CES 2013: Sony, Pass Labs and DSD Audio

Sony introduced (formally) the loudspeakers they previewed at RMAF last fall, now called by the helpfully descriptive name: SS-NA2ES. Offered at $10,000/pair, the 3-way 6-driver bass reflex floor-stander has a rather odd (to me, anyway) state frequency response, from 45Hz – 45kHz at -10dB. I say “odd”, because I thought I heard far better bass than this out of this demo, as run with a Pass Labs X-150.5 stereo amplifier and paired with a Pass Labs XP-20 preamp. Anyway, the speakers are rated at 90dB with a 4ohm nominal impedance and each cabinet weighs a healthy, but not devastating, 70lbs per. For whatever it’s worth, I liked the sound of these “small” Sony speakers, and the over/under super-tweeter array produced a clear, clean, extended treble response. I have no idea what they’re doing there, but it sure is interesting.

Shown here with a stack of DSD-ready DACs, including offerings from dCS, EMM Labs and Mytek.

This room, and this display of DACs, marked the digital footprint of CES this year — it was DSD, all the time, and everywhere. While I’m not sold on the “value” of this particular format (as opposed to PCM) — I’m agnostic, if you will — I do like to see enthusiasm for computer-based audio. For whatever reason, DSD seems to be catching the imagination — at least for now. The most heard question at the show, for me at least, was: is this DDS-compatible? I think a lot of manufacturers were taken aback. Fun to hear, here, the Sony crew taking advantage of their rather large Sony Classics Library — the bulk of which is stored digitally as … you guessed it … DSD files. And here I was wondering why Sony kept showing up at audio shows with Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records, talking up DSD … and now I know.

Other Sony rooms had a more fulsome sound, but the little NA2ES “fit” this room to a “T”, and as I said above, the bass at least seemed quite a bit more robust than their numbers suggest.

All in all, one of the best sounds at CES, in my book. Which surprised me. I mean, you know, it’s … Sony … who knew?