They're so small, you'd almost have to bet they're class-D, but the $16,500/pair 300W MX-Rs are linear all the way. The tiny brutes were fed by Ayre's C-5xe universal player ($5950) and K-1x preamplifier ($8600 with phono section), and Ayre cables. The system, which included Vandersteen Quatro Wood speakers, sounded far more detailed and lithe than the MX-Rs did at CES. MAybe it's the smaller room, or maybe it's those Quatros. Heck, it could even be that Ayre's Charlie Hansen can't leave a good thing alone either.
Jon Iverson wrote about Bard's wireless system, but I think it worth emphasizing that, although Bard has a USB dongle that will transfer music from your computer to other systems, many audiophiles might be even more thrilled by the Bard One ($850), which inserts between your preamp and power amp and broadcasts to a nearby system, where it plugs into that preamp's line inputs. It's small and unobtrusive and sounded very good at HE2006, I hope to get my mitts on a sample and write about it further.
Sonneteer/Bardaudio also makes a wireless receiver that houses a 25Wpc stereo amplifier. The Bardthree amp/receiver comes in several varieties, priced $1,225-1,350, and can be used to stream full-bandwidth tunes to another room, or to a set of rear channels in a hard-to-wire spot.
There are two tiny omnidirection mics on that sweet little thing — Belkin's TuneTalk Stereo ($69.99) — displayed here by Jackie Romulo. You can record stuff directly onto your iPod and play it back later. So, if you're a student at a sleepy lecture or a hack reporter like me, you have an instant cheat sheet.
Shanling is known for the striking industrial design of their tube electronics. Seen in the Music Hall room, the new A500 integrated amp ($6499) maintains the striking looks, but it's solid-state. Lots of nice blue lights, though.
If Luke Manley of VTL arrived one Cardas power cable short, and Jeff Joseph arrived minus one set of Cardas speaker cables (see earlier reports), designer Alexander Gaiderov and distributor Victor Rakovich upped them by powering their visually arresting Bolzano speakers with a Muse stereo amp that proceeded to blow up. I wish I knew how these Russian engineered, Italian-designed omnidirectional speakers can sound when paired with other than a Pioneer amp that cannot accommodate their subwoofer. Hopefully, time will tell.
Southern California's Brooks Berdan, Ltd. continued to affirm the store’s reputation for high-quality sound in its Ayre/Vandersteen room, which had also impressed Wes Phillips in an earlier blog entry. Listening to the Ayre MXR 300W monoblocks ($16,500/pair), K-1x preamp ($7000), C-X5e universal player ($5950), and about-to-be-released power conditioner, connected to each other and the wood-finish Vandersteen Quatro speakers ($10,700/pair) by Ayre's own cabling, I encountered a soundstage whose height and depth had no right to exist in such a small space. But beyond issues of size and depth, listening to a Channel Classics SACD of the Ebony Band Amsterdam performing the music of Silvestre Revueltas enabled me to enter that composer's phantasmagoric universe in a deeper, more all-consuming way that I had ever before experienced. It was as if I was inside Revueltas' head, haunted by the very demons that drove him to write his extraordinary music. To discover myself so immersed in music in the middle of a bustling show was a rare gift.
Jon Iverson already posted a picture of Channel Island's D•400 amp ($4000/pair) and PCC•1 remote control passive preamp ($895), but he didn't mention how freaking powerful the combo sounded driving the Von Schweikert VR-5 ($18,000/pair). CIA's Dusty Vawter switched over to his also powerful-sounding D•200s and handed me a D•400—holy moly! The thing weighs a ton! The 0.25" side panels are all heatsink, which made me wonder, has Vawter produced a class-AB amp to join his class-D designs?
California manufacturer Channel Islands Audio brought two new products to the show: the $895 PLC•1 passive preamp with remote and the $4,500/pr D•400 class-D power amps. Also in the room were the Von Schweikert Audio VR-5SE speakers ($18-22k depending on finish). Sound in the modest hotel room was surprisingly spacious and well-balanced. Left to right in the photo: Albert Von Schweikert, CIA's Dusty Vawter and Greg Schug.
Continuum has continued to refine its flagship Caliburn turntable system ($99,950). Chief among the changes are the Cobra tonearm's new shape, said to result in greater rigidity, and the Castellon stand's magnetic suspension. The Continuum system sure made a 50-year-old Moods of Gene Ammons LP sound fresh and present.