I like good hi-fi in small packages. Here we see the 25Wpc Napa Acoustic NA-208A hybrid integrated amplifier ($399). It measures a friendly 7” W by 5” H by 9.5” D and its stainless steel chassis and aluminum front panel seem solidly built. It uses a pair of 6N1 vacuum tubes and offers three inputs (two rear-panel RCA and one front-panel iPod mini jack).
Eleven year old French audio manufacturer Neodio was at CES for the fourth year showing their complete line of audio products including the NR 22 CD Player ($15k), Transport ($13k) and DAC ($12k). Shown here are Michel Rousseau on the left and Jean-Francois Fronton on the right with the DAC and Transport in silver on the shelf. All three units feature a special non-resonant three-layer chassis and the company is looking for US distribution.
MartinLogan is famous for speakers that use electrostatic driversfull-range or in combination with dynamic woofersbut they have more recently broadened their offerings to include non-electrostatic models. According to MartinLogan's Peter Soderberg, their aim is to produce speakers that approach the sound of their electrostatic models, but at a lower price and easier to drive. He says that this has become possible with their version of the Heil tweeter (the original Oskar Heil patent having expired). He did a comparison for me between their top-of-the-line electrostatic CLX ($25,000/pair), supplemented by the Depth 1 subwoofer ($2000), and the new Motion 40 ($1995), which uses the Folded Motion (aka Heil) tweeter, in both cases driven by Anthem's new class-D amplifier, top-of-the-line Conrad-Johnson preamp, with a laptop as source. With Patricia Barber singing "Norwegian Wood," the tonal balance of these physically very different speakers was surprisingly similar. Peter Soderberg is pictured here with the CLX and the Motion 40, after what must have been an exceptionally amusing quip on my part.
The GoldenEar Triton Two, which I reviewed in the February 2012, issue, is my favorite speaker at anywhere near its price ($2499/pair until February 1, when it goes up to a still-very-reasonable $2999/pair). The Triton Two now has a "little brother": the Triton Three ($1999/pair), is a smaller version of the Triton Two. The resemblance goes beyond the physical; listening to a pair of Triton Threes, I was very much reminded of the Twos: the same sort of expansive soundstage and bass that was very nearly as impressive as I'm familiar with from the Twos.
Ron Sutherland had a rack of his components at CES to drive Vandersteen Quatro floorstanding loudspeakers. The rack consisted of the two monophonic Phono Block phono preamplifiers, recently reviewed by Brian Damkroger in Stereophile; the $15,000 Destination Line Stage (one non-audio signal carrying control unit with Nixie tubes, and one audio chassis for each channel); and the $10,000/pair, 200W monoblock power amplifiers. Except for the amplifier and control chassis, most of these units are configured into two side-by-side subunitsone for power supply and one for audio signalattached only by front and rear panels.
Not to be outdone by the audiophile crowd, an auto sound manufacturer displayed a huge metallic woofer that dangled from a crane. (The crane could be set to lift loads between 500 lbs and 3 tons.) I thought I had seen everything, but the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center never disappoints!
Somebody should do a study, categorizing the names of audio manufacturers. The most common approach is to name the company after the designer, or to use his initials. And then there are all those names that incorporate the word "audio," "sound," "music," and variations thereof. There are names that give no indication of the nature of the company's products, but are just memorable.
I entered the Oracle room and the Split Enz "I See Red" started singing in my head. This is not a shy red. This is a red that if seen out of the corner of your eye flashes and vibrates until you look right at it.
The new disc spinner is based on a Philips drive and the same processing as in the Paris DAC and also includes two SPDIF 24/192 inputs. It should be available next month for around $3,500
Also available in February for around $3.500, the Paris DAC features Toslink, SPDIF and USB inputs and the processing is built around the AKM DAC chips. Both balanced and unbalanced outputs are available.
Traditionally, high-performance audio at CES has been on display away from the ginormous Las Vegas Convention Center, also traditionally but gently derided by audiophiles as the "Zoo." But there are still one or two high-end companies to be found and as you can see from the photo, the LVCC was packed with people checking out the new technologies on show.
Speaking of great things in small packages, here we see Parasound’s Zphono USB phono preamplifier ($349) and Zdac digital-to-analog converter ($450). Parasound’s Z Series products are handsome, truly affordable, and built like bricks. Interesting side note: The half-width, rack-mount design has its roots in a mic preamp that Parasound built for AMF bowling centers in the 1980s. I bet those mic preamps kicked butt, too.
There were beautiful women. There were pink socks. There was loud music, expensive alcohol, shameless dancing. There might have been a tiger in the bathroom. It wasn’t like a party in the Music Hall suiteit was a party. The company’s energetic sales manager, Leland Leard, was too busy rocking out, so Roy Hall introduced me to his new A70.2 integrated amplifier ($1499). (Here we see Leland playing DJ; I will spare us the images of Leland on the dance floor.)