January 5-8, 2017
All prices in US dollars unless indicated otherwise
If you’re an audiophile on a budget reading our show coverage and becoming frustrated by the lack of affordable gear, it may be a function of the fact that there were fewer specialty audio manufacturers at this year’s CES. And as with everything, the prices of audio gear are going up. But if you’re shopping for a truly budget-friendly audio system, there’s still hope -- Emotiva introduced a slew of very affordable products at this year’s CES, including all-new electronics and speakers that you might consider.
OK, this is CES-related, but it could just as easily be my next monthly “Opinion” on SoundStage! Ultra. I feel the need, however, to expand upon the article I wrote yesterday: “The Graveyard That Was CES 2017.”
Even though high-end audio seems to be vanishing from CES, I did find a handful of audiophile-oriented headphones at the 2017 show. It’s worth noting that most of these were on display in the Las Vegas Convention Center, not at the high-end exhibits at the Venetian. Here are the models I found, along with a couple of interesting headphone electronics products I heard. All prices in USD.
The 2016 Products of the Year award winners were selected from among products reviewed that calendar year in SoundStage! Hi-Fi, SoundStage! Ultra, SoundStage! Xperience, and SoundStage! Access. Only the products that received Reviewers’ Choice awards at review time qualified for selection. On January 1, 2017, Doug Schneider and Jeff Fritz wrote feature articles announcing the 2016 winners on SoundStage! Hi-Fi and SoundStage! Ultra.
Companies featured in gallery below: Arcam, Chord, Genesis Advanced Technologies, Rockport Technologies, Naim Audio, Avantgarde Acoustic, Bel Canto Design, Furutech, Zanden Audio Systems, Keith Monks, YG Acoustics, VTL, Roksan, Wilson Benesch
As I write this, CES 2017 has wrapped up just one hour ago, so I’ll be using this article to cover everything I didn’t get a chance to fit into my other CES 2017 headphone reports. Some of what I’m featuring here isn’t especially “mass market,” but it’s all still worthy of attention, and some of the products are far more technically interesting than your average headphone. All prices in USD.
The Adante speaker line from ELAC was one of the first things that caught my eye at CES 2017. Although ELAC manufactures some very high-end loudspeakers, its most recent products designed by Andrew Jones, such as the Debut and Uni-Fi speakers, have definitely been more budget-oriented. Jones also designed these latest Adante speakers, and though they’re a step up in price from those models, they still aim to provide high value. The model being demonstrated was the stand-mounted Adante, which retails for $2500 per pair (there were also a floorstander and center-channel, but those were on static display).
For frequent flyers like me, the most welcome trend in headphones at CES 2017 was the emergence of many models in the $200 price range combining active noise canceling with Bluetooth wireless capability. Previously, this combination of features typically ran the price up to $400 or more. Here are the new noise-canceling models I saw at CES, with all prices listed in USD.
I used to think that some $5000/pr. speakers were the epitome of high-end audio playback at a reasonable cost. At this price you can get some truly outstanding speakers that also represent excellent value for money. Well, we sometimes get set in our ways, and at recent CESes I would often find myself scoffing at speakers that cost more than $5k/pr., thinking that they couldn’t possibly offer the same value as some of those excellent-sounding, less-expensive speakers. But this year I heard a couple of floorstanding speakers that changed my mind.
Officially, we’re only one day into CES as of this writing, but already I can spot a clear trend: a renewed focus on earphones. Much of it appears to be because companies want to get in on LG’s surprise success with its Tone line of neckband-style wireless earphones. And some of it seems to be driven by nothing more than a simple striving for better sound at lower prices. Here are some of the most interesting new earphones I’ve seen so far at CES. All prices in USD.
The doors to the exhibit floors at CES in Las Vegas don’t open until 10 a.m. Thursday, but for the press, there’s plenty to see beforehand at events such as Discover Blue, which features all sorts of products using Bluetooth wireless technology, and Digital Experience, a colossal gathering of hundreds of companies offering gadgets as varied as drones, digital door locks, and “smart” hairbrushes. You won’t find a lot of audiophile-oriented products at these events, but you can find lots of interesting mass-market headphones -- many of which offer cutting-edge features rarely found in audiophile products, and which often sound quite good despite their modest prices. Here are the most interesting headphones and headphone-related products I found before CES officially opened. All prices in USD.
Today marked the official kickoff of CES 2017, in Las Vegas, which hosts more consumer electronics product launches than any other trade show in the world. While there were a few press events today, the big event was CES Unveiled, which took place at Mandalay Bay. This is a “pipe and drape” event, with most booths nothing more than a table full of products and a few posters, but it does give us some insight into what the big trends will be for the show and for the year. I would guess that 90 percent of the products shown fit the Internet of Things category, including health sensors, pet trackers, IP-controlled lights, robotic devices, and more. I did find a handful of interesting new audio products on display, though. Here are my favorites, with all prices listed in USD.
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