As my last day at CES 2019 approached, the energy had been completely sucked out of my body. Thankfully, the following five items re-energized me throughout the day, giving me great hope for what's to come in AV in 2019.
Sonarworks is a software company that supposedly flattens the frequency of your headphones to a studio-reference standard. I was highly skeptical about the software, believing it to be a scam. But I figured I'd stop by to check it out. And boy, was I ever wrong! It's a perfect example of why you should always keep an open mind.
Of course this isn't going to turn a crummy $25 pair of headphones into a pair of $2,000 studio-class headphones in terms of accuracy. But the program works extremely well. Even the notoriously unlistenable Beats headphones sounded far better when using it, and within the domain of acceptably good. So far, I'm impressed.
In the future, the program can also accurately measure your preference. I tested the beta version and it works: the analysis quite accurately matches my SMPTE-curve preference as per how my ears were tested by Paul Barton at the National Research Council in Ottawa.
Meanwhile, Technics showcased its first ever SACD player, depicted above. Why? Contrary to popular belief, the format is not dead. In fact, new SACDs are still being released in Japan and Europe. The SL-G700 SACD/Network player shares its solid chassis with Panasonic's UB9000 THX-certified flagship UHD Blu-ray player, which ensures that the least amount of vibration and RMI/EMI is introduced into the internal circuitry. An integrated amplifier (SU-G700) is also available as a part of the Technics Grand Series.
Kanto announces its TUK powered speakers with folded AMT tweeter technology. Paired with a 5.25" aluminum bass driver and fine-tuned using on-board DSP, these $999 powered speakers include the usual RCA, TOSLINK, phono inputs, and also BT 4.2 aptX HD compatibility.
Initial listening in the environment mimicking a near-field monitor studio set up was exceedingly promising. Only an in-depth review will tell whether the TUK can defeat my Genelec 8030.
After offering a nice sub-US$100 pair of active speakers, Edifier showcased its new US$4,500 audiophile-grade pair of horn-loaded ribbon tweeters and 8"-woofer active monitors. These speakers are running two monoblock internal amplifiers (one in each enclosure). The set also comes with a pair of high rigidity speaker stands.
I spent more than an hour listening to this set with my own recordings in an invite-only listening room. This entire package with this level of sound quality usually cost in the US$10,000 realm or higher.
Andrew Jones did it again with his ELAC BS243.4. This new ELAC speaker features JET folded tweeters, aluminum 5.25" woofer with vented pole (to reduce heat which results in increased dynamics on the woofer), and downward firing port to minimize chuffing. Without any subwoofer, this small speaker can easily reach a room-measures frequency down to 42" (measured using AudioControl calibrated mic in the acoustically treated demo area at The Venetian).
There is currently no pricing yet, but it's estimated to be around US$1,800 for the pair. One minor but serious note to Jones: please use a less confusing model naming convention!
And that's a wrap for CES! Stay tuned for our in-depth reports in the upcoming February/March 2019 print edition of WIFi HiFi Magazine.