During the second week of January, the technology world converged in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), now in its 45th year. The 2013 show set a record in terms of exhibition space, covering 1.92 million square feet, and it attracted more than 150,000 visitors from 170 countries. As always, Robb Report made a sweep of the main convention to investigate this year’s stock of new and forthcoming TVs—the new-generation 4K and OLED sets provide unprecedented resolution and realism—but spent the majority of the show browsing the high-end audio components showcased in the suites at the Venetian, where the hi-fi community engaged in bouts of audio one-upmanship. The industry’s top manufacturers offered demonstrations of some serious reference systems, many incorporating new wireless technology, and some touted their versions of streaming-capable digital-to-analog converters (DACs), which seem to be sweeping the hi-fi world.
Here are some of the tech items and manufacturers that caught our attention.
Big, Beautiful TVs
The first wave of 4K TVs, from Sony and LG, hit the market last fall in 84-inch screen sizes. The moniker 4K refers to the display panel’s roughly 4,000 horizontal pixels, which is more than double the horizontal pixel count of Blu-ray Disc content. At CES, the rest of the industry’s top display-panel manufacturers unveiled their first 4K TVs in a variety of screen sizes.
- Sharp Electronics’ (www.sharpusa.com) 60- and 70-inch 4K TVs will be available this summer
- Samsung (www.samsung.com) will make 85- and 110-inch 4K TVs available in the second half of this year.
- Toshiba’s (www.toshiba.com) 58-, 65-, and 84-inch 4K TVs will be on the market this summer.
- Sony (www.sony.com) is adding 55- and 65-inch screen sizes (available in the spring) to its 84-inch 4K TV that is currently available.
- LG (www.lg.com) is adding 55- and 65-inch screen sizes (this spring) to its 84-inch 4K TV that is currently available. LG also showcased a 55-inch OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV, which is just 4 mm thick and is expected to hit the market in March for a price of $12,000. The overall picture quality of the LG OLED TV, especially the color gamut, is exceptional.
- The Danish manufacturer Bang & Olufsen (www.bang-olufsen.com) continues to lead the industry in style and convenience. The company unveiled its line of stylish BeoLab 12 digital loudspeakers, which range from $2,950 to about $4,600. It also showcased a new in-wall speaker system that comprises the BeoLab 15 speaker, BeoLab 16 subwoofer, and rack-ready Amplifier 1. The in-wall system starts at $4,595 for a two-channel setup.
- In addition to showing off its $3,000 McAire desktop wireless music system, which started shipping last fall, McIntosh Labs (www.mcintoshlabs.com) debuted a host of new products at CES. They included the C2500 vacuum-tube preamplifier ($6,500; available soon); 200-watt-per-channel MA7900 integrated amplifier ($7,000; available soon); D100 remote-controlled digital stereo preamplifier ($2,500; available soon); and MT5 turntable ($6,500; shipping this summer).
- The Harman-owned Mark Levinson (www.marklevinson.com) demonstrated the 40th-anniversary version of its Reference Dual Monaural Preamplifier ($30,000; shipping in March). The Harman-owned JBL Synthesis (www.jblsynthesis.com) unveiled its new flagship loudspeaker, the Project Everest DD67000 ($75,000 per pair; shipping this month), which is the first upgrade to the Everest speaker since it was introduced six years ago.
- Meridian (www.meridian-audio.com) introduced its newest in-wall speakers, the DSP520 and DSP640 ($10,000 and $15,000 per pair, respectively; shipping in March). The new speakers feature onboard amplification and digital-signal processing, and are Meridian's first in-wall speakers to incorporate a place to mount the company's Media Source 200.
- Naim Audio (www.naimaudio.com) demonstrated its new flagship Ovator S-800 loudspeakers ($60,000; available now), which are available with or without onboard amplification.
- The living audio legend Dan D’Agostino (www.dagostinoinc.com), who founded Krell Industries in 1980 and his own namesake brand in 2009, unveiled a gorgeous stereo preamplifier, the newest addition to his line of Momentum audio components. While the new stereo preamp was for display only at the show, D’Agostino’s Momentum monoblock power amp was used in numerous demonstrations to power some of the show’s best speakers, which proves that he remains among the best audio-component designers in the business.
- Burmester (www.burmester.de) debuted its 101 integrated amplifier (expected to be below $10,000; shipping in March) alongside its new 102 CD player ($9,500; available now). The sonic results were stunning, especially for a player-amp combo at that price point.
- Scaena’s (www.scaena.com) impressive Silver Ghost multi-driver source-array speakers ($15,000 per pair for a full array; available now).
- Light Harmonic’s (www.lightharmonic.com) Da Vinci 384 kHz USB DAC and its new music server and streamer option for the component (starting at $20,000; shipping in the middle of this year).
- Nagra’s (www.nagraaudio.com) Melody solid-state preamp, with an optional built-in phonostage (starting at about $8,650; available soon).
- Magico’s (www.magico.net) new S1 compact standing loudspeaker ($12,600; available now).
- Cary Audio’s (www.caryaudio.com) DMC-600 music server/DAC/CD player combo component ($5,000; shipping this spring).
- YG Acoustics’ (www.ygacoustics.com) modular Sonja loudspeakers, which are available as compact tabletop speakers or large standing models ($38,800 to $106,800, depending on configuration; available soon).
- Constellation Audio’s (www.constellationaudio.com) new black finishes for some of its award-winning audio components, as well as the new Virgo 2 dual-mono power supply, which is sure to be among the best products in that category ($24,000; available soon).
- MartinLogan’s (www.martinlogan.com) new top-of-the-line BalancedForce subwoofer (price TBA; shipping in the middle of this year), which paired very well with the brand’s flagship CLX electrostatic loudspeakers.
- Dynaudio’s (www.dynaudio.com) Evidence Platinum loudspeaker, which features newly designed drivers, woofer, crossover, and tweeters ($85,000 per pair; available soon). The Evidence Platinum was among the most impressive loudspeakers to debut at CES.
- Octave (www.octave.de) offered demonstrations of its new MRE 220 monoblock tube amplifier ($24,000 per pair; shipping soon).
- T&A’s (www.taelektroakustik.de) stunning display of electronics, with its PA 3000 HV integrated amplifier ($16,000; available now) and 500-watt MP 3000 HV ($12,500; available now), which is a CD transport, asynchronous USB DAC, and wireless streaming device.
- Polk Audio (www.polkaudio.com) pulled the curtain off its Woodbourne desktop wireless music system, which looks as beautiful as it sounds ($599; shipping in the middle of this year).
- Nola’s (www.nolaspeakers.com) Concert Grand Reference speakers, which are staggering in terms of looks, audio capability, and price ($197,000; made to order, shipping this spring).
- Vienna Acoustics (www.vienna-acoustics.com) demonstrated its new Beethoven Imperial Grand loudspeakers ($10,000; shipping this spring).
- IsoTek (www.isoteksystems.com) had a very impressive system in place, including the brand’s new Genesis preamplifier/DAC converter/power regenerator ($24,000; available soon) and its Super Titan power amplifier ($14,000).
- Technical Audio Devices Laboratories (TAD) (www.tad-labs.com), as always, garnered significant attention in its listening room. This year’s demo highlighted the company’s Evolution One loudspeaker ($30,000 per pair), which began shipping last year.
- Wadia Digital (www.wadia.com) unveiled its Intuition integrated digital amplifier (projected to cost about $8,000; shipping date TBA), which looks more like a flying saucer than an audio component.