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

 

 

St. Tropez (A)
CES 2008
T.H.E. 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.

 

 

 

 

 
 
Previously, on the Audio Federation Show Report, it was early evening, Monday, and we had just finished trudging back from the Venetian with this little camera [trudge trudge trudge] and decided to go straight to the St. Tropez.

T.H.E. Show didn't close each evening until 6:30pm, while the Venetian closed at 5:00pm. So the plan [aka THE PLAN] was to spend a few hours each day at the main conference, the LVCC, photographing home theater and static high-end audio displays, then spend several hours at the Venetian, and then finish up at the St. Tropez / Alexis Park. Dividing the day into roughly thirds.

Well, the Venetian was taking longer than expected - and the LVCC was more [but not completely] like CEDIA [that we just covered a couplea months ago] than expected - so the 3rd and 4th days we just skipped the LVCC altogether.

So it is after 5:00pm for these photos. That's why it is dark outside.

There were a lot of rooms that were not playing music. In fact, some were adamant about not wanting to play any music. It was late. They were grumpy.

I also got my first taste of how some people treat the press at these shows - in rooms where they did not recognize me. They treat the press like idiots. Rightly or wrongly :-). Usually we go to these things as a 'Buyer' aka dealers. They don't ask Buyers if they 'know what XYZ is?' in a tone that suggested we were children.

First, if I do not know what it is, in general, why oh why am I covering the show as press?

Second, this press guy does not just regurgitate Public Relations copy, which I had to explain over and over. We provide exposure for exhibitors, and write up something about the sound if it makes sense [though next year, maybe my backpack should have a slot for people to stuff with PR literature as I leave each room, just to speed things up.].

Anyway, I have both more sympathy for the press, and more sympathy for the exhibitors who must have been driven to use this approach by somewhat less-than-competent press bots in the past.

OK. Where to go first. Choose a building. Any building.... The St. Tropez is laid out in a circle of buildings with about, oh, 4 to 5 exhibitor rooms each. Almost all were on the first floor this year. At random we chose....

 

 

 

 

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SOUND
 
 
These intrepid folks are at every show.
 

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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See Text
 
Both times when I was in this room I was unable to get a seat / position between the speakers to give me a fair chance to hear what the system was doing. The way the room is constructed, there is only room for 3 people or so. Everybody else is standing up in or immediately inside the doorway [which is where these photos were taken from].
 
The PC they were using for the music server.

 

The Gryphon amplifier
 
A prototype music server, that Ultimate Audio Video is having written.

Being a software guy, I asked a few questions about how they were writing it. Turns out the guy they had doing it was in the room. Also turned out that he is of the opinion that Microsoft writes great code. Considering the overwhelming evidence otherwise [in my opinion, Silverlight is their first decent *API*, that in general they can't even get the API's right - this out of a few thousand APIs they have come up with. And most geeks would consider this charitable on my part.] this was kind of scary. [I know, just what this industry needs now... partisan software wars].

Anyway, the Microsoft codec they are using IS supposed to be decent compared to the alternatives, especially in its ability to compress the music - but what do we all think Microsoft would do if the majority of music servers used their code? Anybody? Anybody? Maybe charging serious licensing fees for code that doesn't have a particular bug? More fees for code that is faster than your competition? Maybe change it without telling you about it, making your code break? Make you have to put their logo on your product... for a fee? Make you use their graphics software on your box, or charge you heavier fees?

Nahhhh. They would NEVER do things like that.

 
 
The front end. From what I could see, they were playing CDs by uploading and upconverting them first to the music server, and then playing them from the music server.
 
Sorry about the dusty photo. Taking photos from across the room is problematic, the lighting was bad, it was nighttime, and there was actually dust everywhere in all the rooms, even the Venetian to some extent. Vegas is DUSTY - even more so than here at home in the windy Rocky Mountains.

 

 

 

 
A room with static displays of cables and a Rockport speaker.

Albert Porter of Audiogon fame was hanging out in this room, cracking jokes about our lot as show photographers.

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

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Integration Enjoyable
 
 

This preamp prototype looks a lot better in person. I commented that it looked like it should be cruising, the chrome was so sleek looking. Similar to the German Burmester's look - not that the photos I took of their products come out all that well most of the time either.

 
I think the old preamp looks pretty darn cool, myself.
 
 
      
 
 

 

 

 

 

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Enjoyable Ethereal Sound Sophisticated
 
I think the exhibitors again met their goal here, as they did at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, for a sophisticated, enjoyable sound. Although it is somewhat ethereal, and artificial sounding, it is very pleasant to listen to.
 

 

 
    
 

 

 

 

 

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Did Not Hear
 
 
Here's a question for you... why do they hold CES during the playoffs? I am not personally a football fan, but many people are, and Monday night football started while the show was still open. I guess it is better than when they had CES on the weekends - then many people would just not attend at all. At CEDIA, which is on a weekend during the football season, Sundays are quite slow, and I think largely because of this... but this is their mistake, as many projectors and giant LCD TVs are playing the games during the show. Not a lot of business gets done, a lot of people just stand around watching the game(s).
 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

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First Time at CES
 
Are those the weirdest, strangest artificial plants you have ever seen or what?
 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 
I did not hear this system, and I am not sure what type of sound they were going for. Zero for two here, huh?
 
     

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

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Did Not Hear This Room
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Impressive Enjoyable
 
This is the first time I have liked the sound in the Atmosphere room, this year with the Classic Audio Reproductions 'Project T-1.3' speakers.

The first time I stopped by, Duke and his wife (Audio Kinesis) and Tri (Triplanar) were there. But I still got to hear some music, anyway :-). Some Mike Oldfield was very nice [No, it wasn't 'Tubular Bells'. I think I can hear Frampton Comes Alive again, but it'll be another decade before Tubular Bells is welcome here :-)]. I only mention this piece so I can remember it later and go check out some MP3's to see if it is worth getting a CD [probably not] or picking up a used LP if I see it [definitely].

Went back a second time, just to see if was the company or particular track that made this year sound better than previous. Nope. It still sounded very musical. Usually I find this system flat, lacking harmonics and color, and aggressive. But this year, playing loud or softly, it had good harmonics, separation, macro-, midi- and not too bad micro-dynamics, which is probably one of the major weaknesses of this kind of system.

 

 

 
 
Atmasphere amps on SRA platforms.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Spiral Groove phono preamplifier. There seemed to be a lot of these at the show this year.
 
Whoa, check out these antiques. Me, I love retro looking gear, being raised on Fantastic Planet, Star Trek and Outer Limits.
 
 
Neli says: "(Ack! Discwasher fluid! [Mike: I know. Wayback Machine time!]) This is a Spiral Groove (by Allen Perkins of Immedia) turntable (hence the matching phonostage) with a Triplanar arm."

 

 

 

 

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Impressive Sweet   Enjoyable Emotional Sophisticated   Natural Workhorse Real/Truth  Magical/Spiritual
 
This is the second time I remember hearing these speakers at a show. Previously it was with all Audio Aero* equipment. This time with ModWright and Atmasphere, and it was just as musical and fairly competent as I remember it being. By competent I mean the speaker tries to get things right, even handed dynamics, up and down the frequency band, even handed separation, up and down... well you get the idea. The Marten Coltrane Supremes* are the only truly competent speaker [which is either kind of a sad statement about our hobby. Or inspiring. You choose] and it is with admiration that I see other speaker manufacturers trying to also do the right thing.
 

 

    
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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First Year at CES
 
This room had two major lighting fixtures which lit up the system - which my camera drank up [but the stupid thing still wanted more, more, more!].

Certainly a very innovative speaker - in appearance and construction. Fit and finish was top notch.

 

 

 
 
 
 
A few PR reports posing as reviews and this is what we get for years and years....
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The feet are 'rubbery'-like, and the speaker wobbles a little after you change its location - which the exhibitor, who spoke just slightly more English than I speak Italian, was kind enough to do so I could photograph the rear. Again, lots of innovation here.

 

 

 

 

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Did Not Hear This Room
 
Fit and finish of the Rethm speaker is certainly improved. I hear their sound has also changed for the better - but I did not hear for myself.
 
 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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Enjoyable Workhorse
 
I was kind of distracted by the guest hosts. Not as sophisticated sounding as this system sounds with the Nola speakers, which they usually show with - and perhaps a little more sweet sounding.
 

 

 
 
It looks like Mike [what an oaf that guy can be :-)], had his fat finger over the flash when taking the photo of this tube. I have no idea why they were showing off this particular tube. And the guest hosts were being kind of patronizing, not recognizing me as just an audiophile with a pen and camera - so it was just another one of those mysteries in life [which seem to multiply, rather than diminish with age. What's up with that?].

Neli says: The tube is being showcased because it has "the custom tube socket that Kara gets made for her amps"

 
 
New [well, I've never seen it before, so it is new to me] deHaviland preamplifier.
 

 

 

 

 

 
Very few rooms were on the second floor. But going up to see the Lansche Audio room, the second floor stairway had this view.

The Hard Rock Hotel is across the street, and during most of the evenings they were blasting music. It sounded like a live band, but it sounded like it was coming from their sign. So either the sound was being reflected off several buildings, and their sign, or they were just blasting canned music at concert levels each evening.

The point being that you could hear them in the hallways of T.H.E. Show at the St. Tropez, but not, thankfully, in the rooms if the exhibitor's system was being played ay modest to loud levels. Hey, with the airport almost next door and the traffic and the partying, the noise floor in Las Vegas is just a quiet-time-between-songs away.

 

 

 

 

 

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Integration Bass
 
Lansche Audio speakers' claim to fame is their use of the Corona plasma tweeter - a massless tweeter that is the ultimate in tweeter designs in tweeterdom.

The tweeter sounded great, and the midrange was quick and dynamic and appeared to more or less keep up with the tweeter. The bass however was slow, detached and insufficiently detailed.

That said, their showing this year, both in fit-and-finish and in sound quality, is a significant step forward and we look forward to hearing their room again next year.

 

 

A lot of nice INDRA interconnects and otherwise components that are new to this camera.
 
You know, triangular pieces of equipment present some interesting issues vis--vis aesthetic placement - though this setup looks great. Check out that 6 inch cable! Try doing THAT with a box...
 
 
A light-emitting speaker this is.... in more than one way :-)
 
The Corona plasma tweeter. That purple plasma looks just like the plasma in the Acapella Ion tweeter. Plasma is plasma I guess? Or would the type of quartz rod the plasma is forming on affect the color? Inquiring minds... are going on to the next photos.
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This display of the line of Acoustic Zen* speakers was spotted on the way out of the St. Tropez as I headed back to the Alexis Park to rest my sorry feet [First Day feet, how over trodden they feel. How little they know about what the next dew days have in store for them]. They were the only exhibitor to display their products here, kind of a coup, I would think, with all the foot traffic through here.

They were also the only ones to to have 3 rooms at this show. Robert Lee, and his son and main man, Jimmy, started laughing and pointed fingers at each other when trying to figure out who was to credit / blame for all this work they had got themselves in for. But, photographer me, it sure made it easy to see and show everybody the entire line all together in a lineup like this.

 
I can only think that the Caution tape and plants were to prevent an anticipated, or reoccurrence of an actual, 'Oops, Sorry about that' event.

Neli says: "The Caution tape and plants around the AZ setup in the St. Tropez lobby was ... because the folks who were supposed to show up with those velvet ropes ... didn't."

 

 

 

 

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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