The Best Audio Demos at CES 2013
At CES 2013, consumer audio continued to move in the right direction with new desktop audio products, headphones and other solutions that are more consumer friendly and applicable to today's lifestyles.
Most of the major manufacturers stole the CES 2013 headlines with Ultra HD 4K displays. Videophiles, however, made their criticisms of 4K well known, ultimately saying the lack of native 4K content could dog the rollout of these products.
Audiophiles at CES drowned out that negativity as personal audio continues to grow with headphones and other companion devices; the computer audio market also continues to mature with products like digital-to-analog-converters (DACs), digital amplifiers and streaming/wireless solutions, and home-friendly speakers that are getting more stylish and better sounding by the minute.
Here is a look at the more memorable new products and audio demos from CE
Inside the Venetian
Cary Audio’s DAC-100 and DAC-100T DAC units were among some of the more interesting exhibits in the Venetian Hotel. Both are fully balanced products with 24/192 compatibility. The 100T offers the option of a tube output stage. The company also showed its DMC-600 digital music player that combines an upsampling CD player with tube and solid-state outputs, 32-bit/384kHz compatibility, DSD (SACD) over USB, aptX Bluetooth, and coax and optical inputs.
Constellation Audio, an audiophile brand, demonstrated its Cygnus Digital File Player/DAC that offers the ability to play digital audio files from thumb drives, portable hard drives and external hard drives, with a front display window allows for people to control and select their favorite music.
NAD Electronics showed a family of affordable desktop amplifiers, headlined by the $399 D 3020 Digital Amplifier/DAC, and the D7050, which is awaiting final pricing. The D 7050 includes a 2x50 watt-per channel amplifier, along with Apple’s AirPlay technology, aptX Bluetooth, UPnP and an asynchronous USB input.
Antelope Audio has migrated from the professional audio market into consumer audio and its new Orion 32 is a 32-channel analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog converter that supports MADI and USB. The company says the 1RU device can be set up to work with 24-channels of Apple-based audio and 32-channels of PC-based audio, and also serves as a master clock. The Orion can be setup in a variety of pro systems and high-end consumer-grade systems.
One of the best demonstrations at the show was the Wisdom Audio LS4 speakers driven by Dan D’Agostino amplifiers and cabled with some of Transparent Audio’s best interconnects and speaker cables. Playing a variety of audiophile music this system delivered reference quality sound that left audiophiles drooling for more. It should also be noted that D’Agostino’s amps were all over CES and they appear to be gaining favor with many within the audiophile crowd.
Totem Acoustic showed the Fire monitors, which are part of its Element Series of products. This $6,000 pair of speakers produced an enormous amount of bass for a small set of two-way bookshelf speakers and like other products in the Element line, the Fire incorporate a host of Vince Bruzzese’s innovative engineering concepts.
Krell has been one of the few high-performance audio companies to openly embrace home theater. During CES, Krell debuted a close-to-final version of its new Foundation home theater preamplifier/processor. The pre/pro should retail for about $6,500 and it incorporates the HDMI 1.4 format, as well as Krell’s intelligent HDMI switching. In the two-channel category Krell previewed its Connect Network streaming device which should be available for approximately $2,500 to $3,500 depending on its configuration at the end of March. The Connect with the internal DAC is compatible with high resolution FLAC and WAV files, and it also incorporates built-in Ethernet, Wi-Fi and options for Apple iOS and Android control.
Bryston and Thiel Audio teamed up once again to deliver a great two-channel demo of high resolution audio through the company’s latest products the BDA-2 DAC and companion BDP-2 digital audio music player. Thiel also showcased its new CS2.7 loudspeakers, which were first launched in October 2012. Together the combination of Bryston electronics and Thiel speakers produced a crystal clear image that as fast and detailed. Considering how crazy the pricing in the audiophile world can get, these companies showed that with a reasonable investment, reference level sound quality can be obtained.
Rounding things out in with some personal audio happenings, Polk Audio, MartinLogan, RBH Sound and HiFiMan were a few of the companies showing new headphone products to satisfy those who want on-ear and in-ear product solutions.
CE Pro was treated to some exclusive system demos (videos below) with some of the industry’s top engineers, including Kevin Voecks from Harman’s Revel Speakers, Bob Stuart from Meridian and Rick Santiago from Indy Audio Labs provide their unique insight of their latest products.
Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]
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