Rives Audio's Richard Bird introduced me to Navison, a brand I was aware of but not familiar with. Navison products are aesthetic knock outsgorgeous wood (or black lacquer), etched gold faceplates (or chrome), and deep black transformer pots. They are audio confections.
While I was basking in the sound of Richard Vandersteen's stunning new Model 7s ($45,000/pair), I asked about the tube amps he was using. "Those are Jim White's Atlasesand I think they're damn good." Richard never minces words, so a "damn good" from him is almost as high praise as a "doesn't suck too bad" from JA.
Scaena is a modular speaker design that combines multiple small midrange drivers, each mounted in a pod affixed to a rigid stand, with subwoofers placed elsewhere.The speakers come with digital crossover and high-current amplification for the subs. The speakers come as 24, 30, or 36 pod units and you can add as many subs as you require.
I was not previously aware of Vexo, a Milan-based manufacturer of tube amps, but I was very impressed by the 15Wpc VXSE-KT88/C ($3900). I asked Koetsu USA's Hiram Toro if that price meant the amps were designed in Milan but built in Asia. "Oh no," he said. "Vexo is designed and built in Italy and it is stuffed with European components.
Ron Sutherland had a new battery powered phono section, the Hubble ($3800). The batteries come in a special battery compartment, so that there is only a single point of contact at each pole. He reckons the batteries are good for 800 hours of use and he has incorporated at clock in the unit so you can keep track. Each time you fire it up, program in you anticipated listening session and it will count it down and turn off the power at the assigned timethe same LEDs that serve as the timer also indicate battery strength as well.
With a factory in Brooklyn's Navy Yard, John DeVore's DeVore Fidelity is almost a neighbor, and he is that rare bird, an American speaker manufacturer who makes his own cabinets. Or rather, he benefits from leasing space to a high-end wood-working company. New at CES was the Gibbon 3XL (around $3500/pair), an impressive sounding two-way standmount that, unusually, features a cabinet made from bamboo. Bamboo is "green," in that it is a fast-growing renewable material, yet its combination of stiffness and damping makes it very suitable for use in speaker cabinets.
To judge by some of the comments that have been posted to this Show report, some American audiophiles resent the fact that so much audio manufacturing has been outsourced to China. But the fact remains that if you wish to be able to purchase high-end quality at rock-bottom pricing, manufacturers have little choice but to turn to China. The irony is that even when price is taken into account, the quality of Chinese manufacture is very often superb.
The diminutive Harbeth HL-P3 has been one of this magazine's consistently recommended speakers since we first reviewed it in 1993. While some details have been improved over the years (and been reported on in the magazine), its design has remained consistent over the years: a diminutive two-way stand-mount intended to take the place of the classic BBC-designed LS3/5a for location monitoring and for audiophiles with small rooms who value midrange purity and superbly stable, well-defined stereo imaging over bass extension and ultimate loudness capability.
Whenever I think of Totem Acoustics, I tend to associate the Montreal-based company with relatively affordable high-performance speakers like the Model One and The Forest. But designer and founder Vince Bruzzese has attempted to reach for the stars with his floorstanding WInd design ($12,500/pair, according to the cryptic spider scratchings in my reporter's notebook) . Acquisition of a new CNC wood-working machine has allowed him to update the Wind, and at CES, Totem was showing the latest version, finished in high-gloss automotive paints. (The speaker shown with Vince is finished in "De Tomasso Blue.")
Loudspeaker manufacturer VMPS ran a series of live-vsrecorded dems throughout the four days of CES, at the Zeus Ballroom in T.H.E. Show's Alexis Park venue. In dems organized by VMPS's Brian Cheney, groups of musicians and singers first performed live while being recorded by some of Ray Kimber's staff in DSD, using crossed figure-8 mikes, Millennia Media mike preamps, and Meitner converters. The recording was then played back on VMPS speakers and subwoofers, driven by Ampzilla amplification, with Audience Adept Response power conditioning and Audience Au24 e cables. The playback level was matched to that of the original, allowing legitimate comparisons. (The mikes were close enough in the solo singer dem I witnessed to minimize the double contribution of the room acoustic.)
Directly across the hall from the PrimaLuna exhibit, I discovered its somewhat more expensive big brother line, Mystère. While PrimaLuna amps operate in triode mode, Mystère gives you the sound of tetrode. These aren't high power babiesthe ia11 integrated amp ($1995) puts out 40Wpc watts and the ia21 integrated amp ($2995) gives you 50Wpc. The electronics are manufactured with a different partner in China, and are the dream project of their designer.
Music Hall was showing a new USB DAC wit a tube output stage. The Music Hall dac25.5 ($600) uses an Electro-Harmonix 6922 tube, a Texas Instruments PCM1796 24-bi/192kHz DAC chip, a TI SRC4192 Asynchronous sample-rate converter (with a high-precision active crystal oscillator master clock), and four digital inputs (S/PDIF, TOSLINK, XLR, and USB). It sports re-clocking and user-adjustable upsampling (96kHz or 192kHz). It outputs analog via XLR or RCA.