Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

January 6-9, 2016

All prices in US dollars unless indicated otherwise

CES 2016: Mass-Market Headphones, Part 2

One of the great things about covering headphones is the creativity that many companies bring to the design process. Every CES reveals dozens of new ideas, features, and form factors. Some are terrific ideas. Some are just terrifically amusing.

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CES 2016: Mass-Market Headphones, Part 1

I’ve focused most of my coverage of headphones at the 2016 International CES on audiophile-oriented designs created to satisfy serious listeners. Of course, that category represents a mere fraction of the headphone action at CES. There’s a great deal going on in Bluetooth headphones, wireless sports headphones, and compact headphones designed for mobile use.

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Don't Underestimate GoldenEar

At last year’s CES, I heard GoldenEar Technology’s Triton Five loudspeaker, and I was probably guilty of underestimating it a bit. Sure, the pair sounded really good in GoldenEar’s room as demonstrated by company president Sandy Gross, but I’ve gotten used to hearing excellent sound from Sandy’s demos and tend to take them a little for granted. Later that year I received a pair of Triton Fives for review, and they sounded simply wonderful in my system, with a very smooth and balanced sound, only lacking a bit of oomph in the bass when compared to their larger siblings with powered subwoofer sections.

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DSP Is the New Black

The first things that Doug Schneider and I saw and heard at this year’s CES were a pair of Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 loudspeakers. The BeoLab 90 is a fully active, 18-driver loudspeaker that uses DSP to control its acoustic directivity with B&O’s new Active Room Compensation technology. To say that the results were impressive would be an understatement. You can read Doug’s description of the sound, but let’s just say our jaws dropped within seconds of hearing the BeoLab 90s for the first time.

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CES 2016: Audiophile Headphones, Part 2

I’ve already reported on several of the audiophile-oriented headphones that I’ve seen at the 2016 International CES. Since then, I’ve had time to walk through much of the CES high-end-audio exhibit space at the Venetian, and have found many more audiophile headphones that look well worth a listen. Here they are, with all prices listed in USD.

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CES Trends: Do Audiophiles Really Want to Hide Their Gear?

As I was learning more about the new Linn Series 530 loudspeaker, it became obvious that this product -- which is packaged along with a Linn streamer -- is made for a different kind of audiophile. The cloth-covered speakers -- with your choice of cloth, by the way -- along with the powerful DSP engine that can make the speakers sound like they are placed out into the room, are geared toward the audiophile who doesn’t want to see their equipment. We know a market for this type of thinking exists, and up until now the in-wall/in-ceiling market has primarily served it. The price of the Linn system described above is $19,200. Do people really want to spend that kind of coin only to hide their purchase?

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CES 2016: Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Noise cancelling is one of the toughest technologies for headphone manufacturers to master, partly because it’s hard to make a headphone sound good whether noise cancelling is on or off, and partly because much of the best technology is heavily patent-protected. Still, as I walked the aisles of the 2016 International CES (which opened on Wednesday), I found several new noise-cancelling headphones worthy of a serious evaluation and a long listen -- or at least a bemused glance. Here are the noise-cancelling headphones I’ve found so far at the show. All prices in USD.

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ALMA 2016 Insights

If you haven’t heard of ALMA (Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing and Acoustics International), I would not be surprised. I first heard of it a few years ago from some speaker designers who encouraged a few of us at the SoundStage! Network to attend. The annual ALMA Symposium and Expo takes place in Las Vegas, just prior to CES, and is an important meeting place for speaker manufacturers and designers. In fact, according to Barry Vogel, the association’s manager, ALMA is one of the best-kept secrets in the audio business.

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CES 2016: Audiophile Headphones, Part 1

The show floors at the 2016 International CES in Las Vegas opened yesterday, and predictably, it was a loud madhouse of people -- and at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), where I spent the day, it was also a madhouse of plastic. This is where most of the mass-market audio products are displayed, including the big brands known to anyone who has ever shopped for headphones in a Best Buy or Target. But the LVCC also contained exhibits from a few companies with products geared to serious listening, and those are the ones I'll focus on here. This is just the start -- I’m headed back for more as soon as I finish here. All prices in USD.

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CES 2016 Shocker: The B&O BeoLab 90s Blew Me Away!

On November 17, 2015, the Bang & Olufsen company celebrated its 90th anniversary by releasing what, when I first saw a picture of it, looked to be one of the stupidest loudspeaker designs ever created -- the BeoLab 90, a fully powered, DSP-controlled transducer featuring more than a dozen drivers pointing this way and that, no doubt intended to splay sound all over the room. It’s priced at $80,000 USD per pair. I’ve long liked 360-degree-radiating designs, but this looked way too out there to actually work.

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CES 2016: Right Track, Wrong Track

Warning: armchair quarterbacking to follow. But hey, as a member of the press, that's what I do.

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CES 2016 Preview: Headphones and Wireless Audio

The 2016 International CES -- the world’s largest and most important consumer electronics show -- kicked off on Monday, January 4, in Las Vegas with CES Unveiled, a preview event for press only. Unveiled packed more than 150 exhibitors and roughly 1,200 press into a single ballroom at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The booths were small, typically just 10' by 10', so Unveiled was mainly a chance for some of the smallest, newest, and most innovative companies to show their stuff. Because most of the press attending Unveiled were from general-interest publications and broadcasters, most of the audio products shown were in mainstream categories such as headphones and wireless speakers.

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