Balanced Audio Technology's Geoffrey Poor proudly showed off BAT's new Solid-state preamp, the VK42SE ($5995). Those ominous looking black cans are brand new state-of-the-art oil-filled capacitors, which will sport a different livery in the production model, by the way. The 42SE features BAT's power supply bypass, dual mono, zero feedback circuitry and it sounds "more tubelike than some of our tubed designs," Poor proclaimed. "It's like a VK42 on steroids! It has more air, more liquidity, and more testicular fortitude. I don't know why we don't have it in the system."
I always have time Hervé Delétraz, so we jumped into Blue Light's room, where Jonathan Tinn had assembled a system to show off darTZeel's new NHB-18Nspreamplifier ($23,250). It's battery powered, offering 15 hours of listening between charging sessions and includes a fairly sophisticated phono section. Hervé doesn't believe in contact switches, potentiometers, or stepped attenuators, so he came up with new solutions—including an analog passive signal attenuator, which, he claims, operates over 96dB in .5dB increments.
Dieter Burmester, president of Berlin-based Burmester Electronics, beamed as we listened to Madeleine Peyroux's Billy-Holiday-like rendition of "Dance
Me to the End of Love" (CD, Careless Love, Rounder, 1161-3192-2) being played over his new full-range loudspeaker, the B-100. I felt that it was the most holographic, three-dimensional reproduction of this song (a personal favorite of both mine and Dieter B.'s) that I have yet heard. Although the price has not been announced, the B-100 is taller and 40kg heavier than its predecessor, the B-99 and should exceed, by a proportional amount, that speaker's $49k/pair price. The B-100 features a new double-ribbon tweeter/horn arrangement that I feel accounts at least in part for the new speaker's jaw-dropping transparency and effortless highs.
Cayin's American distributor Sze Leung had three new units on display at the Acoustic Sounds booth: the Phono One ("under $2000"), a tube driven phono section, Citation Sound 1 ($3500) full-function preamplifier (phono section included), and the HA-1 ($700) tubed headphone amp/integrated amp (3Wpc). Jackson Mar and Anna Gao of Cayin's parent company, Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., Ltd., came over for CES and couldn't resist grinning when the price of the HA-1 caused bystanders to whistle in admiration.
The Stereophile editors are getting ready for CES 2006 and will be reporting live from the show starting Wednesday, January 4. Join John Atkinson, Wes Phillips, Larry Greenhill, Robert Deutsch, Stephen Mejias, and Jon Iverson as they file their reports and photos.
The CES's "Innovations" exhibit at the Sands Convention Center is intended to honor the most technologically advanced and ground-breaking consumer electronic products at the Show. Most of the display cases were still waiting to be populated on set-up day (though we spotted B&W's cute cylindrical subwoofer as well as Krell's Dean Roumanis wheeling in some big boxes). But some of the choices for an award raised our eyebrows, as with this robot intended to train boxers in the comfort of their own homes. Stereophile's Stephen Mejias strikes a suitably pugilistic pose.
As more than 100,000 visitors fly in to Las Vegas for the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, I thought I'd post this shot of an empty Alexis Park Hotel, home of the high-end audio exhibits, on the last day of the 2005 Show. Tomorrow, this joint will be jumping!
Jonathan Tinn of Blue Light Audio came to the show equipped with his collection of classical composer action figures. Mozart is on his shoulder with Beethoven in the other hand. Wagner is still in the package. Collect them all.
The German Clearaudio company, ever-reverent of James Bond's lineage of luxury philosophy, introduced the $17,000 Goldfinger cartridge. Magnets have been doubled up to eight pieces, and a dynamic range of an extraordinary 100dB is claimed. Eric Clapton's "Layla" on vinyl (Reprise 9362-4502-1) never sounded better, I thought.
If one component is omnipresent this year, it's the iPod. You may find this hard to believe, but there are actually companies making iPod accessories these days—actually, it's hard to find companies that aren't.
Dusty Vawter's Channel Island Audio has made its reputation building high-performance audio components in extremely small packages, but we were still surprised to see how tiny CIA's new VDA-2 DAC ($599)is. How small? Try 4.4" W by 2.65" H by 4.4" D.
Chinese OEM manufacturer Dissun was sharing a room with Tetra, so when we stopped by to see what Adrian Butts had wrought, we were pleasantly surprised to see the suite filled with interesting components—all of them looking well built and beautifully turned out.