McIntosh displayed the full-range, $80,000/pair XRT2K speaker in their two-channel room at the Alexis Park. It sets a record for number of
drivers per side—110—with
40 tweeters, 64 midrange units, and six woofers. Frequency response is claimed to be 16Hz–45kHz. The system driven to full volume by the 495lb McIntosh MC2KW monoblock ($30,000), which can deliver 2kW, demonstrated awesome dynamic range.
Amphion's Anssi Hyvönen was happy to demo his tiny Ions ($1350/pair). The diminutive two-ways sport a 1" titanium tweeter and a 4.5" midrange/woofer, and weigh an easy to lift 10.5 pounds. They sound pretty darn big, though. I enjoyed them in a system with a T+A 1535 surround sound receiver and T+A SADV 1245 R DVD player, finding them spacious and three-dimensional. Then HeadRoom's Tyll Hertsens walked into the room and asked, "How do they sound as desktop speakers?"
Walking through the Las Vegas Convention Center, Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and I were stopped in our tracks by a set of sleek, colorful, sexy loudspeakers, Jamo's new dipole Reference R909s ($14,999/pair). I was struck by how nicely Jamo has covered the backs of the speakers with a handsome grille-cloth shroud, only to have Chris Otte tell me that "of course, very few customers will want to cover them up." I'm not so sure—I suspect most folks can do without the sight of the two woofers' nether regions.
Sonics is the name of a new line of speakers designed by Joachim Gerhard, the founder of Audio Physic, and imported by Allen Perkins (Immedia), formerly the US importer of Audio Physic. The top-of-the-line is the PassionS, a tall, striking-looking speaker that consists of angled modules, with each driver having its own enclosure. The price is $32,000. Allen obviously loves its sound!
High-end amplifier guru John Curl, well-known for his early designs at Mark Levinson Audio Systems and for the Vendetta phono preamplifier—some regard this as the finest head amp ever made— was at the Alexis Park to discuss his latest design for Parasound, the JC-2 preamplifier. [The price of the JC-2 has not been determined yet, but will be somewhere in the vicinity of $3200.] John was particularly pleased to point out that he had worked with the same circuit-board designer from the Vendetta days. He also pointed out the preamp’s "D-core" power transformer, which has an oval core at right angles to the winding. John believes that this is much quieter than a conventional toroidal transformer. However, he had persuaded Parasound to omit a phono stage because even the D-core transformer wasn't quiet enough for him. That brought up an obvious question—would he reintroduce the Vendetta? Although nothing was definite, he noted, "I'll probably have to do something because everyone is bugging me to bring it back."
It has been a while since we've seen a new electrostatic enter the fray, so we were surprised at the range of offerings from King's, which ran the gamut from tiny desktop models to a huge baby called the King ($6000). King's has a new angle on 'stats—DC input. The normal technique of using amplified AC voltage caused problems with vibration and interference, they found, so they came up with an efficient DC-driven panel that can be used with as little as 2W.
The Krell EVO 505 SACD/CD player ($10,000), features matched 24-bit /192 kHz DACs and separate power supplies for the drive mechanism, digital, and analog circuitry as well as CAST and Current Mode. The EVO 525 ($13,500) adds a dual-channel video format converter, so it can output 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p via HDMI. There were also two multichannel preamp processors introduced, but I'll leave those to Kal Rubinson to report.
Tucked within the madness of the "Zoo," as the Las Vegas Convention Center is called by its inmates, Krell assembled a temple of high-end heavy metal. Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and I steered Primedia's Greg Nevins over to the monoblock Evolution One 450W power amplifiers ($50,000/pair) and Evolution Two preamplifiers ($40,000/pair), assuming they were Krell's newest additions. Au contraire, Todd Eichenbaum assured us, Krell was introducing 10 (!) new models at the show—a new line called EVO, which replaces the CAST line with components containing trickle-down technology from the Evolution flagship products.
Codenamed "ML-DVD" during its development, the Mark Levinson No.51 Media Player made its debut at CES. The $18,000, limited-edition player (only 150 will be offered for sale) is intended to get all there is to be gotten from CDs and DVD-Vs, but pointedly will not play SACDs or DVD-As (though it will, of course, play the video-zone Dolby Digital tracks of the latter). I listened to the No.51 in a system comprising the Mark Levinson No.40 controller, the new No.433 three-channel amplifier for the LCR speakers (a pair of Revel F52s and a C32) and a No.431 two-channel amp for the Revel M22 rears, along with two Revel F15 subs. Whether it was two-channel music—Greg Browne's "Who Killed Cock Robin?", which was everywhere at the Show—or film surround sound—Pleasantville—there was an addictive ease to the system's sound, coupled with extraordinary dynamic range.
McIntosh demonstrated a vacuum-tube version of its C1000 preamplifier in its two-channel audio room at the Alexis Villas. Retailing for $9000 and weighing in at 54 lbs, the C-1000T has fully balanced, dual-mono, MC and MM phono stages, balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs, and a front-panel window to show off four of the eight 12AX7 tubes. Mirrors create a barbershop effect of endless reflections, suggesting the presence of many more tubes than are actually there. Even so, I found the effect pleasing.
Signals-SuperFi introduced Peak Consult's new floorstanding three-way The Zoltan ("as in Kodaly") ($36,699.99/pair). The Zoltan boasts Peak Consult's usual glorious woodwork and uses a 1.5" Scanspeak cloth dome tweeter, 4" AudioTech midrange driver, and two 7" AudioTech woofers. Fronted by The Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn Turntable ($89,999.99), Boulder 2008 phono preamp ($30,000), Boulder 2010 preamp ($30,000), and Wavac HE 883 v1.3 monoblocks, strung together with Stereovox's SEI-600II and LSP-600c cables, the system pretty much blew me away. This is vinyl? Dean Can Dance was dynamic and vivid, with tons and tons of depth. No wonder Mikey Fremer raved about the Caliburn. The Zoltans cry out for further listening.
Musical Fidelity's US distributor Signal Path invited John Atkinson and me to hear the American debut of the kW DM25 Transport ($3000) and kW DM25 DAC ($3500). I didn't know the prices of the separates, so when I saw how luxe they looked I added an extra zero to the prices. But no, they really do cost just $6500 together.
This is Vegas, so you'll understand that when I say that Jon Iverson and I were simply rolling the dice when we entered Audiona's room at T.H.E. Show, I mean that in a good way. "Want to hear some actively crossovered, four-way loudspeakers?" Brian Quick asked us. Well, yeah, that's what we do.
Day Sequerra presented its newest FM/AM/HD Radio tuner, the Model M1 HD Broadcast Reference tuner in the Alexis Park. The basic chassis includes the option to receive High Definition (HD) FM digital radio and HD/AM radio in a modular package ($4995) with single-ended analog, balanced analog, and digital outputs. "We have begun to refer to this model as 'tuners," said David Day, seen in the photo with his new baby, "because it can be configured to accommodate 10 different audio and video receive modules, including: FM HD, a class-M output option that features current-feedback amplifiers), cable TV, an ultra high-end FM Reference Module front-end option, or HD TV." Two common options will be the M1 configured with a 2.75" oscilloscope
($6995), or the price-not-determined "Panalyzer" option, which provides a 5–500MHz spectrum display.