The ebullient Irv Gross, Director of Sales at Constellation, greeted me when I walked into the company's exhibit room at CES 2017. He pointed to the back of the room when I asked whether Constellation had introduced a new amplifier: there waited the 185-lb, 500Wpc Centaur II Stereo ($55,000), connected to a pair of Magico M3 loudspeakers ($84,000/pair) via thick MIT speaker cables.
Now this should be interesting. We walk down the hall to the Nagra suite (in a similarly sized room to dCS) and there are the same speakers we just heard at dCS, but this time with completely different electronics. I set up my laptop, with Roon in "Exclusive Mode" as always, and test that we have sound.
Due to a scheduling conflict I missed the press conference with power point presentation (you can see the slides here), but having spent some time with Chord's Rob Watts in the past, I'm sure the new products are packed with carefully thought out tech. Pictured here is the new Chord Hugo2, which follows on the heels of the successful Hugo DAC launched three years ago.
The palm-sized Chord Mojo DAC/Headphone amp is arguably one of the best portable audio invigoration devices around, so why not add some more super-powers? The Poly is a networking "module" which adds streaming, network and SD card playback to the Mojo. The Poly is about half the size of the Mojo and snaps onto one end. Very clever.
An upscaling CD Transport. Yes you read right, this CD transport upscales your discs using, according to Chord, "the power of the new Xilinx XC7A200T FPGA, which has a standout 740 DSP cores, to develop sophisticated WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filtering and upscaling algorithms which can output digital data at 705.6kHz (16 x CD’s 44.1kHz native resolution)." Whew!
There's nothing remotely reticent about California Audio Technology's (CAT's) new CAT MBX 900 Trinity satellite loudspeakers ($50,000/pair) and companion CAT MBX 58 Miramar subwoofers ($50,000/pair). Designed to be used together, their presentation mirrors the strong, driving energy of Brian Barr, founder and CEO of the 27-year old company.
For those of you who like all of your functions tucked away in a single shiny box, Burmester has a product for you. The main all-in-one 161 Receiver is based on the company's Music Server 151 and the system also includes the B15 speakers (not shown) and the handy empty case that sits below the active electronics. Burmester says the empty case with fold down front door (shown below) is part of the product since their customers don't like clutter and prefer to store extraneous stuff like AppleTV boxes and game consoles out of the way. I realize that probably sounds a bit pretentious to some, but it makes sense to me, since I tend to go out of my way to hide wires and power supplies.
The Acoustique Quality Passion loudspeakers ($20,000/pair) made their way to Las Vegas from the Czech Republic, courtesy of Vladimir Sapara. The flagship loudspeaker in the Acoustique line, it is based on 25 years of loudspeaker design, and features a cabinet by Novague Design.
The Micromega M-One has more features than any of those silver-age contraptions, but to my eye, it is the purest, most high-design-beautiful audio machine on the planet. And, of course, it's made in France.