Revel's well-received Performa series of loudspeakers has been completely overhauled, with a number of advances in materials and manufacturing technologies. The new Performa3 series now consists of 10 models, including three floorstanders, two stand-mounted monitors, and various home theater speakers. The drivers are all new, and, according to Revel's Kevin Voecks, they have exceptionally low distortion, which contributes to clarity and transparency. This was very much in evidence with the pair of M106s ($1700/pair) and F308s (at $6000/pair, the most expensive speaker in this series) that I listened to.
Most DACs are pretty straight forward and simply convert an digital signal to analog. But with the array of choices widening every few months, it might be handy to have a DAC that could do a bit more.
With this in mind, Simaudio is introducing the Moon 180 MiND Music Streamer (at top left in photo). MiND, which is short for Moon intelligent Network Device, allows the user to stream digitally stored music from a computer, NAS drive, the internet, subscriber-based music services or a UPnP enabled device to your DAC via either SPDIF, AES or Toslink outputs.
The MiND will available in April for $1,250 and Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield says that they will be releasing DACs with the MiND built in as an upgrade later this year.
Simaudio also revealed the 32-bit Moon 380D DAC designed around the M-AJiC32 circuitry (an asynchronous jitter elimination system) performing in true 32-bit fully asynchronous mode. There are eight digital inputs, all able to handle up to 24/192 sources. Available in April for $3,900.00 and you can add the MiND streamer for an additional $1,200.00.
The Best of Innovations winner in the Headphones category was the Sonomax eers ™ earphones, described as "the world's only custom-fitted earphones that can be fitted in 4 minutes, [offering] incomparable sound isolation, fidelity and comfort."
This very simple looking box is Swiss company Soulution's new USB to SPDIF/Toslink/AES converter that will set you back approximately $4k. It can handle streams up to 24/192 and can sync with the company's 745 and 540 players.
Soulution Audio's Cyrill Hammer was on hand to discuss the company's "small" Soulution 501 mono Amplifier ($55,000/pair). Similar in design to the Soulution 710 stereo amplifier that had so impressed Michael Fremer in the August 2012 issue of Stereophile, the more diminutive 501 monoblock amplifier is rated at 125W into 8 ohms, utilizes six switching-mode power supplies, and features a high-bandwidth, zero-feedback voltage-amplification input stage. Unlike the 176 lb Soulution 710 stereo amplifier that required three good men to move into Mikey's listening room, the 501 weighs in at a "mere" 80 lbs per chassis.
Imagine: Somewhere in this pretty purple tangle of cables, there’s the world's hottest audiophile yoga instructora lithe little woman in white tights, stretching her inner sound.
Here we see Alpha Design Labs’ new iDevice ID-30 Series of iPod dock cables. Each uses silver-plated, oxygen-free continuous crystal copper conductors and can be fitted with straight or angled, 24k gold-plated USB A-type or 3.5mm stereo connectors. Prices range from $63 to $185, depending on model and length.
When reviewing the Music Player a couple years ago, I was impressed with the build quality, sound quality and thinking that went into the design. There were a few nitpicks, and T+A was eager to show me the latest version where they claim to have addressed these (what I considered very minor) concerns.
The Music Player is still the same gorgeous form factor which includes a CD drive, DAC and preamp functions, but there is a bigger display and it now handles 24/192 via SPDIF or over the LAN connection and a handy new remote (shown below). There are five digital inputs and the device is UPnP compliant. All for $4,400.
In 2009, when Jon Iverson reviewed T+A’s Power Plant integrated amplifier, he was impressed by its “tight, yet musical character,” noting well-controlled bass and extended treble. T+A’s E Series Power Plant and Music Player have now been updated with high-quality balanced inputs and outputs.
Control of the T+A Music Player is now greatly improved with the new optional $900 remote. At the top of the remote is a color screen that will show you the metadata and album cover art from UPnP connected drives that you are controlling with the Music Player.
It costs $42,000 but TAD's new C600 solid-state line preamplifier features dual-mono construction, an all-discrete signal path, a separate power supply, and fastidious attention paid to detail in both its design and construction. The amber LED display for example, is DC-powered rather than from the usual multiplexed supply, to eliminate EMI interference. And the sound, in conjunction with the D600 SACD player, M600 monoblocks, Reference One floor-standing speakers, and HRS rack to give a system price of $214,500? I'll leave it to Stephen Mejias to describe in his show wrap. Personally, it was a highlight of the 2012 CES.
All-new from TAD at the 2012 CES was a more affordable line of components than the 600 series and electronics and Reference loudspeakers. The Evolution Series E1 speaker ($29,800/pair, right) still uses a concentric tweeter and midrange unit, like its more expensive Reference One sibling (left), but while the tweeter dome is still beryllium, the midrange diaphragm is now magnesium rather than beryllium and the unit is built on a 5" rather than a 6" chassis. Twin 7" woofers are used, but still with the highly linear corrugated surrounds and with a 2.5: voice-coil. Bass extension is specified into the low 30s, anechoic. I auditioned so much music on this system, I thought I was outstaying my welcome, but the sound of the E1 system, at $76,800 including the new M2500 500Wpc power amplification and the C2000 D/A preamp driven by asynchronous USB from a MacBook Air and all sitting on a Finite Elemente rack was open, natural, and uncolored, with superb low-frequency definition and weight. I couldn't imagine how the sound of a a 176.4kHz/24-bit transfer of Rebecca Pidgeon singing "Spanish Harlem" could be bettereduntil TAD's Andrew Jones switched to the TAD Reference system (see next story).
While we’re on the topic of small things, TEAC America introduced their Reference 01 Series of budget-priced, room-friendly components, including the UD-H01 DAC, A-H01 stereo amplifier, and DS-H01 iPod docking station. (I’m waiting to hear back on the prices, but I’m fairly sure these products retail for hundreds, rather than thousands, of dollars.)
The first major press event at CES, scheduled to start at 4 pm on the day before the Press Day, is something called CES Unveiled, described as "a pre-show look at who will be making news headlines before the show officially opens...catch all the latest products in one room." This description is a bit...well...exaggerated. The exhibitors are mostly small companies, with no representation from heavy hitters like Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, etc. The high-performance audio companies also pass on it.