This year, I decided to do the accelerated CES 2017 tour. With some loss of good judgement, I created a flight plan in and out of Vegas from Seattle in a single day with just enough time to literally rip my way through CES. The trip was booked, meetings all lined up, and the day finally arrived- 12 hours of get ‘er done while seeing familiar faces and friends who share the same love for Music.
First stop; the Technics booth, showcasing the new SL-1200GR Direct Drive Turntable. Pure Technics SL, at a more affordable price of $2000 when it ships this summer. Sporting new feet, a new aluminum tonearm (instead of magnesium), a lighter platter with no gold ring, and a simplified motor. The total weight is about 1/2 the weight of the 1200GAE.
On static display was the ‘no you can’t have one’, as they are all sold out Anniversary Edition SL-1200 GAE Direct Drive Turntable. ($4000)
There was a lot of hi-res momentum at the Pavilion:
- TIDAL Masters delivering 200+ albums in hi-res — in partnership with MQA
- Demo’s galore of hi-res devices from AudioQuest, dCS, ELAC, Mytek, Onkyo, Sony, Astell&Kern, Autonomic, NAD, Bluesound & Samsung
- Pandora and Rhapsody announcing hi-res streaming
- Many vendors announcing MQA support now or coming soon for their devices
The pavilion featured a fully-equipped rendition of a world-class recording facility that showcased a series of live demonstrations that were moderated by Mike Mettler, editor for Sound & Vision and contributing editor to Digital Trends. I was lucky enough to catch a piece of the session with Bruce Botnick and Jac Holzman (recording Engineer and producer for The Doors). I wish I had had more time to hang-out and listen to their behind the scenes stories from recording The Doors.
Others who came through the Studio at various times were:
- Gavin Lurssen (mastering engineer for Miranda Lambert, Steven Tyler and Alison Krauss)
- Eric Boulanger (mastering engineer for Green Day and Rufus Wainwright)
- Mick Guzauski (mixer/recording engineer for Daft Punk and Jamiroquoi)
- Al Schmitt (recording engineer for Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Diana Krall)
- Dion “No. I.D.” Wilson (producer for Kanye West and Jay Z)
- Vic Anesini (mastering engineer for Simon & Garfunkel, Harry Nilsson and Elvis Presley)
- Justin Smith (mastering engineer for Otis Redding, Gordon Lightfoot and Linda Ronstadt)
- Steve Berkowitz (producer for Miles Davis, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen)
Hi-Res Pavilion: dCS
Hi-Res Pavilion: Mytek
I managed to get my hands on the upcoming Mytek Clef, a battery-powered headphone amp. Priced at $299, it ships in approximately 6 months. Along with support for USB, it also includes Bluetooth 4.0 and a microphone. Handy for those iPhone 7 users with no headphone jack! The device was a prototype, but felt great in my hand.
Summary from the Mytek site:
Device ready for Tidal MastersTM playback
DAC resolution: up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DSD128, 120dB Dynamic Range
Headphone Amplier: 2.2 VRMS output, 10 Ohm output impedance, single ended
Formats accepted via USB: up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DSD128 via DOP, MQA® fully decoded via
built in decoder, all other audio formats the computer can play (Flac, AAC, MP3, DTS, Dolby etc)
Formats accepted via Bluetooth®: PCM up to resolution playable from cellphone or device, up to
384k, 32bit, ACC (Apple devices), AptX (with AptX equipped devices), LDAC (Sony devices),
standard Bluetooth 4. AAC, AptX and LDAC provide better Bluetooth quality. Single unfold MQA®
Built in mic for cellphone conversations
Digital Output: Dual function analog/optical digital jack, SPDIF up to 24bit/192kz, DSD64
Battery life: up to 8 hrs
Weight 85 grams, 3 ounces
Hi-Res Pavilion: ELAC
I’m a FAN of Roon to manage and stream music in your home. The challenge is, it can be overwhelming to setup & run Roon from a computer or NAS. I spent many hours playing with various NAS solutions. (Synology & QNAP)
The Discover Music Server supports 3 local zones (2 analog and 1 digital) and will support wireless zones in the future. Priced at $1099, which includes a license for Roon Lite software. The key limitation of Roon Lite is support for a maximum of 30,000 music tracks.
DEG – Sony
Showing some of their hi-res offerings; new Sony Desktop headphone amp is at $2200, and the Sony Portable player is at $2200
DEG – Others Autonomic & Astell&Kern
As I toured Central Hall, it was clear, turntables everywhere!
As time was ticking down, I decided to make a move and head over to the Venetian Hotel to check out the key audio exhibitors/meetings.
Venetian: MSB Technologies
Updates from the MSB room that I visited at T.H.E. Show 2016:
- New powerbase under the transport
- New power conditioner for digital sources -> MSB Isolation Base. ($1955)
- Roon support coming soon
- MQA was being demoed and coming soon
- Wired with Analysis Plus Micro Golden Oval cables
Vince explained that MQA would require both a hardware and software upgrade for existing MSB DAC owners. Specifically, owners can purchase an updated USB card for their MSB DAC which includes the MQA support. For MSB Analog DAC owners, the new USB card is $1595.
MSB Demo of MQA:
- Steely Dan – Babylon Sisters – Started with the CD Version; lots of compression and a little rough to listen to.
- MQA version – easier to listen to, less blurring, & smoother with some roughness reduced.
- There was a definite improvement with MQA during the MSB demo compared to more subtle improvements that I had heard earlier in the day on headphones.
Also in the MSB room I discovered Jake Shimabukuo – most amazing ukulele player ever! I’m on the hunt for this CD…
Venetian: SugarCube SweetVinyl
Next stop, checking in with our friends Dan Eakins and Leo Hoarty at SweetVinyl. Got excited about their product at Newport last year! See our show report at -> SweetVinyl during T.H.E. Show @ Newport.
As I entered the room they were happily spinning wonderful $1 records purchased earlier in the week to demonstrate their muscle at removing pops and clicks. They recently launched an Indiegogo campaign that offered the ability to purchase Beta units at a reduced rate, selling $100,000 in product in the first 7 days. The Beta units are sold out, but you can place a deposit for the next run.
- SweetVinyl SC1: Provides an inline pop filter & metadata. Units ship in Feb 2017
- SweetVinyl SC2: Provides the full feature set including recording and automatic meta-data. Units ship in March 2017
- Units will be available in 2 colors (silver and black).
We’re excited to get a review unit in the coming weeks to put through its paces. Stay tuned for a detailed review.
Venetian: ELAC – Room 1
After seeing the ELAC Discovery Music Server at the DEG Pavilion, I decided to pop into their dedicated room at the Venetian Hotel.
- ELAC Miracord 90 Anniversary Turntable, is the first turntable they have built-in 30 years! Shipping in the next 1-2 months for $2400.
- ELAC Concerto Speakers, is currently in pre-production and will sell for ~$70k. Driven in the room by Constellation electronics.
Venetian: ELAC – Room 2
The real star of the show was in ELACs second exhibition room at the Venetian. I’m usually never a fan of bookshelf speakers but the new ELAC Adante speaker at $2500 changed my perspective. Designed by Andrew Jones (ELAC America), it is something I encourage you to give a listen to.
The total cost of the system was less then what I have spent on some cables, and easily was my Best of Show under $10,000! These beauties ship in the 2nd quarter of this year. The sound was dynamic, tonally beautiful, relaxed and airy. Maybe I need a set for my office??
Priced at $4250, it looks to be a fabulous companion to a dCS Debussy or older DACs that do not support streaming.
Additional details on the formats supported by the dCS Network Bridge ( from the dCS website):
Featuring clean, bit-perfect operation, the Network Bridge currently plays files sampled at rates up to 24-bit, 384kS/s, supporting all major lossless codecs, plus DSD/64 or DSD/128 in native or DoP formats.
Compatibility with legacy dCS DACs is assured by an integer down-sampling feature. This down sampling feature converts high res data (for example DXD or DSD) to 24 bit PCM at either 176.4/192kS/s or 88.2/96kS/s – bringing the data within a range supported by your DAC.
Network Bridge also supports the simple yet highly effective dCS ‘auto clocking’ architecture as used in Vivaldi and Rossini, which minimizes jitter and improves sound quality significantly.
Review sample on route, so look for a detailed review coming soon!
AudioQuest was demonstrating 3 product areas during various sessions:
- New Headphones – NightHawk Carbon & NightOwl Carbon. These were all being displayed on a beautiful AudioQuest Perch stand
- Niagara Power Products. See my detailed review of the Niagara 7000
- Support for MQA with the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red
The star of the show for AudioQuest was the announcement that AudioQuest Dragonfly Red will be getting MQA support. This DAC has become the portable DAC of choice for me when I travel, and is one of the best bargains in high end audio for just $199.
Venetian: Musical Surroundings
At this event, they were introducing a new DS Audio 002 Optical cartridge to round out their offering. They now have 3 price points:
Spending a few minutes with the entry level DS Audio D02 on the exact same turntable as my home sparked my interest.
Luke Manley and Bea Lam always put together some of the best sounding rooms at any show I attend. At CES, it was no different.
Manley was showing 2 different VTL phono pre-amps & 2 different VTL pre-amps. It was a beautiful sound as always.
Before calling it a night, I made one last trip back to the Mirage Hotel to visit a room that I heard was buzzing with energy; the Nagra room.
I definitely saved the best for last. Nagra brought out the best in the WIlson Audio Alexx, and demonstrated every ounce of its ability to create Music. With no question, my Best of Show for CES 2017. I know I will be spending more time getting to know Nagra in 2017.
All in a days work…. phew, mission accomplished!