• Sights and Sounds of CES 2013

    CES 2013 is in the can. I had a terrific time at the show this year capturing images of new, outrageous, and sensible products. My favorite product of the show was an absolute surprise. Usually manufacturers drop hints as to what's coming or a press release is sent out with an embargo date to notify people of a new product. Not so with Wadia at CES 2013. The new Wadia Intuition came out of the blue. Wadia was more secretive about the Intuition than Apple was with the latest iPhone. The Intuition is an integrated amp with 400 watts into 4 ohms, analog inputs, and digital inputs including USB. I spent about 45 minutes listening to the Intuition and was very impressed. The design (U.S.) and assembly (Italy) of the Wadia Intuition is made possible by the powerhouse that is Fine Sounds SpA. With several high end brands under it's control Fine Sounds is spreading the knowledge to produce even better products than the brands could produce alone. The look of the Intuition was designed by Sonus Faber's industrial engineering team while the audio part of the Intuition was designed by the Wadia team in the U.S. I've requested the first review unit when it's available.

    Another product that really impressed me at CES 2013 was the Aurender W20 . The W20 features an all new audio board powered from two banks of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries that alternate charging cycles and require zero user intervention. Hard drive space in the W20 has been increased to around 6TB and the drives are encased under a 1/2 inch thick aluminum enclosure. Topping off the $15,000 Aurender W20 is a Word Clock input and RS232 communication link that can control the sample rate of external clocks such as the dCS Vivaldi Clock. This is a big deal.

    The McIntosh McAire surprised me this year. I connected my iPhone 5 to the Mc wireless network and beamed some Nat King Cole to the McAire via AirPlay. Sending music via AirPlay isn't surprising but the McAire's ability to sync audio to multiple McAire units was surprising. It's impossible to send music via AirPlay to multiple audio components straight from an iPhone. According to McIntosh the McAire will accept the iPhone's audio stream and synchronize it to multiple McAire units working around the AirPlay limitation.

    Th last day of the show I stopped to see Vinnie Rossi of Red Wine Audio . Vinnie was showing his new Renaissance Edition components including the Signature 16 integrated amp and the Bellina DAC with both 24/192 async USB and a selectable 44.1 kHz R2R ladder DAC. Of course everything is powered via LiFePO4 batteries.

    In addition to seeing Vinnie at the Flamingo I stumbled upon Audionet products from Germany. The company has been around for nearly two decades and is now pushing into the U.S. market. Audionet displayed a DAC and a Preamp with Ethernet / DLNA and async USB input. In audiophile fashion both units feature analog volume control from the front panel and via a nice Android application. What really impressed me was Audionet's DSP application. The Audionet engineer ran through setting an EQ and uploading the settings to the DAC. Users can also purchase a ~$300 microphone measurement package to use with the Audionet software in order to correct for room aberrations present in one's listening environment. My explanation of the Audionet products falls far short of what's possible with both its hardware and software. Look for a review on CA some time in 2013.










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    Comments 17 Comments
    1. AudioDoctor's Avatar
      AudioDoctor -
      Great pictures Chris. There seems to be a lot of DACs being released this year. I was surprised to see that Luxman is releasing a DAC with a USB input that is limited to 24/96. It seems to me it will be outdated before it even hits the ground.
    1. AudioDoctor's Avatar
      AudioDoctor -
      The Redwine stuff has me interested for use on the boat. Did you get any impressions you can share on the sound of that stuff?
    1. esimms86's Avatar
      esimms86 -
      I agree with AudioDoctor's praise for your photos. I'm interested to hear your impressions on the Phasure NOS1, the Auralic Vega and the surge of new DSD DACs. Or maybe Ted_b will weigh in with a post on DSD DACs..

      Esau
    1. One and a half's Avatar
      One and a half -
      Please elaborate on the Legacy DSD stand...
    1. realhifi's Avatar
      realhifi -
      Think you'll get the first review sample of the Wadia? Hey, it's good to dream! *s*
    1. MarkS's Avatar
      MarkS -
      Chris: I wish I had run into you at CES and/or T.H.E. Show. Both were great.

      I was also impressed with the Wadia unit and think these "all in one" dac/integrated amps are a wave of the future. Playback Designs also had a high-end unit of this type.

      Computer sourced audio was the most entrenched I have seen at any show, and DSD is increasing in acceptance. Both great trends.

      The Magico Q7's continued to impress me, and the Wilson XLF's sounded excellent driven by LAMM. I also loved the SoundLab's. I didn't love the MBL's (everything sounded like a concert to me), but they have some soundstage.

      Finally, as you mentioned in your CAPS report, Vinnie Rossi (Red Wine Audio) is a super guy. He is going to design and build for me a battery power supply for my Mac Mini. I need to get in touch with him this week about the project.
    1. MarkS's Avatar
      MarkS -
      Oh yeah, Zanden room also sounded excellent to me (can't recall right now what speakers they used) as did the VTL room.

      Also standout was the Audio Note room. Spectacular vinyl reproduction (but the price is crazy).
    1. veindoc's Avatar
      veindoc -
      Hey Chris, I bumped into on tuesday at Magico room. My favorite room was the Raidho D1 setup-just outstanding, seamless, refined. Now I have to rethink Q1 or D1
    1. input username here's Avatar
      input username here -
      Like MarkS, I think (hope?) that all-in-one designs, like the Wadia and Playback Designs will be the Next Big Thing. So simple, compact and easy to use--and great values without having to pay for all the extra chasses, power supplies, and all that cable!

      A long time ago, I had a TacT amp (and room correction preamp) and I thought it was a stand out in all of the above categories--esp. value. Unfortunately, although I liked and respected the TacT a ton, and for all its virtues (of which there were many), I didn't love it--it was soulless and un-musical in a sort of "this is great hi-fi but not real music" way. Still, in terms of form-factor and functionality, I think TacT was a decade ahead of the curve and I hope that the rest of the high end will finally be catching up.

      Also, although I have so much respect for Andreas Koch from his time at EMM Labs and although I am sure the IMS will be a winner, the Wadia Intuition 01 is soooooooo sexy, the human in me says I must have it--even though the audiophile in me says I shouldn't be swayed by anything but the sound quality.

      It's a shame the mbls did not move MarkS as these are my favorite speakers in the world (although I refer only to the 101 MK IIs, having never heard the 101Xs), but getting massive, reference speakers to sound their best under show conditions is a feat that even the best companies fail to achieve.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by input username here View Post
      ... the Wadia Intuition 01 is soooooooo sexy, the human in me says I must have it--even though the audiophile in me says I shouldn't be swayed by anything but the sound quality.
      Don't fall for that whole audiophiles should only care about sound quality thing. I'm a diehard audiophile and the looks of components matter greatly to me. Great engineering, both electrical and industrial, is impressive and desirable.
    1. obt_man's Avatar
      obt_man -
      Wadia Intuition indeed looks exciting and triggered my interest in demoing and reading reviews. May well be something that I am looking for. And as for how the equipment looks - I am as well very much into the external design of components.
    1. MarkS's Avatar
      MarkS -
      In thinking about the two shows, one other thing occurs to me. I saw a lot of records and a lot of digital via computer, but I sure didn't see many (if any) cd's.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by MarkS View Post
      In thinking about the two shows, one other thing occurs to me. I saw a lot of records and a lot of digital via computer, but I sure didn't see many (if any) cd's.
      I'm with you on that. I don't remember anyone spinning a CD although I know there were rooms with CD players.
    1. Mick The Kraken's Avatar
      Mick The Kraken -
      Note the reflections from the RWA Sig16 (cut and cropped):



      Great coverage of the show, by the way, Chris. Thanks.

      Cheers,
      Mick
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mick The Kraken View Post
      Note the reflections from the RWA Sig16 (cut and cropped):



      Great coverage of the show, by the way, Chris. Thanks.

      Cheers,
      Mick
      Ah yes, I didn't have my Lumix GH2 with me on the last day :~(
    1. Vance's Avatar
      Vance -
      If this toothbrush made it to the CES, it must have the 24/192 studio version of Gangnam Style. Right, Chris?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by Vance View Post
      If this toothbrush made it to the CES, it must have the 24/192 studio version of Gangnam Style. Right, Chris?
      Ha!