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Positive Feedback ISSUE 4
december/january 2003


CES 2003
by Ed Morawski


Before everyone gets tired of reading about CES I thought I would just highlight my picks for the top five products this year.

My first stop was the T.H.E Expo at the San Remo and right off I hit a jackpot at the Immedia room. They had their Audio Physic Tempo speakers being feed with a Burmester CD player and mentioned they had just become the US Distributor for Burmester. But the conversation quickly turned to Lyra's new titanium cartridge, the Titan. The Burmester sounded really good through the also wonderful Tempos but when they cranked up the RPM table with the Titan, man oh man!

Lyra_Titan.jpg (17789 bytes)
Photo courtesy of Immedia

I have never heard vinyl this good, in fact I never heard a CD this good! The vinyl was so superior I thought maybe they should never have them in the same room again. Save your pennies, the Titan sells for $4500. Some trickle down from the Titan will occur later this year all the way to $1100; but if you want what is arguably the best cartridge out there right now, check out the Lyra Titan.

Next, we headed over the Alexis Park and were again rewarded with a winner. Gryphon was showing off their Cantata speaker system. This appears to have a horn loaded mid with some active processing. Whatever it is has, it does not lack in dynamics. It's performance was stunning, jaw dropping, amazing, and unbelievable!

Gryphon_Cantata.jpg (14847 bytes)
Photo courtesy of Gyrphon

You want live realism, you say? You could hear the guitar string snap so loud I was afraid it was going to break and I actually was ready to duck! I came back several times to this room but I want to hear more! We reviewed Gyrphon's Callisto integrated some time ago and it also possessed the same great dynamic, live sound. But the Cantata was just simply out of this world.

I'd love to hear a wider variety of music on these and see if it stands up. The Cantatas sell for $19,600 and maybe for the first time, I actually thought something might be worth that much.

Another standout, in my opinion anyway, was the deHavilland room playing through Alon's new Lotus Elite speakers at $4500-$7500 depending on level. Not only do these look great, but they were the best overall sounding speakers I heard. Smooth, neutral, and very pleasant sounding; they never intruded on the music. I am glad to see an amplifier maker choose the right speakers to show off their products!

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Number four was Earthworks, a professional monitor company, with some very interesting little monitors that sounded really good. I stayed and listened for quite a while and discussed a possible review. Hope it works out cause they were very pleasant.

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Last but not least was Tact Audio who had a complete digital system, complete with their own speakers. While the speakers are not digital, they are specially made to work with Tact's system and would be useless by themselves. We got quite a good demonstration by one of Tact;s engineers who explained their amps do not really amplify but merely respond to changes in rail voltage commanded by the preamp / processor.

Interesting idea, if that in fact is what is really happening. In any case they sounded pretty good in a very bad room. Tact had no room treatments of any kind purposely to highlight their capabilities. The total system with speakers and custom subs cost around $28,000 and again was a package that might actually be a value for the money!

Some other honorable mentions go to muRata's wierd and wonderful ceramic ES024 at $3400 a pair. This company usually manufactures electronic transducers found in burglar alarms and computers in Japan. They now appear to be branching out into audio and the sound was not bad.

Harbeth had their little mini monitor,  the P3ES-2, which also was very sweet. It struggled a little on the lowest organ notes but from there on up was mighty satisfying.

muRayaES024.jpg (17574 bytes)

Unlike the Harbeth, the J.M Reynaud Trente did not struggle at all on the organ and sounded much, much bigger than it's size suggested. I could live with these little monitors! These were also way up on my list as a must do review.

And finally there was the beautiful workmanship from Usher. I was able to get a private audition of their little 717 monitors at $1000 a set and was truly impressed. These call for further investigation.

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For those of you who have never been to CES or T.H.E. Show, it was interesting to contrast the three main venues. Most of the CES is at the Convention Center and is a total circus atmosphere. Don't even bother unless you love crowds and tiny little gadgets. While there were some very nice improvements in very large LCD video monitors, there is almost no worthwhile audio, and what is there is un-listenable because of the open displays.

The Alexis Park is for the most part formal and uptight with bored salesmen in suits ignoring everyone. The sound is pretty bad as well. Why they don't move this part of the CES I'll never understand.

This is the first year I was able to visit T.H.E Show and it was refreshing. Warm, friendly, casual with people who seemed more like audiophiles than businessmen. All the rooms generally sounded much better as well. Check it out next time!