My 2019 Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show Report

Back in the day, when attending the summer and winter CES shows was a necessary part of my job I used to fantasize about the day when all the information would be available "on-line" and there would be no need to attend the shows in person. 

AR-CES181acopy.jpegThat time, as far as CES goes, has come. While I miss seeing the several hundred friends who still made the trek to Las Vegas this year, I do not miss the rotten air and millions of microbes waiting to attack my immune system. What follows is my "armchair" report, with commentary, of course...

The "Big Deal" at this year's CES was definitely 5G. It promises to deliver smart EVERYTHING, from cars, to drones, to an inter and intra-connected universe with latency reduced to the point that a smart car will be able to see and react to roadway issues without turning its occupant into hamburger. To see how much faster 5G promises to be, look at the chart - 1/10 the latency, 20 times the peak data capacity, 30 GHz instead of 3 GHz available spectrum, and the ability to handle a million connections versus 4G's 1000 connection top end.

AR-Mobilocity-Newsletter-image-2.pngThose are impressive stats. Too bad you can't have them now...

You would think, after being around for as long as they have that majors like ATT and Verizon would know better than oversell a technology that is YEARS away from being available to consumers, but obviously they have not. The infrastructure needed for 5G is now just being implemented - full integration across the nation will take a while...the counter-argument is that the majors need to drum up a tidalwave of consumer demand in order to push past local government and NIMBY issues, hence the Rah-Rah...

So, what did the 2019 CES have for us audiophiles? Compared to the years when I would need a second suitcase to carry home all the sales and promotional literature from the show, cool stuff for us could be condensed to a single page, which is what I'll do now...

AR-CES185a.jpgThe biggest news for those of us who look forward, rather than backward, is that both major audiophile streaming services had announcements. Tidal rolled out MQA capabilities for a number of Android-based phones, which if I had an Android phone, would make me very happy. Qobuz finally opened their US Beta program. I switched from my pre-beta European subscription to the new US version. What I like about both of these announcements was that they were for improvements that we can have NOW, instead of pie-in-the-sky 5G.

AR-SLtt23.pngFor turntable fanatics Technics rolled out a new turntable, the SL-1200MK7. Early pricing estimates are that it will be around $1200US. Comments around the net by turntable connoisseurs, which few have actually heard in person yet, focused on its use as a platform for tweaky modification. DJ websites are excited as many of their working pros are ready to replace their older and worn-out Technics turntables with something new.

When we move over to traditional electronics at CES the pickin's get thinner. Onkyo/Teac introduced two amplifiers, both priced around $1600, the AP-505 power amplifier and AX-505 integrated amp. Both use Hypex Ncore amplifier sections. The AX-505 integrated amp is an an analog-only unit with four line-level inputs. 

AR0-nagra2a.jpgAt the other end of the price spectrum Nagra unveiled their new flagship D/A, the HD DAC X. Priced at a cool $64,500, this two-chassis design with a battery power supply has 37 different power supplies, 16 for the digital section alone.

For audiophiles who are ready to jump into a dedicated streaming solution NAD released their new M10 BluOs enabled amplifier. With a Hypex Ncore amplifier section, Dirac room correction, BluOs smartphone app, and even Alexa support, this $2499US MSRP box looks pretty darned cool - a one-piece solution that only needs loudspeakers to be a complete system.

On the loudspeaker front the bigest news for Audiophiles with budget constraints is the new offerings from Elac. The new Carina series has three loudspeakers, the BS243.4 bookshelf ($1,200), the FS247.4 floorstander ($2,400) and the CC241.4 center channel ($TBD). All three use a new folded tweeter that extends to 30KHz. 

I reviewed the Audeeze iSIne 20, I liked it's unique fit and sound, but lamented that it was only available in a wired configuration. Well, now for $99 you can add a wireless tether that supports BT 5.1, aptX HD, and offers up to eight hours of battery life.

AR-NADM103a.jpgOne last new thing for you nostalgia buffs. KLH is back. Don't expect an updated version of the model 19 (which I think could do VERY well) but they are now making headphones as well as loudspeakers. I heard that groan from North Cambridge, MA all the way to Denver...but their wired over-ear headphones with a 50mm diaphragm could be winners, you never know... 

So, there you have what I considered the "Must see's" of my armchair CES show report. Did I miss some things? You Betcha! But I think I got a good percentage of the high-points. My next show, that I will be attending in the flesh, will be Axpona, where the problem will be too many rooms, too many new exciting products, and far too little time to spend with old friends...and far fewer deadly microbes...perhaps I'll see you there...

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