• CES Day Three Notes

    Day three of CES 2011 I split my time between the Venetian and the Mirage. The Venetian is the official home of CES high performance audio and the Mirage is the unofficial home for a few well known high-end audio companies each year. I started the morning meeting with Classé to follow up on our initial meeting at CES 2010. Last year Classé was in the beginning stages of designing a USB enabled product. This year Classé is showing the fruits of its labor. Few USB implementations surprise me or catch me off guard like the new Classé CP-800 did this year. The Musical Fidelity suite at the Mirage displayed new products, existing products, and offered a nice asynchronous versus adaptive USB comparison using the new and existing MuFi products. At the Venetian Computer Audiophile reader favorite Weiss Engineering displayed one of the most popular products of 2010 and a new prototype products that could be a product of the year sometime in the future.


    Classé
    Over the last year I eagerly awaited news from Classé about its forthcoming USB enabled product. I was unsure if it would be a stand alone DAC or another type of component. A couple months ago Classé's Dave Nauber and I exchanged emails about the new CP-800 stereo preamp processor with built-in DAC, USB inputs, Ethernet capabilities, and a ton more options. Today I finally saw the $5,000 (approximately) CP-800 and talked to an extremely bright member of the Classé engineering team about all the features of the new preamp processor. The USB inputs offer host (type A) and device (type B) connectorslink allowing a portable player (iPod, etc…) connection to the CP-800 and a computer connection that appears as a DAC. The most impressive part of the CP-800 is its unique asynchronous USB implementation. In my estimation 95% of USB implementations are adaptive and 5% are asynchronous. Of the 5% asynchronous USB DACs I know of no other implementation like that of the CP-800. Classé engineered this asynchronous implementation in house after lengthy research into the operation of USB audio. In addition to the standard asynchronous functions like pulling the data as opposed to accepting the data from a computer and dual oscillators for the 44.1 and 48 kHz sample rate families, the CP-800 isolates the sensitive master clock by using an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) between the USB controller and DAC. Classé will soon release a white paper explaining why it believes this asynchronous USB implementation is superior to all other current USB implementations. The Ethernet input on the CP-800 is capable of two different user selectable methods of operation. Option 1 enables the CP-800 to functions a UPnP/DLNA renderer while options 2 enables the CP-800 to function as an Apple AirPlay capable device. Pros and cons exist for each option but I really like the ability to select one of the two options depending on the need of each user.

           


    Musical Fidelity
    Walking into the Musical Fidelity suite at the Mirage it's impossible not to be impressed by the large Verity Audio Lohengrin II loudspeakers powered by the giant 1000 watt Titan and pure class A 100 watt AMS100 amplifiers.The digital front end was the equally impressive and expensive dCS Scarlatti stack. As expected the sound coming from this system was something I would happily live with until the manufacturers/distributors needed the equipment returned. Beyond the main room in the suite Musical Fidelity displayed the new $1,999 M1-CLiC Universal Music Controller, V-Link asynchronous USB to S/PDIF converter (review coming this week), and the new M6 500i integrated amplifier powering Verity Lonore loudspeakers. The M1-CLiC is an interesting product with many digital inputs including USB (adaptive device), USB (host) for iPod on rear and hard drive on front, Ethernet, S/PDIF (optical and electrical), as well as analog inputs. All inputs are user selectable via a modest graphical user interface. Navigation via this interface was surprisingly fast and responsive. A highlight of the visit was a demonstration put on by John Quick comparing Musical Fidelity's adaptive and asynchronous USB implementations. Depending on the level of execution of each interface the difference can range from unnoticeable to very apparent. The two components in use were the MuFi M6 CD Player with adaptive USB input and the V-Link asynchronous USB to S/PDIF converter connected to the M6 coaxial S/PDIF input. I was surprised at the magnitude of the difference between the two USB implementations. The asynchronous V-Link was clearly superior in clarity, separation and soundstage. The nice thing about this is the low price of the V-Link. If memory serves it should sell for $170-180.

                       



    Weiss Engineering
    At the Weiss Engineering suite I talked to Daniel Weiss and Weiss Asia distributor / Mastering Engineer Kent Poon who CA readers recognize from his wonderful Audiophile Jazz Prologue high resolution material. Much of the discussion in the Weiss suite surrounded the prototype MAN 202 Music Archive Network Player. The term prototype can't be stressed enough at this stage, but Weiss is working very hard to finalize the feature set and software configuration. This player has a nice, but improvable, iPad remote control interface. I browsed around the library selecting many Led Zeppelin tracks with ease. The MAN 202 offers a built-in DAC with many digital inputs including word clock in/output. If I were a betting man here in Las Vegas I would put money on this built-in DAC being awfully similar to the DAC202. The MAN 202 even retains the course analog / fine digital volume control that I like so much during my DAC 202 review period. This player runs on the incredibly stable and customizable Linux operating system. As far as most consumers are concerned they don't even have to know what operating system the MAN 202 uses as it never comes into play for the end user. There is no keyboard, mouse or monitor needed. This could certainly be one of those music servers that operates like a toaster and just works. I've already expressed my interest to Daniel Weiss about obtaining the MAN 202 as soon as it's ready for review.

                   


     

    Other photos from CES 2011 Day Three include a new CD Player / USB DAC from Mbl (Corona line of products), new stereo amplifier from Ayre, and the Soneteer Morpheus Music Center + Morpheus Server.

                     
         
    Comments 35 Comments
    1. ukiro's Avatar
      ukiro -
      I really want to know what the DAC in the MAN 202 is! Didn't you ask about this, Chris? I too would assume it to be identical to DAC 202, but an upgrade from assumption to certainty would be nice.<br />
      <br />
      I also wonder how they've dealt with the potential RFI problems from having a computer in the same box as the dac. The first prototype of this device was shown 2 years ago (called "Nova" at the time, I think), so apparently things are taking quite a bit of time.<br />
      <br />
      If someone who already owns a DAC 202 is interested in the other capabilities of the MAN 202, what would they do? From my laymans viewpoint it would have made more sense to build something like an ethernet version of INT 202 without the dac.
    1. dummy's Avatar
      dummy -
      Hello Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Do you know If the new Classé will do 176/192 through USB? Also, what DAC's are they using (ESS, Wolfson, BurrBrown)?<br />
      <br />
      Thanks!<br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      The Classé will do up to 24/96 via USB for now and the CP-800 is using a Wolfson DAC.
    1. almaatakz's Avatar
      almaatakz -
      Thank you for the ongoing CES coverage! Very useful, especially given the computer music focus.<br />
      <br />
      the V-link sounds interesting due to its (low cost) asynch functionality. <br />
      <br />
      Would it make sense to (theoretically) expect an improvement from using it (macmini 2009 usb - V-link - Benchamrk HDR optical in) versus:<br />
      <br />
      a) macmini direct to optical Benchmark HDR<br />
      b) macmini direct to USB Benchmark HDR<br />
      <br />
      ?
    1. wappinghigh's Avatar
      wappinghigh -
      Chris.<br />
      <br />
      The Weiss Man 202 has a USB port as well as firewire. Is Weiss moving to Asych USB? Are they worried about firewire? <br />
      <br />
      Keep up great work. This site totally ROCKS!<br />
      <br />
      Regards<br />
      <br />
      Wap
    1. Elprior's Avatar
      Elprior -
      Hi Wap,<br />
      <br />
      I think this is external storage support rather.<br />
      But I might be wrong...<br />
      <br />
      Elp
    1. Quest's Avatar
      Quest -
      Elprior is correct. If you read the brochure, it states these are for external storage. You can, however, connect another dac via firewire. To me, that sounds like you should use a DAC202 with it, and makes it less likely it will be a DAC202 within the unit.<br />
      <br />
      USB being USB, I'm pretty sure you can connect a usb dac to it, assuming it is supported by linux, and the version of linux weiss has chosen allows this.
    1. wappinghigh's Avatar
      wappinghigh -
      Is this the first decent hifi with airplay or what?<br />
      <br />
      Details PLEASEEEEEEEEEE !
    1. weiss2496's Avatar
      weiss2496 -
      Here are a few answers to those questions:<br />
      <br />
      The MAN202 will be available in a stripped down version without analog or digital I/O except for the FireWire connection. <br />
      <br />
      The DAC in the MAN202 is of similar quality as the DAC202.<br />
      <br />
      The USB port currently is for connecting storage devices. Whether we will support playback via USB out we have to see.<br />
      <br />
      Regards, Daniel
    1. ukiro's Avatar
      ukiro -
      Thanks for the reply, Daniel! I hope to get the chance to discuss this unit with you a bit more in Stockholm in February.
    1. Quest's Avatar
      Quest -
      Thank you for the info. Will there be a stripped down version with digital I/O (but no analog)? Else, I assume this version can still work with INT202 (though this has no wordclock).<br />
      <br />
      Is there any estimated pricing or availability of the unit? Just so some of us can make a decision on buying your other products or to wait.
    1. Erwin S's Avatar
      Erwin S -
      Daniel,<br />
      <br />
      Is that a CD-slot on the front plate? If so, can you rip straight to the NAS?
    1. weiss2496's Avatar
      weiss2496 -
      Whether the stripped down version will have a digital output (besides Firewire) is not yet decided. Probably yes.<br />
      <br />
      Price is not yet determined and availability - we are working hard to get it out as quickly as possible, but software sometimes is unpredictable...<br />
      <br />
      Yes, this is a CD slot for ripping directly to the NAS. Cover art etc. is fetched from the Internet.<br />
      <br />
      Daniel<br />
    1. Quest's Avatar
      Quest -
      Personally I feel going for MAN202 without the DAC would mean most users would like to use it with another DAC. In this case, digital output with your solution (with wordclock i/o which makes it better than INT202) would be very welcome.<br />
      <br />
      Though there would be a segment which want to use it with their existing DAC202 (or any future firewire dac) and will not need any other digital output, I'm not sure how the ratio between the two groups would be - I'm biased as I belong to the first group!<br />
      <br />
      My only comment would be to upgrade the INT202 with wordclock I/O if wanting to do a MAN202 without digital outputs. This probably satisfies both groups.
    1. 1audio's Avatar
      1audio -
      "Did I really read "Classe with airplay?"<br />
      Is this the first decent hifi with airplay or what?<br />
      <br />
      Details PLEASEEEEEEEEEE !"<br />
      <br />
      Seems very unlikely. Even B&W, who will be the first non Apple Airplay product, won't be available for some time. Without Apple's direct involvement nothing happens quickly if ever and there is quite a line waiting for access to Airplay (with much deeper pockets and distribution to persuade Apple).
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      This unit will have AirPlay. Classe is working on it right now.
    1. 1audio's Avatar
      1audio -
      Here is a little public info on the origins of Airplay: http://blogs.computerworld.com/16918/interview_apples_airplay_is_a_big_big_business . I can verify Bridgco's central role in Airplay.<br />
      I agree the $15B number is a little outsized. I hope Classe is successful in getting their implementation going. The other guys have been working on it for quite some time now.
    1. Kalahaan's Avatar
      Kalahaan -
      Micromega already released the WM-10 "Airstream" wifi DAC more than 1 year ago...<br />
      Wih its upgraded clock and power supply, it uses iTunes proprietary Airplay technology and its performance outputting a digital signal without jitter is stunning.<br />
      It's a great bridge between iTunes and a High-End audio system, all controlled at the hand with an iPad or iPod Touch.<br />
      <br />
      Now Micromega is releasing the AS400 that combines a 2 x 400 W integrated amplifier with an Airstream and an upgraded DAC !<br />
      Easy and convenient has become even better ...<br />
      <br />
      Other companies are developing products, while Micromega machines are already on the market !<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      The WM-10 Airstream does not use AirPlay.
    1. Kalahaan's Avatar
      Kalahaan -
      Well to the best of my knowledge, the WM-10 uses AirTunes protocol... and AirTunes is AirPlay !