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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Burmester - 113 Bluetooth / USB DAC (Pictured Below). USB up to 24/192, APT-X Bluetooth. Galvanic isolation. $5,995
Micromega - Aria AirDream $4,995 (Pictured Below).
Audio Research Corporation - Digital Media Bridge / Reference DAC, $15,000 (Pictured Below).
Audio Research Corporation
Paradigm - Shift series powered bookshelf speakers (Pictured Below).
Meitner Audio - MA 2 cd+ (Pictured Below).
Peachtree Audio - 220 Class D Stereo Amplifier, $1,399. 220 watts into 8 ohms, 440 into 4 ohms. RCA and XLR inputs (Pictured Below).
Bel Canto - uLink ($795) asynchronous USB to S/PDIF converter (Pictured Below).