CES 2013 Wrap-Up

At CES ten years ago you'd have to search to find a turntable and vinyl playback. The diehards were there and labels like Classic Records supplied some promos but that was about it.

One would be hard-pressed at CES 2013 to cover all of the new turntables, tonearms, phono preamps and most importantly vinyl. Software drives interest in the hardware and thanks to all of the folks now producing audiophile quality vinyl, the hardware manufacturers have the incentive to up their games.

This is the first year I've blogged rather than write a show report that would appear almost three months after the fact in Stereophile. This is much better in my opinion. You get the information immediately and there's space for more photos. I hope you enjoyed all of the posts. I think the only new product I failed to write about is the new Rega RP-8. Somehow I missed the room, but we covered the debut earlier this year on the site. To reiterate, it's priced at $3995 with Rega Apheta cartridge or $2995 without. We've been promised one for review as soon as possible, but apparently as soon as a pallet's worth arrives at importer Sound Organization's loading dock, they're all shipped out because they're sold. We can wait!

Finding and writing about all of the new analog gear at the show makes it difficult to find time to actually sit down and listen but I did some. The best sound I heard at the show in no particular order were from YG Acoustics' big new Sonja tower speaker, Wilson Audio Specialties Alexia in the DCS room driven by Dan D'Agostino monoblocks that I reviewed in the new issue of Stereophile, the updated Verity Audio Lohengrin II S driven by Lamm electronics, the Raidho Diamond D-1, a small stand mount two-way, the Magico Q7s driven by Constellation electronics, the Lansche towers driven by Ypsilon electronics, and the Absolute Arabesque glass speakers pictured here, which are a new special edition of the Crystal Cable Arabesque, driven by Sil-Tech's new SAGA electronics. Cables are Crystal Cables' Absolute Dream all mono-crystal cables Other rooms produced good sound but those are the ones I remember most.

The Sil-Tech battery powered electronics are particularly interesting. The stereo amplifier consists of two boxes: one does the voltage gain using vacuum tubes, the other does current gain using transistors. One of the designer's goals was to get the amplifiers "off the grid." So (as I recall the conversation), while the voltage gain section receives AC, the current gain section does not see AC, not even to charge the battery!

How is that possible? Sil-Tech contracted with a major electronics firm to produce intensely high output, high intensity LED modules that focus their light onto? Yes! Solar panels! The Sil-Tech current amp's batteries are charged by solar panels and never connect to the grid.

Is that a gimmick or a breakthrough? Based on the sound I heard in that room I'd say a breakthrough. I'll know more when the amps arrive here soon for review!

I flew home on the red-eye last night so I'm going to take a day off before finishing up a review of the SME 20/3 turntable that will be posted here in the next few days.

Paul Boudreau's picture

What are your thoughts on what is driving the vinyl revival?  Safe to call it that, I think.  I know from observation that the "soul patch crowd" (I say that fondly!) are driving it in part , plus there are those of us who never let go of records (as they were once called).  Has that proved sufficient for hardware people to gear up (bad pun) again or maybe for the first time?

Time_Stand_Still's picture

IMO what is driving vinyl's resurgence is a few things.

1: The fact that digital downloads are convenient and servicable but offer no "love"  and or tangiable  feeling. They are for having music on   but not really for listentng.

2: Over 40 somethings are refinding their love of vinyl and  their  misplaced youth by   getting back into the groove of vinyl.

3: Under 25'ers grew up  without having much real tactlie audio products and software  and  have grown with  downloads from illegal to legal and  are finding a unique feel and  maybe love of  realness of  vinyl.

4: Better gear at good prices for many  now get into the hands of those who maybe  not  had such an opportunity to   have such  good gear in the past  and are now listening to vinyl as  a NEW aural experience.

5: Vinyl cover art and liners notes add to the coolness of it.

6: Turntables and cartridges are just COOL audio devices.

If anything the only  group who are not  as widely nor maybe won't  refind vinyl are probably the 25-40 age group who  grew up more or less indoctrinated into the CD Sound, portable discmans and the world of loudness wars cloud their senses and  are finding it for many of them hard to get the vinyl groove. Lets hope our collective passion and enthusiasm  for vinyl especially  with  guys like Michael Fremer who is maybe the most passionate  man  in the  audio community can  help get the rest of these folks to embrace the love of vinyl LP's


Michael Fremer's picture

I give max credit to the people who put their money where their mouths and passions were and began reissuing used and issuing new vinyl. The amount of new vinyl currently available should be sufficient enticement for anyone considering getting in, to get in.


Once there you know what usually happens! OBSESSION! PROSLYTIZING, NEW CONVERTS. MADNESS.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I would just like to say... GREAT STUFF MICHAEL!

I checked out the website every day and followed your travels through CES 2013!

Keep up the good work!


James, Dublin, Ireland

Michael Fremer's picture

Thanks so much. 

normp's picture

Michael, thanks for blogging from CES- it was almost like being there, but without the sore feet and bad food.

Jim Tavegia's picture

It is clear that your presence here is greatly appreciated and who would have thought that in 2013 you would not have enough time to write about all the new vinyl  releases and all the new playback gear?  

I know this year I must invest in a real vacuum RCM even though my Spin Clean was a good place to start and will always be my device to clean lps first before the VRCM. 

I'll never own one, but look forward to your review of the SME 20/3. 

Paul Boudreau's picture

Excellent idea.  I recommend a Nitty Gritty 1.0 or 1.5.  The money may seem a little heavy but it really is a necessary component of one's system if one is a vinylista.


rosser's picture

On Michael's advice I purchased the new Dirty Projectors' deluxe vinyl package. Yesterday I received the album at the ad agency where I work. After marveling at the quality of the cover and insert, I walked over to the designer in the office next to mine to show it to him. He doesn't know much about vinyl, but is a big modern design freak and was familiar with the band. He absolutely loved everything about the album, and couldn't believe it was only $30 for such a limited edition with so much detailed work involved. That is the kind of production that can convert the uninitiated. 

I played it when I got home, and boy does it sound great. Flawless pressing, with stunning 3D sonics. The insert credits Bob Ludwig with mastering, but the deadwax has Chris Bellman's initials. 

This is not the first new music I've heard on vinyl that sounded fantastic, with no detrimental digital ProTools signature. My copy of Wilco's Sky Blue Sky and Andrew Bird's Noble Beasts are a couple that spring to mind that sound about as good as any rock album I've ever heard. I had a real tough time finding a non-warped copy of the Andrew Bird, but thanks to Amazon's free returns, I managed to cobble together two discs that my cartridge can track. Well worth the hassle. 

Toolman11's picture

Software drives interest in the hardware and thanks to all of the folks now producing audiophile quality vinyl, the hardware manufacturers have the incentive to up their games