Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and I were sitting in the Venetian's food court after the Primedia cocktail party on Saturday night with Mo-Fi's Coleman Brice and Music Direct's Bes Nievera, Jr. We'd wanted to grab some sushi, but Tsunami (what an unfortunate name) didn't have a reservation for five for another two hours and our second choice, an Italian restaurant (what else?) had just laughed when we asked. So we wound up eating pizza slices off of vinyl tables rather than sashimi off of bamboo.
Sometime near the close of Sunday, when vinyl was being slipped into sleeves and room treatments were coming down, I wandered my way to the end of a hall at the St. Tropez, where I heard such sweet music emanating from the LSA Group/DK Design suite.
It was nice to see Audiolab products again—simple components with simple livery, not the stylish, but incomprehensible faceplates of the products manufactured after TAG Mclaren acquired the firm. Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and I didn't get a chance to hear the new 8000Q preamplifier, 8000M 125W mono amplifier, 8000P 100Wpc stereo amplifier, 8000CD CD player, or 8000S 60Wps integrated amplifier ("all priced under $1000, we hope"), but we wanna. They ship in March. We can't wait.
Audiopax, the Brazilian manufacturer of the Model 88 single-ended tube amplifier that I reviewed most favorably three years ago, introduced the Model 55 amplifier at T.H.E. Show. Solid-state rather than tubed, the 55 is still single-ended and still features the unique "Timbre Lock" control. According to designer Eduardo De Lima, this MosFET design sounds very close to the Model 88. Price is $11,990/pair (compared to the $14,990/pair of the current Model 88 Mk.II).
The fabled Threshold Stasis amplifier is back. The S/350 reissue, built in China by Threshold International Ltd., is said to have the same circuit as the original, but with updated components. The original cost $3900 in 1992, so for those who long to own this famous amplifier, the S/350 reissue at $2000 is a bargain!
You know that stuff I said about how pointless the pre-show press conferences are? Well, not always—not, for example, when Jim Thiel has been busy. At last year's CES, Thiel practically levitated when he began describing the challenges of re-designing his CS3.6 floorstander, which has been in production since 1992. He described what he'd keep in the CS3.7 (first-order crossover; three-way design; short-coil/long gap motor design; coincident tweeter and midrange, time coherence;and aluminum diaphragms) and then he began waxing rhapsodic about how completely open that left his imagination.
As a reader pointed out, missing from Wes Phillips' coverage of Wednesday's Thiel CS3.7 press conference was a picture of the new speaker. Here it is, pictured with Jim Thiel waxing lyrical about his new midrange diaphragm.
Some think that the high-end audio business is a competitive, cut-throat endeavor, leading to animosities, but this picture of (l–r): EveAnna Manley (Manley Labs), Dennis Had (Cary Audio) and Kevin Deal (Prima Luna) shows that it isn't always that way, at least for purveyors of tube equipment.
We reported a couple of weeks back about the management buyout at English digital specialist dCS. CES saw the first public showing of the new products we wrote about, including the Verdi Encore SACD transport, which upsamples CDs to a DSD stream to feed a dCS DAC, such as the Elgar Plus seen here beneath the transport with both clocked by the dCS Verona that I reviewed a year ago. The rest of the dem system was a pair of Verity Parsifal speakers driven by a VTL S-400 amplifier and VTL's new TL-6.5 line preamp: the sound on a cut from the new Jackson Browne CD that Robert Baird writes about in the January 2006 Stereophile was effortlessly smooth, analog-like in the ease of musical communication. And on the top of the Encore is the award we presented to dCS at CES for the original LaScala transport being one of our two Joint Digital Products of 2005.
Wes Phillips listens to the Usher CP 8571 ($7700/pair), a new speaker with a Beryllium tweeter, which sounded refined and dynamic through Usher's own line of electronics: CD1 ($800) CD player, P307 preamp ($2400), and R1.5 power amp ($2500), which puts out 150Wpc in class-A.
Small seems to be the next big thing—the new black, maybe. Viola Audio Labs introduced its 9" W by 4.3" H by 16" D 75W Forte monoblocks ($10,000/pair). Like its big brothers, the Forte has a minimum of internal wiring, which along with its compact dimensions, keeps signal paths short. It has a 1M ohm input impedance, making it easy to drive, and this is said also to improve HF performance and transient response, according to designer Tom Colangelo's colleague Paul Jayson. It uses minimal negative feedback and a choke input filter power supply.