Thanks to using very precise and low-noise parts not originally designed for hi-fi applications, as well as silicon-germanium transistors, Hegel has been able to release its new entry-level P20 preamplifier ($2900). Equipped with a high quality system remote control, milled out of one solid piece of aluminum, it includes five regular inputs, both balanced and unbalanced; a special home theater input; and balanced, unbalanced, and fixed line-level outputs.
Bel Canto has three asynchronous USB link converters new to CES this year starting with the mLink at $375, the uLink at $675 and the REFLink at $1,500. All three units can handle 24/192 sample rates and will isolate the music signal, and clocks, from the "harsh, noisy electrical environments of computers and music servers."
The first time I had come across a highly precise (and expensive) femto clock in a DAC was at last year's CES in the MSB room. This year Calyx says they have added a femto clock into their new DAC which is available now and retails for $6850. Inputs include two coax, two optical and two AES-EBU in addition to a BNC and USB jack. All inputs handle up to 24/192 and there are both balanced and unbalanced outputs.
Naim had jumped early into the digital networking waters several years back, and their most recent state-of-the-art offering is the NDS Network Player. Retailing at $11,000, the NDS also requires purchase of a power supply; the company recommends the 555 PS at $9,000.
The NDS can stream music from your NAS drive (ethernet and WiFi), has a built-in vTuner for internet radio, connections for your iDevices, and plenty of input choices including three 32/192 SPDIF jacks.
There is a small monochrome display on the front panel, and a push-button remote. But most users will probably gravitate towards the Naim n-Stream app that runs your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
Come February, assures Wireworld's National Sales Manager Larry Smith, virtually all of the company's Series 6 will cede to the new Series 7. New to the line will be musical instrument and headphone cables. As explained in a Waveform Fidelity White Paper, of which I seem to have inadvertently absconded with a mere 17 copiesapologies both to the company and the ecologythe entire Series 7 was developed using digital differencing technology.
Once US distribution is secured, Bladelius' Thomas Rosander (left) and Michael Bladelius (right) are set to hit the market running with the new Ymer Mk.II power amplifier ($12,000). This handsome baby delivers 300Wpc, and is said to maintain class-A operation for the first 45 watts. "It has a fuller, richer, more musical sound than its predecessor, and better control on the bottom," Bladelius told me. Don't we all wish we had better control of our bottom ends, especially as we age?
Also in the Naim room is the company's new DAC-V1, which is a smallish size component meant to pair with the equally compact NAP 100 power amp. The DAC-V1 retails for $2395 (the amp goes for $1295) and sports multiple inputs including USB that runs up to 384kHz and SPDIF that can handle up to 32/192. It has a volume control and I loved that fact that if you touch the logo on the front panel, the unit mutes itself. Both products should be available shortly in the US.
The Burmester music server was one of my favorite products of last year's CES. Pricey at $50,000, it nonetheless has that feel of a product where the designers have though of everything you would want in a music server. Since last year there have been some refinements and I had a chance to play with the iPad app (there is an iPad in the box with the app loaded) which allows complete and instant control of the system including music selection and volume control. Everything worked quite smoothly and Burmester's Robert Hagemann picked out some cool music for the demo too!
Darren Censullo of Avatar Acoustics always puts on a good show, but with his wife, Bonnie, was eager at CES to introduce Canadian company Tri-Art Audio, whose founder, Steve Ginsberg, has returned to his audio roots after a detour in the artistic acrylic paints industry. Tri-Art's "The Block" 50W monoblock amplifiers (price TBD, probably around $2500$2600), "The Bam Bam" turntable and tonearm (again probably around $2600), and "The Block" 24V DC battery power supply (price TBD) include new digital chips, are voiced with natural materials, and boast a very simple single-ended signal path.
Audioquest has filled out its series of ethernet cables. In the photo, the company's Shane Buettner holds the top of the line Diamond ($1095/1.5 meter) ethernet cable, which features 100% PSS (pure silver) and Audioquest's DBS dielectric bio-system, whose battery pack puts a DC bias on the cable's insulation. Also new is the cable right beneath it, the Vodka ($249/1.5 meter), composed of silver-plated copper. The cable's extremely solid connectors are a major step above the plastic terminations found on stock ethernet cables.
At a show in which far too many of the rooms on my beatrooms showing new amps or preamps in the $2500$15,000 range, new cables, or new power products or accessoriessounded hard, harsh, and hi-fi, VTL's new S-200 Stereo Signature amplifier ($10,000) and TL6.5 Series II Signature line preamplifier ($13,000) stood out for their welcoming warmth, relaxed flow, and unfailing musicality. The S-200 is a fully balanced stereo amp with a class-A/B output stage that is said to remain in class-A up to 70 watts. In development for close to six years, it arrives equipped with VTL's familiar auto-biasing and fault sensor.
With Jon Iverson covering digital products for Stereophile, and me covering preamps and amps in the $2500$15,000 range, I tossed a virtual coin and went for the new Vitus RD-100 ($13,000). Billed as "Reference Digital to Analog Converter," it is 50% DAC, and 50% preamp. Hans-Ole Vitus himself displays the product, which includes a full-blown relay volume control with a single resistor in series to ensure a very short signal path and a consistent sonic signature at all volume levels. Built with separate internal modulesfour for the DAC, and four for the preampit is said to be fully upgradeable. The DAC handles files up to 32/192 via USB and has a total of four RCA and XLR inputs, while the preamp also includes two XLR and two RCA inputs and both XLR and RCA outputs.
Daddy Vitus, watch out! Your equipment designer son Alexander, whose relatively young company you've helped bankroll, is hot on your heels. On display were the new Alluxity Pre ONE preamplifier ($8000) and Power ONE amplifier ($11,000). Not yet available in the US, though that may change shortly, the chassis are milled from a single aluminum block. A brief listen to Billie Holiday revealed a nice three-dimensionality, as well as the hard edge that plagued numerous systems on the 29th floor of the Venetian.
I hadn't seen Audionet before, but apparently they have been operating for several years in Germany and had a complete range of products in one of the larger rooms at T.H.E. Show. Of particular interest to me is their DNC DAC, which is available now and retails in the US for $8990. DNC stands for Digital Network Client and the product can access music from the standard 24/192 digital sources as well has NAS drives and iDevices.
So far so good, but what really caught my eye was watching the company's head engineer, Volker Wischniowski, pull up a laptop and start to manipulate frequency response curves which could then be uploaded to the DNC.
In an age of rectangular components, adding a large round object to your product is a way to set it apart. Witness the Dan D'Agostino amplifier gracing this month's Stereophile cover for example, and add Germany's B.M.C. Audio to the list as evidenced by their new PureDAC Digital-to-Analog Converter. Speaking of round, the company is also known for its BDCD1.1 belt-drive CD player which has an acrylic "turntable" for your disc to rest on inside.
Retail price for the DAC will be somewhere under $1,600 (which is inexpensive by B.M.C. standards) and will feature all the usual inputs including asynch USB as well as volume and input switching. There is also a headphone jack with its own dedicated volume control.