E.A.R. USA took advantage of CES to announce the world premiere of the Origo cable line from Jorma Design of Sweden. Prices for loudspeaker cables start at $7000 for the first meter, while interconnects start at $5250 for a 1-meter pair. A cable that, I am told, counts Japan as its major market, two of Jorma's lines have been designated "Product of the Year" by a leading Japanese audiophile publication. Jorma's extensive line starts with Jorma No.3 ($1450 for a 1m pair of speaker cables), and proceeds to Jorma No.2 ($2860 for a 1m pair of speaker cables), Jorma No.1 ($5000 for that pair), the new Origo, and the top-of-the line Jorma Prime ($12,800 for a 1m pair of speaker cables). All lines include loudspeaker cables in both single and bi-wire terminations, RCA and XLR interconnects, and jumpers. An Origo power cable, aptly named Origo Power, is due out shortly.
Between 150 and 200 producers of cables and components rely on WBT for their terminations and connectors. Hence, any advance in their line has profound implications for audiophiles. This year, WBT was touting its Nextgen terminations. Composed of either pure copper or fine silver, Nextgen connectors s boast less mass than other WBT terminations, and are claimed to yield superior sound.
Innovation comes from surprising places. Esoteric has always focused on pushing the state of the art with their flagship and pricey digital players (the financially squeemish can skip to another post now), but they've also begun to accommodate digital media wherever it may be found.
Esoteric has upgraded the wiring and parts inside the flagship P-01 and D-01 SACD/CD transport and DAC and has renamed them the P01-VU and D01-VU respectively. Each DAC is a single channel and retails for $16k and the transport will run you $32k. These are superbly built and incredible sounding digital products. Even if you can't afford them, just be glad they exist in our world.
The touchscreen music server market has picked up a new face with the official release of Blue Smoke's "The Black Box". Demonstrated in prototype form at last year's CES, the final version is a sleek, um, black box with a single disc slot on the front and an array of connectors on the back. Retail is $6995 and should be hitting dealer shelves Q1 2009.
Peachtree Audio has declared that "Computer Audio is here to stayso let's make it sound right." The 80Wpc Nova ($1199) includes an ESS 9006 Sabre DAc, which has a jitter reduction circuit and a 24-bit/96kHz upsampler. It employs a 6922 tube tas the driver for its class-A/B output stage. It decodes MP3, MP4, FLAC, AIFF, ALC, "plus all others. It even has a slot in the back to accommodate a Sonos ZP80/90. And did I mention that it has an HT pass-through? Or 11 regulated power supplies? That last is to isolate separate sections from digitally generated noise.
Luke Manley was muttering about the problems he was having naming the latest iteration of the VTL TL-5.5 line preamplifier ($6000). "I've already done a signature version and I don't want to confuse peopleit really does represent major improvements in sound."
Is the CD dying? Judging by the flurry of new CD player and transport news at the Venetian it's hard to tell. Or maybe this show is living proof that CD has joined vinyl as a legacy format that will forever inspire technical development.
Possibly the most visually striking product I've seen at the show so far is the 20Wpc dual-mono integrated the LARS ($100,000). Designed by Lars Engstrom and hand-built in Sweden, the LARS has two separate chassis, one for each channelwith inputs also on each channel. An umbilical transmits control commands from the right channel to the left.