Some audiophiles cherish tubes, and even modestly powered tube amplifiers. From Napa Acoustics (which appears to hail from China, not a valley in California) comes the 40 watts per channel MM4 hybrid integrated amp (tube input stage, solid state output stage), at the amazingly low price (for those who know how much these things can cost) of $699. A larger, 35wpc all tube MT34 will set you back $1199.
Like most cable manufacturers these days, Kimber Kable's top speaker cables sell at "If you have to ask" prices. Shown here is how they are internally constructed, which looks like a braided mesh of cables over a flexible inner core.
Energy has long been one of my favorite speaker companies, not least because of my long term reference Energy Veritas v2.8 speakers, circa 1994 (an eon for an audiophile to favor anything). But the brand has fallen on hard times since its acquisition (along with Mirage) by the Klipsch Group. Hopefully better days are ahead. There are, apparently, some new Veritas models in the lineup, but you'd never know it from Klipsch's CES kiosk that features subwoofers and soundbars.
Funny, it looks a lot younger with the introduction of a new integrated amp, a CD/SACD player, DAC, and preamp. All of them are 2-channel only, of course. The first three are expected to come in at $10,000 or under when they appear in mid-2012. The preamp, however, will set you back $25,000. All four offer a full complement of digital inputs (including asynchronous USB). The preamp and integrated amp also have analog inputs. The player has external digital inputs, and both it and the DAC have volume controls and may be used as digital preamps for direct connection to your power amps.
Good things come in threes, and in this case it's Parasound's new three-channel Halo A31 amplifier ($3000, available soon). It's essentially a three-channel version of Parasound's highly-regarded Halo A21 stereo amp, and a cousin to the company's Halo A51 five-channel design. Why would you want a three-channel amp? To locate your front channel amps up front and your surround amps in the rear where they can benefit from shorter cable runs to the surround speakers. Or perhaps you don't need as much power in back, or already have a decent stereo amp you can use there.
In an adjoining room, Thiel was demonstrating the new CS1.7 (estimate $5500/pair, available early in 2012), a replacement for the well-received CS1.6. They use the same woofers as the MCS1.2, below, and sounded superb driven by Bryston electronics. But I might add that Thiel has used this same room for the last three CESs, and it hasn't produced anything short of audio magic there yet.
Two years ago I prodded for a new Thiel center channel to match the company's flagship CS3.7 speaker. Now it's here—or will be later this year. The MCS1.2 uses the same coaxial midrange-tweeter driver as the CS3.7, along with a pair of smaller, newly developed woofers. In addition to use with the CS3.7s, the MCS1.2 can also be used as left and right front speakers and/or surrounds. Pricing TBD.
The entry point for the LG booth (why do they call them booths when they’re more like stadiums?) was perhaps the knockout of the show, with dozens of LG flat panel displays arrayed in a video wall displaying a stunning loop of 3D images. And because LG is using passive glasses in all of its LCDs, it was able to show 3D not only on these screens but on most of the screens in their booth as well, providing either regular or clip-on passive glasses to all comers.