Given all the fuss about the ever-increasing interest in all things vinyl, you might have expected CES to be packed full of turntables. This wasn’t quite the case. Where two or three years ago, manufacturers were keen to show their analogue credentials with turntables or even playing reel-to-reel, such devices were a lot less prevalent this year. I suspect this has a lot to do with many electronics manufacturers wishing to showcase new DSD-compatible digital components. Vinyl was being played – even reel-to-reel was being played in the Nola room – but many of those playing vinyl this year were makers or distributors of vinyl. I suspect this is a temporary vinyl hiatus, with companies returning to their LP roots when high-res audio is more established.
This was also the year the Germans came to town. Top tier turntables usually reserved for the Munich show mid-year began to appear in Las Vegas. This is no bad thing – if there’s one thing German audiophiles love more than their record players, it’s very well built record players, and they give good engineering – Brinkmann, Clearaudio, Sperling, Transrotor and TW-Acustic are all popular choices among the European platternspieler cognoscenti, and their decks were very well received on the other side of the pond. Of these, arguably the most impressive (and certainly the most expensive) setting was the Transrotor Crescendo Nero, which didn’t look out of place in among hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of VAC system, (including the new $70,000 Statement Phono stage), a Soulution CD player, a pair of Focal Utopia Grande EM and lots of Critical Mass Systems equipment supports.
Staying with products sweeping majestically Westward, we’d seen the Rega RP10 when visiting the UK factory in the middle of last year, and it’s easy to forget that this is the new deck’s first public showing. This new turntable and RB2000 arm combination (also playing through the new Aria phono stage, alongside the recently introduced Elicit R amplifier and Saturn R CD-DAC player, and into PMC’s Fact.12 loudspeakers). Bundled with the company’s Apheta moving coil cartridge for $6,495, the deck takes the stressed-beam, dual braced magnesium and phenolic race-track plinth of the company’s RP8, and adds a high flywheel effect diamond-cut ceramic platter, a DSP-driven power supply and an ultra high-grade, polished for lowered mass version of Rega’s ever popular arm design. Elsewhere in high-end vinyl replay, $6,495 often represented the cost of a single component part – until and unless the almost mythical Naiad appears, this is the top of the Rega vinyl tree.
VPI Industries has a commanding reputation for pushing the vinyl envelope, and this year was no exception. The fabled 3D printed version of the JMW tonearm was being shown in a number of rooms. No longer a virtual product, the $2,500 9” arm and $3,000 12” arm is not just printed 3D for the sake of it; there are some very solid structural reasons why a one-piece unipivot armtube makes a lot of sense in engineering terms. With this and a DD version of the Classic and rumours of yet more new decks that could even undercut the Traveller on the drawing board, the company’s place at the head of the US turntable, er, revolution is assured.