CES '98 Daily Coverage Notes
Sunday January 11 - Day Four
'On the Spot' reporting from Las Vegas, Nevada
The world's best audio reporting is on SoundStage!

Daily Coverage by Doug Blackburn and Doug Schneider
Digital Photography by Doug Blackburn using a Kodak DCS-210 Zoom Camera

AMC/Weltronics showed a wide variety of cost effective stereo and home theater components. This new Audio/Video Control Center includes a Dolby Digital decoder. AMC is known for innovative products at real-world prices.
One of the more unusual speakers at CES '98 was the Azimuth speaker from Loth-X Audio of Singapore. Prices are $12,000/pr with standard wood finishes and $14,500/pr with exotic wood veneers. Efficiency is 104 dB/watt with an 8 ohm impedance. There are no electronic components in the speaker... the signal goes directly from the binding post to the driver. The driver is based on the paper cone Lowther-Voigt driver which has been under constant refinement for many years. This particular driver was developed by Stefan Stamm for Loth-X. The speaker enclosure is a horn design. To keep the cabinet dimensions from becoming gigantic, the speaker was designed to use walls in the room to extend the low frequency response of the speaker. To get the best bass performance, the speaker should be relatively close to a room corner. At the show, there was about 2 to 2.5 feet to the rear and sides of the speakers.
Since Lowther drivers are probably not familiar to many audiophiles, here is a closer view of the Loth-X driver. The large paper cone (appeared to be about 8") looks somewhat conventional. However, there are 2 additional cones attached to it. A 3" to 4" middle-sized cone has free edges. The 3rd radiating surface/cone is a small cylinder at the center of the driver surrounding the dust cap. The cone-shaped dust cap in the center of the driver looks like wood because it is wood.
AudioPrism has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. For CES '98 they were showing their new flagship amplifiers, the $13,000/pr Mana monoblocks. Owners can select 100 watts in ultra-linear mode or 50 watts in triode mode. Rated power is the same for 8, 6, 4 or 2 ohm speaker loads.

The output transformers have a third winding used for differential feedback instead of common global feedback schemes used in most amplifiers.

An input sensing circuit turns off the output tubes when there is no input signal. When a signal appears, the bias is silently turned on.

Aural Symphonics showed a new line of speaker cables and interconnects that have an innovative grounding scheme. Each cable has an external ground wire terminated with an alligator clip - these are marked with red triangles in the photo. In the lower right corner of the photo is what looks like a power cable, but it is actually a cable ground which plugs into an AC outlet to get an electrical ground. The exposed ground wire is marked with a yellow triangle. You clip each interconnect and speaker cable ground wire to the exposed cable ground. The result is improved sonic clarity and purity. Aural Symphonics calls this grounding feature "Sound Ground". The cables on the photo are single ended and balanced versions of AS-One 5i (approx. $500/meter) which Aural Symphonics says challenge the best interconnects available at any price.
Ultech's long awaited CD Player is shipping now. Priced at $895, the player is HDCD compatible and could be a hot ticket in the under $1,000 digital wars.
Pass Labs officially enters super-amp territory with the X1000 monoblocks, 1000 watts into 8 ohms, 2000 watts into 4 ohms. There are only 2 gain stages. Output is handled by 80 MOSFETS organized in banks of 20.

Need more power? X1000s can be operated as "arrays" producing 2000 watts per chassis. Four X1000s will deliver 8000 watts into 4 ohms.

Each amp weighs 200 pounds. $24,000/pair

Another Pass labs X1000 amp, partially unclothed to show construction features. Can you say "massive"? I knew that you could.
Linn's new CD player... the Sondek CD12 debuts at CES '98 and should be available later in 1998. The Sondek CD-12 will use a Linn-made CD transport and incorporate Linn's own digital decoding technology. The circa $20,000 CD player is an all-out assault on the ultimate in digital audio playback.
Since $20,000 CD players are not an every day sight for most of us, we thought you'd enjoy a look inside. Construction is massive and impressive. The power supply is completely enclosed and isolated. The transport is enclosed and isolated. The processing board is a model of sophistication and is exceptionally well laid out.
Jack Bybee and Carl Brinkman were showing a very complete line of products incorporating "Bybee Filters". In this photo is the Bybee/Curl Signature Model Power Purifier ($1,250). It has 2 isolated circuits, each with 1 level of Bybee Quantum Mechanical filtering. In addition, John Curl designed unique RFI and surge suppression circuits. The bottom section of the box is filled with damping and heat absorbing materials.
These are Quantum Power Speaker Filters, $600/pair. Connect the leads to your speakers (2 pair needed for bi-wired speakers) and connect your speaker cables to the binding posts on the speaker filters. These filters remove noise from the incoming signal and decrease the speaker-amplifier reactance. The first published review on these was a complete rave.
Two more products from Jack Bybee, the Bybee/Curl Pro Power Purifier ($2,500) and the Quantum Power Line Cord ($800). The Pro Power Purifier Has 2 isolated circuits with 3 levels of quantum filtration each and includes 2 Pure Power Line Cords ($250 each separately).

Lower cost Quantum Charger Line Cord filters ($500) are also available. These have an IEC AC power cord connector on one end and are inserted in series with existing high quality AC power cords you may already own.

Monarchy Audio made waves with the tiny SM-70 25 watt stereo solid state amplifier (not shown) priced at $599. The SM-70 is a zero (global) feedback design using local feedback only. In the photo on the left is the SE-100 basic monoblock, 100 w into 8 ohms and 160 watts into 4 ohms, $1,500/pr. On the right is the SE-100 delux ($1,960/pr) which has an upgraded power supply to deliver 200 watts into 4 ohms (100 into 8 ohms). Both are single ended class A amplifiers. These are very small amps for their power and operating class... see the compact disc behind the amp on the left. The basic amp is only 4" high and 9" wide and 22 pounds while the delux amp is 5" wide and 11" wide and 26 pounds.

This wraps up SoundStage!'s On The Spot CES '98 coverage.

Still to come! The Full-Online Report will have detailed coverage of all  high-end exhibitors and more. Look for it to be online February 1998.

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