CES 2015 is in the can and I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it to nearly as many rooms as I wanted to and I didn’t spend enough time in the rooms I visited. Without an editorial staff it’s impossible to do this show any justice. For the most part, what I saw was great. The new Ravenna based network DAC from Merging Technologies, the NADAC, looks promising. It has the ability to output from two to sixteen channels and should be priced around $6,000 - $7,000. One of the best sounding rooms I stumbled into during the entire show was that of Nagra. The Swiss manufacture demonstrated prototype amplifiers that were part of a system featuring the HD DAC and a MacBook Air. The sound was delicate and stayed in my mind throughout the entire four days of CES.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] Devialet focussed heavily on Phantom by featuring nearly ten units in its room. This was my second opportunity to hear Phantom and I really enjoyed what I heard. I talked to a few audio engineers, from companies other than Devialet, about the Phantom because I wanted to get more opinions on the technology. Most engineers agree the Phantom is an engineering marvel. This year Magico moved its demonstration from the Venetian to the Mirage and put on a terrific sonic display. The Q7 loudspeakers paired with the Q Sub produced sound that I could have listened to for hours on end. The delicacy, depth, and cleanliness of the sound was as good as I can ever remember a Magico trade show demonstration. The sound was assisted by Soulution electronics and the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha RS DAC. My favorite sound of the show was heard at the dCS room. The dCS Vivaldi stack drove Dan D’agostino amplifiers directly which drove Rockport speakers wonderfully. I sat in the dCS room for about forty-five minutes, going through track after track on my USB stick. The sound wasn’t perfect (the amps and speakers were fresh from the factories), but it was very good. I didn’t want to leave the dCS room but after a while I felt as if I was hogging the playback system. TAD demonstrated its CE-1 (Compact Evolution 1) loudspeaker for the first time. The sound engineer Andrew Jones reproduced through these speakers at the show was terrific. One interesting point about these speakers is the interchangeable side panels. The standard options of metal, black, and white can be augmented by nearly any design. Andrew had a custom design done by the Neal Feay Company on hand to demonstrate one possibility (photo below). The most convincing demonstration of the week was put on by Linn. Linn demonstrated the power of its Exakt technology through an A-B-A listening session. I first heard the fully active system without the Exakt component in the playback chain. Linn followed this by quickly switching cables to route through the Exakt box. The difference was audible but nothing compared to what I heard when the Linn team switched back to the original un-Exakt system. I was floored at how much better Exakt can make a system sound. This was definitely a demo I won’t forget.
One of the most hyped technologies of CES 2015 was Merdian’s MQA (Master Quality Authenticated). After sitting through thirty minutes of MQA talk by Meridian I remain unconvinced that MQA is a good thing. One reason is the demonstration put on by Merdian compared a 128 kbps MP3 file to a 1100 kbps MQA version, both from the master tapes. No matter the reason and justification for this demonstration, I still think it’s a bit disingenuous. Another reason I remain unconvinced is that, I believe, MQA is NOT lossless. Meridian claims MQA is lossless, but I believe it only claims audibly lossless, not lossless in the normal use of the term. I checked with a couple engineers at the show and each confirmed MQA wasn’t lossless in the traditional sense of the word. I think there will be many discussions to come about MQA.
Also in the Meridian room I received a demonstration of the next generation Sooloos software. I’m not a liberty to discuss what I saw and what I was told, but I can say it was absolutely awesome.
CES 2015 Photo Gallery
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