CES 2008: Audiophile's Delight

Far from the madding crowd of CES lies the high-end audio area, a quiet spot to crank up the world's best systems as loud as you want

Even if you think the Bose Sound Dock is the pinnacle of audio clarity, you can't find a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon at CES than touring the high-end-audio area, moved last year from a sketchy off-Strip motel to the Venetian. There are no flat-panels in sight. No pushy PR people. No throngs. Just room after room of equipment you can't afford, all set up simply for you to sit and listen to unbelievably realistic reproductions, for as long as you like. It's also the only place here that you'll find so many devices built by hand, in America.
And if you're really lucky, you may get an audio-geek fanboy moment, like having Jim Thiel, founder of
Thiel Audio, personally explain the crazy new tweeter he designed and made himself. Awesome.

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by Mike Haney

What do speaker designers do when they get bored? Apparently at Waterfall Audio they make speakers out of glass. These conversation pieces start at a very reasonable $3,900 a pair. Insert stone-throwing joke here.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

Of course, if this leaves you wanting, the company does have a bigger model.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

Loiminchay's speakers are made out of dozens of layers of 30mm-thick wood laminated together for a super-stiff cabinet and a very funky finish effect.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

The listening setup in Vacuum Tube Logic's room. That big block in the middle is not a server, it's the company's Siegfried Reference Monoblock Amplifier.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

More component porn: a look inside Usher Audio's P-307A CD player. I believe the $2,200 price includes the top.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

YG Acoustics calls these "the best loud speakers in the world." I can't confirm that, but I can say they are the only speakers I saw with the star-sign grill cover. That's gotta count for something.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

Jim Thiel is a legend in the audio community, and this is his latest creation, the CS3.7. Thiel redesigned the speaker cone to use a ridged disc instead of, well, a cone in order to eliminate any "resonance coloration" in the high end. I couldn't hear the difference, but listening to him talk about, I have no doubt it works.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

Inside a $16,000 amp--VTL's 7.5II. And no, this was not the most expensive thing in the room, by a long shot.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

Audiophiles swear by vinyl, and this is as good as it gets: Continuum's Caliburn turntable and Copperhead tone arm (yes, at this level, those two things come separately). $45,500 for the pair.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

Davone is a new Danish company with just this single uniquely shaped pair of speakers, which sounded as good as they look. Apparently bending the wood makes it stiffer, so less damping is needed. Probably not coming to an Ikea near you.Mike Haney

by Mike Haney

Although the company is called Sunny Cable Technology, it also makes speakers, like these inauspicious six-foot-tall, 550-pound babies--just $55,800 a set . . .Mike Haney