For those looking to set up the full-featured Sooloos system, Meridian will be releasing the Media Core 600 sometime in the near future for a price still to be determined.
What we do know, however, is that it will have 6 zone outputs each with S/PDIF, SpeakerLink, and fixed and variable analog outputs. Each zone also has an independent clock which means different sample rates are possible at the various outputs. The multiple zone clocks are also slaved to a central clock, keeping the multiple zones in synch in case sound bleeds from one to another.
Meridian keeps slimming down the original Sooloos system not only reducing the price but also its footprint. The Media Core 200 looks like a slightly puffed Mac Mini sat on its side, and requires only an iPad to complete the system, though it can also be connected to the company's Control 10 or 15 touchscreens.
The MC 600 contains a 500GB hard drive, analog, SPDIF and Meridian SpeakerLink outputs and has a retail price of $4,000. Available within the month.
Here is the back panel view of the Media Source 600 which acts as a network endpoint and DAC for your most critical listening zone in a Meridian Sooloos system. It can be combined with the Media Core 600 in an elaborate multi-room network.
It has both balanced and unbalanced outputs in addition to Meridian SpeakerLink.
Steve Holt, global sales manager for MIT, proudly introduced me to the company’s brand new Matrix line of cables. Designed by Bruce Brisson, the cables retail between $9999 and $21,999, and are part of the company’s reference line.
The new speaker cable comes in three flavors: Oracle Matrix HD 90 ($9999/8ft pair), Oracle Matrix HD 100 ($14,999/8ft pair), and Oracle Matrix HD 120 ($21,999/8 ft pair). There is one interconnect, Matrix 50 ($4999/1m pair, $5999/1m balanced pair). For digital cabling, one needs to go up one step in the reference line to Oracle MA-X digital ($3495/1m RCA or BNC, $3995/1m AES/EBU)
These new cables use MIT’s multi-pole technology. “We talk about poles of articulation,” said Holt. “There are electronics inside our boxes on the cables to provide wider bandwith coverage to power, so that sounds at either end of the spectrum won’t be rolled off as quickly.” The Matrix cables also employ a new technology called F.A.T. (Fractional Articulation Technology) that helps maintain the harmonic structure of audio signals.
In the Magico room where they were displayed, the new Magico Q3, Soulution amplifiers, and files from Paul Stubblebine’s Tape Project made wonderful music through Oracle Matrix HD 120 speaker cable and the Oracle MA-X interconnects (start at $8495/1m pair). You can see the Oracle Matrix HD 120 boxes in the above photo, which was taken behind one of the Magico speakers. If other rooms hadn’t called, I would have dropped everything then and there and stayed for hours.
I was very impressed with the Monitor Audio PL200 that I reviewed last April; apparently, so were a lot of other audiophiles, but many were put off purchasing the speakers by the $8000/pair price. The new Monitor Audio Gold GX series is intended to appeal to these folks. The GX series offers most of the technology and aesthetic appeal of the Platinum, but at substantially lower prices. The GX300 is broadly similar in appearance and driver complement to the PL200, but costs an easier-on-the-wallet $5500/pair. It was making fine sounds at CES with Simaudio electronics and Simaudio digital source.
Ted Sindzinski, Internet Marketing Director for Monster, introduced me to the Beats by Dr. Dre Pro headphones ($399 street) that Stephen Mejias reviewed a few months back for Stereophile. A partnership with Beats by Dr. Dre, these recently released “mixing phones with high-end capabilities” were designed by Monster and marketed as part of the Beats family products.
Due in spring 2011 will be Monster’s Miles Davis Trumpets in-ear speakers (not yet priced). Featuring drivers in the front instead of the back of the buds, which allows them to be very, very small, these headphones look and feel very special.
Ted Sindzinski, holding the new ‘phones in the photo, believes these are one of the company’s best-sounding headphones. “They’ve been manufactured for a nice, warm, full, rich sound,” he assured me. Note the cute little silver trumpet on the cables. If you ask me, they’ve got Stephen Mejias’s name written all over them.
One of my favorite systems at CES 2011: A Pro-Ject Perspex turntable ($2000) featuring magnetic isolation to prevent acoustic feedback, a carbon fiber tonearm, and Sumiko Blackbird cartridge ($899), CD Box SE CD player ($799), Tune Box SE II MM/MC phono preamp ($749), Pre Box SE with four inputs ($499), Amp Box SE mono ($1098/pair), and matching Speaker Box 5 loudspeakers in high-gloss white ($399/pair). Speaker cable was Pro-Ject’s own, and a REL T5 subwoofer was supporting the low-end. Even at low volumes in a busy room, the music was marked by fine detail, clarity, and speed. Joe Pass sounded as remarkable and unignorable as ever.
Avantgarde's Armin Kraus stands next to the new version of the three-way Duo speaker, the Grosso ($36,000/pair). Finished in "Lamborghini Orange," the Grosso substitutes two 12" woofers for the Duo's 10-inchers, and drives them with twice the amplifier power. The midrange and treble horn units are the same, but the speaker is now supported by a sturdier space-frame with spikes that are adjustable from above. And again, this is a horn speaker that offers the advantages of hornshigh dynamic range, sensitivity, and "jump factor"without the disadvantages, such as midrange coloration.
MSB is offering a new universal transport based on Oppo's BDP-93, which plays practically anything on disc including DVD-Audio, SACD, Blu-ray, CD etc. The player also sports a USB input allowing it to stream from a USB memory stick player, external hard drive or computer.
The MSB Universal Media Transport will be available in about six weeks, with a multichannel option available six weeks after that. Price starts at $3,995.
MSB was also showing their new "high res" USB DAC that the company claims can play a 384kHz stream over USB or SPDIF "bit perfect". Depending on options, the Platinum DAC IV starts at $6,500 and tops out at $27k.
With Music Hall’s new Cruise Control 2.0 ($299), owners of Music Hall and Pro-Ject turntables no longer need to lift their platters and move their drive belts to switch between 33.3 and 45RPM. The Cruise Control 2.0 makes speed selection possible at the push of a button. In addition, with the appropriate pulley and cartridge, the Cruise Control 2.0 will also adjust for 78RPM records. Fun.
Music Hall’s USB-1 2-speed, belt-drive turntable has a built-in phono preamp, comes with Audacity software for digitizing vinyl and supplies all necessary cables, uses an S-shaped tonearm with a detachable headshell, and includes an Audio-Technica AT3600L moving-magnet cartridge. With its gloss-black finish and DJ-style platter, it also looks extremely cool. All this, and it costs just $249. A teenager working weekends at Dunkin’ Donuts can afford the Music Hall USB-1. I love this crazy thing and will write more about it in a future issue of Stereophile. Music Hall’s Leland Leard has been crossing the country, getting the USB-1 into his favorite record shops. Good for Music Hall, good for hi-fi, and good for music lovers.
Bob Deutsch captured this image of Music Hall’s Leland Leard, an image equal to that which I hold in my mind. Anyone who knows Leland Leard will agree that Bob Deutsch released the shutter at just the right time. Say the name, “Leland Leard,” and I will see this wild, carefree smile. Leland would have just finished talking about the new Seu Jorge album or the USB-1 turntables he’s sold to Chicago’s Dusty Groove or the beautiful girl down the hall.
Here, however, Leland is demonstrating how to expose the old-fashioned baffle which hides behind the Epos Epic 2’s slick baffle cover.
People say that Leland and I look alike, but I don’t see the resemblance. Leland wears tighter jeans and frillier shirts, and has a much better smile.
Hiding in the back room of their palatial suite in the Mirage, Musical Fidelity was running a demo of their M1CL:C Universal Music Controller which is now being finalized. MF says they are shooting for somewhere under $2,000 for the product which operates as a DAC and preamp and includes USB, SPDIF and analog inputs. I noted a USB input on the front and a beautiful color display as well.
Musical Fidelity also displayed their V-Link which can take USB from your computer and convert it to S/PDIF for use with your non-USB DAC. Priced at $169, John Atkinson mentioned to me that "it measures really good" and found it did indeed operate in the better-sounding asynchronous mode.
The Metrodome may have collapsed but Minneapolis-based Bel Canto sure hasn’t. Brand new at CES is the C5i, a DAC/integrated amp/headphone amp that sells for the feel-good price of $1895. The amplifier, said to be stable into 3 ohm loads, puts out 60Wpc into a 8 ohms. The amp also includes two S/PDIF digital inputs, a USB input capable of handling 24bits/96kHz data, a moving-magnet phono input, an RCA line input and a headphone amplifier. I marveled at this little gem’s price but also its sound as it played files from a nearby laptop driving a pair of Joseph Audio speakers. This was my first room of CES 2011 and it was a great start!