A Look At The High-Res Audio Hardware Debuting At CES 2018

Highlights include voice control, soundbars, car head units
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Voxx’s Acoustic Research AR-M200

Voxx’s Acoustic Research AR-M200

To fill demand in the High-Res Audio niche, multiple brands are unveiling or showcasing new products at CES. Here’s a quick primer.

Acoustic Research: The AR High End and Digital division of Voxx is demonstrating a third-generation high-res DAP priced at only a suggested $399 but said to deliver sound that is “smoother and tighter than what is typical of the price point.” The AR-M200 joins two models at $999and$699and features integrated Class A headphone amplifier, Bluetooth aptX HD streaming, and audiophile-grade components such as the AKM4490 DAC.

Astell&Kern: The $3,499 A&ultima SP1000 features 5-inch bezel-less HD display, USB Type-C 3.0 port, 256GB of internal memory, microSD card slot, upgraded DAC chipset (two AKM AK4497EQ DACs), and octa-core CPU.

The $999 KANN natively plays 32-bit/384kHz PCM audio and DSD256. The $699 AK70 MK II is a dual-DAC player. All A&K players feature Wi-Fi, USB DAC function, DLNA, digital audio output via USB, aptX HD Bluetooth, and support for high-resolution music streaming services from Tidal and Groovers+.

Also on display: the company’s first desktop headphone amp, the $899 Arco L1000, with dual high-res DACs.

Emotiva: The new desktop DC-2 DAC is on display. Details were unavailable.

Harman/Kardon: The Harman brand is readying its second smart speaker with built-in Alexa and 96/24 high-res Wi-Fi streaming. The new $199-MSRP Allure Portable, shipping in the spring, will be a portable version of the $249-MSRP 360-degree Allure, available in late 2017.

Kenwood’s DNX995S, at an expected suggested $1,500, plays 192kHz/24-bit FLAC and WAV files, as well as 11.2MHz DSD files. It will also be one of the brand’s first head units with Wireless Android Auto.

Kenwood’s DNX995S, at an expected suggested $1,500, plays 192kHz/24-bit FLAC and WAV files, as well as 11.2MHz DSD files. It will also be one of the brand’s first head units with Wireless Android Auto.

JVCKenwood: The Kenwood and JVC car audio brands will expand their selection of high-res head units, and Kenwood will launch its first two component-speaker sets and first two amplifiers meeting the Japan Audio Society’s requirements for wearing the Hi-Res Audio logo.

At CES, Kenwood will expand its high-res lineup to 26 SKUs with 96/24 capability and to 11 SKUs with 192/24 and DSD. That’s up from 23 SKUs and nine, respectively.

“We have been promoting and marketing hi-res, and you can expect this momentum to increase this year,” said training manager Seth Halstead.

JVC will expand its selection of high-res head units, currently ay two with 192/24 WAV and FLAC playback and playback of 11.1MHz DSD files.

LG's SK10Y soundbar

LG's SK10Y soundbar

LG: The company expanded its selection of soundbars with high-res audio to six SKUs from four, with the top two bars feature 192/24 FLAC, ALAC and WAV decoding and the rest featuring 96/24. The high-res models will carry the Japan Audio Society’s High-Res logo because of their decoding capabilities and ability to reproduce sound out to 40kHz.

Onkyo: New high-res DAPs will be displayed. Details were unavailable.

Oppo: The company launched an MQA firmware update in late 2017 for the universal $1,299 UDP-205 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player with DVD-Audio and SACD playback. The player, the first 4K Blu-ray player with MQA, previously played high-res files, including DSD files. It will be displayed at the DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s Hi-Res Audio Pavilion.

Sony’s XAV-AX5000 head unit with high-res audio playback

Sony’s XAV-AX5000 head unit with high-res audio playback

Sony: MQA playback has been incorporated into the two latest portable players from Sony’s Walkman brand. The company is also unveiling its latest high-res XAV-AX5000. Like other heads with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it plays high-res 96/24 FLAC files and better-than-CD 48/24 WAV files but converts the files to better-than-CD 48/24 PCM. A current head unit with the High-Res logo, the RSX-G59, remains in the line with high-res 192/24 and DSD file playback without down-conversion.

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