Parasound showed off the guts of their new Halo JC 3 Phono Stage ($2300) in the same room as the butt-kicking Atlantic Technology AT-1 loudspeakers. Designed by John Curl, the JC 3’s signal/noise ratio is a high 83dB for moving-magnet cartridges and 73dB for moving-coils. The RIAA curve is said to be accurate to within ±0.1dB and the units are currently shipping. Michael Fremer reviews the JC 3 in the March issue of Stereophile.
Pass Labs showed off two nice beer fridges, er, amplifiers at this year’s CES. Lacking any model numbers or nomenclature, the top monoblock amp (the top two units) is a single-ended 200W amp ($45,000/pair) and the bottom monoblock is a single-ended 300W amp ($75,000/pair). Nelson Pass is shooting to use no feedback on these circuits and maintain the Super Symmetry design made popular in far less extreme applications. The new part for these amps is a brand new silicon-carbide FET. These FETs were initially designed for the militaryway to turn swords into plow shares and space heaters, Nelson!and Pass Labs intends on exploring their use in future products.
Peachtree will be releasing their new $999 iDac next month, which features their "pure digital" iPod dock, ESS 32bit Sabre DAC, and 24bit/192kHz resolution.
This is a DAC only product and is loaded with inputs: 24/96 USB, 24/192 SPDIF coax (2) and optical (2). There is also a video out for watching iPod video content and two buttons for selecting filter settings.
And of course the iDac is wrapped in Peachtree's unique non-resonant MDF case with high-gloss finish.
Bluebird Music's Jay Rein wanted to hear the Bluetooth-driven Chordette Gem-based system at the front of the room, with Spendor A6 speakers, but my attention was drawn to the familiar-looking speakers at the other end of the room, Peak Consult El Diablo Vs ($89,000/pair), which Michael Fremer reviewed in May 2007. Jay explained that he is ow the North American distributor for these Danish speakers.
The speakers were being driven by Chord SPM1400 monoblocks ($$32,900/pair) and a Chord CPS5000 preamp, with van den Hul's new Mountain interconnects and Nova speaker cables. Jay put the Reference Recordings CD of Scheherazade (RR-89CD) with Jose Serebrier conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra into the Chord Red Reference Mk,II CD player ($25,900) and for an all-too-brief interlude, I was transported from the fake glitz of Las Vegas into the more real sonic world of the Arabian Nights.
Constellation also showed a brand new line of products at a more “real-world” price point. The components of the new Performance line will each go for between $15,000 and $20,000 and feature (from left to right) a preamp, digital source, phono preamp, and power amp. I was told that the circuit designs of the Performance line are exactly the same as Constellation’s Reference line but use less expensive parts.
Polk’s Blackstone TL3 ($300/pair) marks the eight-generation of Polk’s satellite speaker systems, and combines prior Polk technologies with new industrial design and improved time-aligned drive units, including a ring-radiator tweeter. The system we heard included a Marantz receiver and Samsung Blu-ray player, and I was very impressed by the small speakers’ ability to throw a wide soundstage with solid center-fill and fine detail.
Prima Luna’s Kevin Deal was showing off the new Prologue Premier monoblocks ($4399/pair). These 70Wpc tube amps contain two output transformers per amp and have two, four and eight ohm taps. The amps also feature a bad tube indicator and relay-based protection which, according to Deal, will offer bullet-proof protection for just about anything that could happen to the amplifier. As in all Prima Luna designs, the Prologue Premier auto biases the tubes and is capable of running any number of different output tubes.
Several weeks before CES, I got an email from PS Audio, inviting me to a press conference that will be held during CES but not as part of the official CES itself. They promised to provide transportation from the Venetian to the Wynn, where PS Audio had a suite. I knew that PS Audio was very much into computer-based audio, an area that for the most part I’ve stayed away from, so I wasn’t all that interested in that part of their presentation; however, I’ve reviewed, and use in my system, PS Audio’s Power Plant Premier AC power regenerator, so I was intrigued by word that they would have information on the successor to the Power Plant Premier.
It turns out that they have two successors, both representing substantial reworking of the product while staying with the principle of “regenerating” rather than merely “conditioning” power. Alas, the “power plant” terminologywhich I’ve always thought was quite aptis gone: the two products are called PerfectWave P5 ($2999) and P10 ($4499). They differ mostly in terms of the amount of maximum current they can produce, the P5 putting out 1000VA and the P10 1200VA. The bigger unit also has more zones. Output impedance is lower than ever, and so is distortion.
PSB’s new Imagine mini ($700/pair) is available in five attractive finishes and uses a 1” tweeter and 4” clay/ceramic-filled polypropylene cone mid-woofer. The speaker measures approximately 5.75” x 9.5” x 8.3”, has high-quality, gold-plated five-way binding posts, and can be mounted on any hard surface or used on traditional speaker stands. Playing with NAD’s C565BEE CD player ($799), C165BEE preamp ($899), and C275BEE amplifier ($1199), the sound of acoustic guitars was enchanting and commanding, with fine detail, impact, and emotion. Very impressive.
At the Venetian, Avatar Acoustics' Darren Censullo set up several of the products he distributes including the Purist HDR 6D music server/DAC from AMI HiFi. Darren explains that there are seven versions of the HDR 6D and 6DA, depending on how it is configured, ranging in price from $2,500 to $25,000.
On the front is a slot for loading or playing music from discs and a clever flush-mount receptacle for putting your iPod Touch which then acts as a touch controller and display. There is also a free iPad app.
All the usual inputs and outputs are included: AES/EBU, SPDIF, USB, Ethernet, WiFi and HDMI which supports a full video player. The HDR 6D handles a wide variety of file formats up to 32bit/384kHz (on the 6DA) and the company says that sound quality is enhanced by a process that entirely caches each track for playback. Also included is upsampled Web Radio and multi-room playback.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Purist Audio Design, founder/designer Jim Aud has just introduced their 25th Anniversary cable. Shown at T.H.E. Show for the first time, the 25th anniversary line consists of interconnects ($8100/1m pair) and speaker cable ($18,000/1.5m pair).
“Basically we’re using solid silver, single crystal wiring surrounded by Ferox 103, which is a proprietary doped silicon,” Aud explained. “Our other cables only use copper or copper alloys, and don’t use the Ferox 103.” While Purist still makes two cables that contain fluid, the 25th Anniversary cabling does not.
Qsonix has been providing a touchscreen-based product line for several years, and have recently teamed up with Wadia to collaborate on the DAC side. The Q205 is a one box single zone system with either 1TB or 2TB of storage, and a touchscreen ranging in size from 15" to 19". Price ranges from $7,450 to $8,250 and comes in six configurations.
The Q210 is a one box five zone system with the same screen and storage options and ranges in price from $7,750 to $8,450. The company also has a standalone server without the touschscreen (but can be controlled by the qsonix app) for $6,650 to $7,150 depending on storage and number of zones.
Qsonix's Mike Weaver was on hand to demonstrate the company's new iPad app which should be available later this quarter. I found I liked how the app was laid out better than their touchscreen software, and it offered real-time scrolling of album covers for browsing a collection, something I haven't seen in other iPad apps yet.