The VCR quietly passed away this month as JVC stopped making standalone VHS decks. There are still some VCRs in the pipeline--and VHS will survive in DVD/VCR combos. But the era of the VCR has drawn to a close.
Don't get us wrong: Moving the high-end audio exhibits from the lowbrow Alexis Park to deluxe digs at the Venetian has been the best thing the CES authorities have done for showgoing audiophiles. Now we can browse in comfort and style. But we still feel sad when we realize that we've spent more time at the glitzy Venetian than in its ostensible inspiration: sweet, crumbling, quiet, car-free Venice. Sigh.
Hipper audio servers like Cary Audio Design's Music Server are coming with iPhone/iPod touch control. Cary wrote its own app for this purpose. The product has 1TB of onboard storage and can accept an external drive via USB. It backs itself up automatically and comes with Shoutcast internet radio. Pricing was roughly estimated to be $2000-2500.
The Intrepid II, in lower right corner, is Theta Digital's first Class D amp, at 7 times 150 watts. It is expected to go into production in four months. Class D amplification, in general, is more energy efficient though some audiophiles question whether it is ready for primetime. Theta's implementation will boast load-agnostic frequency response regardless of speaker impedance. At upper left is the Theta III HD pre-pro, at $19,995 for version with Xtreme DACs and a mere $14,999 for version with Premium DACs. Upgrade your old Casablanca III for $4995 and your old Casablanca I or II for $5000. Apologies for awful pic.
Theta's Casablanca surround preamp-processors sell for $17,000-30,000. By that standard, the new Supernova is more accessible at less than ten grand. If you squint you'll see the USB jack which serves two purposes: room correction and a 24/192 DAC for your computer audio fix. Shipping third quarter of this year.
This marriage of high-end speaker company and high-end media server is one of the most exciting things at the show. The speaker is thiel's SCS4D stand-mount, an IP-based speaker with 32-bit DSP, 200 watts of internal Class D power, and 6.5-inch coaxial driver array. Its tightly focused and well-balanced sound is a stunning example of the Jim Thiel legacy. The Olive media server can rip or burn via slot-load CD drive, has 2TB of storage, and in the back are both analog and USB inputs, so you can add more source components to this self-contained system. Server's wi-fi but speakers need an ethernet connection. Starter system with one zone is $7900, additional zones (basically more speakers) $5250 per zone.
The Thiel TM3 monitor is the brainchild of new designer Mark Mason, who is rising to the task of filling the enormous shoes of the late founder Jim Thiel. Among other things, he prizes a good mix of on- and off-axis response and wants his speakers to be easier to drive. The 6.5-inch fiberglass woofer and one-inch aluminum tweeter nestle in an enclosure made of twelve 1/16th-inch layers, mostly of plywood, with one metal layer. The product is made in Lexington, Kentucky and will sell for $2999/pair when it ships in summer 2014. There will also be two new centers priced at $3999 and $1999 as well as two new subs priced at $2499 for a 15-inch and $1999 for a 12-inch. Oh, and three new towers as well, which will be covered separately.