2005 CES: Day Four, Audio at Last
Finally, news from the audio side of CES. My coverage of the limited surround-sound demos at the official specialty audio venue of the Alexis Park Hotel will have to wait for our upcoming in-depth show report. Today's report will catch up on a few important demos held at hotels near the Las Vegas convention center, plus one surprise discovery at the Alexis. And the news it hot.
Martin-Logan recently discontinued its Prodigy loudspeakers (the top of the company's line, apart from the no-holds-barred Statement) in favor of a new model, the Summit. Noticeably smaller than the Prodigy, it consists of a newly revised electrostatic panel supported in the bass by an integral, powered subwoofer. As demonstrated in a 2-channel system using an Ayre front end and Parasound monoblock solid-state amps, the system blew me away. I have by no means heard every audio system at this immense show, and I will hear more tomorrow, but in pure audiophile terms this was the best I've heard so far. Dynamic yet refined, it may just be the most exciting product yet from M-L. Expect it in March at $10,000 per pair--slightly less than the cost of the Prodigy. A matching center channel (price TBD) should be available by May. If you can't wait that long. You could just use three Summits across the front and an acoustically transparent screen!
We haven't tested anything from British manufacturer Myryad in several years, an oversight we intend to correct. The company's new multichannel lineup consists of the MXD7000 pre-pro, the DVD MXV3000 DVD player, and the MXA power amp. The pre-pro is a do-all 7.1-channel unit with both balanced and unbalanced outputs, at $6995. The power amp is a modular design that may be configured for anywhere from one to seven channels (7 x 150 into 8 ohms). Fully loaded, it sells for $5995. The DVD player, at $1995, is DVD Video only (and of course CD), and lacks a DVI or HDMI output. A new model is in the works that will add those in-demand features.
We've written before about NHT's new flagship, the Xd DEQX calibrated DSP speaker. The basic 2-channel system consists of two small bi-amped satellites and a subwoofer, together with amplification and the DSP circuitry and software needed to perform the crossovers and optimize the response of the speakers. It does not, as yet, compensate for the room. At this show NHT demonstrated a 6.1-channel package using three of the systems. It performed as you might expect for its $15,000 cost, which is to say is sounded very, very good on both music and movies.
The Renaissance hotel was show-central for Mark Levinson and Revel. While the Levinson No.40 pre-pro, reviewed in SGHT in 2003, isn't new, it has been out of production for over a year while Levinson manufacturing was transferred from the company's old Connecticut headquarters to the Lexicon factory in Massachusetts.
Lexicon and Mark Levinson are part of the Harman Specialty Group. So is Revel, and they had perhaps the most surprising launch of all. The new Revel Concerta series brings the Revel name to a new price point. Revels have always been expensive, but the largest Concerta, the F12 floor-standing speaker, is expected to sell for $1200 (!) per pair. The C12 center (configured as an optimum 3-way design) will go for $500, and the B12 subwoofer for $1000. There will also be an S12 surround and M12 stand-mounted two-way. All the speakers employ Revel's Organic Ceramic Composite cone material (except the B12 sub which uses an anodized aluminum diaphragm) a new, proprietary tweeter wave guide, and Revel's traditional high-order filters.
I didn't ask if Revel has the Concertas manufactured offshore, though at those prices I'd be surprised if they do not. Speaking of products designed offshore, in one of the few rooms at the Alexis Park showing surround-sound components, Trian (a U.S. distributor that also brings in Thorens turntables and Elac loudspeakers) showed a number of beautiful, and very competitively-priced products from German company Vincent. Manufactured in China to keep costs down, a few examples will give you an idea of what Vincent offers. The SAV-C2 pre-pro goes for $1995, the SAVP200 6-channel amp (200wpc into 8ohms for $4595, and the SV-388 Integrated Surround Sound Amplifier (pre-pro and amp combined, 130wpc x 6 into 8 ohms) for $2495. And while 2-channel advocates salivate over the SP-T1000 tube hybrid monoblock amp ($2495/pair, 100 W into 8 ohms), home theater fans with an itch for that tube sound may also buy 5 of them (or 6, or 7) for little more than the price of many high-end solid-state multichanel amps.
After we recover from what was the busiest, most crowded CES in memory, you'll be able to read more about what we saw, along with lots of photos, in our complete report, scheduled for publication on this site in just a couple of weeks. So don't change that html.
I spent a lot of time in the Samsung booth today; here are a few highlights: One of many Blu-ray recorders being demonstrated at the show, Samsung's BD-R1000 is already available in Korea for around $2500.
In a display titled "Picture Tube Strikes Back," Samsung's TX-R3079WH 30-inch HDTV is a third slimmer than conventional flat CRT sets. For all you CRTphiles, it will be delivered in March and cost about $1200.
Billed as the largest TV in the world, Samsung stunned the CES crowds with its Z102 1920x1080 plasma that measures an incredible 102 inches, occupying the same area as four 50-inchers. Of course, no price was revealed, but if it ever becomes a commercial product, it's sure to be six figures. On another Samsung plasma note, the 80-inch panel introduced last year now has a model number—HPR-8082—and should cost somewhere in the $40,000-$60,000 range starting in the third quarter of this year.