Of Show (in no particular order)

The criteria being that 1) I got to hear the system and 2) the system did not have so serious of a flaw [or two] that it put it outside the expectations for its price class and prevented it from being enjoyable, and 3) that the overall performance was above average for its price class [in terms of the overall flaws, as compared to real music whether electronic or acoustic].

We are also leaving out our Audio Note rooms, uptown  [$350K] and downtown  [$15K], even though I think most people would think they belong on the list (and we were happy with them) most people probably want to know what other rooms we liked...

Because we are seeing a lot of new visitors, who may not be familiar with the prices of various pieces of equipment, we are including an approximate cost for each system - as we heard it [i.e. if we didn't hear the reel-to-reel or turntable, we are not including it in the price].

Lamm* / Wilson / Zanden / TW-Acustic / Kubala-Sosna / SRA [$300K]

Resolution Audio / EPOS [$10K]

EPOS / Creek / Music Hall [$5K]

Von Schweikert / Audio Space  [$10K]

Marten* / EAR / Jorma Design*  [$40K]

Zanden / Cessaro  [$200K]

Sunny Cable Technology / Ayre  [$?]

Evolution Acoustics / darTZeel / EMM Labs*  [$130K]

GTT Audio / Kharma* / Tenor / Vyger / Kubala-Sosna  [$100K]

GTT Audio / Kharma* / Tenor / Vyger  [$200K]

Kondo  [$200K]

Audio Machina / Atma-Sphere / ModWright  [$40K]

Tidal / ASR / Oracle / Argento    [$100K]

Hansen / CAT / EMM Labs* / HRS*   [$60K]

Acoustic Zen* / Halcro  [$80K]

Atma-Sphere / Classic Audio Reproductions  [$40K]

Vandersteen / Joule Electra / Aesthetix / Clearaudio / HRS*  [$130K]

 

These rooms will be covered in greater detail, where it makes sense, in the Blog after the show report is finished.

 

Notes

There are so many, many open chassis here at the show this year.

As we mentioned before, turntable manufacturers are now making components, equipment rack manufacturers are making speakers and turntables, preamp manufactures are making cables, and on and on. Now is the time when all manufacturers seem to think that broadening their offerings will bring them success. Is the grass really greener over in the other guy's section of the high-end audio marketplace? And what happens when they find that it is not?

 

 

The Venetian: Meeting Rooms Level 2

 

 

The Venetian: Floor 34

 
   

 

 

 

The Venetian: Floor 35

 

 

 

 

The Venetian: Floor 29

 

 

 

 

The Venetian: Floor 30

 

 

 

 


T.H.E. Show

That's us, those two red squares waaaay back in building 22.

 

 

 

St. Tropez (A)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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