I walked into Audience's room expecting to see the usal assortment of cables, power conditioners, and high-quality parts, but I was confronted with an entire Audience system, from a heavily modded Denon CD player to preamplifier, power amplifiers to loudspeakers!
The Wavemaster monoblock power amplifiers ($9000$10,000/pair) can put out 200W into 4 ohms. They employ an Audience discrete-component front end, switching power supply, and come with an Audience Power Chord. They accommodate single-ended and balanced inputs.
Audio Research is showing their new replacement for the CD7, the Reference CD8 CD player shipping now at $9,995. They've taken a Philips Pro-2 transport and attached it with isolation pads to a machined aluminum I-beam which in turn is bolted to a machined aluminum bottom plate.
Robert Baird got the scoop on this one in the February issue of Stereophile. Check his Aural Robert column for details about the Sonic Focus technology included in this iPod dock and its surprising heritage.
Bel Canto's designer, John Stronczer, proudly showed off the the Minnesotan company's e.One s300 integrated amplifier ($2495), that was recently reviewed by Wes Phillips. A dual-mono design with a class-D output stage, it outputs 300Wpc into 4 ohms and 150Wpc into 8 ohms, the diminutive integrated amp features Bel Canto's single button control for inputs and volume, as well as a remote control.
The touchscreen music server market has picked up a new face with the official release of Blue Smoke's "The Black Box". Demonstrated in prototype form at last year's CES, the final version is a sleek, um, black box with a single disc slot on the front and an array of connectors on the back. Retail is $6995 and should be hitting dealer shelves Q1 2009.
I'm still amazed at the sheer number of new high-end CD players announced at this show. Either someone didn't get the memo about the disc format's impending demise, or else we've entered that phase, as with turntables, that playback advances will continue to win new customers with big collections.
Although Mikey Fremer has received a pair for review, I haven't visited his Jersey crib yet to take a listen. So the system in Boulder's room at CES was my first chance to audition Wilson's new MAXX 3. I popped a data disc with some of my hi-rez 24-bit/88.2kHz files in the Boulder 1021 CD player, and a list of the WAV files appeared on the player's screen. The 1021 will play data CDs carrying FLAC, WAV, Vogg Orbis, and MP3 files, and as I found, will decode and play hi-rez files.
To judge by some of the comments that have been posted to this Show report, some American audiophiles resent the fact that so much audio manufacturing has been outsourced to China. But the fact remains that if you wish to be able to purchase high-end quality at rock-bottom pricing, manufacturers have little choice but to turn to China. The irony is that even when price is taken into account, the quality of Chinese manufacture is very often superb.