Wharfedale demoed the top model in its new Jade series, the floor-standing Jade 7. Using vinyl as a source, it sounded most impressive, which was good because a complete surround package built around the Jade 7s is on hand at Home Theater for a future review.
Vinyl is big lately in high-end audio so I had to include at least one turntable or risk appearing hopelessly out of date. It's the Merrill-Williams Audio table that worked so well in the Wharfedale system above. If $7200 sounds steep, you don't get out much; you can spend a lot more for a turntable. And oh, by the way, that price does not include either the Dynavector tonearm ($5000) or the Ortofon Anna cartridge that was used with it here ($8500). That's right, the cartridge costs more than the turntableand more than a good high end surround preamp processor (I had to throw that in!). But if you want to get into vinyl and this is your first exposure to its potential prices, you can do so for a lot less than this.
PSB is one high-end manufacturer that hasn't forgotten the rest of us. The new Imagine T2 isn't cheap at $3500/pair, but offers a lot of…um… imaginative engineering borrowed from the company's higher-end Synchrony line. It's also is capable of amazingly good sound, if a brief audition was any indication. A matching center is likely later, but the T2 itself is available now.
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.