Every time I see a Nagra piece I get lust in my heart, Jimmy Swaggart style. I think it all goes back to the old days when I produced CDs with JA and he used his Nagra D digital tape recorder. It was a great -sounding and awesome-looking recorder. Of course these days when we record, that old Nagra has, for better or worse, been replaced with a laptop or Mac mini or something else nowhere near as sexy.
"Have you heard the Devialet D-Premier amplifier?" asked UK high-end distributor Riccardo Franassovici when I bumped into him in the Magico room. (We were both there to check out the impressive new Q5 loudspeaker that Jason Serinus writes about elsewhere in this report.
Siltech's Edwin van der Kley handed me his new preamp. There were no wires attached, but the four tubes were glowing. "It's battery-powered, and I could use a low 25V voltage rail for the tubes because they are ECC86 dual-triodes, which were developed for car-audio and microphone use." Edwin went to explain that as this tube uses a 6.3V heater, he could run the heaters of the four tubes in series from the same 25V supply. It also offers very low 1/f noise for a small-signal tube, he told me. Siltech has a plentiful supply of the tubes and the preamp wil sell for $28,000.
Elsewhere in this report, Brian Damkroger writes about the new Audio Research DS-450 class-D power amplifier. However, I was more taken by the Minnesotan company's $5995 DSI200 integrated amplifier, which offers 200Wpc into 8 ohms, compared with the larger amplifier's 410W, and had its top off. (This is Las Vegas, after all.) The 93%-efficient class-D outputstage was developed in-house and is coupled with a hefty linear power supply.
Musical Fidelity, now distributed in the US by Tempo, had a room at the Mirage and were displaying lots of new equipment. As part of their newly released M series, Antony Michaelson's company showed off the M6i dual-mono integrated amplifier. The amps' circuitry design trickles down from the Musical Fidelity Titan amp reviewed last June by Michael Fremer. The amp puts out 200Wpc, retails for $3000, and, surprisingly, features a USB input.
The folks at Simaudio were happy to leave the frozen tundra of Canada and bring their wares to the mild climate of Las Vegas. This year they showed off their new Moon 600i integrated amplifier ($8000). The 600i is a beautifully built, dual-mono amplifier that puts out 125Wpc into 8 ohms and sounded lovely.
Some of my favorite industrial design in the audio industry comes from Chord. I'm not sure that the cool glass and aluminum flourishes found on many of their products have key functional utility, but they sure look inviting. So the relatively understated casework done for the new Cyan Click Digital Integrated Amplifier still stands out among more staid designs from others.
One of the companies I continue to enjoy seeing every CES is Sonneteer. Their proprietors are always amazingly perky a couple days into a grueling show, and their products are consistently interesting.
For those of you who lust after a Benchmark DAC but wish it had remote control, rejoice. And in typical pro-audio fashion, they didn't add just any remote, but a motorized Alps pot that turns the front panel knob. The company claims that digital volume controls can reduce dynamic range and analog IC type controls add distortion and noise, hence their custom motorized design.
Musical Fidelity picked a suite near the top of the Mirage hotel to introduce two new CD players, both available now. Top-of-the-line honors goes to the $9,000 AMS CD player and DAC built around a custom-made Philips CD pro mechanism and 12 internal power supplies.
Also in the Musical Fidelity suite were the new M6 Series components which include the M6i integrated amp and the matching M6 CD-DAC. Priced at $2500, the M6 CD-DAC includes SPDIF, Toslink and USB inputs on the back for external digital sources which feed into the 24 bit/192kHz upsampling DAC.
As I wandered the halls looking for the next audio fix, a friendly voice with a thick Swedish accent called out to me. Since I'm pretty new at the magazine, I wondered who might be calling out my name let alone who might be calling out name that's from Scandinavia. It turned out it was Timo Engstrom, the maker of The Lars two-chassis, tube integrated amplifier that Art Dudley wrote about in June 2009. Somehow Timo read my badge and knew I was covering amplification at CES for Stereophilehe must have good eyes. He invited me in to have a listen to the Lars.
Newly unveiled in the Cary Audio room was the CAD 211 Founders Edition amplifier. This fully balanced monoblock retails for $20,000/pair. The amps have taps for 4, 8 and 16 ohm speakers and specified as putting out 70W in class-A, increasing to 110W when pushed into class-AB. They also employ zero feedback so I'm not going to send them to JA's test bench (low-feedback designs seem to make him grumpy). They sounded sweet and full-bodied driving the Marten Coltrane speakers, with cabling by Tara Labs. It is ironic, however, noted JA, that Cary founder Dennis Had retired from Cary in the fall of 2009.