According to CES figures 2012 was the biggest show in history, both in attendance and floor space. My sore legs testified to its vastness. The range of new digital products was also more extensive, making it even more impossible to write about every new product. Here are the ones that stood out in this highly competitive environment.
Disc players are anything but dead judging from the bevy of new state-of-the-art spinners unveiled at CES. First up, McIntosh displayed its latest universal player, the MV891 ($5500). It supports file-sharing, USB audio, 3-D video sources, and plays DVDs, CDs, SACDs, CD-Rs, and Blu-ray Discs. With classic McIntosh looks and a multitude of content delivery options, the MV891 is designed to last.
Marcel Riendeau introduced two new additions to the Oracle line, the Oracle Paris CD 250 Player ($3500) and Oracle USB DAC ($3500). The USB DAC supports high-speed USB 2.0 with bit rates as high as 192/24, while the CD player also doubles as a transport. Red, curvy, functional art, they’re both affordable and drool-worthy.
One of the most impressive looking examples of industrial design at CES was from a Singapore-based company. The LOIT Passeri CD player/transport ($21,900) features 8x oversampling up to 325.8kHz, a patented circuit current-to-voltage converter, and a high-speed differential transmission line in the master clock circuit, making the Passeri’s interior every bit as radical as its exterior.
Fremont California-based Napa Acoustic displayed its NA-208CD Player ($399) which sounded arrestingly good through a pair of diminutive Wharfedale 10.1 speakers ($349/pr.) driven by Napa’s 208A hybrid integrated amplifier ($399).
Copland’s latest CD player, the CDA825 ($6500), uses a Wolfson WM8741 24-bit 192kHz DAC. With a dedicated regulated power supply for the clock and a special pre-ringing noise filter, the Copland player is as cutting edge inside as out. I especially like its sci-fi-looking circular pivot-out-of-the-way top-loading cover.
For audiophiles on a budget Lindemann introduced its USB-DAC 24/192 (XMOS) ($990). It supports USB 2.0 from PC or Mac and features a minimum-phase apodizing filter, a fully balanced analog output section (although only with RCA outputs), and an active jitter-reduction circuit based on a combination of PLL and memory buffering.
Adding to its “entry-level” Corona line, MBL showed the C31 CD Player ($9200). It also doubles as a transport through its coax and TosLink digital outputs. The C31 can be connected via a proprietary SmartLink Ethernet connector to other MBL gear for complete ergonomic integration.
PrimaLuna featured its new Prologue Premium CD Player ($3799). With two 12AU7 tubes per channel in its analog section, a M2Tech’s HiFace USB input that supports up to 192/24, and two super-tube clocks for jitter reduction, the Prologue Premium delivers a lot of technology for reasonable price.
Esoteric introduced its P-02 CD/SACD transport ($23,500) and companion D-02 digital decoder ($23,500). The P-02 uses Esoteric’s VRDS vibration-damping system, a new “PLL-less” internal master clock, and four separate power supplies. The D-02 uses eight AKM 4399 32-bit DAC chips for each channel, 32-bit processing, and can upconvert any incoming digital signal by two, four, or even to DSD.
One of the better-sounding rooms at The Flamingo was assembled by Purist Audio Design and featured a trio of new Stah-Tek digital products: the Opus CDT ($37,000), Opus DAC ($35,000), and Audiophile Bridge to Computer ($3500). The CDT features extremely tight parts tolerances and ultra-quiet noise performance. The Opus DAC claims to offer “a new level of musical appreciation.” The Audiophile Bridge supports up to 192/24 via USB 2.0 and has a modified I2S format output via HDMI for the Opus DAC.
Light Harmonic’s DaVinci 384K DAC ($20,000) made a strong visual statement with its unique industrial design. Boasting a 384kHz sampling rate, three dedicated crystal oscillators, over 40 low-noise regulators, and a CNC-cut aluminum-alloy multi-layer chassis, it attempts an all-out assault on the state of the art.
Wadia expanded its line of micro-sized components with the 121 Decoding Computer ($1499). This DAC/pre utilizes Wadia’s 32-bit 1.4MHz upsampling technology, asynchronous USB, balanced and unbalanced outputs, and Wadia’s DirectConnect 32-bit volume control. The 121 supports up to 192/24 via either coax or USB 2.0 inputs.