Audio-Lineare hails from France, and although I haven't heard of the company before, they've been making speakers since 2001. The designer is Yves Poulichot, who has been devoted to this endeavour for 25 years. The Harmonie 16 ($6500/pair) on display uses an aluminum ribbon tweeter and two bass/midrange drivers in a "2.5-way" configuration. Nice sound with Viola electronics. The charming representatives are Alix Ribeault (Marketing Director, left) and Christelle Kabeya (International Sales Assistant, right).
Audioquest is known to the general public as a cable manufacturer and also to audiophiles for their phono cartridges. They will soon jump into the DAC market starting with the Dragonfly USB to miniplug DAC.
Steve Silberman was on hand to provide a demo of the new product in raw circuit board form, and I was able to grab an artist rendering of the finished product from his laptop as seen above. The light on the back of the dragonfly changes color depending on what sampling rate is being detected.
The asynch 24/96 USB DAC will be about the size of a finger and its electronics have been designed by Gordon Rankin. Price is estimated at around $300 and it should be available in April.
Auriliti revealed their new 24/192 digital music file player, the L1000-USB which the company's Ray Burnham described it to me as "an all-out assault on the high end". Featuring an external power supply, SSD boot drive and AES output, the L1000-USB uses the NTFS file system to sort your networked NAS drive which is all controlled via an iPad running MPaD or any other MPD server compatible app. Available in March for $3,500.
I’m always encouraged when I see families at hi-fi shows, so I was happy to meet Alexander Vitus Mogensen, son of Vitus Audio founder, Hans-Ole Vitus; and I was even happier to learn that the 20-year-old Mogensen has started his own company, AVM-TEC, devoted to affordable OEM and DIY amplifier modules.
First shown at RMAF last year and making its CES debut, the QA-9 is intended for audiophiles wishing to transfer their LPs and other analog sources to hard drive. It features two XLR left and right inputs that can run both balanced and unbalanced and has only a single USB output (up to 24/192) to your computer.
The QA-9 should be shipping in late February or early March at $3,950. An optional Word Clock Input Board upgrade is $800 and will allow the QA-9 to be synced to a master clock in a recording studio environment.
Ariel Brown (Ayre's senior engineer) also hinted at a new DAC at some point that would include both USB and SPDIF inputs.
Brent Hefley, Marketing Manager of Ayre, walked me through the circuit layout of Ayre's newest amplifier, the $14,950, dual-mono, 200Wpc (8 ohms) VX-R. Based on the well-regarded and long-established MX-R monoblock and introduced at the 2011 CES, the VX-R uses Ayre's ultra-fast printed circuit board materials. Ayre is expecting great things, Brent told JA, from its recent hiring of ex-Classé and Linn engineer Alan Clark, who joins Charlie Hansen and Ariel Brown as the Colorado company's creative engine.
Bang & Olufsen's publicist sent me a "By Invitation Only & You Are Invited" email, promising to "unveil the newest innovations" and "the unveiling of a new, iconic product concept." (I pity the poor housekeeping staff at CES, having to clean up all the veils discarded by manufacturers.)
Reduced to its essentials, the "new, iconic product concept" is a division within B&O under a new brand, called "B&O Play." As I understand it, the products with the B&O Play brand will have all the traditional quality that B&O is known for, but they'll be less luxury-oriented, more "fun"and perhaps less expensive. The first product under this brand is the Beolit 12, a portable (battery-powered), AirPlay-equipped sound system.
Everybody wants to get into the act. Pro Audio manufacturer Behringer had several iPod/iPhone audio accessories, including the nifty Soundscape Air ($129), which features wireless speakers (good for up to 8 hours of playing, up to 150 feet from the base unit) that utilize inductive (ie, wireless) charging.
Bel Canto had several digital products on display including the CD3t CD Transport (pictured above) which includes both AES and SPDIF (via BNC connector) outputs at $1,495.
Playing in a side room was the C7R DAC Integrated Receiver with an amplifier section based on the companies REF150 and includes a built-in DAC, FM tuner, phono section and some pretty beefy speaker connectors on the back. This modest size box would make a great companion to the CD3t mentioned above. Retail is $2,995.
The company was also showing off a pair of product updates. The DAC3.5VB MK II includes an improved analog supply that Bel Canto claims better isolates the PCM1792 converter and a new, low-phase-noise main clock oscillator. Price is $5,895. The uLink USB-to-digital audio interface is now 24/192. Shipping next month for $795 MSRP
Bladelius has released a new stripped-down version of the Embla shown last year at a very stripped-down price: $3,000. What they've taken out is the solid-state hard drives and disc player, leaving those items to the network. In addition to the front panel touchscreen, here is an UPnP server and custom iPad app as well.
I first heard the attractive-looking BMC amplifiers at last April's Axpona in Atlanta, and was impressed enough that I asked Michael Fremer to review one of them (to appear in our May 2012 issue). At CES, BMC launched its first loudspeaker, the Arcadia ($36,300/pair). A three-way design, the bipolar Arcadia is symmetrical in both horizontal planes, there being an 11" woofer on each side and the trio of drive-units on the front are echoed by an identical trio on the rear.
Thiel and Bryston always share an exhibit area in the Sands Convention Center’s Bassano Ballroom, and this year's CES was no exception. James Tanner, Bryston's upbeat product manager, had gathered a terrific playlist of musical selections on a thumb-drive, which drove the company's $2195 BDP-1 digital file transport, $2195 BDA-1 DAC. Livingston Taylor's whistling on "Isn't She Lovely" opened the playlist, just as it did at the Joseph Audio suite, and many othersit was a common selection at the Venetian exhibits. Sound from the $9500 Bryston SP-3 preamp/processor ($7900), three-channel Bryston 6BSST2 amplifier, Thiel CS1.7 speaker prototype and Thiel USS SmartSub Subwoofer produced soundstage depth and imaging that was among the best, almost as good I heard at the much more expensive system in the VTL suite. Tanner walked me through Bryston's newly announced BHA-1 headphone amplifier featured in the photo ($1295), which is highly versatile, including twin XLR outputs for balanced headphones, and both XLR and ¼ jacks for conventional headphones.
When Bermester jumps into the music server market, they jump in with both feet. The new 111 Musiccenter, which is scheduled to ship in April, will include an Apple iPad controller with custom app in the box (a first for Apple says the company), six digital inputs, three analog inputs, streaming services, UPnP via either WiFi or Ethernet, etc. etc.
All this and a robustly built box with gorgeous and bright front panel display for $50k.
Also in the Burmester room is the new 113 DAC which retails for $6k and is available now. The DAC is rather modest-sized next to the rest of the Burmester line and includes Toslink, 24/96 USB (24/192 on Mac only) and Bluetooth (wireless!) inputs and both balanced and unbalanced outputs. The Bluetooth input means you can stream from any Bluetooth audio device like a Blackberry or iPhone in the vicinity.