After admiring the Redpoint Model A's blueness, we turned our beady gaze to ModWright's blue $3995 LS-36.5 line stage preamplifier. It employs 6H30 tubes, with a 5AR4 tube rectifier. "We've added a phase inversion switch and balanced inputs and outputs," distributor Frank L. Kraus said.
Redpoint's Peter Clark says, "Your heart doesn't beat in ones and zeroes—it's analog." That's why he builds turntables, 'tables machined from solid billets of aircraft aluminum and configures the platter, motor, and tonearm platforms on separate support pods on a common platform.
Many of the best-sounding rooms at the show employed Ayre's $16,500/pair 300W MX-R monoblock amplifiers. Yes, they look small enough to be class-D amplifiers, but they're pure analog. How'd they do it? The entire enclosure is the heatsink and Ayre's Charlie Hansen designed a special low-rise transformer, used in pairs, to keep the chassis so compact.
Anthony Gallo has long had a reputation for wresting top dollar performance from small packages, but we've always wondered if he secretly hankered to go big. Anthony Gallo Acoustics' $15,000/pair Reference 5LS certainly answered that question.
The 150Wpc Boulder 865 integrated amplifier (approximately $10,000) is only four days old, so we tiptoed into the room in order not to wake it up. Richard Maez (seen here at the back of the photo) was elated that the 865 had actually made it to the show, but he was even happier to run down the details.
"Check this out!" Boulder's Richard Maez palmed the remote that accompanies Boulder's 865 integrated amp and 810 preamplifier. "It really fits in your hand—and unlike most remotes, it fits whether you're using your right or your left hand."
One of my favorite records—which I selected as a Record To Die For a few years ago—is Sure Thing, songs by Jerome Kern sung by Sylvia McNair, accompanied by Andre Previn on the piano, with David Finck on string bass. When I walked into the Siltech room, they were playing another recording by Sylvia McNair, with accompaniment by Previn and Finck, this one songs by Harold Arlen, a recording that I have somehow missed getting. The recording sounded quite lovely through Siltech's new speakers (still in prototype form), and I commented on it to the gentleman doing the demo. "I engineered that recording," he said. It turns out that John Newton (left), president of Siltech America, engineered not only Sylvia McNair's Harold Arlen's CD but also her Jerome Kern album. We chatted about the recordings, not the technical but the musical aspects, which served as a most welcome reminder of the interest in music that at a fundamental level forms the basis of this hobby. On the right of picture is yours truly (not Sylvia).
As Wes Phillips reported a day or so ago, The folks at PS Audio have been extremely busy of late. There have all new designs for power-line conditioners, some of them descendants of the highly-successful Power Plant active devices, others passive filter designs. An impressive couple of demonstrations by Paul McGowan showed how a competing power-line conditioner was unable to cope with a power surge that was handled with aplomb by the PS Audio product, and, similarly, a competitor’s product (with the name taped over to protect the innocent) did almost nothing to power line noise that was effectively filtered by the PS Audio product. The loving couple in the picture are PS's Terri and Paul McGowan.
Press conferences can sometimes be tedious affairs, with the presenter going on-and-on about his company's past accomplishments, and how even greater things are coming in the future. But this description did not apply to the press conference for Usher Audio Technology at this year’s CES. This was more like an informal party for friends than the prototypical press conference. People stood around and chatted for a while, and then Atul Kanagat of MusikMatters, Usher’s North American distributor, talked briefly about how Usher’s line of high-value/high-performance loudspeakers is intended to bring more music lovers into the hobby. We then listened to some music through some very-nice-sounding Usher speakers. Pictured are PR consultant Jonathan Scull (whose name should be familiar to Stereophile readers, Usher chief engineer Joe D’Appolito (whose name should be familiar to students of speaker design), Tsai Lien-Shui (President of Usher), and Atul Kanagat.
I’m not fond of using earplugs, so I haven’t really investigated listening to music with in-the-ear-canal type earphones. However, I've read reports from the likes of Wes Phillips and John Atkinson, extolling the virtues of these type of earphones, so when I saw the sign at the Shure booth that they had some new models in this series, I thought I'd give them a listen. The ones I tried were the top-of-the-line SE530 ($449.99), which are described as "triple TruAcoustic microspeakers," with a separate tweeter and two woofers. I listened to "Nessun Dorma" sung by Pavarotti—the source was an iPod—and was quite blown away with the effortless ease and natural quality of the sound. Maybe there is something to earphone listening after all...
Modern Audio Consultants’ Richard Gerberg showed me a new $6000/pair loudspeaker from English company ProAc, the two-way D28. The 60 lb floorstander, designed by ProAc founder Stewart Tyler , includes a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a 6.5" bass/midbass driver. I was able to audition the loudspeakers driven by a new $3000 Sugden 21 SE CD player, a $4000 Sugden 21SC integrated amplifer, and ProAc speaker cable. The D28’s sound was smooth, detailed, and musical. I particulary enjoyed playing Jamie Cullen’s Twenty Something album. Richard told me that the album had been recorded and edited using ProAc loudspeakers. Perhaps that was one reason the D28s sounded so good!
VTL introduced a new phono preamplifier at CES, the $6500 TP-6.5 Signature Phono Stage, as well as an upgraded MB-450 Signature monoblock amplifier. Using the single-chassis configuration of the TL-6.5 line preamplifier, VTL's phono preamplifier follows its hybrid design approach, using a low-noise J-FET to drive high-current 12AU7 tubes. It features switchable, five-corner, passive RIAA filtering. Gain, cartridge load impedance, phase, muting, rumble filter, and power on/off can be switched by remote.
When it comes to directivity in loudspeaker frequency response, the trend has been to make them less directional, both vertically and horizontally, so that the speakers would be less sensitive to seating position and allow more then one person to enjoy the same tonal balance. The new Copernicus II ($21,000/pair with powered subwoofers and digital equalization/phase correction) from Alltronics Technical Systems takes the opposite approach, going for maximum directionality/focus. The drivers form a vertical line source with a concave curve, the speakers being "aimed" at a seated listener. Not only that, but there's a motorized control moving the speaker up and down to match the exact height of the listener's ears when seated. These are what I'd call "bachelor’s speakers!" They are certainly not designed for listening by couples, but the upside is the the soundstage can be extremely precise and three-dimensional, and the sound itself was well-balanced and dynamic. Here’s designer Dennis Althar with his baby.
Divergent Technologies’ Tash Goka introduced a new top speaker in the Reference 3A line: the Grand Veena ($7500/pair), which, in addition to two woofers, a midrange and a tweeter, also has a Murata supertweeter that covers the range from 20kHz to 100kHz. The sonic contribution of the supertweeter is acknowledged to be "not easily detectable by conventional means," but is said to improve the speaker’s spatial quality and have positive effects outside of its nominal operating range. The Grand Veenas sounded mighty nice driven by Antique Sound Labs' new Cadenza amps ($6500/pair).