Arcam used to CES to launch a “statement” integrated amplifier, the FMJ A49. Priced at $5000, the A49 offers 200Wpc into 8 ohms (with the first 50W in class-A), 400Wpc into 4 and features a class-G output stage, fully balanced topology, MM/MC phono stages, and a onboard power supply for Arcam’s rSeries of wired and wireless DACs. While Arcam’s lower-priced products are made in China, the new amplifier is the first products to be manufactured in the USA, at the parent company’s facility in Rochester, New York.
The German ADAM company has been developing the idea of the Air Motion Transformer HF unit, originally developed by Dr. Oskar Heil. The latest version of their tweeter, the X-ART tweeter, is featured in the Mk.II version of the Tensor Beta loudspeaker ($25,000/pair), which was being demmed with Cary electronics. The X-ART tweeter is married to a folded-ribbon upper-midrange unit, a new lower midrange unit and two woofers, all mounted on a solid aluminum baffle. The enclosure is made from 1” and 2” MDF panels, extensively crossbraced. Interestingly, waffle-shaped inner panels are loosely filled with steel shot, which absorbs vibrational energy. The speaker is also supported on fluid-filled feet to further absorb vibration.
Scottish manufacturer Tannoy was showing the Carbon Black version of the Kingdom Royal speaker ($85,000/pair), which adds carbon-fiber trim panels, individually machined metal components, and a “specially formulated” paint on the cabinet surfaces. The speaker combines a 12” Dual-Concentric driver with a supertweeter and a 15”, vented woofer with a corrugated surround for maximum linearity. The Kingdom Royal looked elegant indeed, and driven by Cary single-ended power amplifiers with Cary’s new streamer as source, the full-range, wide-dynamic-range sound was equally elegant.
On first glimpse, Nola’s Carl Marchisotto appeared to be demming the same Concert Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers he had shown at the 2013 CES. However, those were the preproduction protypes and the 2014 show featured the production version. Costing the same $197,000/pair, the speaker features a new ribbon supertweeter taking the response up to 100kHz and two new Gold Technology woofers operating below 40Hz. Driven by an Audio Research Reference 75 stereo amplifier and an Audio Research Reference 10 preamp, with source two United Home Audio Tape decks running 15ips, 2-track analog tape and hooked up with Nordost Odin cabling, the sound in this room had an impressive, full-range sweep that usefully loosened up as the show progressed and the speakers/system broke in.
With new US distribution, by the Katli Audio Co. from LA, the Taiwanese Usher loudspeaker manufacturer premiered its Grand Tower flagship ($37,800/pair) at CES. Combining Usher’s diamond-dome tweeter with two in-house 7" midrange units and two Eton 11" woofers, the Grand Tower weighs 500 lbs and has a claimed low-frequency extension of 24Hz, with a 90dB sensitivity. My experience of a percussion recording suggests that both specifications are valid!
The Belgian Venture company introduced its Vidi speaker at CES. Costing $30,000/pair, the floorstanding, three-way Vidi speaker combines two 4" midrange units with a 1" tweeter and two 7" woofers, these mounted on the speaker’s sidewalls. All the drive-units use AGC (Abaca Graphite Composite) diaphragms. The crossover operates with first-order slopes at 250Hz and 3kHz and the speaker is specified as having a frequency range of 30Hz to 40kHz. Used fullrange but with an AW500 subwoofer also operating below 70Hz, the beautifully gloss-finished Vidis did a creditable job with the the live Bootleg Series recording of Bob Dylan’s "Desolation Row," played back from a laptop running the XX HighEnd software feeding digital data to a Weiss Medusa DAC. The opening up of the soundstage as the initially mono recording, made with a Nagra tape recorder, was spliced to the stereo backup tape when the Nagra ran out of tape, was delicious.
Jason Serinus mentioned the Rosso Fiorentino Florentia loudspeakers ($99,995/pair) in his report on the Graaf amplifier in the Avatar Acoustics room below. This four-way speaker enclosure features aluminum front panels and glass side panels and weighs 361.5 lbs. The midrange and treble units are mounted in an open baffle, while the top-mounted woofer and the twin 12" subs are mounted in sealed enclosure. The subs are driven by a 1500W amplifier and the sensitivity is claimed to be 89dB.
The Polar Vortex weather and its associated flight cancellations prevented Convergent Audio Technology’s Ken Stevens from reaching Las Vegas until the third day of the show. However, once he arrived, he set up a system featuring Vandersteen 5A Carbon speakers, connected by Stealth cables to his new JL5 Triode "Baby CAT" stereo power amplifier. This 100Wpc (8 ohms) amplifier costs $12,000 with amorphous core transformers and Black Gate capacitors, $10,000 with silicon-steel transformers. The circuit features what Ken calls "OptiBias"Ken describes this as "somewhere between constant current and constant power"which keeps the bias current of the output-stage KT120 tubes independent of fluctuations in the AC supply voltage. Those who feel tube amplifiers can’t rock hard in the bass should have experienced the Led Zeppelin track I auditioned in Ken’s room.
Darren Censullo's Avatar Acoustics did itself proud with a system that, on one of John Atkinson's recordings of male vocal ensemble Cantus, delivered totally natural and clear sound with beautiful layering and air, and natural timbres to boot. And as much as Shelby Lynne's "Little Lovin'" is getting less and less lovin' from me each time I discover multiple rooms playing it at showsaren't there any other good tracks on her very well-recorded album?Lynne's bass accompaniment was very profound, and the heart-warming beauty of the sound most impressive.
Is it any surprise Audio Consulting and Scaena, otherwise known as Switzerland meets South Florida, sounded excellent? From Audio Consulting, who were making their first show appearance since 2008, and is now sold direct from Nashville, we experienced numerous products. The first, the Audio Consulting MIPA (Mains Independent Power Amplifier) Silver Rock Toroidal amplifier, is available in stereo 30W ($45,000), mono 120W, and 30W/120W switchable ($52,000) configurations. A battery-driven, solid-state class-A switching amplifier, it has customizable inputs and outputs and is housed in a wood chassis.
Given Dan D'Agostino's products recent awardsStereophile Joint Amplification Component of the 2013 for the original Momentum monoblock amplifier, and CES 2014 Innovations Design and Engineering awards for the Momentum preampit's no wonder everyone was buzzing around the new Momentum integrated amplifier ($45,000). Manufactured inyou're going to love thisCarefree, AZ, the Momentum integrated is a no-compromise design that includes the same preamp and stereo boards used in the Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems' separates
Quasi-secreted in the front half of his father Dan’s room, Bret D’Agostino showed off the rethought aesthetics, better class-A power, and additional refinement of his new BSC 5 series. Available now are the M5 monoblocks ($28,500/pair), which replace the 100M monoblocks; S5 class-A stereo amplifier ($15,000); and optional amplifier Base 5 ($1600). Coming in March is the L5 line stage preamplifier ($14,500). Bret is responsible for the entire design, inside and out, which pushes the envelope of his original design topology. There was no way to audition the products, but I can only assume that they improve upon the sound of their predecessors, some which I enthused about last year at T.H.E. Show.
Alexander Vitus Mogensen was deservedly bright-eyed about his equally handsome AVM-TEC Alluxity Pre One ($9150). Designed with the lifestyle conscious in mind, the Pre One first reached Asia last summer, and is now appearing in the US courtesy of distributor Light Harmonic. Its relay-operated volume control adjusts in 3dB intervals, and then decreases to a still large (in my estimation) 1.5dB as volume increases. It also offers balanced, zero global feedback topology, easily upgradable internal modules, five inputs (RCA and XLR), and two outputs.
I found the combination of Jadis and Spendor totally magical. It certainly flattered a CD of a Rossini String Symphony with the warm and special sound that made former Stereophile editor turned publicist Jonathan Scull salivate over Jadis products when they first reached the US from France two decades ago, and impelled me to buy the DA-7 amplifier, a later incarnation of the Defy 7 amp that J10 reviewed.
"Bass really impressive . . . very neutral," I wrote in my notes as I listened to the Budapest Symphony Orchestra blast away in the last movement of Mahler's Symphony 1. "Really excellent in clarifying complex instrumental layers that other systems blend together. A little toned down on top and lacking in ultimate color, but rich in ultimate clarity and control."