January 7-10, 2014
All prices in US dollars unless indicated otherwise
Companies featured in gallery below: Audio-Technica, Westone Audio, Beyerdynamic, Polk Audio, Sennheiser, Parasound, SVS, Velodyne, HiFiMAN, Torus Power, Chord Electronics, Primare, MBL, Genesis Advanced Technologies, Balanced Audio Technology, Lamm Industries
The 2013 Product of the Year award winners were chosen from among those products reviewed in SoundStage! Hi-Fi, SoundStage! Ultra, SoundStage! Xperience, and SoundStage! Access. Doug Schneider wrote a feature article about the winners on January 1 in SoundStage! Hi-Fi, as did Jeff Fritz in SoundStage! Ultra.
Companies featured in gallery below: CH Precision, Trinity Electronic Design, Aurender, Focus Audio, AudioQuest, Thiel Audio, MartinLogan, Marten, Arcam, Crystal Cable, Siltech, Krell, Monitor Audio, Totem Acoustic, Einstein
Companies featured in gallery below: GoldenEar Technology, Magico, Usher Audio Technology, Astell&Kern, Wadia, Simaudio, Ayre Acoustics, JL Audio, EMM Labs, Pass Labs, Boulder Amplifiers, Soulution
There seems to be a dearth of full-range loudspeaker introductions at the 2014 International CES, but Kharma, Magico, and YG Acoustics brought some serious gear with them that left me quite impressed.
With the ever-increasing popularity of playing digital audio files, the demand for finding ways to quickly and easily store and access files has been growing by leaps and bounds. There are now numerous network players on the market offering several different approaches. Some have integrated DACs, preamplifiers, and even onboard amplification, while others choose to keep things simple and focus strictly on storage, retrieval, and playback. At CES 2014 I found several compelling offerings of the latter.
I previously wrote about three DACs that stood out as commendable products priced below the $2000 mark. Despite being affordable, however, those products barely scratch the surface of what is available when you're considering "high end" DACs today. In my subsequent travels, I found a few more DACs that, while costing more, promise high performance without breaking the bank.
The average room at CES features some big-ass, overpriced speakers, and electronics that look pretty good but carry five-figure price tags. It really is the norm rather than the exception. Wadia's room, however, featured something entirely different.
One of the trends I've noticed gaining steam over the past few years is getting big sound out of small packages. While walking through the Totem Acoustic demonstration room, I was introduced to the brand's new Kin Monitor, a pair of speakers so small that I originally mistook them for computer speakers -- that was until I heard them. Priced at $500 per pair, the Kins are intended to be paired with the matching Kin Sub, as they were at CES 2014, resulting in a sound that's simply massive for a minimonitor of their size.
Have you ever considered what kind of amplification you might purchase if you had $200,000 to spend? That might seem like a ridiculous question, but amplifiers and preamplifiers in the price range of $50k to $100k and even higher are not uncommon in the world of high-end audio.
Integrated amplifiers are very much en vogue, but many companies have strayed beyond the traditional formula of class-AB amplifier and preamplifier in one chassis. These days, it is not enough for the space- and budget-minded consumer who yearns for something a little more flexible, or at least a little different. Each of the amps below offers a different take on the modern stereo system.
There's something for everyone at this year's CES, from sub-$100 cables, to $450,000 "super" speakers from Scandinavia. But for some lucky, and certainly well-heeled, audiophiles out there, the Venetian is showcasing some of the best new monoblock amplifiers around.
While CES 2014 is home to some very expensive products, including the new EMM Labs and CH Precision mono amplifiers, which both retail for more than $100,000 per pair, I set my sights on much more affordable equipment. In the case of this article, digital-to-analog converters (DACs) under $2000. What's particularly impressive about this group is that they offer many features beyond D/A conversion, such as headphone amplification and preamplifier controls, making each far more than a simple, straightforward DAC.
Every audiophile knows that the search for truly accurate, satisfying bass response can be a challenge. Room acoustics and how your particular loudspeakers mate with them is often the leading cause of poor sound in real rooms. And we all know that some power amplifiers just have trouble properly mating with some loudspeakers, especially in the bass. Switzerland's CH Precision aims to change all that, at least as it applies to cost-no-object systems that include truly full-range loudspeakers.
At last year's International CES, the SoundStage! Network's newest and smallest writer, Hans Wetzel, reported on the Triton Seven, GoldenEar's newest and smallest model in its acclaimed Triton series of loudspeakers. This year, GoldenEar made an even bigger splash with the announcement of its flagship Triton One, which is priced at $5000 per pair.
With the proliferation of high-priced electronics at a show like CES, it was refreshing to pace down the halls of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas and find stereo amps that an average guy could aspire to. And from reputable companies, too! All look great, and each brings something a little different to the proverbial table.
I recently penned an article for SoundStage! Ultra titled "Why Most Ultra Audio Gear No Longer Excites Me." After that article published, I heard from several long-time readers asking if I had lost my enthusiasm for the super high end, or if I had been severely disappointed by recent products that I had experienced, leading to my apparent malaise.
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