The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held annually in Las Vegas is very large, ungainly and expensive to attend. The effect of the trade-only show on high-end audio has fallen over the past 20 years from the most important show to least. This year at the very pricey Venetian Hotel, the high-end audio participants were housed on one floor. That said, there were a few standouts that our readers may find of interest.
Many CES non-audiophile exhibitors demonstrate prototypes, most of which never come to market or fail in quick succession. CES is always about the next best thing. 2018 was the year of the ‘digital’ assistant (Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant) and what looked to be an army of robots.
High-end audio is getting much better at tracking trends in mainstream audio and making quick decisions in manufacturing and design to bring the latest trends into the audiophile world.
Here are a few components of interest.
SONOS just released the new PLAY:1, now with Alexa support and with Google Assistant coming soon. ‘Hey Google, play the highest rated Brahms 2nd Symphony’. Could be fun for couch potatoes. And unlike the just-released Apple HomePod which only natively supports Apple Music, SONOS supports all the major streaming players such as Spotify, TidalHiFi, Deezer, etc. CAD$249.00 each. They can be purchased in a pair for a discounted price and matched via the app as a stereo set.
Kanto Audio, a direct (Canadian) competitor to the very popular Audioengine series of powered loudspeakers, debuted its YU Series. The most powerful of the bookshelf speakers, the YU6s, offer a very sleek design and all the onboard power you’ll need. More plug & play for a reasonable price and from a Canadian company. CAD$499.00/pair.
Pro-Ject Audio continues to produce a very wide range of turntables from inexpensive starter ‘tables to very expensive audiophile benchmark units. A couple of units were new to the Pro-ject range.
The Pro-Ject JukeBox E Audiophile “All-in-one Plug & Play“ turntable system + BT + line is very easily set up. Pro-ject says: Juke Box E is record player, phono stage, Bluetooth receiver, line pre-amplifier and power amplifier in one, requiring only a pair of speakers to make a complete system. If you thought that a starter turntable system is complicated to set up, Juke Box E proves the contrary. This good sounding belt-drive deck offers the fastest possible installation process because it comes pre-adjusted out of the box and offers superb sound quality. Tracking force and anti-skating of the turntable section are carefully pre-set. An acrylic dust cover is included. The “All-in-one turntable system” is available in high-gloss black, red or white colour.
Plug in your speakers and you’re all set. CAD$699.00
175 The Vienna Philharmonic Record Player celebrates the great orchestra’s 175th Anniversary. Built to exacting standards by Pro-ject Audio, this limited edition turntable (175 units) is: fashioned from material found in musical instruments. The wooden chassis and the lacquer of the 175 correspond to that of a violin. The gilded metal chassis is based on the brass instruments of the orchestra, while the finger lift comes from a clarinet key. Even the knob for switching on and changing speeds comes from a flute button.
The technical heart of the turntable is the latest in record player design from Pro-Ject Audio Systems, based on Pro-Ject’s multi-award-winning model, “The Classic.” The design team has improved every technical detail, and produced the new model according to Pro-Ject’s highest standard of build quality, with the tightest tolerances. CAD$9,999.00
Hana Cartridges has been making a bit of a splash on the high-end audio scene. Most moving coil cartridges of good quality come in well over a thousand dollars. Hana’s carts are below a thousand, as low as CAD$429.00.
Unlike some of the cheaper moving coil cartridges, the Hana MCs are getting rave reviews for their smoothness, detail and wonderful attention to dynamics. The beautiful timbral quality and accuracy of both vocals and instrumentals, usually the domain of very expensive carts, have been noted in reviews. The entire Hana range was on show in Las Vegas.
Available at The Electronic Depot in Niagara Falls.