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."
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news that the Excite 12 loudspeaker, which has been a reference for Bob Reina since he reviewed it in March 2010, has been replaced by the Excite X14 ($1500/pair).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.