Once again, Unison Research scored a 10. Distributed by Colleen Cardas and Marc Phillips of Colleen Cardas Imports, the new Unison Research Triode 25 integrated amplifier ($3495) exhibited beautiful sweetness and marvelous delicacy in a Handel piano recording by Murray Perahia (whom I’m going to hear live on February 20, yippee). The amp is switchable between 22Wpc in triode mode and 45Wpc in pentode, and sounds equally fine in both.
Shown in Tom Norton’s photo are the Platinum versions of Dynaudio’s Confidence C2 floorstander ($15,000, left) and C1 stand-mount (middle)loudspeakers in the new Platinum trim, which I had seen and heard at 2013 shows. But I was more interested in the news that the Excite 12 loudspeaker, which has been a reference for Bob Reina since he reviewed it in March 2010, has been replaced by the Excite X14 ($1500/pair). My photo wasn’t usable, unfortunately, but I auditioned the X14s in a system comprising the Octave V40 SE 45Wpc, tube integrated amplifier ($5300), T+A DAC S8 ($3250), with Amarra running on a MacBook, Dynaudio Stand 3X stands ($350/pair), and in-akustik Reference interconnects and speaker cables, and was impressed by what I heard.
I was getting bored with my own opening question asking exhibitors do you have anything that's new for under $2000. For two days, I was getting either a gleeful "Yes!" or a slow "No but . . ." Mike Manousselis, Director of Marketing for Dynaudio USA, surprised me with a new answer: "Well, we have something that is not new but it's price is new and it is now under $2000."
I know this is a lousy picture but it doesn't matter because the important product in it, the new AURALiC Aries Music Streamer (second from the top) is a prototype and it is housed in an enclosure borrowed from the AURALiC Vega DAC (top of the stack) recently praised by JA in the February issue. The Aries ($999) is the link between the NAS where you store your music files and your USB DAC. It is the first implementation of AURALiC's Lightning streaming protocol, based on 802.11ac Gigabit WiFi and capable of gapless play of all current formats, in stereo, up to 32/384, DXD, and DSD128 as well as all common lossy and lossless formats. The Aires has built-in Internet radio and is compatible with all major platforms and many other streaming protocols, including UPnP and DLNA.
"It's a black box. It's a music source, it plays everything. Forget about converters and other technologies." So stated Genesis' Gary Koh when I asked him to explain the new Genesis Muse. Koh noted that they've been running a home-brew server in their rooms at CES since 2006, so it seemed only logical to turn it into a product.
However, there are specifications: the Linux-based system comes configured with 1TB SSD, has 2 USB 3.0 inputs for adding storage, has ethernet for network connectivity and streaming, and includes both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs. You can also add an optional CD ROM drive to rip CDs, backup via a cloud-based approach, and control it with any app compatible with the Squeezebox protocol.
One cool feature is that it will stream to your iPad for headphone listening if you like. Price will be around $15,000 when it appears "probably in spring this year."
Replacing the venerable CD5, Audio Research has released the new CD6 which includes asynchronous USB, and the other usual digital inputs. Inside are quad DACs running a balanced configuration that doubles/upsamples whatever comes in over USB and quadruples 44k and 48k digital sources.
Pricing is $9,000 and users will also be able to choose between two filters. AR stated that they see the CD6 as a bridge between discs collections and computer audio.
Bel Canto is moving decidedly upmarket with the new Black system. Jason will cover the amps, so I'll stick to the pre/DAC here. The ASC1 will interface specifically with the MPS1 monobloc amps via custom LightLink ST fiber interfaces and cables. There are nine inputs, and capabilities include analog sources, AES, SPDIF, Toslink and UPnP/DLNA streaming up to 24/384 PCM as well as DSD64 and 128.
The ASC1 retails for $20,000. When you add the amps, the entire system is $50k.
Project is adding some more midi-size products to its line. In addition to the STREAM BOX noted by Kal, a new product this year is the Class-A tube balanced output DAC BOX RS (pictured at the bottom right), which should be available now for around $1,000 or so. Users can switch between tube and solid state output and the DAC accepts all the usual inputs at PCM rates up to 24/192. Digital processing is built around two BurrBrown 1792 chips.
Above the DAC is the new PRE BOX RS Digital preamp/DAC also available shortly for $1,500. This one also had a headphone amp built in with switchable impedance and damping factor from the front panel.
Kalman Rubinson mentions the big news from Cambridge Audio earlier in this report: the Minx Xi streaming device. Also worth mentioning is that the company announced the $1,649 851D DAC/Pre, which in addition to normal DAC functions, can accept a stream from your phone or other Bluetooth device. Available now.
Sim Audio's Lionel Goodfield notes that CDs are still major parts of most audiophile music collections, so he wanted to develop a player to maximize the format's potential while keeping costs under control. The result is the Neo 2600 for $2,000 that features a floating transport and borrows much of its technology from the company's more expensive 650D from the Evolution Series.
The 2600 also has SPDIF and AES/EBU inputs and can be upgraded for $1,000 with an internal 32 bit DAC that also adds a USB input. Available in black, silver and 2-tone.
This year has seen Ayre add DSD capability to both the QB-9 DAC ($3250) and QA-9 ADC ($3950). Older QB-9s can be upgraded for $500 (makes everything sound better they say), and the QA-9 gets a free firmware update.
Jason mentions the new NAD Master Series below, but it's worth fleshing out the M12 DAC/Pre. Inside is basically the same DAC as the M51 which has been updated it a bit. The M12 also features NAD's MDC or Modular Design Construction chassis, meaning there are several card slots on the back for a variety of inputs including their new BluOS on a card to tie it in with the new Bluesound products from parent company Lenbrook Industries
The M12 (which NAD calls a Host component) will be available in May for $3,499.
I’ve had a couple of conversations the past couple of years with mastering engineer Dave Collins about the D/A processor he was designing for Manley Labs, the company run by his wife EveAnna Manley. The 2014 CES saw the consumer debut of the Heart Monitor Controller 24/192 DSP ΔΣ [Delta-Sigma] DAC, which was being demmed in a system featuring Manley’s 25th Anniversary monoblocks, which use KT120 tubes. There are four digital inputs and Dave has kept the fully differential signal path as short as possible. Silicon includes a SHARC DSP and AD1955 DAC chips and harmonic distortion has been kept to a superbly low 120dB, and even that is the subjectively benign second. Price has yet to be decided.
Like Stephen Mejias at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I have been impressed by the German Zellaton speakers when I have heard them, both at shows, and at a dealer event I attended in 2012 at Fidelis Audio in New Hampshire. With foil-covered drive-units, a crossover from Duelund Coherent Audio, and driven by Trinity balanced phono and line preamps and 200Wpc CH M1 amplification from Switzerland, the three-way Reference speakers sounded forceful and detailed.
Jon Iverson already reported on the Antelope DAC, but as I have just favorably reviewed their SCM 7 v.3 minimonitor for the forthcoming April issue of Stereophile, I was more interested in the active ATC SCM100SL Towers in the room. This speaker combines ATC's proprietary soft-dome midrange driver with a 1" tweeter and 12" woofer, tri-amped by ATC's Anniversary amplification. With a laptop running JRiver Media Center feeding data to the Antelope Zodiac-Platinum DAC with its Voltikus power supply, the 24/96 transfer of Steely Dan's "Babylon Sisters" was reproduced with tight, well-controlled low frequencies.