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High-end audio rocks CES, part 2

Smartphones, tablets, and OLED displays may get the lion's share of attention at CES, but what about audio? Here's a choice sampling of the very best of CES.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read
Arcam's portable rPAC USB headphone amplifier Arcam

You've probably already read about the latest and greatest in smartphones, tablets, and OLED displays, so let's take a look at the coolest high-end audio goodies. We've assembled some of the most promising candidates for your approval.

GoldenEar Technology's demo room at CES GoldenEar Technology

The Arcam rPAC is a portable USB powered digital-to-analog converter and headphone amplifier, but it can also be played over a hi-fi system. "USB powered" means there are no batteries or "wall warts," it's powered by your computer's USB port. The entire component is enclosed in a small precision-cast aluminum case.

The Pass Labs Xs stereo amplifier is a four chassis design Jon Zimmer

I've loved what I've heard from GoldenEar Technology, which just started about a year ago. They were showing their Aon 3 and Triton Three speakers at CES. I'm looking forward to getting them in for review.

Pass Labs electronics have been part of my reference system for years, and the company was showing its most advanced designs at CES. That's a big deal, like a lot of high-end audio companies, Pass Labs doesn't introduce a new line of electronics that often. The Xs-300 and Xs-150 Amplifiers deliver 300 and 150 watts, respectively. Both models employ double-stacked chassis, with the power supply in one chassis and the main output stage in the other chassis.

A display featuring Sony's SS-AR2 speakers Home Theater Magazine

Brooklyn's very own DeVore Fidelity debuted a new tower speaker, the Gibbon X. I've always admired DeVore speakers for their musicality and gorgeous handcrafted cabinets.

I never thought of Sony as a significant force in high-end audio, but Home Theater Magazine covered the company's new SS-AR2 speaker (about $20,000/pair) that supplements the larger SS-AR1 speaker ($27,000) introduced last year.

The B.M.C. Arcadia speaker was cited by many as the most dynamic speaker heard at the show. The speaker features a molded ceramic-composite cabinet and proprietary drivers. People kept coming back to the room to hear it again and again.

Digital-to-analog converters are pretty common devices, but high-quality consumer analog-to-digital converters are not. Stereophile covered the new Ayre QA-9 A/D, which is intended for audiophiles who want to create the best possible sounding transfers of their LPs to their computer.