CES Day One Notes
I'm pretty sure attendance this year is well up over last year, and well past what it was in 2009. I'll be curious to see the numbers.
As for headphone-audio-related news, there have been no announcements with the website-crashing effect of CES 2009's Sennheiser HD 800 launch, but there is still much to see. There's always much schmoozing and catching up on every CES Day One, but, still, I was able to see some cool stuff.
As has been my routine the past few years, Sennheiser's exhibit is one of my first stops. There are several new products being introduced, and I'll try to post something about all of them through the weekend. Today I saw (but did not yet listen to) the new CXC 700, Sennheiser's new in-ear headphones with Sennheiser's NoiseGard active noise-cancellation.
I didn't listen to the CXC700 on Day One, as it was rather popular, and always occupied. I'll give it a listen on Day Two, and let you know what I think.
One of the biggest surprises for me came with a Sennheiser product that has been available for some time now in Sennheiser's MM450 Travel, which is a supra-aural (on-ear) headphone that can be operated as both a wired headphone and a Bluetooth headphone/headset. It also has NoiseGard active noise cancellation. I only tried it in Bluetooth mode, not expecting much at all (given what I've experienced so far with Bluetooth stereo headphones), but was absolutely thrilled with the performance Sennheiser was able to squeeze through Bluetooth! Is it as good as wired? Of course not. Is it as good as the Kleer-enabled wireless headphones I've tried from Sennheiser? No to that, too. But here we have a dongle-free Bluetooth stereo headphone that is absolutely miles ahead of any other Bluetooth stereo headphones I've yet heard. The NoiseGard is also very effective, especially at attenuating mid-low frequency din. There's also a "TalkThrough" button that activates the external microphone so you can talk to others without removing the headphone from your head. Without a doubt, I'm going to pick up a Sennheiser MM 450 Travel, or...
...the Sennheiser MM 550 Travel. I've not heard the circumaural MM550 Travel, but my CES travel buddy Drew Baird (of Moon Audio) did have a chance to audition it, and preferred it to the Sennheiser MM450, saying it was more comfortable (it is larger and circumaural), and that it sounded even better. Really? This I have to hear, and will definitely do so on Day Two, and report back.
There are other new models to try and report back about--like the new adidas co-branded models--and I'll do that tomorrow.
With what might be the broadest channel presence of any headphone manufacturer selling $300+ headphones, there's no doubt Monster Cable is an important player in the space. While the insanely popular Monster Beats headphone models aren't widely adopted by Head-Fi'ers, Monster's Turbine Series of in-ear monitors are generally very well-regarded here, and, as a fan of the Monster Cable Turbine Pro Copper, I understand why.
Given the popularity of the Beats line, I had to try the new Monster Beats Pro. The Beats Pro is actually a very physically attractive, physically substantial headphone, made largely of metal--rather thick metal at that. Given what felt to me like very robust construction, the Beats Pro felt like it could take a tremendous amount of abuse. As for aesthetics, I think the Beats Pro is a very attractive headphone, more utilitarian in its appearance than the more highly stylized Beats Studio. A couple of interesting physical attributes of the Beats Pro include the swivel hinges that allow the earpieces to be canted off-ear; and the fact that each side (left and right) has a cable entry jack, so that you can pick which side you want the single-side cable to hang down from.
As for its sonics, I'll reserve my comments for when I have a chance to hear them in quieter environs, as Monster Cable's exhibit is always, always a popular stop--and so always, always very loud. One thing seemed rather obvious, though: bass frequencies are more emphasized with the Beats Pro than the wildly popular Beats Studio, and certainly above what I'd consider ideal. Again, I'll reserve further comments about the Beats Pro until I'm able to have a better audition. The Beats Pro retails for $449.00 (with a street price of around $400.00); so, at Head-Fi, that would put the Beats Pro head-to-head with some world-class headphones, and, thus, very tough comparisons for it.
I only auditioned one other product at the Monster Cable exhibit on Day One, and it was a new addition to the Miles Davis line of Turbine Pro in-ear monitors. From a design standpoint, this new Miles Davis model is what the first one should have been, with styling that sets it completely apart from any of the other Turbine models--and apart from anything else on the market, period. The look may end up being polarizing, it being heavily influenced by the trumpet. Each tiny earpiece (and they are definitely tiny) has the shape of a sort of truncated trumpet, the outside end looking to me like a trumpet mouthpiece, the inside flaring out to the bell end of the trumpet. I think the look is very nice, very cool, and hope my photos here convey why. The control-talk piece turns the three buttons you'd expect into miniature trumpet valves! While this might seem kitschy from the description, I find it's appropriate to the theme, and, again, extremely nice looking.
Whereas I found the first Miles Davis Turbine to be on the softer, boomier side of things (certainly relative to the Copper Edition Turbine Pro), the new Miles Davis Turbine, in my brief audition of a pre-production model, seemed more tame (and positively so) than its predecessor. I'll try to audition this unit again before the weekend's over. I think all of the units they had were pre-production, so I don't think I'll be able to leave with a loaner yet. I do not yet know the expected MSRP of the new Miles Davis Edition Turbines.
On Day One, I didn't get to audition the new Monster Cable Tron headphones. I'll try to audition these outrageously styled headphones sometime this weekend.
Drew gave a brief listen to the Beats by Dre Beatbox iPod Dock, and his initial impressions of it were good. I'll also give an audition to this unit, hopefully on Day Two.
While I didn't notice any new-at-CES models at beyerdynamic, one should hardly be surprised, as, with the recent releases of the awesome Tesla T1 and Tesla T5p--both of which I find to be world-class headphones--beyerdynamic is still glowing in Tesla newness. beyerdynamic was also showing the T50p portable headphone. I've only auditioned it briefly, but my early impressions of the T50p are positive. I'll see if I can borrow one to audition more thoroughly tomorrow night, as, if it brings any of the Tesla magic to such a small form factor, it could be a big winner.
One thing I wanted to do is introduce the community to beyerdynamic's Alan Feckanin, who's the head of beyerdynamic's North American presence. While a lot of Head-Fi'ers have met and know SHURE's Matt Engstrom, JH Audio's Jerry and Brittany Harvey, Ultimate Ears' Chuck Reynolds, Sennheiser's Eric Palonen and Eric Stubbert, Head-Direct's Fang Bian, etc., many haven't met or gotten to know beyerdynamic's Alan Feckanin. Here's a photo of Alan:
One beyerdynamic piece I may audition soon is their MMX 300 headphone/headset. A popular model with high-end gamers--and I based on the DT770--Alan said that the microphone on the MMX300 is of very high quality, with performance enough for podcasting. Since I've been asked many times to resume podcasting, I may give the MMX300 a whirl when I decide to do that. (I currently use a Sennheiser PC 166 USB.)
The Sleek Audio exhibit was absolutely packed, and that's a tremendous understatement. As you may have seen Sleek Audio has partnered with the immensely popular rapper 50 Cent to develop a new headphone model called The Sleek by 50 Cent, which is a hybrid wired/wireless. Generously adorned with more real carbon fiber than I've ever seen on a headphone, The Sleek is gorgeous. That it uses Kleer wireless technology (and that Sleek Audio has extensive experience working with Kleer) gives me a great deal of confidence in its wireless implementation.
Jason Krywko from Sleek Audio assures me that The Sleek is voiced for audiophiles, with Head-Fi'ers in mind. But, it also has a bass-boost feature for those customers who will buy The Sleek wanting and expecting emphasized bass. Based on the Sleek Audio products I've used so far, I find his description to be very encouraging. (They asked that I wait for a final production version for auditioning, which I'll do.)
With all of The Sleeks present (except for the one that 50 Cent himself was wearing) kept behind plexiglass box displays, I asked Jason if he'd allow me an out-of-box photograph of one. He said, "Come with me," and led me to a private room where 50 Cent had gone to introduce me to him, and during which 50 Cent graciously modeled The Sleek for me to photograph. As a fan of 50 Cent's music, I was glad to find him to be extremely friendly and gracious. I hope his headphone sounds as good as he was nice.
I'm not sure what the release date for The Sleek is. I believe it's sometime in spring, but I'll post when I found out more specific information on that. I think MSRP is going to be around $349.00, but, again, I'll post more information about that when I receive confirmation. I'll also see if there's a functioning pre-production version of the new SA7 in-ear monitor by Sleek Audio that I can listen to tomorrow.
On to Day Two!