:: CES 2009 – Las Vegas 8-11 January 2009

Notwithstanding all the doom and gloom the modern world has been encumbered by over the past few months, the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show and its Specialty Audio segment have showed that there is still a plenty of energy and motivation in the good, old audio industry. After giving personal attendance a miss in 2008, it was a great pleasure to have met most of our long-standing friends/suppliers and spend a few wonderful days enjoying their company and witness the emergence of a number of exciting products for this calendar year.

Let’s s start with Avalon Acoustics and their two new loudspeaker designs announced in Las Vegas. Have a look at the Aspect; 2-way, 3-driver concept which is a radical departure in approach to design compared to anything else Neil Patel has created in his long career. As you can see from the image, the enclosure is ‘suspended’ in the air well above the ground and supported firmly and solidly on its sides by a beautifully crafted wooden side panels (finished in well known matched book wood veneers). The new loudspeaker is well suited to both smaller and larger rooms as well as a wide range of amplifiers to drive them. We expect to have first deliveries of the Aspect in the UK in early February and the retail price for a pair in standard wood finish will be £8,495 inc VAT. Closer to the opposite end of the Avalon portfolio of designs, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a model called Time (April/ May 2009) - a very complex and serious proposition incorporating knowledge and dividends from the Isis and Indra models. Placed under the Isis in the current range, Time will be a full blooded 3-way design with 4 drive units, including a new version of the excellent Avalon diamond tweeter (hf) drive unit. Physically, it will be noticeably larger than the Eidolon/Eidolon Diamond cabinet and we expect the UK retail price to be £44,995 for a pair in standard new finish. Although still in the final stages of design process, we can also give a sneak mention of a model called Archetype which will, visually, be Aspect’s "bigger brother" and slot between the Ascendant and the Indra into the 2009 range. We will, of course, report on specifics of the design and other relevant details nearer its actual availability later in the year.

conrad-johnson design inc. followed their annual practice of careful addition or replacement products within their range. CES 2009 brought us two equally interesting, but quite different products. On one side of the spectrum we have a new valve line preamplifier flagship called GAT (UK retail price to be £19,995 inc VAT), and on the other is a lovely new affordable valve phono preamplifier TEA-2 which will cost £2,495 inc VAT. This phono preamplifier is a much more advanced elaboration of the phono circuit available as an option within the ET-2 preamplifier, but with components and actual topology superior as well as all the relevant power supplies. TEA-2 has sufficient gain for moving-coil cartridges generating 0.3mV or more, and will quickly become a permanent fixture in a number of resurging high quality analogue playback systems. A new collection of McCormack pre and power amplifiers was also on display and should be available shortly at competitive prices.

Cardas Audio made a huge impact with their very latest top of the range interconnect and loudspeaker cable called Clear. Years after making his everlasting statements with the Golden Cross and Golden Reference cables, George Cardas took time to exceed himself and, do so by quite a margin. Even a short listening session with the Clear cables will easily show that final frontiers of the utmost level of musicality and natural presentation have become much nearer than ever before. As the name of the product suggests, Clear is indeed very clear – almost as if it wasn’t transmitting the signal within your state of the art audio system! Availability and pricing are available on request.

Kuzma were represented by the founder and chairman of the company Franc Kuzma at this year’s CES. Still riding on the crest of the wave owing to his revolutionary 4POINT tonearm, Kuzma presented a significant upgrade option for the smallest of his turntables – the Stabi S. A new platter and bearing package (twice the weight and size than the standard one) will soon become available globally as a retrofit upgrade, while a version of the Stabi S with a longer main chassis brass beam to accommodate 12-inch tonearms will also be with us very soon.

Magnum Dynalab showed several new products. Some available shortly, some a little bit further down the line. The new MD209 FM Receiver is an absolute marvel incorporating all the best parts of the MD108T tuner section, a high quality 2x200W power amplifier with bipolar output devices, a DAC (d/a converter) module and a full remote control facility. A complete package which goes well beyond any audiophile receiver as we normally think of. Although the UK price of the new MD209 has not been defined yet, we do not expect it to be much above £4,500 inc VAT. A new integrated amplifier MD309 was also launched and shares similar fundamental ideas in terms of audio and power supply circuitry. It promises to be the first unequivocal high-end product of the kind which should acclaim MD as a manufacturer of more than just the very best analogue FM tuners in the world. With great interest, we are looking forward to a couple of brand new Internet Radio tuners which will be called MD806 (to cost approx. £2,500 inc VAT) and MD808 (expected UK price around £3,700 inc VAT). Both models will also include the Magnum Dynalab proprietary DAC module and the analogue section will be a valve triode circuit similar to the one already widely praised in their analogue FM tuners.

Muse Electronics Inc did not show any completely new products this year within their MAP range, but further refinement and improvements in all areas of the existing concept did not fail to happen. In addition to the superior sonic performance. Model Two Hundred amplifier/control centre and Erato II digital player have been restyled with a much more elegant looking (bigger) main display on the front panels and additional modular facilities available as options.

Zanden Audio Systems treated all the visitors to another portion of their usual excellent sound, although the only real news was the Mk3 version of their unsurpassed Model 1200 mc phono preamplifier. Kazutoshi Yamada has expanded the selection of available equalisation curves to suit even more LPs to their originally implemented EQ curves as and when recordings were made. There are now a total of 5 (five) options to be available and we expect to have the Model 1200Mk3 in the UK in some time late this year. Needless to say, Yamada-san has assured everyone that MK2/Mk3 upgrade kits will become available for the existing owner of the Zanden phono preamplifier.

Avalon Aspect


conrad-johnson GAT

McCormack new products

conrad-johnson TEA2

Cardas Audio
Clear Interconnect
Cardas Audio
Clear Speaker Cable

Magnum Dynalab MD209
Magnum Dynalab MD309
Muse Electronics Erato II and Model Two Hunderd
Zanden Audio Systems
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