• CES 2015



    CES 2015 is in the can and Iím disappointed. Iím disappointed that I didnít make it to nearly as many rooms as I wanted to and I didnít spend enough time in the rooms I visited. Without an editorial staff itís impossible to do this show any justice. For the most part, what I saw was great. The new Ravenna based network DAC from Merging Technologies, the NADAC, looks promising. It has the ability to output from two to sixteen channels and should be priced around $6,000 - $7,000. One of the best sounding rooms I stumbled into during the entire show was that of Nagra. The Swiss manufacture demonstrated prototype amplifiers that were part of a system featuring the HD DAC and a MacBook Air. The sound was delicate and stayed in my mind throughout the entire four days of CES. Devialet focussed heavily on Phantom by featuring nearly ten units in its room. This was my second opportunity to hear Phantom and I really enjoyed what I heard. I talked to a few audio engineers, from companies other than Devialet, about the Phantom because I wanted to get more opinions on the technology. Most engineers agree the Phantom is an engineering marvel. This year Magico moved its demonstration from the Venetian to the Mirage and put on a terrific sonic display. The Q7 loudspeakers paired with the Q Sub produced sound that I could have listened to for hours on end. The delicacy, depth, and cleanliness of the sound was as good as I can ever remember a Magico trade show demonstration. The sound was assisted by Soulution electronics and the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha RS DAC. My favorite sound of the show was heard at the dCS room. The dCS Vivaldi stack drove Dan Díagostino amplifiers directly which drove Rockport speakers wonderfully. I sat in the dCS room for about forty-five minutes, going through track after track on my USB stick. The sound wasnít perfect (the amps and speakers were fresh from the factories), but it was very good. I didnít want to leave the dCS room but after a while I felt as if I was hogging the playback system. TAD demonstrated its CE-1 (Compact Evolution 1) loudspeaker for the first time. The sound engineer Andrew Jones reproduced through these speakers at the show was terrific. One interesting point about these speakers is the interchangeable side panels. The standard options of metal, black, and white can be augmented by nearly any design. Andrew had a custom design done by the Neal Feay Company on hand to demonstrate one possibility (photo below). The most convincing demonstration of the week was put on by Linn. Linn demonstrated the power of its Exakt technology through an A-B-A listening session. I first heard the fully active system without the Exakt component in the playback chain. Linn followed this by quickly switching cables to route through the Exakt box. The difference was audible but nothing compared to what I heard when the Linn team switched back to the original un-Exakt system. I was floored at how much better Exakt can make a system sound. This was definitely a demo I wonít forget.

    One of the most hyped technologies of CES 2015 was Merdianís MQA (Master Quality Authenticated). After sitting through thirty minutes of MQA talk by Meridian I remain unconvinced that MQA is a good thing. One reason is the demonstration put on by Merdian compared a 128 kbps MP3 file to a 1100 kbps MQA version, both from the master tapes. No matter the reason and justification for this demonstration, I still think itís a bit disingenuous. Another reason I remain unconvinced is that, I believe, MQA is NOT lossless. Meridian claims MQA is lossless, but I believe it only claims audibly lossless, not lossless in the normal use of the term. I checked with a couple engineers at the show and each confirmed MQA wasnít lossless in the traditional sense of the word. I think there will be many discussions to come about MQA.

    Also in the Meridian room I received a demonstration of the next generation Sooloos software. Iím not a liberty to discuss what I saw and what I was told, but I can say it was absolutely awesome.

    CES 2015 Photo Gallery

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    Comments 26 Comments
    1. jtwrace's Avatar
      jtwrace -
      What's the price of the CE1? Also, did Andrew say anything further about the future of TAD?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by jtwrace View Post
      What's the price of the CE1? Also, did Andrew say anything further about the future of TAD?
      I believe the ce-1 will be around $25,000. Andrew made no comments about the future of TAD. Have you heard rumors?
    1. jtwrace's Avatar
      jtwrace -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      I believe the ce-1 will be around $25,000. Andrew made no comments about the future of TAD. Have you heard rumors?
      Oh, wow, more than I expected actually. I wonder how it will compare to the E1 then.
    1. Demerara's Avatar
      Demerara -
      RE: Exakt comments in article

      The correct spelling is LINN not Lynn.
    1. bpw's Avatar
      bpw -
      John Quick of dCS said the Rockport speakers were the first and only pair and were broken in. I don't know about the amps.
    1. christopher3393's Avatar
      christopher3393 -
      Thanks, Chris. Right to the point. Any update on hard launch date for the Phantom?
    1. Clemmaster's Avatar
      Clemmaster -
      "I believe, MQA is NOT lossless. Meridian claims MQA is lossless, but I believe it only claims audibly lossless, not lossless in the normal use of the term."

      Maybe the "normal use of the term" does not apply to the MQA format...

      Redbook is not lossless either. After all, you're cutting everything above 22.05kHz (or lower) and what about this ugly quantization process? Huh...

    1. strat95's Avatar
      strat95 -
      I read in another forum elsewhere that the coolest thing about CES won't be discussed until March and to forget everything you know about music servers and delivery of computer audio files....

      No more info was revealed but it is from someone in the biz. Any ideas what he may be referring to? Is it Sooloos?
    1. Allan F's Avatar
      Allan F -
      Would it be possible to add captions describing the contents of each photo.
    1. nicolashodges's Avatar
      nicolashodges -
      If a 384kHz master encoded as MQA 24/96 gives your brain more psychoacoustically relevant information than a 384kHz master down-sampled to 24/96, which would you rather have?

      I think the "A" part - the encoded file is signed and approved by the mastering engineer/artist - is just as important. We know what we are getting.
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      I agree about the MQA skepticism. I saw Meridian at CES:
      1) When I visited the suite I was given a demo of MQA. How? They sat me down and played some Ella, Sinatra and Norah. Period. No comparisons with MQA on and off? Nope. The system was nice, the room was a rather quiet suite, the speakers were very nice Meridian floor standers...but the rep said they weren't doing MQA on and off demos cuz this wasn't the best environment for it. Huh?? If I am being asked to buy new hardware and yet another copy of Norah, Frank and Ella (own all three demo albums where the demo cuts were from, for example) I'd better be able to hear the advantages in a crowded bus, let alone a quiet high-end suite. Or just give me headphones...something! And I'm in the industry...
      2) Another copy of all these premium-priced albums...again?? Let alone buying new hardware? Good luck, Meridian. That's a huge selling job you've got.
    1. miguelito's Avatar
      miguelito -
      Any comments on EmmLabs DA2?
    1. jcbenten's Avatar
      jcbenten -
      Lynn?? Perhaps Linn?
    1. flatmap's Avatar
      flatmap -
      Quote Originally Posted by ted_b View Post
      I agree about the MQA skepticism. I saw Meridian at CES:
      1) When I visited the suite I was given a demo of MQA. How? They sat me down and played some Ella, Sinatra and Norah. Period. No comparisons with MQA on and off? Nope. The system was nice, the room was a rather quiet suite, the speakers were very nice Meridian floor standers...but the rep said they weren't doing MQA on and off demos cuz this wasn't the best environment for it. Huh?? If I am being asked to buy new hardware and yet another copy of Norah, Frank and Ella (own all three demo albums where the demo cuts were from, for example) I'd better be able to hear the advantages in a crowded bus, let alone a quiet high-end suite. Or just give me headphones...something! And I'm in the industry...
      2) Another copy of all these premium-priced albums...again?? Let alone buying new hardware? Good luck, Meridian. That's a huge selling job you've got.
      Their demo ought to have been "streaming MQA" versus high res download. At least that's how I've understood their value proposition.
    1. woodford's Avatar
      woodford -
      beautiful pictures as usual, but i could sure do with a caption or two. in some photos it's not at all clear what i'm looking at.
    1. andyv's Avatar
      andyv -
      Isn't it "Linn" not "Lynn"?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Wow, what a misspelling that was. Heck, I've even been to the Linn factory in Glasgow!
    1. MarkS's Avatar
      MarkS -
      I know this is a bit off topic, but did anyone go to the Kaiser/Kondo room? That is an intriguing speaker.
    1. Adyc's Avatar
      Adyc -
      Quote Originally Posted by Clemmaster View Post
      "I believe, MQA is NOT lossless. Meridian claims MQA is lossless, but I believe it only claims audibly lossless, not lossless in the normal use of the term."

      Maybe the "normal use of the term" does not apply to the MQA format...

      Redbook is not lossless either. After all, you're cutting everything above 22.05kHz (or lower) and what about this ugly quantization process? Huh...

      Are you sure that the mics used in recording sessions are able to capture sound above 30k Hz?
    1. Boris75's Avatar
      Boris75 -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicolashodges View Post
      If a 384kHz master encoded as MQA 24/96 gives your brain more psychoacoustically relevant information than a 384kHz master down-sampled to 24/96, which would you rather have?

      I think the "A" part - the encoded file is signed and approved by the mastering engineer/artist - is just as important. We know what we are getting.
      Better downsampling is welcome, but in my view calling it lossless is misleading.