Day 2 of the 2000 CES

High-end audio in trouble? That's been the consensus the last few years, but the sheer number of new products at this year's Consumer Electronics Show hints at a steady trend in the opposite direction. New developments in power conditioning abound, and several brave companies are even testing the SACD/DSD and DVD-Audio waters.

Transparent Audio is demonstrating several power conditioners, including the new four-outlet Power Isolator ($1500), and other products aimed at the custom installation and home-theater markets. Transparent also had a new line of in-wall speaker wire on hand, with tuneable networks that allow the installer to measure the length of the cable run after it is installed and "tune" the cable with DIP switches.

PS Audio was running a live display comparing their Power Plant with two competitors' products, using notoriously unstable hotel power as a source. Once passed through a P300, which sat on the table next to a computer monitor, the power represented onscreen looked like a perfect sinewave, with very little noise or other artifacts when compared to the raw feed, which shifted back and forth in time and brimmed with nasty spikes. Of course, the competition did not fare so well, with one product appearing to actually add noise to the AC when switched into the circuit. PS Audio was also debuting the first of a new series of power amplifiers, with the 150Wpc A300 coming in at between $1200 and $1500. The new amp, expected in the spring of this year, will be followed by the more powerful A600 and A1200 in the next few months.

Boulder Amplifiers also had a new stereo amp on display, the 1060, retailing for $18,500 including a remote and rated at 300Wpc. Also new is the company's 1012 DAC preamplifier, slated to appear this March for $15,000. The fully upgradeable preamp is ready to handle anything up to a 192kHz digital source, and can be updated to accommodate DSD or DVD-Audio signals when they finally become available straight from a transport.

VTL had on hand the new IT-85 Integrated Amplifier, released about two months ago at $2500. The unit features a processor loop, simple remote control, and 75Wpc of tetrode tube power. Chord Electronics, now distributed in the US by the Harvey Electronics Chain and online by CoolAudio.com, displayed their new 350Wpc SPM 1200e power amp, which will hit the shelves in about a month at $7500. Also on the rack was the new DSC 1500e DAC ($9000), which will accept both DSD and DVD-Audio modules when the digital signals become obtainable from players.

Monolithic Sound had several new components up and running, including the PA-1 passive/active line stage at $499 and the 50W class-A monoblock amplifier at $649. Also showing are the company's external power supplies, for use with the PA-1 and MSB LinkDAC and Audio Alchemy products.

One of the few exhibitors showing an entire one-brand system, from preamp to speaker, was newcomer Red Rose Music (see earlier story), who put together a simple display driven by a Sony SACD deck. The setup featured the Model 3 SS preamp ($10,000), the Model 2 SS power amp ($7000), and the R3 speaker ($3000/pair), which sports custom ribbon tweeters.

In our next report we'll have information on several startling digital products being shown, and new speakers from a variety of companies.

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