My CES 2001 Report (long!)

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  • migliore
    • Nov 2000
    • 50

    My CES 2001 Report (long!)

    Well, here are my opinions on what I saw and heard at the CES this

    I'll start off with best 2 ch sound. I think it was a tie between
    Burmester and Alon. Burmester offer an incredibly musical system
    (that is also gorgeous). While some of the demos were dts cd's,
    the reference 2 ch recordings sounded as if all 5 channels were
    on. Soundstage was wide and deep. Interesting to note that this
    German company demo'd their gear with "The Wall". I don't really
    know more about the gear they were using, if that was the $60k
    reference CD system or not. But, I'm guessing the system was
    at least $100k total. Alon debuted their Exotica Reference
    speaker system at $120k alone. 4 module system - 2 HF, 2 LF, that
    reached floor to ceiling. Specs stated 120db from 20hz to 20khz.
    They were powered w/ $27k VTL 750 tubed monoblocks. Sound was
    incredible, dynamic, and involving. I'd probably give them the
    best sound, but I didn't get too much time to demo. Runners up
    would be MBL and Silverline Audio. MBL offers lush omnidirectional
    speakers and incredible electronics. Silverline offered a very
    dynamic and bassy pair of $35k speakers.

    BTW, Burmester offered their demonstration CD for sale. I believe
    it is only available directly through them. It is on Harry
    Pearson's (Absolute Sound) Top Ten list. It was a hefty $30, but
    who knows how much shipping from Germany would have been.

    Best theater goes to Avantgarde/BAT. BAT debuted their 12-15k
    processor, that has optional tubes for the front three channels.
    The system was dubeting in 5.1 out of 7.1 possible. They also
    demoed their 200W multichannel amp. $4995 for 2 modules installed,
    and $9995 for all six. Sound was excellent, but I still think
    the PowerMaster 2000 is a better sonic value. Avantgarde debuted
    their "Solo" center and rear speaker. It offered 30Hz extension
    and seemless transitioning from L to C to R. The system had a lot
    of buzzing in the rear speakers. Don't know if was a power or
    system problem. Very musical system, but the LFE was lean. They
    were using 2 modules that do the LF for the Duo speaker for the LFE
    channel. Source was Pioneer DVD(A/V)/SACD/CD player, and video
    was Runco. I didn't get a chance to check out the Meridian Theater
    or the DTS one. PS, BAT DVD transport is in the works.

    General comments:

    Krell and Madrigal weren't really running any demos. It was like
    show and tell - disappointing. Madrigal tried to do a demo on
    some Proceed stuff, but it obviously wasn't thought-out. Krell
    did show their new design for the HTS - cool. And I was able
    to see the Master Reference Monoblock and MR subwoofer. The
    amp was most impressive. Weighing in at 683 lbs (pair?) they
    put out 1000W in pure class A. Cost is a mere $120k/pr. And
    they were huge. I will post a picture of me standing next to
    it soon. The sub was far less impressive, but cool nonetheless.
    Madrigal had their "statement" a/v processor on display. 2 unit:
    audio and video. Cost is expected to be in the 20's. They are
    fully functional and working out the tweaks. They also had a
    Lexus there with a Levison system. I think people were looking
    at it just because it was a cool car. They didn't know about
    the stereo!

    DWIN debuted their DLP projecter and processor. Very impressive.
    Offers 1024x576 at 16:9, no light leakage, available in black or
    white casing, at a system cost of $13k. Offers 9 inputs on
    processor, accepting HD, and auto senses the format and aspect
    ratio (and has a trigger signal for masking). I don't have too
    much experience in video, so I'm going to stop there, other than
    saying most of the plasma screens looked bad!

    Denon debuted their DVD 2800 progressive scan player, but did
    not offer a demo, not to the public at least.

    The most impressive thing I heard at the show was a pair of
    $1200 (retail) Audes speakers. I could not believe the price!
    The offered tremendous soundstaging, transparency, and extension
    for the price!

    GreenWave Audio also debuted their "holographic" speakers, where
    the tweeter/midrange arrangement was mounted in free-air, not in
    a cabinet. In their upper line, the woofers were mounted
    externally, pointed into the cabinet structure. These speakers
    offered erie sound! On some material, they almost sounded too
    echo-y. But, generally, they too threw an impressive, forward
    sounding image. Specs claimed full range reproduction for only
    $3,000 (retail), but I thought some bass was missing when listening
    to Rebecca Pidgeon's rendition of Spanish Harlem.

    Continuing in speaker debuts, Acoustic Energy showed off their new
    AESPRIT line for the first time. These are going to be big, BIG
    sellers. Just as the AEGIS series offered great sound and great
    value, the AESPRIT pushed the price up, and performance as well.
    Floorstanders for $1500 (retail) and monitor style mains for $1000
    (retail), they also offered and center, 2 styles of rears (prices
    escape me), and a powered subwoofer for $1400 retail. I can't
    say that I got a chance to listen to the sub. I wish I had,
    because, there is ALOT of competition up to the $1400 price point.
    However, I did listen to the $1000 monitors and they were great.
    Powered by an 85W high current Arcam integrated amplifier, I swore
    the was turned on! Like the Totem Mani-2's, these speakers offered
    impressive extension for the size, and lush imaging. These are
    going to be hot sellers in the $3k+ HT package range.

    On to the EAD room, where they were demoing the first high-end
    DVD-A player (discounting the Pioneer for the moment, maybe others
    too I can re-affirm that I don't have a liking for multichannel
    music (E.L.P.), at least the way engineers are currently mixing it.
    It had too much music/vocals from the rear, as opposed to
    ambiance and subtlety. The new DVDA player, called the "ULTRA",
    aka, the Ultradisc 3000, had optional progressive scan DVDV output.
    It's retail was expected to come in around $5k. The unit was
    played through Von Schweikart speakers, a PowerMaster 2000
    amp, and TheaterMaster Ovation. I was confused at the
    configuration and have yet to get the full details, but it sounds
    like the TM 2001 model was still in the prototype phase, and the
    ULTRA was wired directly to the amp. The prototype (in the back
    room), had a 6 channel input via the DB-25 connector, and a 24/96
    replacement DAC board. I couldn't get an answer if the volume
    had been moved to the analog domain or not. Sounds like the
    TM will just act as a 6-channel pass through, and the volume will
    be controlled by the ULTRA player. Why the 24/96 DACs then? Just
    a general upgrade? They also mentioned something about using the
    existing balanced (2) and singled ended outputs (6) to achieve
    8 channel output. The whole thing sounded like a BIG hack to me.
    AFAIK, there were no surround processing formats added (DD EX, DTS
    ES, 7.1, etc). Overall, very disappointing. However, several
    demonstrators were using the TheaterVisionP DVD player as a CD
    player (or transport in conjunction with a TM Signature). EAD has
    also modified the design of the faceplate slightly. It has only
    gotten better, but still only the power/mute button on the front
    of the TM.

    I was hoping to get some A/B demo's of Synergistic Research's
    products, particularly the Master Control Center and the
    Designer Reference Products. The MCC has been upgraded to
    a MkII, which includes a Reference ACMC, an on-off switch (they
    didnt have that before?) and uses BNCs to connect the active
    shielding cables to the rear of the unit. Apparently, the mini
    plugs were falling out before. They now use Synergy 2000 cable
    for the active shielding cables, upgraded from 18ga Radio Shack
    wire?? See a trend here? Hopefully they don't get too carried
    away. I should say SR was set up for a demo, but only for digital
    or power cables. They were usuing a Meridian system (lower line),
    and frankly didn't even have a chair to sit in!

    Joseph Audio was debuting their reference minor speaker. Sorry,
    I don't remember the name, but it appears to be derived from the
    reference speaker debuted at CES 2000, but scaled down.

    ATI had the same processor there as last year, which I don't think
    is shipping yet. Price is $4k (retail). Oddly, it contains
    an LCD panel, which I believe throws alot of interference, which
    would be hard to shield. I maybe wrong on this. I did not see
    it being demonstrated.

    Aerial room was large, with the projector mounted over. Featuring
    the new LR5's and CC5s. I saw only three subs, but understand
    there were more. The demo I got was lean on bass - I think they
    were feeling woozy from soo much. The LR5s were impressive, though
    they are being offered at $7k (retail), colliding with the 10T. I
    haven't listened to the 10T, but the LR5 I think was priced a
    little high. It seems they have too many products at similar
    price points. Maybe thats why they were debuting the 30T at
    ~$28k (retail) and the 20T at ~$15k (retail). They were hiding
    in the back room and weren't offered for a demonstration. System
    was Theta, including what looked like Theta monoblocks for the two
    main channels. I wasnt aware of this product.

    Looks like MSB Tech was showing off their modified Sony 7700.

    I've been told to go listen to James Loudspeakers. Unfortunately,
    they only played HT on the main system - I didn't get to hear the
    2 channel performance of these speakers. What I heard for HT was
    average. The did a 2 channel demo of the in-walls, which sounded
    good, but I was in an awkward listening position, and didn't really
    get a good taste.

    The open bar at St. Tropez was a hit! Sunday evening from 5-9pm!

    I was talking to the CAL Audio guys about their 500WPc amp, and its
    power requirements. They seemed to indicate to me that this amp
    is more than 100% efficient! They mumble something about a high
    frequency switching power supply or something. I don't know
    much about that, but seems wierd. The most efficient amps I know
    of are the Sunfire. You get 2025W output for 85-95% efficiency.
    Shrug. Don't know much about analog. I'm more of a digital guy.

    It seemed that Avantgardes were everywhere. A choice speaker
    for electronics demos. I hadn't heard them before, but I
    definitely like them and they look cool!

    Other popular components that were used for demonstration were
    the Cary DVD or CD players or the DCS elgar DAC.

    Talon had a double wide trailer for demo use at the Tropez. One
    side had the mid-line monitors for 2 channel, and the other had
    the topline speaker for HT. The HT sounded chesty, compressed, and
    uninvolving. OTOH, the 2 channel demo was very convincing and
    enlightening. Hard to say if it was the speakers or the source
    that I liked better!

    I didn't make it to the Golden Nugget to see Theta and others;
    just too out of the way, especially having to run to see
    Blue Man Group Monday evening!

    The Granite Audio demo was very nice. Enya on vinal sounded great.
    But they played an older/dirtier/scratchier record that just
    sounded weak and thing. Sorry, I'm not an analog addict! I was
    impressed by all of the standard and custom finishes that you
    could have your gear made in. It can really add luster to your

    I was excited to hear the Jeff Rowland multi-channel amplifier.
    I've been told I like it, since I like the PM2000. However, JRDG
    only had a show and tell, no demos that I saw. I don't think it
    was around the show elsewhere.

    Very disappointing to see the Dynaudio Evidence, but not hear it!
    They weren't set up, nor did anyone else use them for demo. I
    really wanted to hear these $85,000 marvels!

    Sumiko offered similar disappoint mentions when it came to the
    Sonus faber Amati Homage and the Vienna Acoustics Mahler
    loudspeakers. Redeaming, though, B&K used the Mahlers for their
    demonstration. Unfortunately, I never made it for a listen!!

    Sharp demonstrated their digital amplifier. Integrated 150W
    version is currently priced at $15,000 (retail). They plan
    to "bring them into the home" by the end of the year. I'm not
    sure how cheap that means, but I think Sharp is going to have
    a hard time marketing this technology under their name. I think
    their best bet is to license the technology. Sound was good, but
    demonstrated on B&W N802s/HTM1. I'm not a big fan of these, so
    I didn't enjoy as much. (I know, hang me I don't think they
    had the sub on at all. If it was on, the levels were way screwed

    RBH had an impressive theater. They generally offer high
    performance for a lower price. I think if they could market
    themselves better, they'd probably make a killing.

    I believe Monitor Audio debuted their new Gold models. As with
    many HT setups, it's hard to tell in a short amount of time
    (if at all) what was good and bad. In most short demos, I can only
    focus on the quality of the center channel speaker, and the
    quality/level of the subwoofer.

    I thought Eggleston Works went out of business. I guess not as
    they were showing off their Savoy. I don't know the price, but
    the sound was pleasant.

    I checked out Boulder Amplifiers' setup. "Systems starting at
    $100,000" was displayed on their brochure. I didn't think it was
    that much. They were using Westlake Audio speakers to demonstrate
    their products. I didn't care for the WA, and they were probably
    crazy expensive, though they looked simplistic.

    Red Rose Music had their little monitors for demo. I belive they
    cost $3-3.5k (retail). I was unimpressed with my short demo.

    I was disappointed that Kharma didn't bring their grand reference
    speakers! Sure those $1,000,000 speakers can't be that big and

    Gladiator DTS, Toy Story 2 DTS, and the Eagles DTS were popular
    theater demonstration source material. I still don't like
    multichannel music Rebecca Pidgeon and Diana Krall were popular
    in 2 channel systems.

    Some of the pleasant multichannel DVDs used for demo were
    Sarah McLachlan and Dave Matthews Band.

    I was able to grab some remaining MoFi and DCC reference recordings
    for a discounted price at the show. I will post short reviews
    of them and recent recommendations that I've purchased.

    You'll have to excuse my forget-ful-ness on some of the model names
    and exhibits I've seen. I'll try to revise this report once I've
    had a chance to review all of the materials I've lugged home from
    the CES.

    I wish I would have had more time to see some more video products,
    and mainstream products. The day is only so long, and you can
    only take so much foot pain! Thank god for the hot tub in our

    Ok, I think I've taken way too long to write this!


    Reviews and System
    Reviews and System
  • Markj
    Senior Member
    • Aug 2000
    • 323

    Thanks Rob, that is a lot of good info you gave us!


    • Andrew Pratt
      Moderator Emeritus
      • Aug 2000
      • 16507

      thanks for the news Rob. Sure wish I could attend.


      • Lexman
        Super Senior Member
        • Jun 2000
        • 1777

        Yeah, great writeup! I feel like I have been to CES now, lol. Thanks Rob.



        • reddavid
          Junior Member
          • Dec 2000
          • 13

          Thanks for the wonderful summary! I'm amazed at the lack of clear, candid reports during the show from various 'info' sites.

          I'm left with the distinct image of your sore feet soaking in the hot tub!

          Thanks again.

          - John


          • DavidY
            • Aug 2000
            • 67

            Rob, you deserve a big thanks for your highlights. It is very much appreciated.



            • migliore
              • Nov 2000
              • 50

              Thanks much - I'm just glad people found it useful!


              Reviews and System
              Reviews and System


              • John Kotches
                Moderator Emeritus
                • Jan 2001
                • 140


                It was great meeting you at the AVS Forum dinner, sorry we didn't really have any opportunity to speak of to talk.

                A couple of things on your excellent post:

                On the Denon 2800: It wasn't displaying anything publically for good reason ;-) Stacey saw it and gave some feedback -- they've got some work to do before it's released!

                On multi-channel music:
                DMP has a title on multi-channel SACD, Bob Mintzer Big Band "Homage to Count Basie", which uses the rear channels merely for ambience, to stunning effect.

                On the EAD Room:
                Way too small for the amount of power and speakers they had going in there. Regardless of whether you like multi-channel music or not, the reproduction was clear but overpowering in their small room. I too saw the Ovation Mk II, and we'll have to wait and see as it gets closer to shipping date. That was definitely a prototype, because a couple of features Dan Sperry told me about in previous conversations were missing from the back panel.

                On the ATI Processor:
                They should be shipping by 2nd Quarter. The point of the LCD panel is to be able to configure without an OSD impinging on the main display device or to preview what's on the main display. This was a production proof piece, used to make sure all the parts fit together as they should, and double check the labelling of the back panel. As busy as that back panel is, that's a necessity. Looks interesting to say the least.

                You missed a great listen by not making it to the Golden Nuggett. Wisdom Audio had their Adrenaline Rush statement system, running on Rowland amps and preamp. Source was an Accuphase SACD -- the sound was incredible. THey also displayed their Baby Adrenalines (sometime later this year supposedly) for about $6K -- not bad, but they should have played them before the Adrenaline Rushes.

                Most digital amps are in the 90+% Range. I spoke with John Ulrick of Spectron, and they claim to be 92% efficient. Greater than 100% efficient? Doesn't that violate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (You can't break even).

                With Rowland's and BAT's multi-channel amps, better bring a friend along, they both tip the scales at well over 100lbs. But boy did the Rowland look pretty

                Anyway, great post, but wanted to follow up on a couple of your observations.


                Editor, PC/Home Theater
                Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
                My Home Theater
                NEC LT-150 specific page.
                Editor, PC/Home Theater
                Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
                My Home Theater
                NEC LT-150 specific page.


                • GregoriusM
                  Super Senior Member
                  • Oct 2000
                  • 2755

                  Yeppers......... thanks to Rob and John for the highlights!!! Very, very interesting!!!

                  Greg :-)


                  • KennyG
                    Moderator Emeritus
                    • Sep 2000
                    • 745

                    Rob, thanks alot for the news and notes, alotta good stuff in there.


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