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Sound @ CES 2011: The Audiophile Round-Up

Dec 15 2010, 10:58am CST | by , in News | CES

Sound @ CES 2011: The Audiophile Round-Up
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The Quiet, the Loud and the Hell Yes

A whole barrel-full of audio equipment is coming to CES 2011. You can't have a city full of computer geeks without mixing a few thousand audiophiles into the mix. CES abounds with next-gen headphones, speakers and everything else you'll need to blow the neighbors away or enjoy your FLAC King Krimson albums on an airplane.

The Quiet: First off, Audio-Technica sent out a press release today announching three new models of headphones. The ATH-W1000x "Grandioso" is the 10th generation iteration of the W-series. It has American black cherry wood housing over the ear cups, which looks lovely and also has an "anti-resonant quality". At least, according to AT it does.

There's also the ATH-W1000x with a 53 mm driver, earth magnet drive system and oxygen-free coper wire voice coils. They have self-adjusting 3D Wing Support Housing and a gold-plated stereo wood plug. Last, we've got the closed-back ATH-A900. These have a Double Air Daming system for "powerful, authoritative bass" and most of the same special features as the AD900.

Don't want to drop $700 (W1000x) or $250 (AD700) on a pair of headphones that sound like every snake oil ad in every audiophile magazine ever?

The Clear Harmony PE headphones don't have a fancy cherry wood body, but they are a CES 2011 Innovations Honoree. This headset is praised for its deep bass, "chear high tones and intelligible speech". There's no price info yet, but the most expensive Able Planet headset is $350, with most homing in around $150.

Some of you might also be interested in the Clear Voice EM. This in-ear device can apparently provide the user with "situational" hearing benefits. It is supposed to help people comprehend speech and other subtle noises in high-noise areas. I'm pretty sure putting this thing in your ear makes you a cyborg.

The Loud: Speakers shouldn't be boring. The same thing is true about HDTVs, game consoles and anything else you plan to stick at the center of your home. Sound quality matters, but you don't want an eyesore in your living room. Estelon added a bit of dash to this year's line-up with their XA loudspeakers. These fat-bottomed speakers have a slick, black ultra-modern look.

If you prefer monolithic design, the Triton Two Tower loudspeaker has a built-in subwoofer and a High-Velocity Ribbon Tweeter. It looks like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey and was called "a legend among legends" by Home Theater Magazine.

In to post-modern art and ALSO need some speakers? The Violin is the coolest-looking speaker of CES 2011. It has a gorgeous, angular design inspired by its namesake and a lot of Picasso. I have no idea how well they work and, since the website is messed up no way of finding out until the show. The Violin, and Lawrence Audio, is officially on my radar.

The Hell Yes! I was at a festival earlier this year, one of those rave/art festival/camping trip deals in Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas. Too much bourbon and too little water ended with me lost and wandering around the dark side of camp in the dead of night. I was debating passing out on the ground and waiting until morning when I saw lights dancing towards me.

There was music too, and it sounded like it was coming from the lights. I ran towards them and discovered a man carrying a giant, 80's-looking boom box. With an iPod at its center. Dub step burbled out of its speakers and into the warm summer air.

So I'm a fan of boom-box style speakers/docks. TDK has one that they are bringing to CES, and it looks gorgeous. The Boombox is super-glossy and huge. It has two full-range fibre cone coaxial drivers, a central 6 inch sub and an AM/FM digital tuner. Add in left/right audio-in, USB and instrument plugs and iPhone/iPod functionality. This thing takes 12 D batteries (or an optional lithium battery) and weighs 20 lbs. We're looking at around $800 when it hits the US.

Yeah that's pricey. But damn, this thing is gorgeous.

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