Edifier, well known for its value-priced powered compact speaker systems, had several new products on display at the Pepcom event. MP230 Portable Bluetooth Speaker The Edifier MP230 has a retro look with a wood enclosure and classic piano-style buttons. A pair of 48 mm drivers plus a passive radiator provide stereo sound. The speaker was not demonstrated at the event, so I cannot comment on the sound, but I hope to review it in the near future. Playback time is rated at 16 hours on a single charge, and in addition to Bluetooth connectivity, the speaker can also play music from its Aux input, or from sound cards and TF cards. The MP230 is available now for $129.99.
NeoBuds Pro Wireless Earphones The NeoBuds Pro wireless noise-cancelling earphones ($149.99) offer 42 dB of active noise reduction and have a bi-amped transducer, consisting of a Knowles balanced armature driver operating in conjunction with a dynamic driver. Audiophiles take note -- they claimed to be the first true wireless earbuds to receive Hi-Res Audio certification, with a frequency response to 40 kHz.
M100 Plus Portable Waterproof Speaker and MC500 Streaming Console The Edifier M100 Plus is a small, dust- and water-resistant speaker that’s really portable – it comes with a lanyard that makes for easy carrying. Recognizing the booming popularity of live streaming, the MC500 Streaming Console is a desktop control interface that can add mixing and sound effects for streaming audio creators. Both will be available in 2022.
Shure Aonic 40 Headphones
Iconic audio brand Shure, long known for transducers such as headphones, microphones and at one time, phono cartridges, showcased their Aonic 40 wireless headphones. Selling for $249.00, the Aonic 40 claims to deliver studio-quality sound, and offers active noise reduction and sound-tailoring adjustability through a dedicated app.
The Pepcom Digital Experience! usually has more audio companies than we saw in 2022, and the diminished number of exhibitors was partly because of cancellations. Panasonic, which had a significant number of new audio products set to be introduced at CES 2022, was scheduled to exhibit but pulled out of both the show and the Pepcom event. It is also likely that the continuing departure of audio from CES played a part. What was once a robust show, where just about everyone who was anyone in high-end and mainstream audio was there, has seen a steady decline year after year as fewer and fewer audio exhibitors participate, particularly high-end and specialty audio manufacturers. The following day, the first day the show floor and the audio exhibits at The Venetian were open, would prove to be illuminating.
CES 2022 Opens – Wednesday, January 5, 2022
The show officially opened on January 5th and I started my day at a luxurious suite at the Bellagio hotel, where UK-based Starscream Communications had a team demonstrating products from their clients Cambridge Audio and headphones manufacturer Meze Audio. Renting a suite off site and inviting media and business contacts has long been a strategy employed by companies that want to be part of CES, but without paying the high fees and other costs that come with being an official exhibitor.
The big news from Cambridge Audio was the debut of two new turntables, both based on their very successful previous Alva TT, which was introduced at CES 2019. The Alva TT offered plug-and-play high-end vinyl sound, and included a built-in phono preamp matched to its Alva MC high-output moving coil cartridge, pre-mounted and aligned on a Rega arm The turntable also offered built-in Bluetooth aptX HD. A medium-torque direct-drive mechanism spun the polyoxymethylene (POM) platter, and the turntable was very finely finished and solidly built. The new turntables bookend the original Alva TT in price, features and performance. The upgraded Alva TT V2 takes the Alva TT and adds an upgraded tonearm with removable headshell, and a switchable phono preamp.
Though the original Alva TT offered excellent performance and ease of setup and use, the inability to bypass the internal phono preamp made it less appealing to audiophiles, and the difficulty of installing a replacement cartridge was a potential roadblock to non-enthusiast owners who don’t have access to a hi-fi shop. The Alva TT V2 will be available this spring for $1,999. The Alva ST resembles the Alva TT and Alva TT V2, but has a belt drive and an aluminum rather than POM platter. An Audio-Technica AT-95E cartridge is pre-installed and the Bluetooth aptX HD and switchable phono preamp remain. The Alva ST will be available at about the same time as the Alva TT V2 for $999.
Also on display was a Cambridge Audio EVO receiver connected to the Alva TT V2 turntable and EVO S bookshelf speakers ($750 per pair). The EVO receivers are compact and feature Class D integrated amplifiers, analog and digital inputs (including HDMI-ARC for use with a television) and Cambridge Audio’s streaming interface with an appealing front-panel visual display. The EVO 75 sells for $2,250 and the EVO 150 has a price of $3,000. The system is compact and delivered clean sound with a very low noise floor, along with the pleasing warmth associated with British hi-fi components.
I was treated to a listen of the Meze Audio Liric planar-magnetic headphones, which incorporate an Isodynamic Hybrid Array driver in a closed-back design. This planar-magnetic driver is designed by acoustic engineering company Rinaro, and features a unique design incorporating dual “switchback” and spiral voice coils. Suffice it to say they sound wonderful, and are a perfect solution for those who love planar-magnetic sound but need a closed-back design. The Liric headphones cost $2,000.
What would I find on the show floor of the first CES of the pandemic? Tune in for Part Three, coming soon. Header image: ice sculpture at The Digital
Experience! and Nancy Burlan of Mac Edition Radio. Photo courtesy of Harris Fogel. Product photos courtesy of their respective manufacturers except where indicated.