Sunday, January 9, 2011
CES 2011...Cardas Audio
Since I was a guest of Cardas Audio for the CES (I even got to put my name badge in one of their cool leather holders), I used their room as sort of a home base. When I say room, I have to specify that it was their MAIN room, as many of the rooms at the Venetian had the words "Cardas Audio Ltd." on the banners over their doorways. That's because many other exhibitors used Cardas cables in their reference systems. Why? Because Cardas was introducing their new top-of-the-line Clear at CES. To paraphrase Van Halen, everybody wants some.
I use Clear Light in my own system, which is the entry-level cable in this premium line. Above that, you have the just-plain Clear and the flagship Clear Beyond. The Beyond, of course, was extremely impressive, and was one of those cables that is as "thick as a garden hose." The Beyond was used in many of the most expensive, state-of-the-art systems including the one with the Trenner & Friedl Dukes. Admittedly, the Beyond is such a high-performing cable that only the very best systems can extract all of its performance. Even a couple of people from the Cardas camp admitted that the Beyond was too much cable for their systems (although I bet it's perfect for George Cardas' amazing home system, which you can find on YouTube). For most people, myself included, Clear and Clear Light are all the cable they'll ever need. But if you're one of those audiophiles with a no-holds-barred rig, you'll want the Beyond to take it to the next level.
The price of Beyond is high, but there are quite a few brands that charge more for their top-of-the-line offerings. In a world full of $30,000 8' pairs of speaker cables, the Beyond is priced fairly and sanely, especially when you see how complex its construction is.
The Cardas room also featured the new LP releases of Ben Harper's Pleasure and Pain, which I've written about extensively. Dean Peer's new 180 gram limited pressing of Airborne was also there, and yes, I now own my very own copy, given to me by Dean himself. (I know, I'm a name-dropper.) In fact, I'm traveling to San Diego next week for the Music Night at Blackbird Audio Gallery featuring Dean Peer, and I hope he'll sign it!
I also had a chance to speak to George Cardas himself about his latest audio interests, which include finding the right solution to the preponderance of DACs in today's audio market. He also gave me a preview of Cardas Audio's upcoming earbuds. This is the second time I've heard them, and I have to say that I want a pair badly.
This surprises me, because I've disliked every pair of earbuds I've ever stuck in my ears. I'm somewhat claustrophobic (which was a bit of a problem in the packed elevators at the Venetian, and which is why I got so much exercise in its stairwells), and I'm always uncomfortable with having something slid into my ear canals. The Cardas earbuds were downright unobtrusive and fit into my ears very comfortably due to the revolutionary shape. In addition, the sound was so spacious and extensive that I felt they were more like wearing tradition cans. Earbuds, in my opinion, often sound aggressive and forward because of the nature of their placement. Not these ones.
George demonstrated this by having me first listen to a pair of Sennheiser HD800s, one of the best headphones currently on the market, through a headphone system consisting of products from Ayre and Musical Fideilty. The sound was pretty amazing, smooth and full and believable. I then switched to the new Cardas earbuds and the soundstage was larger, the bass was fuller and the overall sound was less fatiguing. I don't have any pictures of these yet because they still haven't been formally announced, but they are great-looking little devices, made from metal instead of the ubiquitous plastic of most earbuds. George said that the materials used helped to contribute to the more solid and engaging sound. I'll speak more about these in the future, especially if I get a chance to test-drive them.
Once again I'd like to thank the Cardas Audio crew for their incredible hospitality to this humble blogger. I was able to meet most of the gang including George, Colleen Cardas, Darcy Cardas (George's wife), Mary Cardas (the oldest daughter), Angela Cardas Meredith (the youngest daughter), Josh Meredith (Angela's husband and the principal sales and marketing executive for Cardas) and Brian Von Bork. I even got to meet Luke Cardas, the nine-month-old son of Angela and Josh. Children aren't allowed at CES, but Luke had a Cardas name badge, so nobody dared to question his importance at the convention!