CES: Highlights from the Venetian and LVCC South Hall – Headphones and Related Electronics

Earphones and in-ear monitors,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
CES: Highlights from the Venetian and LVCC South Hall – Headphones and Related Electronics

This year at CES Hi-Fi+ decided to try a new approach, assigning representatives to cover specific geographic areas of the show for reporting purposes. Happily, most CES high-end audio exhibits are clustered in the upper floors of the Venetian Hotel, although by tradition some high-end headphone manufacturers continue to exhibit in the LVCC’s South Hall. Added to this, there are also unofficial off piste high-end demonstration areas at the Mirage Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and elsewhere.

Editor Alan Sircom took the Venetian Expo Hall and floors 31, 34, 35 (where the upper floors have fewer but larger exhibit suites); yours truly (Publisher Chris Martens) took the more densely populated Venetian floor 30 plus key LVCC South Hall headphone exhibits; and new Hi-Fi+ contributor Sydney Schips handled the also very densely populated Venetian floor 29. Each of us will be preparing show reports.

In any report like this one, despite our best efforts, it is inevitable that some worthy manufacturers will go unmentioned. Please know that this is not by intent and no slights are intended; more often than not, it’s simply a matter of too much show to see and hear, coupled with not enough time in the day. Still, we try our best…

For the sake of clarity, I have broken my report down by product categories, starting with this segment, which focuses on headphones and related electronics.

Please note: Although this report focuses primarily on Venetian Floor 30 and the LVCC South Hall, there are a handful of entries that mention headphones and headphone electronics seen and heard in other areas at CES.

Headphones and Headphone Electronics

Hi-Fi+ from the UK and Europe may already be familiar with the lovely VK-1 series of on-ear headphones ($499) from the French firm Aedle, but they are still relatively new to the US. Apart from their natural and engaging sound quality, a big part of the draw of the Aedle headphones involves their exquisite build quality, which centres upon use of very high quality materials such as milled aluminium for ear cup housings, titanium 40mm driver diaphragms, and padded headbands and ear pads covered in lambskin.

Three versions are offered: the Legacy model (silver and black), the Classic model (silver and brown), and the Carbon model (all black).

Alpha Design Labs (ADL) by Furutech
Many Hi-Fi+ readers will be familiar with the Apple iOS-compatible Furutech X1 portable headphone amp/DAC that supports PCM files at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolutions, but for CES ADL was showing its new Android-compatible A1 portable amp/DAC ($569), which is plainly infused with X1 DNA, but that adds an important new wrinkle; namely, the ability to decode and play DSD 64 and DSD 128 files.

Atoll Electroacoustique
The French firm Atoll Electroacoustique debuted its powerful and full-featured HD 120 headphone amp/DAC/preamp at CES. As our accompanying photo shows, the HD 120 can be paired with a companion MA 100 stereo power amplifier ($800) that puts out 80 Wpc @ 4 Ohms and features discrete class A/B circuitry. 

The HD120 offers two analogue inputs, a coaxial S/PDIF input (32/384), an optical input (24/192), a USB-B asynchronous input (24/192), a Bluetooth input, two 6.35mm headphone outputs, and a set of analogue preamp outputs. High-quality parts abound, with the unit including an ALPS volume control, Burr-Brown PCM 5102 DAC, and premium quality resistors and capacitors. A volume control is optional. Best of all, the unit offers generous continuous headphone power output of 1.4 watts @ 32 Ohms and peak power of 6.8 watts into that same load.

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