Abbingdon Music Research Hip at the Strip - Vinyl is back in black - The 2008 CES

AMR arrived at the CES in its own room courtesy of its kind US distributor: Avatar Acoustics. AMR was the sole system in Avatar’s first room, 329 of the 29th Floor, and the CD-77 was used as the source component in Avatar’s second room 137 on the same floor.

For those that have never been, Las Vegas is truly a unique place in all senses of the word. The Venetian Hotel embodies all the glitz and glamour that is Vegas: saying that it is huge would be a disservice and the amenities (food, drink, shops, entertainment but to name a few) are unrivalled. The only drawback is one needs a map to navigate this positively gargantuan hotel!

AMR's system in room 29-329 comprised of:


  • CD-77 Reference Compact Disk Processor

  • Avid Volvere Turntable*

  • PH-77 Phono Stage

*AMR’s Garrard 301, SME 3012 and Denon 103-R were lost in transit so did not arrive in time for the show.


. AM-77 Control Centre Edition

. 2 x AM-77 Reference Dual Mono Amplifiers (Monoblock mode)

.LS-77 Professional Monitors

.(alternated between
single and dual pairs)

. Current Cable Interconnects

. AMR SC-77 Speaker Cables

. AMR PC-77 Power Cords

Room treatment was by Mr. Franck Tchang’s Acoustic Resonators, Polarity Inverters and “Sugar Cubes”.

The larger Speaker/Amplifier combination demonstrated (and shown below) is what we call the ‘Epsilon Level’ System.

AMR's Epsilon Level CES System (Photo Courtesy of Josh Ray: Sonic Flare)
The AMR CD-77 was used as source in room 29-137 where the system included Karan KA L and KA S 450 Amplification driving Acoustic Systems’
Tango speakers and cabling by Current Cables; a new line of interconnects, power cords and speaker cables.

Avatar Audio's System - AMR, Karan, Acoustic Systems & Current Cables (Photo Courtesy of Josh Ray: Sonic Flare)
The boffins at AMR have not been resting on their laurels over the past 12 months.

The CES 2008 marked the debut of:
  • AM-77 (Control Centre Edition) – an AM-77 with an Active Crossover to handle the high frequency signal and send the low frequency signal to a second standard AM-77 (or 2nd and 3rd standard AM-77 in Monoblock mode). The Control Center forms the heart of AMR's active system, which takes the listener one notch closer to the original source.

  • PH-77 (Reference Phono Stage) – a full-NOS valve affair (rectification, amplification and output) with a transformerless MC/MM input circuit to ensure that any cartridges can be matched correctly. The PH-77 has user-selectable equalisation curves (>15) for all known LP pressings (including Mono-LP's for which true Mono-Switching is provided) without compromising the performance in standard “RIAA” mode. In addition to a choice of 3 separate, selectable inputs or one “Direct” input and RCA plus XLR outputs, it will feature an Analogue-to-Digital converter with USB output. The PH-77 was shown in pre-production status and is expected to ship in Q3 of 2008.

  • AMR's PH-77 Reference Class Phono Stage (top)

  • Full production of the LS-77: having received invaluable feedback from our Heathrow launch in 2006, CES 2007 and subsequent audio shows around the world, the LS-77 has taken the good part of one year to perfect. The good news is that the LS-77 should cause a stir whenever it is heard: at full scale, the LS-77 provides real concert tingling emotions and being modular by design, were shown as 1 or 2 stacked pairs (as part of a Beta or Epsilon Level System). The LS-77 allows a wide range of combinations from the Alpha Level System (a single pair of LS-77 driven by a single standard AM-77) to the truly awesome Omega Level System (which uses 16 pairs of LS-77 with a 8 AM-77 Monoblocks and 4 Monoblock Control Center AM-77) to fill any size listening room with music that stirs the soul.

  • We were more than pleased by the sound attained, but most important of all, the feedback from customers and industry participants alike was far better than we could have hoped for. Naturally, the LS-77 professional monitors attracted the lion’s share of attention given their visual impact and modular nature. Quite a few customers listened to 1 or 2 (stacked) pairs virtually on the fly due to the convenient yet superior connection afforded by AMR’s Speakon terminated speaker cables.

    The LS-77 double pair OptiArray ® Setup

    In between the trials and tribulations of running not one, but two rooms, we came across the live band in the La Scena lounge (which is located on
    the casino ground floor of the Venetian hotel). The live band here was fabulous for entertainment and relaxation: far livelier than the norm and sang
    a veritable array of songs from the 60s and 70s. The tunes ‘washed down’ with their great gin and tonics, we can honestly say the enjoyment factor was exceedingly high!

    With regards to food, Vegas does serve its fair share of beef burger and fries but we managed to track down two eating establishments that are positively mouthwatering: the Hamada restaurant was out of this world for Japanese food: their Teppanyaki and Soft Shell crab were real standouts. The other was Mortons Steakhouse: whilst not cheap, served an excellent and unrivalled range of steaks with very oversized vegetables.

    The most resounding trend of note was the very encouraging return of vinyl: while CD was still the main source in all rooms, we would estimate 40%
    of rooms also had a vinyl setup of one form or another. Many customers were interested to hear the PH-77 phono stage with the Avid Turntable. While
    we were “burning in” the new tonearm wire, more than one customer thought the sounds were coming from this source as opposed to the CD-77; this brought a wry smile from the AMR staffers.

    With the weaker US dollar, many foreign visitors snapped up records as if they were going out of fashion (should that be coming back into fashion?). With most records between US$15-US$25, this firmly makes them much cheaper than buying them in Europe.

    Coupled with the number of vinyl sold at the VAD Show in October 2007, we do believe that vinyl is making a comeback, note quite as momentous as Elvis’ ’68 Comeback Special, but very encouraging nonetheless.

    Positive Feedback came in and it was great to meet Dave, Carol and their son, Peter Clark and Adam Goldfine. Greg Weaver and Garrett Hongo from Sound stage we met for the first time. All kindly spent quite some time and were very personable.

    Danny Kaey and Josh Ray from Sonic Flare ( and Clement Perry and Key Kim and many other members of the StereoTimes clan were great company as usual. Kalman Rubinson of Stereophile also came by the AMR room and worked his way through our CD collection: not a verbose kind of person, we nonetheless found him reserved but polite.

    We also met Danny Gonzalez from The Absolute Sound and in addition to his knowledge of music, we were more than impressed by his established singing career and technical prowess of photography. We very much enjoyed having drinks with him and “picking his brain” on life, the universe and everything.

    HiFi+’s Roy Gregory came by and following one of the most eloquent and insightful reviews on the CD-77, Roy given his vinyl preference, put his name down as one of the first to review the PH-77.

    Michael Fremer of Stereophile extended a very warm hi to us following our first meet at the Milan Show in 2007. Despite his lofty status as a major vinyl reviewer, Michael is a very relaxed and friendly person. Michael met our Darren and Bonnie Censullo, of Avatar Acoustics and spent most of his time going through the specifications of the PH-77 and examining it very closely.

    We will evaluate both Michael’s and Roy’s feedback on the PH-77 and are likely to implement them for the upcoming German High-End Show at Munich which runs from the 24th-27th April 2008.

    Overall, we were extremely pleased with the response garnered in rooms 29-329 and 29-137. We would like to thank all the guests that came into our room and made it the very enjoyable experience which is always the bright side of being stressed out whilst running not one, but two audio rooms at the most important audio show on the calendar.

    We look forward to seeing you all at CES 2008!

    Stereophile's Michael Fremer with Darren Censullo of Avatar Acoustics

    Last but not least, an absolutely huge thank you to the husband and wife team of Darren and Bonnie Censullo of Avatar Acoustics: their organisation, generosity and friendliness made the arduous trip over from the UK to run such an important show a real pleasure.

    The Strip in Vegas (Photo Courtesy of Danny Kaey: Sonic Flare/Positive Feedback)

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