New Products Abound
This year, Wes Phillips and Jon Iverson dutifully trod many miles of Las Vegas concrete, but were able to capture only part of the show. In fairness to all exhibitors, they decided to write up only those demos they actually attended. This policy serves readers, too, because a show report that attempts to mention every display is almost as entertaining as a random page from the phone book, and almost as informative.
There were many new audio products at CES that didn't find their way into Stereophile.com. Among them are a pair of in-wall speakers from multiple award-winning Joseph Audio. Based on the company's RM-7si Signature Mk. II minimonitor (winner of the Stereophile 2002 Joint Loudspeaker award), the Insider in-wall speaker is said to offer better imaging and clarity than competitors' products, thanks to premium-quality drivers and Joseph Audio's "Infinite Slope" crossover technology that minimizes acoustic interference from adjacent woofer and tweeter. Price on the Insiders is $1999/pair.
Joseph Audio employs its Infinite Slope in its Cinergy center-channel speaker. The crossover is said to be so effective at eliminating driver interference that the speaker sounds nearly identical positioned horizontally or vertically. The company has also introduced a compact new subwoofer bearing the Cinergy badge. Priced at $3299, the Cinergy Precision Subwoofer packs a 1000W amplifier and 12" aluminum-cone woofer into a cabinet measuring only 14" W x 15" H x 17.5" D. Included with the sub are a calibration system and microphone to reduce boominess caused by room resonances. The claimed result: "smoother, better-defined, deeper, snappier, more lifelike and powerful bass," according to the company.
Joule Electra has launched three new products: the LA-150 line-stage preamplifier, the OPS-2 phono stage, and the 200Wpc VZN-220 "Rite of Passage" monoblock amplifier. The LA-150 betters the acclaimed LA-100 with improvements "throughout the audio spectrum, " according to designer and company president Jud Barber. Priced at $5250, the LA-150 features an all-tube power supply with 150,000 microFarads of energy storage, a "pure DC" battery supply for signal grids in the gain stage, a triple-pole stereo/mono switch for minimum interchannel crosstalk, a passive volume/balance scheme that operates "outside the signal path," and anti-resonance construction that shields the signal circuit board from outside vibration.
Joule is especially proud of its new single triodes, 6C45-P "Russian military wonder tubes," in Barber's words. "Each 6C45-P has the gain and power of 15 12AX7s in parallel . . . with only a single triode in the signal path, it's the simplest and most elegant circuit for a tube amplifier. One 6C45-P and one 6H30-P are used in each channel of our dual-mono LA-150 preamplifier."
Vinyl fans will be eager to investigate the LAP-150, Joule Electra's all-tube phono stage with outboard power supply. Price is $3700.
The company's VZN-220 "Rite of Passage" monoblock amplifier is an output transformerless (OTL) design that couples the output voltage of 6C33 Russian triodes directly to a loudspeaker's input terminals. The VZN-220 is configured as a differential amplifier, with two identical "channels" of class-A amplification running out-of-phase with each other. Eliminating the transformer, and coupling mirror-image signals directly to speakers results in "a musical experience closer to the real thing in every meaningful way," Barber asserts. Joule supplies a Variac as part of the amplifier's power supply, allowing users to adjust line voltage for optimum performance. VZN-220 amps are $28,000/pair in "Music Wood" edition.
Harmonic Technology has introduced an improved series of "Magic Reference" speaker cables, in three configurations. The company claims that an improved high-temperature manufacturing process enables it to achieve extraordinary levels of purity with its silver and copper conductors. Harmonic also attributes many benefits to the cables' geometric construction. For high-sensitivity loudspeakers, or minimonitors lacking true deep bass capabilities, the company recommends its "Magic Reference Tweeter" cable, at $1800/8'. Full-range speakers purportedly will spring to life with "Magic Reference Woofer" cable, at $2500/8'. With a larger gauge and more elaborate construction, the woofer cable can handle much higher current than its smaller sibling. For bi-wired (or, presumably, bi-amped) applications, Harmonic suggests its "Magic Reference Bi-Wire" cable, at $3500/8'. All Magic Reference cables use separate single-wire runs for hot and neutral conductors, eliminating inductive interaction that can occur when the two are bundled in one jacket.
Harmonic Technology has another product that may lift the fog. Priced at $1800 for a 6' length, the Magic Reference power cord is said to "vastly improve the overall clarity, openness, dynamics, imaging and timbral balance of a system." Also a beneficiary of improved manufacturing processes, the new version of the power cord reportedly sounds better than its predecessor, which was well received by reviewers last year - including Stereophile's own Michael Fremer. All the new products are "superior to anything we've made before," company execs aver.