• CES Day One Notes

    CES 2011 day one is in the books. I spent the day walking floors 29,30,34, and 35 at the Venetian. These four floors are the main high performance audio areas at CES. I didn't cover every suite on these floors today, but there should be plenty of time over the next three days to see many more of the high end exhibits. My highlights from day one are products from MSB, seductive sound from Quad, and reference level sound from Magico. It also was great to see and hear the dCS 24/192 asynchronous USB implementation in the Debussy DAC, the Audio Research DAC8 with the new Magnepan 3.7 loudspeakers, and a few other very nice high end components from Resolution Audio, Dan D'Agostino, Bel Canto, and Pass Labs. The most over-the-top product of the day was easily the new Boulder 400+ lbs. 3050 monoblock amplifiers.


     

    Highlights

    MSB
    California based MSB Technology is known for outstanding engineering. I was happy to see a full product line of well engineered components in the MSB suite this afternoon. Most interesting is the new Universal Media Transport. If any product deserves the "Universal" designation it's certainly the Universal Media Transport. I'd be surprised if there is a disc on the planet this unit can't read. Even better is its ability to play from external hard drives (USB or eSATA), USB memory sticks, or network sources. Base price for the NMT is $3995 and increases based on selection of a power supply.

             


    QUAD
    Similar to RMAF 2010 and previous year's show I was seduced again by the sound of Quad Loudspeakers. This year the Quad 2905 speakers with 8 electrostatic panels were playing one of my new favorites, Ray LaMontagne's God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise. The speakers were driven by a pair of Quad valve amplifiers that added to the lush sound. This is a system that I could live with and enjoy day-in day-out.

           


    Magico
    To some readers I may sound like a broken record. It seems like every time I hear a new Magico loudspeaker I'm floored by its reference level sound quality. Well, I have to call it like I see it. I'm sure I would be floored by every new version of the Bugatti Veyron if I reviewed automobiles. Such is life. Some manufacturers produce products on a completely different level than most of the industry. Magico is one of them. The new Q3 loudspeaker is being introduced at CES this year and it's another great achievement from Berkeley, CA based Magico. By far the best sound I heard all day came from the Q3 loudspeakers powered by Soulution electronics and a highly customized music server feeding a Pacific Microsonics Model Two DAC. A surprise in the Magico suite this year was the introduction of the new two-way Q1 loudspeaker. The Q1 was on static display with Magico custom built stands and on display with the internal frame exposed. The new Q Series of Magico loudspeakers is really something to see from a design perspective and something hear from a music aficionado / audiophile perspective. Over the next few days I'll be spending additional time in the Magico suite and a few others once I narrow down my favorite sounds of the show.

             


             


     

    Notables

    Resolution Audio
    I talked with Resolution Audio's Jeff Kalt for a bit about his vision for the RA products, computer based audio, and the different technologies one can implement to interface a music server with high end components. Jeff is a very smart guy who keeps up on all the latest technology. The Cantata Music Center was front and center this year much the same as it was in 2010. I wrote about the Cantata last year as well and praised the sound quality, external design, and feature set including an asynchronous USB interface. This year in the RA suite a Cantata Music Center was opened up for all to see the internal design. Jeff walked through each of the notable design elements, leaving me even more impressed than already was based on last year's show. The internal design is all modular. Among other things this allows upgrades to specific parts of the Cantata fairly easily. Jeff pointed out the dual master clocks located in the upper right DAC section of the Cantata and directed my attention to the gray ribbon cable connecting the DAC section to the digital interface section immediately to the left (see photo). This cable is the only connection between these two sections of the Cantata and enables complete galvanic isolation from noisy computers or computer networks and the sensitive DAC components.

         


    Bel Canto
    The new Bel Canto 5i integrated amp with an array of digital inputs including USB was powering a pair of Joseph Audio Pulsar loudspeaker. It was hard to listen critically as there were several meetings going on at the same time. I definitely want to stop back in this suite to hear the sub $2k 5i integrated.

       


    Dan D'Agostino
    I've long been a fan of Krell amplifiers as they were some of the first amps that got me into real high end audio. Since that time Dan has put Krell in his rearview mirror and started the Dan D'Agostino line of products. The new amplifiers were powering Wilson Audio Sasha loudspeakers with a dCS digital front end. The sound in this suite was pleasant, but not the final word in resolution. I'm looking forward to hearing these amps and the upcoming preamp from Dan again in the not to distant future.

           


    dCS
    Like the other asynchronous USB innovators dCS has announced support for 24/176.4 and 24/192 sample rates. I played some of my own music from the dCS MacBook Pro connected to the Debussy, VTL monoblocks and Wilson Sophia loudspeakers. The sound was very good. I look forward to updating my Debussy in the near future and enjoying support for all my music via USB.

         


     

    Day One Wrap Up
    Day one of CES 2011 was full of highlights and other notable sights. I'm looking forward to day two and will likely stop by a couple off-site manufacturer's suites and report back to the CA readers. Those of you who are here at the show I'd love to read what you've seen and heard so far :~)

     

             


           


             



           


         



     



     



     
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. neuropsychdoc's Avatar
      neuropsychdoc -
      And when you return, Chris, can you give us an update on the C.A.P.S. version 2???????<br />
      <br />
      Thanks!
    1. MarkS's Avatar
      MarkS -
      WOW!! Great news from dCS on the upgrade for the Debussy dac. Do you know when the upgrade will become available and how I can get it done?<br />
      <br />
      Chris - what did you think of the VTL amps? I am pretty sure I will upgrade my mk. II's to mk. III's this month.<br />
      <br />
      Wish I could be there.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Mark - The dCS upgrade will be ready in a couple months I believe.<br />
      <br />
      The VTL upgrade to version III is well worth it. Don't hesitate.
    1. crapperdapper's Avatar
      crapperdapper -
      And for other dCS users: according to dCS they are working on an upgrade of the whole line to 24/192...<br />
      <br />
      Thank you!
    1. matthias's Avatar
      matthias -
      <br />
      Mark,<br />
      <br />
      http://www.stereophile.com/content/dcs-debussy-dac-usb-upgrade<br />
      <br />
      KR<br />
      <br />
      matthias
    1. MarkS's Avatar
      MarkS -
      GREAT NEWS!!!<br />
      <br />
      Thanks. Love this site!!
    1. zerung's Avatar
      zerung -
      Thanks Chris,<br />
      looking forward to some 'as you see it' assessment on Weiss Man202.<br />
    1. f1eng's Avatar
      f1eng -
      The new metal Magicos are the first speakers I have seen which are similar in construction technology to the Goldmund Epilogs which so soundly trounced every other speaker I compared them with about 11 to 12 years ago. The comparisons were Wilson WAMM and Grand Slam, B&W Nautilus (which was so cool looking I wanted it to be best) and similar. With their latest technology drivers the Magicos may well be better still. Must go to listen to some...
    1. The Offenbach Kid's Avatar
      The Offenbach Kid -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      According to their web-site Devialet are at CES for the first time at the Venetian in room 30 335. Were you able to get along there and hear/see the D-Premier?<br />
      <br />
      Best regards,<br />
      <br />
      Neil.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Neil The Devialet was only on static display at the Venetian. Over at the Mirage is was playing, but I didn't get to that specific suite.
    1. addict's Avatar
      addict -
      I have heard the Devialet a few times now and on one occasion it sounded stunning! but on another couple of times it sounded very sterile and uninvolving. <br />
      <br />
      I know we all have different tastes but I think it needs very careful set up and matching of speakers etc used with it. I always drool over it though.<br />
      <br />
      I like the idea behind the MSB Universal media player and the fact that MSB are not hiding that it's based it on the oppo. I missed CES this year so I didn't get a chance to hear it or ask any questions. I'll have to wait for it to make it's way to the UK. <br />
      <br />
    1. bernardl's Avatar
      bernardl -
      Addict,<br />
      <br />
      I am a happy Devialet owner, using it connected to a mac mini through a Weiss Int202.<br />
      <br />
      I noticed a significant improvement the day I started to use an Acrolink/Esoteric 7N-PC7100 power cord with it. The 7N-PC7100 is filter by a Blacknoise 2500 power conditioner.<br />
      <br />
      Very happy about how the system sounds now. It has turned my B&W 804s, that I have never really liked, into an amazing pair of speakers.<br />
      <br />
      Obviously, this is a super revealing system, but good rips of rock CDs are still very listenable.<br />
      <br />
      Regards,<br />
      Bernard<br />
    1. addict's Avatar
      addict -
      Hello Bernard,<br />
      <br />
      I agree the Devialet can sound amazing and it would be one of the amps I would like to buy. When a friend of mine set his up there was a big difference when he played with mains cables (I don't want to start a cable debate) I don't know why but after some playing around It was one of the best systems I heard.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. The Offenbach Kid's Avatar
      The Offenbach Kid -
      Bernard,<br />
      <br />
      I'm also a very happy owner since getting mine shortly after the High-End show in Munich last May.<br />
      <br />
      Our systems have very similar DNA. I have a MacBook Pro connected to the Devialet through a Weiss INT202, driving my recently acquired B&W 802D's. Power is provided by a PS Audio Power Plant Premier.<br />
      <br />
      I'm now in that happy state where I'm no longer listening to a hi-fi system; I'm listening to music. Some of my 24/192 studio master downloads from Linn Records sound especially good.<br />
      <br />
      Regards,<br />
      <br />
      Neil.
    1. hltf's Avatar
      hltf -
      Has anyone had any experience using MIT cables with the Devialet - Magnum MA or Oracle? Thank you<br />
      hasan<br />
    1. The Offenbach Kid's Avatar
      The Offenbach Kid -
      Hasan,<br />
      <br />
      Sorry, but I don't have any experience of MIT cables. When I bought the D-Premier I just slotted it into my existing set-up of Transparent signal and speaker cables. The only new cable I bought was the link between the Weiss INT202 and the AES/EBU socket on the D-Premier for which I bought a Siltech cable as recommended by the dealer in Germany.<br />
      <br />
      Why not contact Devialet directly via their web-site? I've done this a few times and they've always responded; though it might not be straight away if a few of the guys are at CES.<br />
      <br />
      Alternatively you could try their new US Distributor, Audio Plus Services.<br />
      <br />
      Sorry I can't be of more help.<br />
      <br />
      Regards,<br />
      <br />
      Neil.
    1. hltf's Avatar
      hltf -
      Neil:<br />
      Thanks for the feedback. I will check with Devialet or AudioPlus. I hope to hear the unit soon.<br />
      Regards<br />
      Hasan<br />
    1. addict's Avatar
      addict -
      I would also try synergistic research. My mate was using the D2 cable and speaker cable. With thiel speakers and metronome kalista transport. Great sound.
    1. nunhgrader's Avatar
      nunhgrader -
      What was the model and/ or name of the Magico bookshelf? Was that the Q1? Sorry for my ignorance.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks!
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Yes the Q1 is the Magico monitor speaker.