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CES 2015 ran from January 6th to 9th, with press events on the 4th and 5th. We covered the show end to end right here.

January 13th: Turntables

     There seem to be more loudspeakers than any other product at CES. Cynics will say that's because anyone can build a speaker, with the confidence that it won't burst into flame.

     These two speakers grabbed our eye.

     acapella     muraudio

     The one on the left is an Acapella Cellini. It's known for its unique plasma tweeter, which has essentially zero mass. The Cellini looks different from previous ones, with an asymmetrical horn. Like other models, though, it sounded very good, with delighfully realistic brass and fast, realistic acoustic guitar. The price: $55,000. The speaker on the right is the Muraudio PX1, $$58,000. This unusual speaker, built in Ottawa, was previewed in Toronto. It's an omnidirectional speaker, with a 360-degree electrostatic panel reproducing everything above 450 Hz. It does project a stable stereo image, but it still seems to need some fine tuning.

sonyspeaker

     This unassuming black speaker is from Sony. Some three years ago, Sony surprised us with a $27,000 speaker that sounded just terrific (Ray Kimber demos his IsoMike recordings with four of them). This new stand-mounted model, the SSNA5ES, is more affordable, at $6,000.

     It's still impressive. On several of Jennifer Warnes' songs, it was a delight.

     We still miss the wonderful room that used to be jointly set up by Bryston and Thiel. Bryston has its own room now, because it now has its own highly successful line of speakers. In a smaller room, now, it still provided great music. As for Thiel, it now has new owners, and has new speakers unrelated from Jim Thiel's famous designs. The best thing we can say is that the classic Thiels will be sold off, and perhaps you can get a deal on them.

BY THE WAY: UHF No. 95 includes a complete guide to using a computer as a music source. Maggie has your copy for $4.
 

January 11th: Turntables

     The proportion of CES exhibitors using CD players continues to shrink, at least among those who don't actually make CD players. In the majority are those using either a computer, often a Mac laptop, or else a music streaming system. However, there were plenty of turntables too.


          kondotable1


     The Ginga turntable is from Kondo, also known as the Japanese version of Audio Note (the two are competitors, but, for historical reasons, share a name). The table was coupled to  Kondo electronics and Heiser speakers.  On acoustic guitar, the system was quick and delightfully tuneful, with vast spaciousness.

     The TransRotor turntable was visually impressive, but, as set up, it was less successful.

transrotortable

 

     It was running with Air Tight tube monoblocks and Gauder Berlina RC 9 speakers. It sounded a little flat and too "hi-fi"...in the pejorative sense.

          Sounding truly excellent was the EAR turntable.


          eartable


     EAR is of course the company founded by Tim de Paravicini, whose electronics were also running, and who was present.


paravicini


     One of the LPs played was a re-release of a Frank Sinatra recording. The original had been recorded on Tim's own machine, and was remastered on the same machine. Outstanding! The speakers were Hansen The Legend Dragon E's. Designer Lars Hansen was also present.

     And then there was the TriangleArt turntable.


          trianglearttable


      If you're thinking of budgeting for it, you should know that the record clamp alone costs more than $2,000. It did sound excellent, with Acoustic Zen Crescendo speakers ($42,000) and Reference M212 tube monoblocks (also $42,000).


BY THE WAY: Terrifc  products for analog from our own chem lab, to clean LPs and your stylus tip.


January 9th:
The zoo
     "The zoo" is the Las Vegas Convention Center. Imagine the biggest convention centre you've ever seen, and then multiply it by 10. No, not 10, make it 20.
     There's a lot of money here. Microsoft used to have a huge pavilion all to itself. It has since bowed out, but the space has been taken over by the likes of Intel and Hisense. They appear to have deep pockets.
        hisensebooth

     Hisense is a Chinese maker of TV sets, but it does more than copy. We got a closeup look at its short-throw laser-LCD projector. Wow!

         vdaaprojector1

     Huge though the zoo is, we did it in record time. Noted at the Gentec booth. Gentec represents such US brands as Klipsch, but wanted to make sure we knew they were Canadian. And so...

              fauxmountie

     What a country! It seems our most recognizable symbol is a police force.

BY THE WAY: We have great audio and digital cables at
our curated Audiophile Store.


January 8th:
The return of Technics
     You may recall that Technics was once Panasonic's serious audio brand. Some of the Technics products were what we usually refer to ask mass market, but there were superb products as well. Does anyone recall the Technics 1500 open-reel tape recorders. Or the underrated Technics moving-coil cartridge?
     We've heard some gloomy predictions (right here at CES) that serious audio is dying. If so, Panasonic didn't get the memo. Panasonic is relaunching a whole set of serious audio products, such as these.
     technicsamp     technicsspeakers

          The amplifier is big, and the speaker small. Both sound very good, together and separately. The speaker, with a coaxial driver like those used by KEF and Tannoy, is about $1200.
     Of course, Sony has also gotten back into high-end audio in a big way, with its justly famous loudspeakers, but also amplifiers and digital servers. As for TEAC, its once moribund Esoteric line began its return some three years ago.
     High end audio is dead,
?

BY THE WAY: Have you see the Moon CD3.3 CD player, with its own digital input? It's future-proof, and it's available at a bargain price at
our Audiophile Boutique.


January 6th:
Digital experience
pepcom

     This evening event, organized by Pepcom, is one of a couple of offsite events (i.e. not sanctioned by CES) to allow companies to buy access to journalists. The photo above tells the tale: free food. And an open bar. We journalists can't be bought, but we can be leased...
     All joking aside, a lot of the products present are somewhat frivolous. The Parrot drone is a frequent visitor.

parrottdrone

     Parrot is a French company with serious products, using this non-weaponized drone as an eye-catcher. There aren't many audio-oriented exhibitors, aside from those with Bluetooth speakers, but we did get a glimpse of this intriguing loudspeaker.

devialetspeaker

     It's from Devialet, which is best known for an all-in-one device that can hang on a wall and provide all the elements of a high-quality music system. Except the speakers. But now you can have the speaker too. The new Devialet speaker is about $2,000 each. Yes, you can get them singly. You might want a mono speaker in the kitchen, or use five of them for a cinema system.
 


January 5th:
The world of TV
lgpress
     Not for the first time, TV sets have become a commodity, with price the main sales point. They tried 3-D, but that was done with such cynicism that consumers didn't bite. They've been promoting OLED. The LG press conference (above) was doing just that. But all the big TV manufacturers are pushing 4K, the high-resolution format now known as UHD (ultra-high definition). LG is launching seven OLED TVs, and no fewer than 60% will be 4K. And LG is getting together with Netflix to stream HDR movies, using extremely high dynamic range. How do you do that with available bandwidth? Good question.
sharp2
     Sharp is also aboard, but adds a technology it is famous for: displays with an exra yellow pixel added to the usual red, green and blue. In other TV company news:
     Panasonic is relaunching the once-famous Technics line of high-end stereo components. It will also show a prototype of a next-generation Blu-ray player, with...yes, 4K resolution.
     Samsung was showing what it calls SUHD TV. We hope to find out more about it.
     Hisense is a Chinese TV maker that began life in 1969 as a small radio factory.Its innovation this time is what is billed as a laser TV. And it is amazing.
hisense
     The screen you see is just a screen. The little laptop-sized device at its base is a projector, using a combination of lasers and LEDs to project a gigantic image.
     Some pretty lousy "4K" sets are being announced, and to counter that undesirable trend, the big companies have just set up the UHD Alliance. Samsung, LG and Panasonic are in the group, as are Sony and Dolby.
 

January 5th: CES Unveiled
unveiledice
     At one time it was a showcase of winners of the annual Innovations Awards. Now it's mainly a showcase of companies that have paid CES a goodly amount of money to get priority access to the press. The ink and pixel-stained wretches that we are come for the free food and open bar.
     Here is an actual award winner, from Axxess:
axxess
     It's a Bluetooth speaker, one of thousands being shown at CES, but -- as you can see -- it floats magnetically. No, we didn't hear it, because it was behind plate glass.
     Griffin, one of our favorite gadget makers, was showing its guides, powerful magnets that can keep the cables of your computer or music system in line.
griffinguides
     Griffin was also showing a new version of its desktop amplifier, which now has Bluetooth but has shed AirPlay. A TV journalist present thought that this was a good move. When we suggested that Bluetooth was sonically inferior to Apple's wireless AirPlay, he seemed to be ill informed on the subject. Fox News, his employer, should keep him better informed.
mandalaybay
     The Mandalay Bay is the venue for the press events, as it was last year. Tomorrow, on to the Venetian, home of the high-end exhibits.
 


December 19th:
The high-end venuevenetian

     Most of CES is at The Last Vegas Convention Centre, possibly the largest in North America. A few years ago, the LVCC doubled in size, almost entirely because of CES. Even so, there are temporary external pavilions, because the LVCC still isn't big enough.
     But it also isn't suitable for high-end audio, which is why the Venetian, located right on the strip, is where we mostly hang out.
     Most recent Vegas casinos have city themes. The Venetian, of course, has canals and gondolas (that's an indoor scene, by the way), as well as a replica of the Piazza San Marco. The Venetian used to be called the Sands, and the convention centre behind it is still called that. There are large ballrooms that can be carved up into listening spaces, but they are lousy listening spaces, and exhibitors have all fled to the hotel tower. The acoustics there are not ideal, but they're better. And besides, all the exhibitors face the same problems. Some have terrific rooms, and some...don't.
     With T.H.E. Show gone, we'll concentrate on the Venetian, but with a full day set aside for "the zoo," as the LVCC is popularly called. That's where the really big companies are.

December 19th: Farewell to the upstart showtheshow
     What has it been, now, 16 years. International CES (nÚ The Consumer Electronics Show) has always had a section for makers of high-end audio, but it has also faced competition. An alternative show, most recently named The Home Entertainment Show, has been setting up on the same dates as CES, and as close as possible to it...sometimes next door. In recent years, it has been at the Flamingo, Bugsy Siegel's old casino, just down the street from the Venetian, where the official CES high-end show is located.
     But, as you can see, the Flamingo is pretty big, and anyone who showed up at the place in 2010 might have been surprised to find that the vast fašade was not decorated like the promotional photo. In fact, it sported giant pictures of Donny and Marie Osmond (in Vegas, no one ever dies). So small was T.H.E. Show compared to the size of the hotel, that we couldn't find any hotel staff -- not even the concierge -- who had any idea where and what it was.
     Perhaps for that reason, the show no longer prospered. We used to give it a full day (from 10 am to 6 pm), but by the end we could tour it in four hours. And that was after taking in the free lunch the show was famous for, and pawing through the stacks of LPs and CDs on sale.
     In 2015, T.H.E. Show is "on hiatus," which makes it a cousin of the dodo. Only the Newport edition carries on.
     The mystery, as we write this, is what will happen to The Marketplace. That's the section where you could buy recordings and accessories. At CES, The Marketplace was the only exception to the CES "no selling" policy. Now, something odd happened earlier in the decade. CES high end moved out of the Alexis Park to settle in the Venetian, but The Marketplace stayed behind, now run by the rebel show. With the rebel show no more, what happens to The Marketplace?
     One other detail is this. CES is strictly for the trade (and for the press -- that's us). T.H.E. Show was accessible to audiophiles, who loved being able to buy recordings on site. Will CES take it over? And will its customers follow? We'll see.

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