We try to take a more considered view of CES. The event is often blogged and tweeted at the scene, making instant and snap decisions on the fly. While this is extremely useful to get an immediate understanding of what’s happening at the show, the reality is many products are best considered in context, and that takes time to process. We are collating our opinions on CES from an audiophile perspective and will publish (a lot) more presently, but for now just a sneak peak on the overall audio trends from the Venetian Tower in Las Vegas.
This show was far quieter than ever before. Distributors and international buyers stayed away in significant number, reflecting a broad shift toward Munich High-End and it seems the German event has picked up where CES has left off. This is perhaps all too understandable from all perspectives: the show is extremely expensive, in terms of event space, hotel prices, and even logistics (one exhibitor claimed it cost less to ship a product from Europe to Las Vegas than it did to get it from the ground floor to their room). Putting 170,000 miscellaneous tech journalists on the Strip places a severe burden on the internet and phone connections of the city. And with so many technology launches taking place on the same four days, high performance audio is likely to be lost in a sea of autonomous cars, IoT devices, and ‘wearables’.
Nevertheless, there were key products that broke cover, most notably the return of the hugely popular Technics SL-1200, even though it is to be a strictly limited edition run of 1,200 (naturally) ‘Grand Class’ decks at $4,000, at least at first. Last year showed just how far the vinyl revival has come – Amazon.com announced that its best selling consumer electronic device sold during Christmas 2015 was a turntable! And that’s why turntables were everywhere at CES.
Alongside the usual suspects (such as Music Hall with a new range of high value turntables, and Pro-Ject with the first ‘vertical’ turntable in a generation) and the returning Japanese brands (including Sony’s $599 HS-HX500 DSD-ripping turntable), the big audiophile vinyl stories were the return of Continuum, and its prototype turntable with a working title of ‘Obsidian’ (but no price as yet), and the first ever turntables (and more) from noted vinyl record label, Mobile Fidelity.