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Positive Feedback ISSUE 18
march/april 2005


CES/T.H.E. Show 2005: A Photo Essay, Day Three
by David W. Robinson


 All images and image processing by Robinson

The last full day for me at CES/T.H.E. Show was Saturday. And speaking of "full"—it was going to be. There were several PFO Brutus Award presentations to be made, running about Lost Wages, and our not-to-be-missed PFO Bash at the end of the day. It was time to be onwarding…

Dave Clark, my unindicted co-conspirator at PFO, fights back Ye Ol' Sol with PFO contributor Fown-Ming Tien. We had run into each other on the way from the Alexis Park to T.H.E. Show at the St. Tropez. All sorts of meetings happen on that sidewalk between the neighboring venues for CES and T.H.E. Show. Talk about a bottleneck… but you do get to see some folks at "T.H.E. Bottleneck" that you wouldn't have met otherwise.

While on the subject of T.H.E. Show, here's Lila with Mike Maloney, the tireless El Supremo of same. Mike deserves credit for a venue that is becoming more popular all the time; next year's show is reportedly ahead of the pace for this year's show, and this year's T.H.E. Show was excellent.

Mike Maloney with Richard Beers—may the 2006 T.H.E. Show be better than ever, gents!

As we entered the lobby of the St. Tropez, I saw my very good audiobud, Steve Hoffman. Steve and I have gotten to talk with each other several times this year, which makes it a very good year for us. I'm hoping that the major labels will get their topmost parts out of their hindmost parts, and liberalize their policy on allowing third-party reissues of their tape archives to SACD. Steve's mastery needs to be fed… and so do we, who love his work with reissues!

Our first stop today was the golden circle area of T.H.E. Show. While waiting for the folks in the EMM Labs/etc. room to allow the next group to enter, we visited with the neighbors: Flemming Rasmussen and the Gryphon group. Above is the Gryphon Antileon Signature Series solid-state stereo amplifier. The specs are impressive: 150 Watts per channel (pure Class A), fully-balanced, bipolar design with 20 bi's per channel, milspec PCBs… not bad!

Yessir, oodles of capacitors, for sure—can you say "440,000 μF"?

Rear view of the Antileon: dual mono power supplies, and balanced inputs. I wouldn't mind hearing either this model, or the monoblocks of same.

PFO's Dave Clark (left) and Bryan Gladstone (right) talked with Gryphon's Flemming Rasmussen for a while. Flemming was quite approachable, and has a good sense of humor… though he's clearly very serious about the quality of his design work.

Flemming with his Antileon Signature stereo amplifier.

Once the doors opened in the (take a breath!) Von Schweikert Audio/Blue Light Audio/darTZeel/EMM Labs/JENA Labs/Silent Running Audio room, we jumped in immediately. This was an important room, demonstrating SACD multichannel sound at the highest level. I was eager to hear the results. Here we have Blue Light's Jonathan Tinn getting ready to cue up the first SACD of the session.

Left front channel: the Von Schweikert VR-9 SE speaker (center) with the VR-11 monolith in the back corner, and one of the four darTZeel NHB-108 amplifiers used in this configuration. Behind the darTZeel, you can just make out the JENA Labs cables in play. The result: extraordinary!

Looking across the front end: VR-9 SE's left and right, dual darTZeels, and the EMM Labs CDSD transport/DAC6e processor/SWM-3 2/6 channel preamp, all on Silent Running Audio rack and stands. In the rear is a pair of JENA Labs Fundamental Power 6.1 line conditioners; all power cabling, interconnects and speaker cables were by JENA Labs, as well.

 Five of us from the PFO senior editorial group stayed for a demonstration of stereo and (mainly) multichannel playback. How was it? Well, some ‘philes are either ambiguous about multichannel… or actively hostile to it… but my experience is that m/c setups that are done right—and use superior SACD's and sources (the EMM Labs gear is at the top o' the heap, in my opinion)—provide a playback experience that cannot be had with stereo systems. The pursuit of soundfield (multichannel) as opposed to soundstage (stereo) is the next step forward for fine audio.

By the end of the session, and in retrospect, the sound in this room was "Ye Olde Editor's Best of the Show!" for multichannel sound. Period. No doubt in my mind at all. Congratulations to all the people and companies who put together such a remarkable demonstration of what current state-of-the-art multichannel is capable of!

Another view of the VR-9 SE with the darTZeel NHB-108… very tasty!

A quick trio shot: Jonathan Tinn of Blue Light Audio, Hervé Deletraz, the design genius behind darTZeel, and PFO's Mike Lavigne.

A moment in the sun: Kevin Malmgren of Von Schweikert Audio with Jonathan Tinn of Blue Light Audio… good guys, both!

It was time to hit the rest of the circuit at T.H.E. Show once more. In the DeVore Fidelity/Exemplar Audio/Shindo Labs USA room, I met John Tucker of Exemplar Audio. John is a very gifted designer, and has a modded SACD player that I'd like to review some time. The sound in any John Tucker-equipped room is always great; this year was no exception.

The view in Brian Cheney's VMPS/Spread Spectrum Technologies/Ampzilla 2000 room. Pictured are the VMPS RM 40 loudspeakers in two different finishes. I thought the sound was very good, though I would have experimented with toeing the speakers differently (outward) if I were listening by myself. I reckon that Brian knows what he's doing, though—and there's an awful lot of bang for the buck in his designs. You can own the RM 40s without going broke.

The next stop was one of my perennial favorites: the deHavilland room. Showing with Georgie K's and Kara C's kit was PranaWire/World Power/Silent Running Audio. As always, there was terrific sound (like, music!) going on in here…

…though I suspect that deHavilland's tricked-out Ampex 351 had something to do with that! Dig the way-cool 7" boxed reels in the foreground! Makes you wish that cassettes had never happened—curse the fumble-fingered consumers who tempt the majors to ever and always descend to the lowest common denominator in audio. This is why SACD was such a surprising and major blast of fresh air: for once, we got a new format that was an advance, and not a surrender.

Another room with good sound happenin' was the Art Audio/Cabasse USA/Argent-Rosinante/DAXX/Gill Audio Design space. The Cabasse may look very strange, as former PFer Ray Chowkwanyun noted many moons ago, but they do have an eerie way of making music.

The Art Audio monos simply cry out for fresco'ing; I was glad to oblige. Lovely design work, for sure, and well matched to the Cabasse speakers.

I hadn't been in the Audio Research room for a couple of years. I was looking to see if my old AR friend Dave Gordon was there, but he was tied up. I stayed and caught the sound of the big 600 Watters driving these Wilson Audio speakers for a while. Large, chilluns, the sound was large.

Lila and I ducked out and caught the scene at the T.H.E. Show "free lunch." Unlike the day before, this one wasn't rained out, much to the delight of the munchkins and moochniks in attendance.

Good friends meet in passing: (left to right) Joe Cohen of PranaWire, Carol Clark and Bryan Gladstone of PFO, Alan Kafton of audioexcellenceaz, and Dave Clark of PFO take a moment to compare notes and make some plans. We were on our way to the Linn demo at that behemoth of the "over-the-top," the Bellagio… time was short!

At first we got lost; the Bellagio is bloody BIG. After wandering about a bit, we finally called Brian Morris, the Director of PR and Media Relations for Linn—he got us straightened out, and met us at the correct tower. In the photo above, Brian (left) chats with Dave, Bryan and Carol right after we arrived in the Linn suite.

Brian Morris talks with Dave Clark, just prior to the awarding of the Positive Feedback Online 2004 Brutus Awards to Linn Audio.

There's no doubt that Linn really knows how to present its designs. Pictured, left to right, is the Linn Kontrol preamp (PFO Brutus Award winner in 2003), the Linn Unidisk 1.1 (PFO Brutus Award winner in 2004), and the Linn Klimax amplifier.

Brian Morris accepts one of the five PFO Brutus Awards for 2004 from PFO editor Dave Clark. (For more on these awards, see my choices at and Dave and Carol Clark's picks at

Presentations complete! Brian Morris with the five Brutus Awards that Linn garnered this year.

Another stack of Linn kit: Top to bottom, the Unidisk 2.1 (kid brother to the Unidisk 1.1), the Exotik multichannel/stereo preamp, and the 2250 stereo amplifier.

Linn's Ben Goldman (USA Western Regional Sales Manager), Brian Morris, and Steve Carroll (Senior VP of Sales) take a moment with their new PFO Brutus Awards.

Having done with the formal photo ops, the PFO gang went in with Brian to check out the two demo multichannel rooms that Linn had running. There were a lot of people who checked them out.

Here's the new Linn Artikulat active multichannel speaker system, front end. Each of these has matched Linn amplification built into the speakers. The result? Dynamic, clean, and detailed surround sound, by the bucketful. We stayed here for quite a while, listening to some great tracks. Linn was second only the the no-holds-barred megabuck layout in the EMM Labs/Von Schweikert/etc. SACD multichannel room; certainly this was one of the best rooms at the show for me.

A closer view of the new powered front channel Linns, with the radical new rounded cabinet design…

…while this is the new powered rear channel model. The whole system is bloody beautiful, and a real music maker to boot.

Also on display was the new Linn Komponent multichannel system. This line has been developed to provide an entry-level, more compact "lifestyle" approach attractive to consumers with limited space.

The Komponent system may have been designed to be more compact, but frankly all of us from PFO were really taken by its terrific sound. Mark my words: Linn has a killer multichannel system in the Komponent (show here with the Unidisk SC and 5125 multichannel amplifier). It may be available at a noticeably lower price point, but I have to say that this system is a real contender, regardless. Readers… take note! (We sure did. Bryan Gladstone was heavily tempted by this one….)

Brian Morris with the Linn Komponent speaker; you can see how compact the design is… but this one really belts it out!

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