The WCS-2 record cleaning machine ($750) was only one of the many worthy and provocative things happening in the Music Hall room at the Venetian. We say provocative because WCS stands for wet clean suck—don't blame us, we're just reporting—and partly because Roy Hall treated us to a monologue about how "I've always told my customers to go **** themselves and I've been successful beyond my wildest dreams." Also shown were prototypes of the forthcoming Ikura turntable which combines a plastic dual plinth with a carbon fiber tonearm and will sell in two versions, one with MDF platter for "$1000-ish," and a step-up model with acrylic platter and different cartridge. But the most provocative thing was the sheer quality of the sound that emerged from a system combining the Music Hall-branded Marimba speakers ($350/pair) and stands ($250/pair), a70.2 integrated amp ($1499 with phono stage), and USB-1 turntable (a mere $250 including Ortofon cartridge). A highly natural vocal treatment combined with a mighty synth bass to produce what was quite simply one of the best audio demos at the show from a system cost that's less than what some audiophiles would spend on cables.
When is a soundbar not a bar? When it's shaped like a console, a new form factor that provides more cabinet volume and potentially better sound. The Energy Power Base, pictured, is a 2.1-channel product with pairs of 0.75-inch tweeters, three-inch midranges, and three- by five-inch oval woofers. It comes with Dolby Digital surround decoding, Bluetooth wireless, and optical and stereo analog inputs. Ships in August for $399. Energy also showed two Power Bar Elite soundbars: a 40-incher for $599 and a 31-incher for $399. Oh, and there were a couple of new indoor/outdoor speakers as well.
Klipsch likes to bring its trombone to jazz bars and jam after hours.... No, no, that's not it. Klipsch is introducing horned speaker design to soundbars. Yes, that's more like it. The two HD Theater Series bars shown include the SB 1, $599, with two three-inch IMG (injection-molded graphite) woofers and a silk tweeter on each side; and the SB 3, $799, similar but with 3.5-inch woofers and more power. Both speak wirelessly to 10-inch subs though the larger bar has a more powerful and deeper sub. The big guy can produce SPL of up to 110dB (in other words it's very loud). Both have optical and stereo analog ins plus a mini-jack on the SB 3. Klipsch also showed the fifth generation of the legendary Quintet sat/sub set. It now comes in a BMC enclosure, a type of forged stone polymer that's high-pressure injection-molded and is acoustically inert. The motors take up the entire innards of the enclosure. 90 by 90 degree horns surround the 0.75-inch aluminum tweeter and the woofer is another 3.5-inch IMG driver. The new Quintet will be sold in 5.1 sets for $899, same price as the original Quintet, or in five-packs with no sub for $549. When I have more time remind me to tell you about the amazing $2,000 Stadium powered speaker with its opposing subwoofer drivers and quadruple-threat connectivity: AirPlay, Bluetooth, wi-fi, and DLNA.
Though the Mirage brand name is on ice, its Omnipolar speaker technology lives on in two new 360 Series satellites from Jamo. The larger of the two, the S35, is the size of a grapefruit, has a 3.5-inch woofer, and will be sold in groups of four with a conventionally shaped center and sub. The smaller S25 has a 2.5-inch woofer and will be sold in a five-pack. Available colors will be determined based on dealer feedback at the show with shipping later in the year.
Morel's high-performing SoundSpot satellites have a new iteration in the SP3. It has a larger orb with a new 4.5-inch woofer that enables it to perform better at the low end, lowering the formerly 120-150Hz sub crossover to 90dB, so the sub won't have to do so much work (and call so much attention to itself). The Lotus grille pattern makes it acoustically transparent.
ADA is best known for its world-class surround separates so it's a pleasant surprise to see it getting into receivers, or as the company calls them, integrated controller/amps. The Cinema Rapture ($5000, shipping this week) musters 150 watts into eight ohms and 300 into four ohms while the Cinema Rapture Jr. (price and shipping to be determined) offers 80 watts into eight ohms and 150 into four ohms. Both use Class D amp modules of ADA's own design. They are not licensed from someone else. We can't wait to hear how they sound in our own listening room.
Lacking the high-end street cred of a boutique brand, Sony probably won't get much credit for producing the best sound of CES 2013 (at least so far) with its new ES speakers. The NA-2 tower ($10,000/pair), NA-5 monitor ($6000/pair), N-8 center ($3000), and matching sub ($4000) have the same Scandinavian-made multi-chambered birch cabinetry of the existing AR-1 and AR-2. Note the triple tweeter configuration, shown here on the center but present on all the new models. No, you're not seeing two super-tweeters flanking a tweeter, just three tweeters, though they're not the same size and are not all getting exactly the same frequencies (we'll have to get into the intricacies some other time). Fed by Pass amps and high-res sources including vinyl and DSD, the tower established an instant comfort zone with its super silky sweet top end, fatigue-free and convincing midrange, and controlled bass. In addition to today's press announcement at the Venetian, Sony is also showing the ES speakers in a 9.2-channel configuration at its gigantic booth in Central Hall.
If you want to see the future of Paradigm's Signature line, take a closer look at the 30th anniversary speakers shipping soon including the Tribute tower and Inspiration monitor. The wood veneer enclosures, a Paradigm first, will probably trickle down to Signature and the woofers come from the existing Signature. Shipping has been pushed from December 2012 to February 2013 and the originally envisioned limited run of 400 units may be increased though not much.
Regrets gnaw at record collectors. There's always the one that got away: because I failed to buy it, or could never find a good copy of it, or unwisely loaned it, or stupidly discarded it in the CD era's initial flush of enthusiasm and confusion. Over the years I've whittled down my list of regrets with strategic secondhand buys. But a few regrets have remained, and when they affect my relationship with the Beatles or the Rolling Stones—crucial touchstones for a fiftysomething music lover—they're especially painful. I was never lucky enough to find a pristine pressing of either Abbey Road or Beggar's Banquet. However, a recent turntable purchase and an unspent balance in my PayPal account recently drove me to banish these gnawing regrets once and for all.
Audio Performance Video Performance Features Ergonomics Value
Price: $1,200 At A Glance: Top-flight build quality • Clean and detailed sound • Second-zone HDMI
Sing me a song. Come on, it will cheer me up. Hey, that’s good. Can you sing while juggling? Here’s the fruit bowl, let’s see what you can do. Wow, that was great. Now do the singing and juggling while standing on one foot. That was amazing! Can you sing and juggle while hopping on one foot? Incredible, although I must say the hopping affected your vibrato a little. Now let me see you sing, juggle, and hop on one foot while rotating—hey, where are you going? You were just starting to amuse me.