• CES 2012 Show Notes

    Wireless was everywhere. Music servers were everywhere. DACs were everywhere. CES 2012 was good for computer audiophiles and those looking to take the next step in high performance audio playback in the home. New Xeo wireless powered speakers from Dynaudio were among several wireless and/or powered speakers at the show. Audioengine showed its engineering prowess with its D2 wireless DAC at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Music servers from Weiss, Bladelius, and Merging Technologies showed much promise and the usual suspects from Apple running OS X and Microsoft Windows 7 were literally everywhere. Magico also debuted its $165,000 Q7 loudspeakers. I'm not sure there is a better loudspeaker on the market today.






     

    On my trip to the Las Vegas Convention Center, where 99% of the show resides, I stopped by the Audioengine booth to speak with Dave, Brett, and Brady. The new D2 $599 24 bit / 96 kHz wireless DAC not only impressed me with its features, but amazed me with its ability to keep a wireless connection in a convention center full of more wireless networks than most people have ever seen. There's no more hostile environment for wireless data transmission than a convention full of wireless technology demonstrations. Yet the D2 did not suffer from audio dropouts during the show. I have a D2 on the way for review. It should perform just fine in my dual wireless network home environment.

    Audioenginelink


     

    Also at the LVCC I talked to the guys from Synology, manufacturer of great Network Attached Storage (NAS) products. The Synology operating system has been updated to version DSM 4.0. By the time readers finish this article the 4.0 update should be available on the Synology website. Among the improvements are much easier app / package installation and the new Cloud Station feature. Cloud Station works just like Dropbox but one's data is never placed in the hands of another company and there are no fees for the "service." Synology's Douglas Self explained to me that software is where all the real advances and engineering are when it comes to NAS devices. He said all the NAS manufacturers use the same hardware and to separate themselves from the other guys Synology has put extensive effort into the DSM software interface and features. Look for a Synology NAS review in the next couple months here on CA.

    Synologylink


     

    Back at the Venetian Magico debuted its Q7 and S5 loudspeakers. The much less expensive $28,000 S5 speaker looks great in all its colors but was simply overshadowed by the new flagship 750 lbs. each Q7. The Q7 features dual 12" drivers a single 10" midbass driver, single 6" midrange driver and a 1" Beryllium tweeter. A very cool part of this speaker is its 94 dB sensitivity. The ability to drive a flagship Magico speaker with almost any amplifier of reasonable power is extremely attractive to potential customers. I wish I was a potential Q7 customer :~) For the most part I don't comment on sound quality at shows. Once in awhile credit must be given where credit is due. The sound in the Magico room was awesome. Period. I wish all manufacturers would take things to the Magico level when it comes to room setup and dedication to great sound at audio shows. The combination of a stunning loudspeaker and appropriate room setup leads to wonderful sonic memories.

    Magicolink
    Click To Enlarge

         


     

    Daniel Weiss showed up at CES this year with two goodies for CA readers. First, the DAC202 now has an asynchronous USB option. The USB implementation uses the XMOS chip and supports up to 24/192 on OS X without additional software. Support for rates over 24/96 on Windows requires installation of the now commonplace Thesycon drivers. Second, Weiss demonstrated the new MAN301 music server. This version of the Weiss server is 100% better than last year's prototype. The iPad user interface has improved greatly with a very usable and unique method of track selection and playback. The server will come in two versions, one with ($11,730) and one without ($8,670) the DAC202 built-in. Volume control on this server is the usual Weiss coarse analog / fine digital. The server also features word clock in/out, disc ripping, playback from NAS or USB drive, SSD for OS and database only, and user profiles for separate playlists per user. In an effort to eliminate UPnP network issues the MAn301 can be connected directly to the NAS drive's Ethernet port. Control and Internet access is then available via the MAN301's wireless interface. Weiss Engineering hopes to ship the MAN301 in the next couple months.

    Weiss Engineeringlink
    Click To Enlarge

             


     

    Dynaudio launched its Xeo self-powered wireless speakers this year at CES. I listened to each pair on display for a few minutes. The sound was really good, but with all the people walking around and talking fairly loud a real sonic assessment was not possible. I hope to get these in my system for a true evaluation as I love the concept. The Xeo 3 and Xeo 5 were demonstrated several times throughout each day of the show. The Xeo systems include a wireless transmitter that connects via USB or optical to a computer or analog RCA to any analog source. The wireless receiver is hidden inside the Xeo loudspeakers. Analog sources are converted to digital for transmission to the wireless speakers. Wireless transmission is not via 802.11 or any other crowded home networking protocol. The speakers and receiver connect directly to each other without any need for setup on a network. According to Dynaudio USA's Mike Manousselis the Xeo speakers can transmit CD quality audio to three different zones. Pricing for the Xeo speakers is $2,300 for the Xeo 3 and $4,500 for the Xeo 5. Addition speaker pairs can be purchased for $350 less if another transmitter is not needed. Look for the Xeo speakers in Black or White this March.

    Dynaudiolink
    Click To Enlarge

         


     

    Other notable CES products include:

    Adam Audio - ARTist Series (Pictured Below) of powered loudspeakers featuring analog and USB digital input up to 48 kHz. On display were the Artist 5 at $600 each and Artist 3 at $400 each.
    Adam Audiolink

    Cambridge Audio - DAC Magic 100, USB up to 24/192, $399.
    Stream Magic 6, $1,149.
    DAC Magic +, $599.
    Azur 851A & 851C (DAC with Transport), USB up to 24/192. (All Pictured Below)
    Cambridge Audiolink

    CH Precision - C1 DAC, $30,000 (Pictured Below). USB and Ethernet are options, DLNA optional. USB uses XMOS and supports up to 24/192. Volume control is coarse analog / fine digital. Ships February 2012.
    CH Precisionlink

    Burmester - 113 Bluetooth / USB DAC (Pictured Below). USB up to 24/192, APT-X Bluetooth. Galvanic isolation. $5,995
    Burmesterlink

    Micromega - Aria AirDream $4,995 (Pictured Below).
    Micromegalink

    Audio Research Corporation - Digital Media Bridge / Reference DAC, $15,000 (Pictured Below).
    Audio Research Corporationlink

    Paradigm - Shift series powered bookshelf speakers (Pictured Below).
    Paradigmlink

    Meitner Audio - MA 2 cd+ (Pictured Below).
    Meitner Audiolink

    Peachtree Audio - 220 Class D Stereo Amplifier, $1,399. 220 watts into 8 ohms, 440 into 4 ohms. RCA and XLR inputs (Pictured Below).
    Peachtree Audiolink

    Bel Canto - uLink ($795) asynchronous USB to S/PDIF converter (Pictured Below).
    Bel Cantolink



     

     

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    Comments 53 Comments
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi beetlemania - I can see why you thought that about RMAF. At CES Magico goes all out whereas at RMAF the room is much smaller and doesn't allow them to do as much as the large CES suite. <br />
      <br />
      I'm not making excuses for Magico, just an observation.<br />
      <br />
    1. nevillekapadia's Avatar
      nevillekapadia -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Was there any mention or presence of any new dac's with DSD decoding?<br />
      <br />
      Look forward to your feedback.<br />
      <br />
      Best,<br />
      <br />
      Neville
    1. david.parker83's Avatar
      david.parker83 -
      The Bad Plus! Did you get a chance to check out the Centrance area? I've been looking at their audiophile desktop system.
    1. j.SoundLabs's Avatar
      j.SoundLabs -
      Hey Chris, thanks for sharing all of these great photos, I see you were using a great camera/lens combo. The 20mm Panny is a personal favorite, I've been using it for a while with my GF1.
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      DSD capabilities CH Precision's DAC will do it now via Windows (I think), and later will support DSD via streaming (UPnP).<br />
      <br />
      I spoke with the David Steven Jr. from dCS and he says the official firmware will be completed for the Debussy once they get everyone (Mytek, etc) on the same path. He expected this to be within 30-60 days, with dCS being last. I know Chris said earlier that this agreement was a done deal, but it didn't feel this way talking with David.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi j.SoundLabs - Yeah, the 20mm f/1.7 is a fabulous lens for stills and video. The Lumix GH2 is also wonderful. For audio shows I can't think of a better combination. I'd hate to lug around a full size SLR or god forbid my Hasselblad 503CW!<br />
      <br />
    1. labjr's Avatar
      labjr -
      <i><br />
      "First, the DAC202 now has an asynchronous USB option."<br />
      <br />
      Is there a price change?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hey Ted - It was great seeing you at the show. Did you get a chance to see Daniel Weiss and the MAN301?<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi labjr - Not sure about the price with the USB option. The Swiss Franc is so strong against the dollar right now I almost hate to ask :~|<br />
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      the Weiss). I got over and saw it, but Daniel was deep into a discussion with a distributor. Got a chance to chat with Kent Poon and others. The MAN301 server looks nice, way better setup and features than last years obvious proto.
    1. Fafner's Avatar
      Fafner -
      You should get a FujiFilm X100, its like an M3 with circuits.
    1. j.SoundLabs's Avatar
      j.SoundLabs -
      or even better, the X-Pro 1 that has interchangeable lenses... its a sexy beast. <br />
      <br />
      http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/01/10/FujifilmXPro1_Preview<br />
      <br />
      Oh, and I hear you loud and clear about not wanting to carry an SLR or the hasselblad with you, Chris. I switched from a Nikon D300 to a Panny GF1 about a year ago, couldn't be happier. <br />
      <br />
      Now, back to audio!
    1. Fafner's Avatar
      Fafner -
      There's always something better next year
    1. agentsmith's Avatar
      agentsmith -
      >> official firmware will be completed for the Debussy once they get everyone (Mytek, etc) on the same path. <<<br />
      <br />
      Thanks Ted. Getting everyone on the same path sounds like an eternity.<br />
      <br />
      Surely they could release their own "beta" version out first and provides updates once everyone else come on board? Just wondering aloud.
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      (10 or less currently) that are already on pretty much the same page, but dCS wants a sign-off sort of step. I don't think this is going to be anything protracted.
    1. agentsmith's Avatar
      agentsmith -
      Thanks Ted. dCS has been good in owning up to their promises. Just getting a little anxious to try it out.
    1. mikemercer's Avatar
      mikemercer -
      Great reporting as always Chris!!<br />
      <br />
      Sorry I missed you there! <br />
      <br />
      Keep up the Great Work
    1. dummy's Avatar
      dummy -
      ... yet another one!<br />
      <br />
      Seeing that the new Magico Q7 can be triwired, how do you connect 3 amps to a preamp?<br />
      <br />
      On the subject of connexions, does a fixed tape record out on a preamp/integrated can be used as a HT pass thru?<br />
      <br />
      Thanks!<br />
      <br />
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      (or switch) so that you can still use your main (variable) outputs, and you wouldn't have to switch amp connections, etc (from variable to fixed, for example). The HT bypass input is not associated (bypassed) with the preamp's volume control, thereby allowing you to use, instead, the HT's own volume control...your preamp's active controls get out of the way. A fixed tape out would require you to swap amplifier connections every time you wanted the volume control disabled, a pain in the ass.<br />
      <br />
      Triamped speakers are not new and simply require any number of options, including jumpers, y-adapters or crossovers.
    1. dummy's Avatar
      dummy -
      Thanks ted_b<br />
      <br />