I first encountered the glass-enclosured Force dipole loudspeaker from Perfect Eight, which combines a full-length ribbon with 8 cone midrange units and a subwoofer handling the load below 60Hz, at the 2008 CES. Their 2011 dem, with the speakers driven by Ypsilon amplification, was noteworthy for having invited Ray Kimber to talk about and play some of his IsoMike recordings. (Ray is seen here on the left in my admittedly rather grainy photoit was darkwith Perfect Eight's Jons Rantila.) I listened first to soloists from the Academy of St. Martin-in-the Fields performing a movement from the Mendelssohn Octet, then to a Mozart piano sonata movement by Robert Silverman (the latter one of my "Records to Die For" in the February 2011 issue). Despite my skepticism about glass as an enclosure material, the sound was natural and uncolored.
Rega's new 24bit/192kHz DAC has the full complement of inputs including USB (running at 16/44) and either Toslink or Coax SPDIF. But what sets it apart at its $995 price point is the pair of Wolfson WM8742 parallel-connected DACs used in a similar configuration to the company's $9,000 Isis CD player.
The DAC also has five front panel selectable filter settings including an apsodizing filter typically found on more expensive DACs. The DAC is shipping now and comes in silver or black.
Rega’s RP-1 record player ($450, plus $195 for the upgrade package which includes Rega’s improved drive belt, a thicker wool platter mat, and Bias 2 phono cartridge), replaces the popular P1 and features a new, hand-assembled RB101 tonearm, a lightweight phenolic resin platter, and a low-vibration motor. Seen here in titanium finish, the RP-1 is also available in gray or white. I’ve been using the RP-1 in my home system, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this no-nonsense turntable plays records like it means it. More to come in the February and March 2011 issues of Stereophile.
Last year I marveled at the visual design of Resolution Audio’s Cantata Music Server. This year, Resolution debuts a new matching integrated amp, the C50 ($4000). The C50 puts out 50Wpc. According to Resolution’s Jeffery Kalt, on paper the C50 doesn’t look much different than most integrated amplifiers. However C50 benefits from custom capacitors, a unique application of feedback above the audio band, and a circuit layout that minimizes eddy currents. The C50 must be doing something right as it made a modest pair of Epos speakers sing with clarity, focus and body, sounding great song after song.
“What’s new?” is the question that comes up first with established manufacturers when considering whether there’s something worthy of a blog item. In Polk Audio’s case, the answer was “Everything!” According to Polk rep, Jim Crowley, their entire home audio line has been revamped, with changes in the cabinetry, drivers, and crossovers. Perhaps the most significant change is that now, for the first time, some Polk speakers feature a midrange driver. And with all that, Polk loudspeakers continue to be reasonably priced: the pictured LSiM is a modest-by-audiophile-standards $4000/pair.
Pride of place in the Avatar Acoustics room at the Venetian went to the four-way Siena speakers ($24,995/pair) from Italian manufacturer Rosso Fiorentino. The designer teaches electroacoustics in Florence, but is a graduate from the University of Salford in the UK. A pair of aluminum-cone 8" woofers in a separate sealed enclosure are combined with a 6.5" paper-cone midrange unit (a ScanSpeak Revelator), a 1" silk-dome tweeter, and what appeared to be a Murata "ultrasonic generator," to give a specified response of 35Hz100kHz, 3dB.
The Siennas were demmed in a system comprising Dr. Feikert turntable and tonearm, Abbingdon Music Research CD player, phono preamp, and integrated amplifier, with Acoustic System racks and cables, but I will hand over to Jason Serinus for some additional thoughts:
Debuting at CES 2011, Running Springs Audio’s Elgar Powerline conditioner is so new that Dan Babineau has yet to produce product literature. A trickle-down, opening price-point piece ($999/6 outlets), it can handle 1800W maximum. The 100% passive, noncurrent-limiting design employs the same filters as all other Running Springs Audio products, but uses a smaller-laminate inductor to increase dynamics.
Designed for smaller, modest systems, the Elgar Powerline conditioner is hand-built in Anaheim, CA. “It does three things really,” Babineau said. “A high quality circuit breaker, it also takes care of atrocious noise anomalies, and cleans up the power without negatively affecting the source. This has always been my goal since I started the company ten years ago.”
Although Sennheiser has come out with nothing that surpasses their wonderful, state-of-the-art HD 800 headphones, they have released three new, far less expensive audiophile models: the HD 598 most prominent in the photo ($329.95), the HD 558 ($229.95), and the HD 518 ($169.95).
I auditioned the HD 598, whose beige soft velour pads contrast elegantly with their black body. The salesperson who showed me around made a big deal of the packaging. Far more important were the frequency range, 15Hz28kHz, and the sound. Although the rather bombastic source material was supposedly MP3, the headphones delivered impressively smooth bass and a far more natural-sounding presentation than I would have expected.
Christopher Morris’ first experience with hi-fi did not go as he had hoped. He had trouble finding information on the products he was interested in, and did not know where to turn for guidance. For whatever reason, his local hi-fi shop offered little help and entry into the hobby seemed more difficult than necessaryan unfortunate and all too familiar story. Now that he is working for The Sound Organisation, however, Christopher Morris is determined to rewrite that story; he wants to build awareness for hi-fi and open its doors to a wider audience. “You need that guy,” Morris said, meaning someone to turn to for guidance, a friend or mentor who will share knowledge and enthusiasm, supporting you along your way, fueling your passion for music and hi-fi.
Introduced a couple months back, the Moon 100 D DAC includes coax and optical SPDIF as well as USB inputs. It also features an asynchronous sample rate converter and operates at 24bit/192 via SPDIF and 16/48 via USB.
All this for $699. "It's a killer" says Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield.
I chilled with Lionel Goodfield of Simaudio in the Canadian manufacturer’s room around noon on Friday. We were both hitting our midday energy slump, so we sat on their comfy couch and chatted about two new products in Simaudio’s Evolution Series. The Moon 880M monoblock amplifiers ($38,000/pair) offer 800W into 8 ohms, 1600W into 4 ohms, and a staggering 2400W into 2 ohms. The amp utilizes bipolar output devices biased into class-A/B and uses zero global feedback. The amps sounded as relaxed as the Bob Marley tunes Lionel played near the end of our discussion. It was a great break from the CES frenzy.
Sonneteer, a UK audio company, was showing off its new Morpheus Music Center ($4000), an integrated amplifier, DAC, and control center for streaming audio. The amplifier section is rated at 50Wpc and will stream music via WiFi or Ethernet, play Internet radio, and USB input. The Morpheus also has three analog inputs and one analog output so it can send signal to an external power amplifier or subwoofer. Standing by his creation is Sonneteer’s Haider Bahrani.
The first trickle-down from The Sonus Faber project is a revised Amati model, the Amati Futura ($34,000/pair). Beautifully finished in a mirror-gloss lacquer, as you can see, it was also almost unphotographable. It was also only on passive display in the Sumiko penthouse suite at the Venetian.