I recently spent the past few months listening to and reviewing the new Manley Stingray iTube integrated amplifier (the review will appear the March issue of Stereophile). So when I stepped into the Manley room at CES, it felt a bit like I was back at my own listening room at home. The Stingray iTube is based on four EL84 tubes per channel and puts out 32Wpc in Ultralinear mode and 18Wpc in Triode mode. It features an Apple certified iPod dock in addition to its regular single-ended inputs.
Ever since blogging about the Magico V3 loudspeaker a few years back, and then interviewing Magico's Alon Wolf for a Stereophile feature, I've been eager to hear every sonic and technological advance that Alon and his team have come up with. Thus I made my way to the huge Magico suite on the Venetian's 35th floorwhose exquisite lighting and overall aesthetic were on another plane from most of the exhibits below itwhere Magico was unveiling the much-anticipated Magico Q5 ($54,000/pair), which has a heroically constructed all-aluminum enclosure.
I started my first day at CES at the Immedia room, where Allen Perkins had a typically (for Immedia) great-sounding system, chock full of new gearsome so new that it doesn't even exist yet, as a product anyway. Starting from the top, there was the second-generation Spiral Groove SG-1.1 turntable fitted with a "production" version of his new tonearm. In this case, "production" means either "honestly, truly the very last prototype before production" or "the genuine first production version...that only differs from what we'll be shipping in a couple of non-functional details" take your pick. Either way, Immedia will begin shipping the arm immediately after the show.
The new Sonics Allegra speaker, shown here with Immedia's Allen Perkins (left) and designer Joachim Gerhardt (right in JA's pic), differs from the one I reviewed in January 2009, primarily in how the cabinets are attached. In the first series, the top, midrange and tweeter cabinet was solidly affixed to the top of the woofer box. Joachim Gerhardt decided to mechanically isolate the two cabinets to give the midrange and tweeter a cleaner environment in which to work, so they're now attached with an absorbent elastomer layer. To maintain the mass loading and resulting stability, however, there is now an approximately ½"-thick, stainless-steel plate attached to the bottom of the mid/tweeter cabinet. Simple, clever, and effective.
Theta Digital is at last showing the Compli-Blu universal player ($2995), which begins shipping the week after the Show. The successor to the old Compli universal player and Carmen II digital transport, the Compli-Blu can be used either as a digital transport (which is how I intend to use it with my Theta Gen. VIII Series 2 DAC/preamp), or as a stand-alone multi-format player.
I've now heard The Lotus Group Granada UB II Loudspeaker with an Active Crossover ($125,000/pair) twice. The first time was in Northern CA, where I joined Joseph Cohen of The Lotus Group and designer/engineer Manny La Carrubba for an extended listening session devoid of all the usual CES attractions. The second time was in the less-hospitable environment of the Venetian. (You have not lived until you try to focus on Fritz Wunderlich singing a transporting Mozart aria while the sounds of Maria Callas suffering through Verdi blast from the other room, and the person sitting behind you decides to discuss the stock market with his companion).
I was real excited to hear the advanced prototype of the new the SMC-1, a fully balanced linestage preamp collaboration between Steve McCormack and Gary Koh of Genesis. The preamp will come in two versions, the higher-priced of the two probably coming in around $8000. For the extra money, you get higher quality parts and a different sonic signature, which amounts to quite a lot.
Nothing can beat starting off a morning in a state of grace. That's how it felt when Garth Leerer of Musical Surroundings warmed up the new Clearaudio Concept turntable ($1400) with Borodin's Quartet No.2, appropriately performed by the Borodin Quartet and reproduced on an immaculate Decca pressing. The sound was warm, liquid, and eminently pleasing - everything I would want from good vinyl reproduction.
Directly across the hall from Musical Surroundings, Garth and Jim White, owner and designer of Aesthetix Audio Corporation, played the same French jazz recording I had just heard. This time, the Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable ($10,000) with TT2 linear tonearm ($9500) and daVinci v2 cartridge ($5500) did the honors. Handling the rest were the Aesthetix Rhea Signature phono stage ($7,000), part of the Saturn series and named after one of the moons of Saturn; and the same Aesthetix Atlas power amp ($8000) as used across the hall. Vandersteen Quatro Wood speakers, HRS equipment stand, Kubala-Sosna cables and Running Springs Audio power products completed the chain.
Irresistible warmth in the midrange. It's not what you usually associate with digital, but it's the only way to describe digital reproduction in the EAR USA room. Auditioned were the EAR Acute CD player ($5495), EAR 509 monoblocks ($14,000), and EAR 912 preamplifier ($11,500), played through the brand-new Marten Getz loudspeakers ($20,000/pair) and connected by Jorma Origo cabling. The new Marten Getz, part of the Marten Heritage series and seen hear in JA's photo with EAR's legendary designer Tim de Paravicini, is a three-way model that combines an active and passive woofer in a single box. The Getz boasts 87dB sensitivity, and a frequency response that extends from 30Hz (3dB) up to 40kHz.
Designer Peter Madnick, one of the original founders of Audio Alchemy a couple decades back, has returned as part of a new Southern California company called Constellation Audio. In addition to preamp and amplifier offerings, on hand was the $50,000 Sirius DAC and CD player two box system. One box (which they call the "clean box") contains the DAC and audio stuff and then the "dirty box" houses the transport and power supplies (pictured above).
Bel Canto has clearly been busy on the digital front. Three new DACs are on display: the e.One DAC1.5 at $1,395, e.One DAC2.5 at $1,995, and the e.One DAC3.5VB at $3,495. The company explains that the core of all three products is the "jitter-eliminating" Two-Stage Master Reference UltraClock.
Here we see Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield proudly displaying his company's new Moon 300D DAC which retails for $1,600 and is available now. Inputs on the back include USB, SPDIF and Toslink and can accept streams up to 24bit/192kHz.
Olive and Thiel have teamed up with the help of zöet networking technology from a company called Bicom, and have created a complete media server/powered speaker system. Included in the system is a 2TB Olive 4HD music server which has been specially outfitted with an audio networking system using ethernet cables for connecting to the speakers.
One of the great things about coming to CES is getting the opportunity to hear gear that’s rarely near. I was really happy as I strolled down the 35th floor to walk into the Lamm room. I don’t have a Lamm dealer in Minneapolis so I haven’t ever had the chance to hear this lauded and expensive tube gear.