CES 2012 High End Audio

Las Vegas Venetian CES 2012

Welcome back for my second post recapping CES 2012. One venue not to miss was the Venetian Hotel, and not only for its Euro kitsch: obvious tourists included!

Three floors of the hotel were completely devoted to high-end audio products. Over one hundred vendors previewed the finest in amplifier and speaker technology. As a CES attendee, the key is to get to the elevators in the early morning, before the crush of the main crowds.

The world is constantly changing, even in an industry traditionally governed by physics, where great sounds can usually only come from heavy speakers.

Even the purists are bending the rules to conform to an ever more digital world. This year is a breakout year for a relatively new type of product: the music server. Despite its questionable audio pedigree, mp3 files will vie with SACDs for high end audio source material.

The Venetian suites were relatively small for serving as soundstages. No matter: most systems were still able to project the airiness, texture and clarity generally associated with a live performance: I was astounded by the quality. 
Esoteric Audio Las Vegas Venetian CES 2012
Make no mistake: if a vendor had equipment ready for the show, they brought it!

As an audiophile myself, I have listened to a great many systems over the years. I would like to mention four that really stood out from a very competitive field.

1. Cary Audio

This company impresses me not only for the quality of their equipment, but their attention to detail and the friendly and professional salesperson who walked me through every part of their setup, complete with TAD loudspeakers. I noticed that they posted a nice writeup on their CES setup here. I requested a demo of vocal jazz: I closed my eyes and thought I was sitting in on a live vocal audition. Utterly amazing.

If you are one of the lucky few who can afford such a system, I highly recommend this company's products. When I asked how the past few years have affected Cary, the salesperson replied that the company kept all of their employees despite weathering an extended period of lower sales numbers. Bravo to Cary for both great management and awesome products!

2. Pass Labs

Massive is the operative word for this company's products. For those who know Pass, their signature power output meter continues to adorn amplifiers that are literally as massive as a small car. Power, beautiful power. As I understand it, these systems may require you to upgrade your home electrical. No kidding.

I had a great conversation with their head of foreign sales. Knowlegeable, friendly, and professional. I would not hesitate to make a purchase from this company.
Pass Labs Las Vegas Venetian CES 2012
Love that Class A equipment: the amp stack alone weighs 1000 pounds.
3. Audio Power Labs

Their swag says it all. This company's vacuum tube monblocks were coupled with a pair of Von Schweikert Audio speakers. This time, I requested acoustic guitar source material. Stunningly realistic. This company's products are made in the USA, and they are as beautiful as they sound.

There is a showroom for these products somewhere in Los Angeles. I hope to see this equipment again in the near future. Once again, it is the fantastic sales staff that helped further separate this company from the competition.

Audio Power Labs Las Vegas Venetian CES 2012
It is true: their vacuum tubes are gigantic!

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