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High-end audio's greatest hits from CES

CES 2011 may be over, but the news of high-end audio goodies will keep audiophiles entertained for months to come.

The Zu Dominance speakers wowed CES attendees. Audio Review

As I said a few days ago, bona fide audio breakthroughs are rare, but there was no shortage of interesting gear at this year's CES shindig in Las Vegas.

Stereophile's Tyll Hertsens spotted Furutech's GT-40 combination USB digital-to-analog converter/phono preamp/headphone amp. The device can rip your vinyl or play computer files at up to 24-bit/96-kHz resolution with USB convenience, and includes a high-quality headphone amp. It looks great!

CNET's Natali Morris' report on Sculpted Eers' custom-molded in-ear headphones looked really interesting. Every other custom molded in-ear on the market requires the buyer to first go to an audiologist to make "ear impressions" of your ear canals, which are sent to the headphone manufacturer; you get your headphones a couple of weeks later. With these Sculpted Eers headphones, you go to a store that sells Sculpted Eers and they make your headphones on the spot. Prices start around $149, which is $250 less than any custom-molded in-ears I've tested to date. How good are they? We'll see.

Over at Audio Review, Adam LaBarge was bowled over by Zu Audio's new $40,000 flagship speaker, the Dominance. LaBarge called it "a well-tamed beast that is just waiting to explode." Zu founder Sean Casey told me about this speaker a few weeks ago, and he sounded pretty excited about it. Zu has made its name selling affordable (by high-end standards) American-designed and -built speakers. For example, the $1,000-a-pair Zu Omen is getting great word of mouth, so I'm super-curious about this mega-buck Zu.

The Furutech GT-40, the component that does it all. Stereophile

Ultimate AV's Scott Wilkinson produced a lot of excellent video-related coverage, but he also nailed some sweet audio components, as well. The Lars Type 2 can be ordered with 300B tubes for 20 watts of power or 300B XLS tubes for 36W. Best of all, the cost of the Type 2 is just $68,000 for a pair of mono amplifiers. Sounds like a lot of money, but the good news is that's $22,000 less than last year's model!

The Lars Type 2 power amplifiers. Ultimate AV Magazine

Wilkinson also has a really interesting video of him chatting with Jerry Mahabub, the inventor of GenAudio's AstoundSound 3D-audio system. Mahabub claims his system "closely emulates" the surround experience of 7,337 speakers from just two speakers! AstoundSound also works with headphones. The sound is truly 3D and Mahabub claims the sound can appear to come from above or even below you! AstoundSound technology will soon be featured on TVs and receivers.

The high-powered McIntosh clock. Dvice/Michael Trei

Dvice's Michael Trei reported on a powerful $2,000 wall clock! The McIntosh Labs MCLK12 wall clock might at first be mistaken for one of the company's large power amplifiers. The "meter" on the left indicates hours; the one on the right minutes.

I couldn't find any evidence that Pathos Acoustics was at CES, but I wanted to include at least this one image of its new InpolRemix amp/digital-to-analog converter. It comes from Italy and looks like nothing else; the Pathos design team is known for its unique aesthetic.

The Pathos Inpol Remix amplifier-digital-to-analog converter Pathos Acoustics