CES 2015 preview
- Alan Sircom
- Jan 2015
Audio is not the slow-moving stream it once was. The rate of change has stepped up considerably of late, and there will be many products and concepts shown at this year’s CES. We get dozens of press releases a day around this time, in the run-up to the show, and unfortunately almost all of them are embargoed, so we can’t even talk about knowing the existence of new product launches next week, even when we are well aware of what’s coming, and from whom. Nevertheless, there are some highlights we expect to see, and here’s a sneak preview of what’s expected.
TAD: On the last day of 2014, TAD announced Compact Evolution One ‘bookshelf’ loudspeaker (more of a free-space standmount that stands as high as a floorstander from most brands), and this will be shown to the industry for the first time in a private demonstration at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. We’ll be there!
MartinLogan: At Munich 2014, ML showed the Neolith in prototype form. It’s fairly certain this will be shown in its full glory.
Devialet: At the end of last year, Devialet showcased its new Phantom active system. This will likely be shown alongside its existing range of electronics. And no, it’s not a vacuum cleaner!
Parasound: The company behind the excellent Halo range of electronics will very likely show its new Halo Integrated amplifier, and a new DAC. The Halo Integrated amp may very well be called the Halo Integrated amplifier and may very well look a bit like this:
We shall see.
Wilson Audio: Wilson will very definitely be showing its new Sabrina standmount loudspeaker, at the Venetian Hotel. Wilson may very well be showing something else at the Mirage Hotel, maybe something big that harks back to Wilson Audio’s earliest designs, possibly called WAMM, but we couldn’t possibly comment on that.
Stenheim: The Swiss contingent will be out in force. First up, Stenheim will be showing its Reference floorstanders, which received so much high praise in Hong Kong.
Soulution – Fellow Swiss manufacturers Soulution will be showing off the company’s new 560 DAC, played through its 7-Series audio equipment.
YG: Although details are embargoed until January 6, YG’s website describes a new version of the company’s most affordable floorstanding loudspeaker, the Carmel 2. We’ve seen some teasing red curtain action going on, but details of the replacement to the popular two-way design are not forthcoming… yet.
EAT turntables will be showing its new carbon-fibre designs; the C-Sharp turntable and C-Note tonearm. These are part of a project (no pun intended) that took more than a year of experimentation and development.
There will also likely be two new products from one of the most popular audio electronics manufacturers in Kent, UK.
Moving away from the hardware side, we expect more announcements from companies signing up to the new MQA audio standard, and a number of important conferences on High-Resolution Audio as it moves further into the mainstream.
Of course, this is just the tip of a very big iceberg. There are many more brands that are either waiting for the show to unveil their latest products, or who have put us under even tighter restrictions, preventing us from discussing the products at all prior to next week. We expect to see – and report back on – a lot more.
CES is about a lot more technology than just audio, and it’s interesting to draw some parallels. I’ve been attending the annual event for more years than I’d care to remember, and have only missed two Las Vegas shows this century, so pivotal is it to our industry. One of the rare no-shows was 10 years ago, when for family reasons I stayed in the UK. I recently dug out the equipment I would typically take to a show like CES, however, and it’s interesting to see just how that equipment has changed with the times.
We don’t tend to use video here, relying instead on stills photography. In 2005, I would have typically used a Nikon D2X, with a 17-55 f/2.8 DX lens, and a SB800 flash. We still use this for studio work, because its performance at ISO 100 is still remarkable, but it needs flash for an event like CES, because it is unworkable beyond ISO 640. How things have changed. I had to beef up my Fuji X-T1 with a battery pack, just to make it seem similarly sized to the D2X, and the 18-55 f/2.8-f/4 lens is a fraction of the size and weight of its predecessor. I bring along a flash more for artistic effect than necessity, because I could confidently print images made at ISO 6400 not ISO 640 now. The whole Fuji package weighs about half that of its predecessor, with no noticeable downside, and even this is too large for some – I could get publishable results from a high performance compact without too much strain.
The change in audio recording equipment is just as marked, although I stayed loyal to the same brand. The Marantz PMD-660 is more than twice the size, twice the weight and has a higher noise floor than the PMD-620 that replaced it, and the sole reason for keeping the original is it uses XLR inputs lacking in the smaller model.
In a way, even this has been eclipsed by technology, and both camera and especially audio recorder could be effectively replaced by a smartphone.
There are parallels in audio. We’ve shrunk the audio system, ridding ourselves of disc players and moving toward streaming services. In the process, we’ve democratised audio, and made good quality available to all, not just an elite (the cost of my 2014 camera, lens, and flash was less than the cost of my 2004 camera on its own). However, in the process, we have run the risk of making a ‘good enough’ solution; recordings made on the built-in microphones of the Marantz 620 are not as good as those made by dedicated microphones plugged into the Marantz 660, but the convenience factor is considerably greater, meaning recorder and microphone stay at home. We should be mindful of oversimplifying things to their detriment.
Now… on with the show!
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