Needing a shot of the real thing after a particularly disappointing dem from another manufacturer, I headed down the hall to hear Aurum Acoustics' total package. ($48,000 gets you the Integris CDP CD player, Integris Active 300B amplifier and speakers, Integris two-shelf Isolation Rack in matching veneers, 2m power cable, Aluminum Base kit, and Loudspeaker Grille Kit. As I said, the whole package.
The 150Wpc Boulder 865 integrated amplifier (approximately $10,000) is only four days old, so we tiptoed into the room in order not to wake it up. Richard Maez (seen here at the back of the photo) was elated that the 865 had actually made it to the show, but he was even happier to run down the details.
BAT introduced the two-chassis, $18,500 REX preamplifier at CES. The 18-tube preamplifier incorporates vacuum-tube rectifiers, C-multipliers, oil capacitors, and shunt regulators to filter the power supply's DC voltages. The control module incorporates a 140-step volume control that uses a 16-bit digital control with Vishay bulk-metal–foil resistors as pass-through devices. Each input to the preamplifier can be adjusted individually.
Bel Canto's John Stronczer made a bold decision to demonstrate exclusively with a music server streaming Music Giants. He ran the output from his laptop to the $2495 e.One DAC3 digital-to-analog processor and then directly to a pair of e.One REF1000 1000W monoblocks ($1995 each).
Behold bills itself as "true digital audio" since it maintains audio as a digital signal up to the amplifier stage. The 600Wpc BPA768 (US price TBD) incorporates 768kHz/24-bit signal processing, a switch-mode power supply, an analog output stage, and an integrated power conditioner.
One of the bugbears of mounting speakers—and especially subwoofers—in a wall is that the drive-unit behavior depends on the less-than-rigid behavior of the sheetrock. Most manufacturers of architectural speakers get around this by using a back box to provide the correct acoustic loading. THX's Laurie Fincham (who is going to hate me for referring him as one of the grand old men of English audio) had a different idea.
Redpoint's Peter Clark says, "Your heart doesn't beat in ones and zeroes—it's analog." That's why he builds turntables, 'tables machined from solid billets of aircraft aluminum and configures the platter, motor, and tonearm platforms on separate support pods on a common platform.
"I'm not done," Lew Johnson said. "I showed you our high-aspiration products, now here's one more from the heart: the ET250S is a more realistically priced product at $7500 for 250Wpc. At the heart of the amp is a single-ended triode amplifier that supplies the voltage gain. A high-current buffer stage couples that to the speaker load. That architecture gives you tube grace and finesse, but deliver all the brute force you need for any loudspeaker. We'll ship them in February."
The mark of a great large speaker is that it can sound small when the music demands it. Such was the case with the humongous La Sphère speaker from French manufacturer Cabasse, one of the many high-end companies who chose to “outboard” this year at an off-site hotel. With its four-way coaxial design, it resembles a scaled-up version of the Baltic that Mikey Fremer reviewed in September 2005, but is fully active with the crossover realized in the digital domain. Demonstrated in a large room with Cabasse’s own amplification and Bel Canto preamp and source components, it offered tremendous dynamic range and loudness capability on full-scale orchestral music and film soundtracks (for which the pair of Spheres was joined by a full surround system and a subwoofer using a 22” driver). For me, however, the magic was greatest when Christopher Cabasse (shown standing with his company’s creation) played a two-channel recording of solo violin and piano, proving that La Sphère can be a quiet speaker when necessary.
I looked into the Cary Audio Design room in the Venetian Towers to catch up with designer Dennis Had to find out what the North Carolina company had been up to since I visited them a year ago. But he was out, so I settled back to enjoy some fine music on Dynaudio Confidence C4 speakers—favorites of mine since I reviewed them in September 2003—driven by the 10th-Anniversary Edition of Cary's CAD805 single-ended triode monoblock, perhaps the finest-sounding of its breed. Source was the CAD-306 SACD player, back in production after some manufacturing problems with its Sony-sourced chipset. Nice. Very nice.
The Stereophile editors are getting ready for CES 2007 and will be reporting live from the show starting Monday, January 8. Join John Atkinson, Wes Phillips, Larry Greenhill, Robert Deutsch, Stephen Mejias, and Jon Iverson as they file their reports and photos.
VAS Audio's Sze Leung is the most consistently up audiophile we know—he's always raving about his latest listening session or discovery. "This one's incredible," he exclaimed, pointing to the 80Wpc Cayin H-80A Class-A tube hybrid integrated amplifier (approximately $4000)."
GamuT doesn't rent a display room at one of the hotels, instead they figure the best way to show off home loudspeakers is in a home. So they rent a palatial pad in the Las Vegas suburbs, invite us over for dinner (they fly in a Danish cook and assistant) and then we retire to the living room to check out the speakers and electronics.
Lew Johnson pointed at the LP275M ($12,500). "This is something CJ hasn't done in a while: a high output tube monoblock. We use four pairs of 6550s to obtain 275W with our proprietary translinear transformers. We can configure it for 2, 4, 8, or 16 Ohm loads (standard is 4 Ohm). Like our most recent designs, we're using metal foil resistors and Teflon CJD capacitors. We'll be shipping them by February."