In some rooms, spotting the new product or two can be tough without asking or taking time to carefully look at everything on display. Not the Oracle room. The BRIGHT yellow Paris CD 250 was screaming "look at me" the moment I crossed the threshold. Once my eyes had settled I could see Oracle had also brought the CD player and DAC in a few more color choices: black, white and red.
Using the same chassis design and color options, the CD player or DAC each run $3,500. The DAC features 24/192 SPDIF, Toslink and USB inputs as well as volume control.
Simaudio Moon's Lionel Goodfield, Vice President of Marketing, spent a relaxed half hour discussing amplifiers, cars, and various other topics of mutual interest. Along the way, he introduced the Moon Evolution 860A dual-mono amplifier ($14,000), shown sitting by itself in front of the other Simaudio products. The amplifier delivers 200Wpc into 8 ohms, 400Wpc into 4 ohms, 800Wpc into 2 ohms, the power doubling "all the way down to 1 ohm." It features special output devices made by Motorola for Simaudio. The sound from the Dynaudio C1 Signatures was clear, fast, smooth, and open.
Canadian speaker manufacturer Paradigm is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a limited edition speaker, called the Tribute ($6000/pair). The Tribute (pictured here) has a new cabinet, built in-house, a beryllium tweeter from the Signature range, a new mounting system for the drivers, corrugated drivers surrounds, and a chrome-plated stainless steel plinth.
Parasound still thinks we can get more out of our CDs and worked with Holm Acoustics of Denmark to implement a CD ROM drive based player that is shipping now for $4,500.
Inside the CD 1 is a Linux-based computer that analyzes the data coming off of the 4x speed drive. Parasound says that the computer keeps checking the data until it is satisfied it has a bit prefect stream. Balanced and unbalanced outputs are included as well as SPDIF for those looking to employ their own DAC.
As usual, Peachtree Audio put together one of my favorite systems of the show: iPad, AppleTV, Peachtree Decco65 D/A integrated amplifier, and a pair of Peachtree Design 4 bookshelf loudspeakers mated with a small REL subwoofer.
I looked at the system; listened to the fun, engaging sound; and thought to myself: Why doesn’t everyone own a system like this?
Perfect8 Techologies' exhibit suite at the Venetian proved to be one of the most crowded I entered. Perfect's CEO, Jonas Rantila, was introducing his new floorstanding speaker, the Point Mark II Evolution ($115,000/pair). This three-way, speaker features an Air-Motion Transformer tweeter and two midrange drivers mounted on a glass baffle (there's no enclosure for the tweeter or midrange drivers), sitting on a single glass-enclosure housing a pair of 10" subwoofers powered by a 400W, DSP-controlled amplifier hidden within the enclosure. Power for the midrange and tweeter was supplied by a 165 lb, 500Wpc, solid-state Bridge Audio Laboratory (BAlabo) BP-1 Mk.II stereo power amplifier ($88,500). The BP-1's importer, Fred Nadel, told me that the amplifier's output stage runs in class-A for the first 40 watts.
Surprise, surprise, at least for me. Pipeline, RadioShack's high-end cabling line, is manufactured by no less an entity than AudioQuest. Bill Boyer, Sr. VP (left) and Milton Perez, National Sales Manager (right), gave an idea of the price range when they explained that a 4 foot HDMI cable retails for $49.
New for 2013, and due this summer, is Playback Designs' IMS-3 ($13,000). IMS stands for Integrated Music System, as in a one-piece unit housing DAC, preamp, and amp. The DAC is the same as in the excellent NPS-3 one-piece player, and the amp a class-A/B design that outputs 130W into 8 ohm and 260 into 4. A digitally controlled analog volume control, three analog inputs, and four digital inputs are among the features of a unit that will also support multi-channel playback.
The earth's ecology may be upside down, but Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio displayed PrimaLuna's new DiaLogue Premium integrated amplifier ($3299) that way for a positive reason. "It has a laundry list of the best parts," he declared, handing me a sheet that touts oxygen-free continuous-crystal copper, silver-plated, Teflon-dielectric point-to-point wiring; Takman audiophile grade resistors, and SRC tinfoil capacitors in critical signal paths; and an Alps potentiometer. The DiaLogue Premium is claimed to have such a good auto-biasing mechanism that you can mix and match 6L6GC/KT66, EL-34/KT77, 6550/KT88, and KT120 power tubes in any combination or permutation you so choose, and a bad tube indicator in case your sonic Devil's Brew won't cut it on the particular day that you hope to impress your mother-in-law. "Call it 40Wpc," said Kevin, "but it's not underpowered; it's huge power." There's only one way to find out what that means.
Fresh from Primare, the Swedish company whose name, correctly pronounced “prime air,” derives from the fact that audio moves air, were two new prototypes with unfinished faceplates: the PRE60 preamp/DAC ($10,000 target price) and A60 stereo power amplifier ($10,000 target price). Both are expected to ship by summer.
Stepping into the Pro-ject room in the Venetian I spied an entire wall of little boxes--literally dozens of them. Norbert Schmied, from the company's US representatives, Sumiko, handily pointed me toward the DACs and Streamers.
New to CES this year is the company's DAC Box DS in a small compact package and retailing for $549. Features include 24/192 SPDIF, Toslink and async USB as well as PCM-1792 Burr-Brown DAC and 2 filter options.
Pro-Ject’s Media Box S ($359) is “basically a mini-computer,” Sumiko’s Norbert Schmied told me. It accepts a USB thumb drive (as shown), hard drive, or SD card containing MP3, WMA, AAC, or variable-bit-rate files up to 384kbps compression. It uses a 24-bit/96kHz upsampling D/A converter, and album metadata can be displayed and navigated via the front-panel display. Here we see it partnered with Pro-Ject’s Head Box S ($159) and the extremely lightweight and comfortable Hear It Two headphones ($79).
In his entry on Pro-Ject’s impressive DAC Box DS, Jon Iverson noted that the Sumiko suite showed an entire wall of the company’s cute but powerful Box components. Schmied gave me a detailed tour of the offerings. I’ve got three pages of notes on these nearly bite-sized components and every scribble is interesting, but here are the main points:
Active speakersie, those that that have built-in amplifiersare generally unpopular with audiophiles. One well-known speaker designer working on his state-of-the-art speaker contender told me at CES that he would like it to be active but marketing told him that it wouldn’t sell, so he’s staying with the passive design. I guess Precision Transducer Engineering (PTE) didn’t get the memoor maybe they wrote their own . . .
Based in Taiwan and sold in the US by Wavelength Audio Video, Puresonic specializes in high-performance A/V connectors. Their gold-plated “spring-spade” terminals have a patented spring-tension design to reduce the effects of mechanical vibrations, while their one-piece construction is said to improve high-current signal flow. I tightened this guy onto a binding post, and, sure enough, it wouldn’t let go.
QAT Audio Technology is a Chinese company, whose principals have a wide range of interests, from bio-medical engineering to musical performance and composition, and their products aim at the highest level of performance. The QAT MS5 ($5990), which received the Best of Innovations 2013 award is a music server that includes a TEAC CD drive, 2 TB-capacity hard drives, and a tablet-style remote control.