Hovland's Stylin' New Preamp & DAC
Hovland introduced a new preamp; in fact it was so new that it hasn't been named yet, and the price hasn't been determined ($16k–$18k range). The only thing known for sure is that it's a solid-state design, with balanced inputs and outputs, and has the blue back-lighting that Hovland is known for. It's another contender for the “Most Beautiful $18k Preamp” title.
Also being demmed in the Hovland room was a prototype of a transport/ripper/DAC. Based on a Linux platform and styled to match the new preamp, this uses a laptop DVD drive not only to play back discs via a 2GB buffer, but also to rip them to a network drive. Using the new preamp and a pair of Hovland Stratos 400W solid-state monoblocks driving Avalon Eidolon Diamond speakers, with Hovland cables, Hovland’s Alex Crespi used it to play JA Eric Clapton’s "Old Love" (from 24 Nights) from his Apple laptop running iTunes. JA was mightily impressed. Alex then followed that by playing two versions of a baroque voice/harp recording, the only difference being that one was an uncompressed AIF file and the other was lossless-compressed ALC. The data presented to the DAC were identical yet the AIF sounded better. JA walked out of the room vowing to forget what he had just heard! "Just too audible for comfort," he was heard muttering.