Tivoli's wildly successful Model One and PAL radios now come in Bluetooth versions. Adding the wireless capability pushes the price of a Model One from $149 to $259. Also touted was the free Tivoli Radio app, which offers iOS and Android access to 100 of the internet radio stations that Tivoli's servers supply to the NetWorks internet radio.
Yes, that's a Sonos streaming unit. But this bloggette is about the blank white base it's sitting on. That's the Arcam SonLink ($350) which gives your Sonos fix a little of that old DAC magic. It was one of several DACs shown; another was the AirPlay-compatible airDAC, coming in four months at a price to be announced. But the most exciting news is that Arcam is working on the successor to the AVR600, one of the best a/v receivers we've ever heard. We eagerly await it.
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.
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.
A lot of compact wireless audio systems have crossed our desk over the last few years but the forthcoming Polk Woodbourne, named for a neighborhood in the company's native Baltimore, is different. It has a fiberboard (not plastic enclosure) and the enclosure is sealed (not ported). Wireless options include both AirPlay and Bluetooth apt-X. Power is 70 watts RMS for each woofer and 20 for each tweeter. The demo was impressive for its spaciousness, thanks to the outward-aiming mounting of tweeters on the far sides of the curved baffle. We could close our eyes and imagine we were hearing a larger system. Pricing will be $599 when it arrives between April and June. Polk also showed the new TSx series which replaces the TSi. There are three towers, two monitors, and two centers in cherry or black. Woofers are polypropylene impregnated with other materials so that the intrinisic resonances of any one material are canceled out. Their size has increased in the towers and the larger center from 5.25 to six inches for bigger bass. Pricing ranges from $199 for the smallest center to $999/pair for the biggest tower.
Meridian's first on-wall speakers include the DSP 520 ($5000/each) and DSP 648 ($7000/each). Unlike most in-walls, but like other Meridian speakers, they are self-powered and loaded with DSP magic. They're also built with separate enclosures for the drivers, the electronics, and the back box. Our exclusive closeup shows buttons your installer can use to dedicate the speaker to left, center, or right channel use. Mount Meridian's Media Controller 200 to the back and you can control the system from your iPad.
Tannoy's new Precision line includes continues to use a coaxial array—the company calls it a dual concentric array—with the tweeter mounted at the center of the midrange driver. But this new version is revoiced for greater efficiency and dynamic range. The line includes the Precision 6.4 tower, $3200/pair; the Precison 6.2 tower, $2400/pair; the Precision 6.1 monitor, $1200/pair; and the Precision LCR, $1000. All have six-inch woofers, hence all the sixes.
The Revel Rhythm2 has an 18-inch aluminum driver with four-inch voice coil backed up with 2000 watts. Of course like any state-of-the-art sub it can be room corrected via USB, in this case with a third-party measuring tool. But this one is slightly unusual because it takes into account the bass output of the speakers as well as that of the sub. The demo was impressively powerful though marred by an unavoidable rattle in the room ventilation—if you want to own a sub this powerful, you may need to invest a little extra to make the room fit for it!
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.