CES 2005 Key Kim

 CES '05



Finally, the wintry month of January has arrived. Actually it’s one of my favorite months. First of all it’s a new year and my favorite Consumer Electronics Show takes place in Las Vegas. However, this year’s CES 2005 was a lot different than previous shows, usually held under the warm desert sun. First, it rained and then, worse, it snowed! Actually as with every CES, I was so pumped up that this year’s bad weather didn’t bother me much. It’s a CES, who cares! I’m like a little kid in a candy store and I get to see my audiophile buddies and lots of new toys; who could ask for more? Above is our annual ST family photo: Dave Thomas is far left and Mike Wright, Clement Perry, yours truly are to his right. I Must admit that, some warm desert sun wouldn’t have hurt. That said I don't think for a moment that our spirits were dampened or, for that matter, the sound of the music. Isn't that what this is all about?



As luck would have it, the Reimyo room provided quite memorable musical experiences. And this wasn't by mere coincidence; Mr. Kazuo Kuichi
 has a lot to do with the mastering of XRCDs. And very rarely, if ever, does the opportunity arise that one can hear a designers true intent from the recording studio to the actual playback. This was a rare occasion indeed. The sound, considering the size of this small room, was just remarkable . First surprise for me was how open the music was. There was simply no restriction in bandwidth, dynamics both micro and macro. Again, the music seemed to emanate from beyond the physical location of the loudspeakers. The overall sonic impression bore a very pure un-edgy sound to it. Its organic and palpable midrange kept me in the room much longer than I had any business to considering my time constraints.

The Reimyo CDP-777 is a CD player (above left) is as attractive in looks as it is in sound (review in works). At $ 14,000, it's built like a Sherman tank, and sports upsampling capability from the standard Red Book (14/44) up to 24/176.4 kHz. The also attractive Reimyo PAT-777 300B tube stereo amplifier ($ 22,000 above right) was paired with the Bravo two-way monitors ($3,900) and the B-Bass Sub ($3,900) and the Reimyo CAT-777 preamp ($14,000), and ALS-777 AC power stabilizer ($3,800). All cabling and tuning devices were from Harmonix and completed the set-up. 

Rethm/Stealth Audio/Art Audio


Designer Jacob George’s Rethm room was another truly outstanding room. The Second Rethm ($7,500) single Lowther DX4 driver crossover-free loudspeakers produced shockingly pure sound they were driven by an Art Audio PX 25 amplifier ($6,500) single-ended triode, Gill Audio Electronics (Elise DAC and Alana-preamp); all cabling was from none other than Serguei Timachev's Stealth Audio Cables (below with a cache of new cables).









I don't know if you're aware but Serguei is the type of gentleman that always seems upbeat, positive and, how do I say it, intriguing. He stopped Perry and I dead in our tracks and took us, literally by the hand, certain we didn't miss the sound of the Rethm room using his cables.  It wasn't 20 minutes earlier that we ran into the very same situation with a different cable manufacturer who dragged us to a room to hear his featured cables. The sound was quite disappointing so you can imagine the looks on our faces when Serguei began talking. Begrudgingly we gave in. Almost immediately, the Rethm sound caught and captivated both Perry and I.  The purity of this crossover-less design coupled with the musical experience, for example, when listening to Grieg’s Peer gynt’s Solveig’s and Elly Ameling’s voice, was superbly rendered and in a word "seductive." I felt as though she was in the room. The Rethm loudspeaker is amazingly organic, with a completely non-electronic [read: very high purity quotient] sonic character.

Jadis/Pierre Gabriel Loudspeakers and Silver Cables


Pierre Gabriel Acoustics of Canada was recently named U.S. distributor for Jadis, put on a wonderful sounding room and demo. The sound was holographic and three dimensional and persisted with a luscious midrange as one would expect from all these tubes. All components were Jadis tube electronics; the stunning Jadis JA200, 4 chasis monoblock amplifier ($30K) paired with the Pierre Gabriel Grand Master ($50K) two way floorstanding loudspeakers boasting a 95 dB sensitivity along with the exotic looking JD-1 Pro transport ($25K) paired with JS-1 DAC (15K) and JPS2 ($13K) preamplifier. These speakers, which weigh 1,000lbs a pair, employ a ribbon tweeter, are truly handcrafted in the best sense of the word. Every component is Rolls-Royce quality, custom made from start to finish. All cabling was from Pierre Gabriel Handcrafted Signature Silver cables (RCA Interconnect $3,500/MT and Speaker cables ($15,000/2.5MT). Now I'm not going to bash these guys because based on what I heard and saw with my own eyes was breathtakingly well done. What I don't understand however is how other show rooms presented lesser designed products that were actually more expensive than these loudspeakers. Talk about sticker shock! 


Ascendo/Virtual Dynamics/CAT

The Ascendo room was put together by Darren Censullo of the Avatar Acoustics, new and proud distributor of Ascendo loudspeakers. The room sounded outstanding, dynamic, three dimensional and was able to reproduce a realistic, richly detailed soundstage of the full orchestral music and, yes, it was music to my ears with a luscious midrange to lust for. It gave me a sense of the live concert experience.

The Ascendo System M ($45K with a Chrome stand and black lacquer finish) was paired with a humongous pair of the CAT JL-3 monoblocks (photo left, $30K) along with the CAT Ultimate Pre ($7K) and the Combak Reimyo CDP777 CD Player ($14K). All cabling was by Rick Schultz using Virtual Dynamic’s new top- of- the line Revelation Series cables with speed of light technology. These cables are really remarkable. They were dynamic, with tremendous power and speed and an organic sound. Lastly, the room was tuned by the Acoustic System guru himself, Franck Tchang using his his Acoustic Resonators. The overall effect of Mr. Tchang’s magic was to raise the musical bar. He did with a lot of doubting Thomas' in the room at that. He actually had one of his Silver Resonators at the back of the room and, playing a joke on a show attendee, actually took it on and off the wall, causing this listener to comment the "stage continues to get deeper, then wider. Then come back. Why"


Luminance Audio/Virtual Dynamics/Sistrum/Acoustic Systems

The Luminance Audio Threshold amplifier ($3K) driving the Ascendo System E ($12,500) and the Linn CD12 was hosting all CDs while a Reimyo CAT-777 preamplifier controlled the output. All cabling was Rick Schulz’s (photo left) VD Master Series cables incorporating a Balanced Interconnect ($2,200/Mt), Speaker Cables ($2,200/8Ft) and Power cord ($2,200/5Ft). The Sistrum Isolation 4-tier platform ($3K) was used. And again, Acoustic System’s resident sound magician Franck Tchang tuned the room with a cache of his Acoustic Resonators. This time however, after one demonstration, Rick Schultz became a believer of his Resonator technology. 

This room produced absolutely stellar sound. I have never heard the System E sound this good, especially under show conditions in a small space, and this wasn't my first time hearing this little brother to my reference System Z. The system sounded fast and super transparent yet very intimate and musical. Not an easy feat. A friend of mine owns a pair of the System E and they sound very good but not as good as what I experienced in the Luminance Audio room. Without having to drop names, the electronics my buddy owns costs 4 times the asking price of this Luminance Threshold amplifier. Luminance is a new amplifier company co-founded by Rick Schulz of Virtual Dynamics and Steve Kaiser and Mike Tseng. The newly designed Luminance Audio (rated at 150/w per channel sounded more powerful than its rated power). It incorporates Rick Schulz’s revolutionary Speed of Light Technology. Its inherent nature is one that is fast. No, make that Super-fast. Boasting a slew rate of 250 volts per microseconds says Schultz, which is astonishing when compared to even the fastest solid state designs. 


Von Schweikert Audio/DarTZeel/EMM Labs/Jena Labs

The Von Schweikert Audio new VR-9SE ($60K) loudspeaker is a scaled down version of their flagship $125K VR-11SE. The sound of this space gave me an invitation to sit and enjoy. And enjoy I did. The dynamics, the openness the sound-field, in association with a very natural ebb and flow to the music was just what I expected from Albert Von Schweikert high-ticket products. I got it in spades! The loudspeaker produced a deep bass which was full-bodied but simultaneously very well controlled and superbly tight. On first blush, I found this mini-VR11SE as beautifully made  two-piece stacking system. Thank your lucky stars it is a two-piece because its total weight is close to 400 lbs. A good part of this heft comes from the woofer section which houses twin 9” Excel magnesium-coned front-firing woofers that handle midbass down to 40 Hz. A 15” rear firing powered subwoofer covers down to 10 Hz with built in 1,000-watt Class D amplifier. For the midrange, it uses 1 –7” midrange driver and lower treble range is handled by a 1-1.5” Dual Ring Revelator, while the upper range is managed by a 5” aluminum foil ribbon up to 100 Khz. It uses a 5” ribbon rear-firing Ambience Retrieval driver. The Swiss DarTZeel ($13K/each) 100-watt amplifier drove the VR9-SE, in vertical bi-amp mode. The impressive multi-channel EMM Labs Switchman preamp ($8K) and SACD transport/DAC ($16K combo) and the attractive Silent Running Audio Isolation Rack ($10K) support the electronics. Finally, Jena Labs woven copper cables were used.

Despite poor weather, low attendance and a lack of warm desert sun, Vegas is still the ultimate CES. The sound made all of us forget the rain outside and I didn’t even have time to loose money at the blackjack tables!

Key Kim