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Now hear this: Audio at CES 2010

CES 2010 is a buzz about 3D TV, but what's happening on the audio side?

Tubes and iPods never sounded better than this.
Ultimate AV

I didn't go to CES, but a lot of my friends did. I call them all the time, and they don't seem to be all that jazzed about what they're seeing. "Nothing new" is what I keep hearing, but there were a few juicy tidbits to be found.

The new 3D TVs and Blu-ray players may or may not render the AV receiver you bought way back in 2009 obsolete. I can't get a consistent answer to the question: do you need a receiver with HDMI 1.4 to pass 3D program material to your 3D TV? You may not care about 3D, but if you do please direct your anger at the consumer electronics industry that regularly leaves its client base high and dry. We'll have to see how 1.4 works out.

Ultimate AV magazine was impressed with the Manley Stingray iTube stereo integrated amplifier. Sure, we've seen vacuum tube iPod dock/amps before, but this is the first one with real audiophile appeal. The blue LED displays surrounding the input and volume knobs can be dimmed down or turned off entirely. Manley makes truly stellar tube electronics for audiophiles and the pro market.

Furutech's GT40, a better way to convert grooves to digits. Stereophile

Stereophile magazine's report on Furutech's GT40 USB DAC with Phono Stage ($450) caught my eye. If you already own a good turntable the GT40 will deliver far superior sound via its USB port to transfer your records to hard drive at 24bit/96kHz resolution. That should sound a whole lot better than typically iffy-quality USB turntables.

Minneapolis-based Bel Canto Design introduced a new superefficient dual-mono (stereo) 150-watt amplifier, the e.One REF150s ($1,695). I really love the sound of Bel Canto amps, and I love that they draw very little power, usually less than 30 watts from your wall outlet.

British high-end company Naim Audio unveiled the UnitQute, an all-in-one audio player with FM and Internet Radio, MP3/iPod connectivity, streaming audio and USB capabilities, and a 24bit/192kHz audiophile quality Wolfson digital-to-analog converter. The UnitQute also has built-in power amplifiers, so it can be hooked up to speakers.

The UnitiQute has been named a CES Innovations 2010 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree; it will be available worldwide in March for $2000 in the U.S.A.

Boston Acoustics rolled out its new TVee Model 20 Soundbar and Wireless Subwoofer System (MAP: $300). Boston's new "HHRT" (Hyberbolic High Rigidity Transducer) driver technology promises better sound than the original TVee Model 2 speaker.