Bret d'Agostino's Bully Sound Company has introduced the BSC 60s power amplifier ($7950), a pure class-A design that promises 60Wpc into 8 ohms, with output doubling down to 1 ohm. Neal Van Berg of Colorado's Sound Science claims that it gets deeper bass out of his Harbeths than any other amplifier he's used. One novel feature of the design is its internal heatsinks, which add to its handsome looks.
Esoteric unveiled the handsome C-03X stereo linestage preamplifier ($13,500). A fully balanced dual-mono design, it boasts a low-impedance, fast-response power circuit comprised of three transformers. So new that it was only available in static display at CES, it will soon be accompanied by an MM/MC-compatible phono module.
Axiss Audio’s attractive setup at the Venetian highlighted AirTight's huge ATM-3011 monoblock amplifiers ($50,000/pair). The amps were part of a system that included the Focal Scala loudspeakers ($30,000), Transrotor Rondino turntable ($14,000), SME V tonearm ($5,000), AirTight PC-1 moving-coil cartridge ($11,000), AirTight ATC-2 line preamplifier ($11,000), AirTight ATE-2 phono stage ($15,000), and ATH02 step-up transformer ($5,000). The sound was involving and dynamic.
Cary Audio demonstrated its CAD-211 ($20,000/pair) 150W tube amplifiers, two-chassis piece SLP-05 tube preamplifier ($8500), and CD-303T SACD player ($6500), with Tannoy's flagship floorstander, the Kingdom Royal ($55,000/pair). All cabling was by WyWires. The Tannoy is a four-way speaker design, with a 15" woofer handling music below 150Hz, the midrange handling up to 700Hz, the tweeter up to 17kHz, and the super-tweeter up to 65kHz. The Kingdom Royal is very sensitive at 94dB/W/m the resulting sonics were clear, delicate, and musically involving. And as John Atkinson said when he listened to this system, “there’s no substitute for horsepower.”
Lamm Industries introduced the new LP-1 Signature dual-mono phono preamplifier ($32,790), with two separate chassis power supplies. Each channel uses two high-transconductance triodes without feedback. The new phono preamplifier was used in a system with Lamm ML-3 amplifers ($159,490), an LL-1 preamplifier ($42,790), connected to a pair of Wilson Audio MAXX3 speakers ($69,500/pair) with Kubala-Sosna cables throughout. Music was played on a Kronos turntable ($32,000) fitted with a Graham Phantom II Supreme tonearm ($6000) and a ZYX Universal II cartridge ($8,495). Vladimir Lamm was also using two pairs of his ML2.2 monoblocks ($37,290/pair) to drive a pair of Verity Audio Lohengrin loudspeakers ($120,000/pair) in an adjoining room. The sound in both rooms was spacious, smooth, dynamic, and full.
MBL’s Corona Line C-15 class-D monoblock amplifiers ($12,500 each) are rated at 500W into 4 ohms with low distortion, and none of the rising distortion with frequency found in other class-D designs. In addition, the distortion is load independent. This is a result of the circuit design MBL calls a "Linear Analog Switching Amplifier Design” (LASA). MBL designer Jurgen Reis was proud that the amplifier had been designed to meet the stringent South Korean "KT" consumer standard regulations, and "was on the way" to meeting the even more stringent "CCC" Chinese consumer requirements. Although the switching occurs at 300kHz, the amplifier is free of RF emissions up through several MHz because of extensive mu-metal shielding. The amplifier and preamplifier are available in several different cosmetics including a white or black chassis with center section in gold or chassis color. Matching C-11 preamplifier and C31 CD player, with price points are also available.
Pass Laboratories, who introduced the Xs line of flagship 150W and 300W amplifiers at last year's CES, brought out a new preamplifier, the Pass Labs Xs preamplifier (price to be determined). It features a single control chassis that carries the line level audio signal and an external power supply. The Xs preamplifier was used to drive a pair of Pass Labs Xs300 ($85,000/pair) power amps connected to a pair of Sony SS-ARI ($27,000/pair) loudspeakers. The Pass Lab team obliged me by playing a fresh vinyl pressing from Japan of the Proprius Cantate Domino recording. The dynamic range and control of the pipe organ pedal notes was remarkable, making the Pass Labs one of the best-sounding setups I heard at the show the first day.
Peter Madnick's latest design for Constellation is the Virgo 2 preamplifier ($24,000), which uses an outboard power supply. It was shown with a Cygnus non-streaming Digital File Player ($24,000); Constellation's Centaur stereo amplifier ($28,000), Constellation's Centaur monoblocks ($56,000/pair). The Constellation amplifiers shown in the photo were driving the Magico Q7 loudspeakers ($165,000/pair) in biamped fashion, with a pair of Centaur monoblocks for the woofers, and a stereo Centaur for the midrange and tweeters. The resulting sound was smooth and very well controlled.
Boulder Amplifiers, Inc., introduced its new Model 3060 Stereo balanced, class-A amplifier ($114,000), a huge, 900Wpc, solid-state amplifier that weighs 450 lbs! Sitting nearby was the company's flagship monoblock, the silver 3060 ($205,000/pair), a class-A 1500W power amplifier shown in my photograph. A large cylindrical tube, containing 4 large mineral-potted toroidal power transformers, runs down the inside middle of the chassis. This is said to dampen any transformer-induced vibration. The mono amplifier uses 120 high-temperature rated bipolar transistors and 48, 160V, high-temperature rated, 4700µuF electrolytic capacitors for energy storage. Large circuit boards slide into frames at the top of the chassis, each board containing hundreds of discrete parts. With a pair of these amplifiers weighing 440 lbs, Boulder does not want this amplifier to require service, and its build quality signifies that.
At 95 lbs, Dan D'Agostino’s 300W into 8 ohms, Momentum monoblock amplifier ($50,000/pair) doesn’t even come close to the weight of the big Boulders. Featured on the cover of Stereophile’s CES issue, the Momentum could be heard in many rooms at CES. This compact, energy-efficient design was driving the new YG Electronics Sonja 1.3 speakers ($106,800/pair). The resulting sound was dynamic, effortless, open, and had a wide, deep soundstage.
Bryston's new product line-up for 2013 includes a replacement for its venerable 2B stereo amplifier, the 2.5B amplifier ($2995). Similar to the new BP-17 preamplifier ($3550, see below), the 2.5B amplifier is derived from the amplifier portion of its B-135 SST2 integrated amplifier (see related story). Bryston's James Tanner explained that the upgrade employs a much beefier power supply than its predecessor, allowing it to deliver 135Wpc into 8 ohm load impedances. Bryston's new BP-17 preamplifier ($3550) is derived from the preamplifier portion of its B-135 integrated amplifier, which features balanced outputs and advanced circuitry derived from the SP-3 surround processor. The B-17 closely resembles the B-135, differing externally only in not having heatsinks and speaker outputs on the rear panel. The BP17 utilizes a software controlled, motorized analog volume dial and integrated balance control.
Why is Bryston CEO Christopher Russell smiling? Because the company's new B135 integrated amplifier ($4695), which replaces the B100, offers improved quality without raising the price. "We learned a lot from designing the SP3 surround processor, and have managed reduce distortion by a level of 10 while also reducing noise," says Russell. "Our goal was musicality, and to promote music as a source of relaxation." (It sounds as though Russell favors Mozart over Mahler.) Part of the relaxation comes in the form of a full-function remote control.
Bryston showed a static model of its new loudspeaker system, the Model T Signature ($7495/pair), that is specified to handle 501100 watts into its 8 ohm impedance, with a frequency response from 25Hz22kHz, ±3dB. In active form, the Model T uses the AX1 external DSP crossover ($2995), but the passive version’s crossover features large, expensive air-coil inductors, as well as something brand new: Bryston capacitors. Working with Clarity, Bryston's James Tanner specified the exact requirements for these capacitors, which have both company's names featured on their blue exteriors. The Model T benefited from Bryston's close relationship with with Axiom, a speaker design company that has its own large anechoic chamber. The Model T is available in Black Ash, Boston Cherry, or Natural Cherry veneers.
Torus Power of Toronto has introduced two new power conditioners. The In-Wall Mount Power Conditioner (price TBD upon release in March), held by Matthew Roher, Business Development Manager, is an entry-level product that includes surge suppression, noise filtration. The black AVR2 ($4995), shows to Roher's right, offers an additional level of IP control to the company's AVR series, maintains a stable 120V, and includes an automatic shut-off designed to handle quick voltage changes.
Unison Research is the latest company to offer a power booster for low wattage amplifiers whose sound you love, but whose power is insufficient for your speakers. The Unico UPower booster amplifier ($2695 in silver, $2895 in black), pictured with Bartolomeo Nasta, Unison Research's Export Manager (left), and Marc Phillips, US Importer for Colleen Cardas Imports (right), is a class-A booster amplifier can quadruple output power up to 100Wpc, and, as with the Musical Fidelity Superchargers from few years back, is claimed not to change the sonic signature of the electronics it's paired with.