Vegas 08 Roundup

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by Josh Ray on February 11 '08


Vegas 08 was truly an exhibition of sports cars for your living room. If one were to add up all the equipment on display, I have no doubt this year’s total audio MSRP would double years past. $100k speakers? Check. $139k amps? Check. $25k monitors? Check. $21k subwoofer? Yup, Vegas had it all.

Apologies for those readers looking for gear they can actually put in their living rooms – next year, one hopes more reasonably-priced equipment will make an appearance. For now, lean back and ogle these remaining supermodels of hi-fi not previously covered in our posts...


One of the coolest new products to show up at Vegas was the Manley Stingray II integrated amp complete with iPod dock. The $2250 Stingray is a famous product in tube circles and definitely one of the most pleasant sounding tube amps in the Vivid camp. With the new iPod dock, Manley is gunning to land in the homes of hip music lovers everywhere.

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Even though I wasn't completely blown away by the Proclaim speakers at RMAF, in Vegas they stole my heart. Demoed with top Cary tube gear, the Proclaim sound seemed to be in an entirely different category. The room was consistently packed so I didn’t get any private listening time but, however, the round ball rig was easily one of the most talked about presentations at the show. As these things often go, expect Proclaim to conquer the Asian press before becoming a big hit here – many Asian importers and hi-fi fans were constantly poking about the Proclaims.

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Eggleston Works showed their newish $12k Nine speakers with a compliment of Rogue equipment providing the juice. The moment I arrived a man was purchasing the speakers (or finding out where to purchase the speakers). Regardless, he was gushing in embarrassing ways. Indeed, Eggleston is aiming to become one of the hottest brands around. Eggleston already has a solid positioning in a number of high-end recording studios and the Asian market. With its new products and expanding publicity, expect to see more from the Egg house in the future.

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Verity speakers, clad in beautiful woods and paint finishes, never fails to impress. This year, Verity speakers were seen in a number of venues, with the main installation doing duty with the expensive hip-industrial Nagra components. I only had a brief chance to listen but, man, the gear is fantastic. One hard core tube head is contemplating a jump to Nagra solid state. Oh, and the gear is some of the most photogenic hi-fi equipment in the biz. Visit the gallery for more.

Visit our gallery for more pictures.


“Dude, have you seen the new Schroeder turntable?” “Schroeder what now?” Turns out Schroeder, he of solid wood tone arms, has crafted a new table that’s neither belt or direct drive. Rather, it’s “tape driven” not unlike a reel-to-reel. Check out the closeup pics to see how this mechanism works. Combined with Verity speakers and Armetis components, the sound, after a number of drinks at a late night hi-fi party, was stellar. From the comments I heard, I’m sure the sound was great during the daylight hours as well.

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$138k amps? I heard more talk about these amps than anything else at the show, and not just because of the price. The new Lamm ML3 Signatures feature a single ended triode called the “GM70” and is, as far as I know, the only manufacturer to use this beastly valve. Churning out 32 watts, the Lamm ML3s drove the mammoth Wilson MAXX speakers with fantastic results. I heard numerous people saying, “I’m not a big Wilson fan but, good lord, the sound was awesome!”

Alas, I wasn’t able to hear my demo disc. As I approached Mr. Lamm, I was pulled aside by his daughter Ester and told that unless I had pure classical, don’t bother. Rock? No. Techno? Not a chance. Kanye West? When hell freezes over. Only classical in the Lamm room because, I’m told, expanding the audience isn’t Lamm’s goal. Ester, however, loved my musical taste. As the head of Lamm’s marketing department, it’s up to Ester to speak to the next generation and get my demo disc on the amazing Lamm amps come next year’s CES.

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SonicFlare was the first publication to cover these glass beauties a year or so ago and now, finally, Perfect 8 speakers are in the US. The sound, via the Sonic Circle, was incredibly Precise and fast, fast, fast. The huge dipole ribbon tweeter and open baffle woofers created a tremendous sound stage. In the smallish room with its quasi near-field listening position, the speed of the drivers and the delineation between the notes was really exciting to hear. Price is, like everything else at CES, around $100k.

Interestingly, one Dubai audiophile flew into Vegas just to hear the new speakers. With the green-tinted glass and gold-clad bits, the Perfect 8 speakers were almost made in mind with rich oil sheiks in mind.

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These guys are on some sort of growth hormone because their product line doubles every show. Anyone entering the T.H.E. convention area was met with the new Acoustic Zen family of speakers. From tiny little computer monitors to new hulking beasts, Acoustic Zen has taken their line of proprietary short coil drivers and transmition line enclosures to the next level. Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to play my demo disc on any of the systems, but comments from halls were very positive. If the little speakers are anything like the bigger boys, expect them to win hearts and awards in the big '08.

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C.A.T. appeared in a number of different rooms and, every time I have heard these amazing tube amps, I found myself gushing. Being the web guy I am, I asked the C.A.T. man why in the world he doesn’t have a website. “Oh, we don’t believe in the internet.” Come again? Believe me, Cartier and Aston Marten have websites, beautiful ones in fact, so if you’re trying to position yourself as a premium brand, get with it.

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CD players, watch out. PS Audio’s new CD memory player component is going to explode in a couple of months. This new contraption rips a CD onto a buffer, performs error correction, and feeds the signal into the DAC. If you know anything about CDs, you know jitter is the main issue. By buffering up the signal in this way, jitter is a thing of the past. I’ve played around with various ad-hoc systems of this nature and the results get me all hot and bothered. I can’t wait to hear this thing!

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Fujitsu showed off a whole line of tiny high-performance monitors in proprietary space ship-like enclosures. Ported designs with unique pressure and cabinet construction, the line of Fujitsu speakers all had a unique, pleasant Refined-type sound. While in the room, the Fujitsu crew played me an endorcement by Brian Eno where he said, among other things, the Eclipse TD speakers are as close to a real performance as he has ever heard. Prices range from a few hundred to $7k for the “big” model. Subwoofers and unique integrated amps are also available in the Fujitsu package.


Hopefully, you guys know me well enough by now to know any criticism is meant to help -- albeit criticism from just one jackass (that would be me) who may stand alone in his view. With that in mind -- and acknowledging I like bold page design as much as anyone -- these slivers of photos have me wondering if there is something wrong with my computer. You have an endless amount of space (as opposed to print publications), so do you think maybe you can provide whole pictures instead of fractions of them? P.S.: In all fairness, I should add that your show coverage was excellent, particularly given your manpower. For the most part, I've had two main occupations in life: various positions in the electronics world and a bit more time as a newspaper reporter. As such, I know how difficult it is to cover an event like CES -- from both perspectives. So please know any minor criticism pales in comparison to your body of work and I'm sure I'm not the only reader to appreciate it.
Hey buddy, you're SonicFlare super fan #1 :) Really, I appreciate the input and kind words about our Vegas coverage -- the manufacturers put in a world of work and money, the least we can do is try and give them the coverage they deserve. I added links to the gallery so people can check out the big, sexy pics of the products. Even though the internet has "infinite" page space, actually combining large photographs with big bodies of text is an interesting challenge. Additionally, speakers are a unique challenge because of their vertical orientation -- stack a few full-width speaker pics and you'll have people scrolling down for hours. I like the skinny, artistic shots, but we're always improving our graphic design here at the 'Flare.
Sounds like a reasonable compromise to me, Josh. Thanks.