Both CES and T.H.E. Show were considerably smaller this year. There were one or perhaps two fewer floors at the Venetian, and by my count only 35 or so rooms at the Flamingo. I think that was a result of the still sluggish economy, the cost of exhibiting in Las Vegas, and the rise of the regional audio show. Perhaps if a manufacturer did not have any new products to introduce, or had just introduced them at RMAF in October, he resisted the expensive siren call of CES. For those exhibiting, the good news is that there was no shortage of new products introduced, which is where I will focus my coverage. From that perspective, while smaller, there was no lack of excitement. I welcomed the slower pace as it gave me more time to spend in each room and talk with manufacturers.
The usual caveats apply. What were shown were systems. I think it is impossible to say that this source, that preamplifier or power amplifier, or those cables sounded good, better or best. There is simply no way to isolate the performance of the individual component parts in unfamiliar systems demonstrated in compromised hotel rooms. Keep that in mind when you read other reports. Speakers are a little bit of a different story given that, unlike most components, their differences are more pronounced. However, a speaker whose performance is less than stellar in a hotel room well may sound impressive in your listening space. Where a loudspeaker sounded particularly good, I will note it. If it sounds great in a hotel room, you know that it is special and that great care was taken in setup.
I’d like to single out the following products for special mention:
Audio Research CD9 Reference CD player
Ayre Acoustics VX-5 stereo power amplifier
Boulder 3060 stereo power amplifier
Bully Sound Labs Trident preamplifier
D’Agostino Momentum preamplifier
dCS Vivaldi digital playback system
Lamm LP1 Signature phono stage
Magico S1 and S5 loudspeakers
McIntosh D100 USB DAC
MSB The Analog DAC
Pass Labs Xs preamplifier
Playback Designs IMS-3 integrated amplifier and DAC
Sony SS-NA2ES loudspeakers
TechDAS Air Force One turntable
TriPlanar 12” Ultimate tonearm
Wadia Innovation 01 integrated amplifier and DAC
Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeakers
Wisdom Audio LS4 loudspeakers
YG Acoustics Sonja loudspeakers
And now for the photographic tour. Just click on the page numbers below.