Cambridge has created the NP30 (the bottom product in this photo) as the bridge between your digital media and a stereo system. As such, it has a built-in Wolfson 24bit/96kHz DAC, two USB connectors, Wifi, Ethernet and SPDIF coax and optical outputs. It can handle most audio file formats and also stream internet radio. I was surprised that it did not have an SPDIF input of any kind.
There is a small display on the front and you can also control the NP30 with your iPhone and their app. Price is $649 and it is available now.
Audiophile sensibilities have long found a comfortable home inside George Cardas’ head. Also in George’s head for the past two years has been the design of a single-driver, dynamic in-ear monitor that would fulfill his desire for a non-fatiguing portable listening experience. The as yet unnamed little gems are just entering production, and are expected to retail in the $300$500 range. A quick listen confirms that George has indeed managed to do something quite special: glorious midrange. I gladly accepted a sample pair for review; I reckon I’ll be spending a good chunk of time with George’s thoughts and sound in my head very soon.
George Cardas stands darped in the new Cardas cables whie the company's Operations Manager Josh Meredith was happy to show off Cardas’ Clear Light Speaker cable ($1048/2m pair). Now the lower end of the Clear speaker cable line, it will soon move up a notch to middle position as another model of speaker cable comes out.
A simplified version of Clear speaker cable ($3726/2m pair), its ability to be produced more rapidly results in its considerably lower price.
Also on hand was the Clear Light Rev 1 interconnect ($856/1.5m pair). Now with a larger diameter, improved shield, and nicer RCA connector, it is still substantially lower in price that the Clear interconnect ($2360/1.5m pair). Next on the horizon is a Clear power cable.
Cary Audio Design is known for producing both solid state and tube gear. This year Cary unveils a new set of solid-state amplifiers, the SA-500.1 ($4995 each)and SA200.1 ($3995 each). Shown here is the SA-500.1, a 500W monoblock amplifier that can also push 1 kilowatt of juice into a 4 ohm load. Both amps are built around a modular design that allows a dealer to convert an SA-200.1 to an SA-500.1 and vice versa. The amps each use 1500kVA low-noise transformers and employ 16 bipolar output devices. The amps have been voiced to maintain a similar house sound to Cary’s tube amplifiers. The SA-500.1 sounded warm, open, coherent and dynamic playing high-resolution files courtesy of David Chesky and HDTracks.
My beat is digital, but I'm particularly on the lookout for music server products. So I was pleased to see that Cary had their MS-1 server on display and fully loaded.
The spartan front panel has a single power indicator and disc drawer for ripping CDs directly to the internal 1 Terabyte SATA drive. On the rear are two USB connectors and an ethernet port to connect to your network. One USB jack operates as the digital out sending the data stream to your DAC and the other is for an external mirror drive or for sourcing files from USB sticks or other drives connected to the MS-1.
Cary has created apps (available for free in Apple's App Store) specific for your iPad or iPhone/Touch to control the system and music library.
The MS-1 is available now for $2,495 with a power supply upgrade to be released shortly for an additional $450. Cary says it is also looking to increase future storage capacity (the current drive can hold about 2,600-2,800 albums as FLAC files).
Stacked on top is the company's new $1,495 Xciter DAC which can handle anything up to 32bit/192kHz with 4 selectable inputs and a complete bevy of connectors on back.
I heard a lot of good sound at the 2011 CES and T.H.E. Show. But my joint best sound must go to the room at the Venetian where Convergent Audio Technology was demming the new Ken Stevens Statement tube monoblocks with a CAT SL1 Legend preamp, Vandersteen 5A loudspeakers and MSB digital front-end, with cabling from Stealth and AC supplied by The Essence Reference system.
As I walked into the room on the final afternoon of the Show, a Chopin piano work was playing. yes, the recorded perspective was close, but my goodness, the instrument was there in the room! (It was the Gold Collector's Edition on First Impression Music of Jun Fukamachi at Steinway.) Effortless dynamics, palpable instrumental presence, tonality, musical poweryou name it, this system did it.
If you don’t want to worry about how to best match amplification with loudspeakers, Cayin might have a solution for you. Cayin is a subsidiary of the Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., and in the Cayin room at T.H.E. show, the company displayed a couple of Spark mini-systems, including the MM-1 Mini Hi-Fi integrated with FM tuner, USB input, and matching speakers. Cayin’s representative, John Hwang, explained that the company will be improving the original Spark designs for the US market. Price is to be determined and availability will be sometime in late spring or early summer.
Another Cayin/Spark mini-system on display, the MT-iP40 combines a 40Wpc amplifier with iPod dock, FM tuner, USB input, and matching speakers. Like the MM-1, price is to be determined and the package will be available sometime in late spring or early summer.
Cayin was also showing these cute, retro table radios. The four different units (MJ-22U, MJ-23U, MJ-25U, and MJ-27U) are functionally identical, with AM/FM tuner and USB input; prices range from $120$150.
Displaying near the registration booth at T.H.E. Show, CEntrance, makers of the excellent DACport USB-input headphone amplifier, introduced their new DACMini PX (price hasn’t been determined, but CEntrance’s Michael Goodman noted the company is looking to keep it “aggressively under $1500”), which combines the same array of inputs (USB, coaxial, optical, line) and line outputs found on the company’s DACMini CX ($795, now in final production) while adding speaker connectors and a 25Wpc Class-D amplifier section.
The Consumer Electronics Association made the final step of registration, badge-holder pick-up, easier for CES attendees this year. In addition to registration sites at the Venetian, Las Vegas Convention Center, and a number of hotels, a registration booth was set up in the baggage claim area of Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport. The line may have been 25-people deep when I approached on Wednesday around noon, but it moved quickly.
“CES Unveiled” is the name of an event that’s presents a sort of preview of CES itself, featuring products that had been given awards for innovation. It takes place on the day before the CES Press Day, two days before CES is open. I normally don’t get to Las Vegas early enough to attend, but I did this time, so I thought I would check it out.
I got there nearly an hour before the four o’clock opening of CES Unveiled, and there were already hundreds of peopleall accredited members of print or internet media or bloggerswaiting to get in. Were they expecting to get some valuable swag (promotional item), like an iPad? I checked at the entrance, and, indeed, there was some swag that was to be given to each person attending: not quite an iPad, but an external battery for an iPhone/iPod. Hmm. . .I recently bought an iPhone 4. I could use a battery for it. But there was no way I would wait that long. I wandered away, and came back at about a quarter to four. The line was then much longer, and I still ended up waiting about three-quarters of an hour before I got in. Andguess whatall the iPhone batteries were gone. I’m told they had 800 of them. Total attendance of the "CES Unveiled" event must have been over a thousand. It’s going to be a busy CES. . .
But I did get a little gift: an iPhone 4 case in shocking pink. Now I just have to find someone I can give it to.
CES Unveiled turned out to have little of interest to Stereophile readersexcept those who are general technical geeks. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Most of the products on display involved mobile computing, computer peripherals, etc., and the exhibits were simple table-top setups. Major CES exhibitors like Sony and Panasonic were conspicuous by their absence. Samsung just had some of their small digicams. I guess the high performance audio community decided to pass on this event, and it makes sense: what makes these products special can’t be evaluated by just looking at them.
Lew Johnson has been bitten by the computer audio bug and was proudly displaying Conrad-Johnson's new USB-only DAC, the HD USB3. While the digital portion was designed by Kevin Halverson of Muse, Johnson emphasized that their own designers spent quite a bit of time getting the analog part of the DAC just right. He likened the analog circuitry and its importance to final audio quality with the vital function a phono preamp plays in a vinyl playback chain.
The new DAC should be available in late February for $3,000. Johnson added that maybe they will also include a C-J logo on the front panel for the final product.
Conrad-Johnson introduced their new ET5 line stage preamplifier. According Bill Conrad and Lew Johnson, the ET5 is a scaled-down version of the GAT preamp (the silk-screening you see here labeling the ET5 as a GAT is an error). The ET5 shares all of the same parts as the GAT but is a stereo design instead of the GAT’s dual-mono layout. The ET5 uses Vishay resistors, CJD Teflon capacitors, gold plated OFC I/O connectors and vibration-isolated printed circuit boards for the gain circuit. The ET5 ships this month and will cost $9500.