Knowing something about race car driving won't get you a good system in and of itself, but it will help you understand the genesis of the names of Alvin Lloyd's Grand Prix Audio's attractive equipment isolation racks. New is their Woodcote line, the company's first line of wooden racks. Made of true hardwoodno MDF herethe four-shelf cherry model with decoupled shelves costs $4495, and walnut, curly maple, and custom woods are also available.
With his Renaissance Edition components, Red Wine Audio’s Vinnie Rossi says he aimed to fuse traditional and modern design elements. The battery-powered Signature 16 integrated amplifier ($1995) has a beautiful real wood chassis and a chrome top plate held in place with simple thumbscrews for easy access to the tubes inside. The amp is rated to deliver 16Wpc into 8 ohms.
At this year's CES, Sumiko's John-Paul Lizars introduced me to REL Acoustics’ new R528 SE sub-bass system. He described it as an "ultra-high output version of the R528" but also as a more compact version of the company's flagship Gibraltar 1 subwoofer. The R528 SE is half the weight (58 lbs instead of 108 lbs), 43% of the volume, and 61% of the cost of the G1 ($2750 instead of $4499). While the larger G1 has a 600W class-AB amplifier, the R528 SE has a 500W class-D amplifier. Both subwoofers utilize REL's aluminum-chassis, 12", carbon-fibercone woofer, but the R528 SE adds a downward-firing 12" passive radiator. Low-frequency response are not that different, with the R528 SE's 6dB point at 21Hz, and the Gibraltar 1's 15Hz. Many audiophiles and home-theater fans may end up favoring the more compact new subwoofer.
One of my favorite products to review over the last couple years was the Cantata Music Center from Resolution Audio. What's not to like: solid engineering, forward thinking and gorgeous styling.
The company claims the product is designed to be future proofed for at least the next 10 years, and is now offering a new $500 24/192 hardware upgrade (software upgrades are free) to existing owners that is also featured in current versions. The Cantata Music Center is now also UpNP capable for FLAC and AIFF file decoding.
Revel’s new Rhythm 2 subwoofer ($10,000) contains a pair of 2000W class-D amplifiers (said to offer 4kW on peaks); an 18" driver with a 4” voice-coil; over 114dB maximum acoustic output; high-resolution DSP room equalization; fully configurable electronic crossover; and PC or Mac setup via USB. Kevin Voecks, its designer, described how the subwoofer's highly sophisticated DSP engine can equalize both the subwoofer and the satellite speakers. The DSP-driven room equalization generates adjustments from one set of room measurements, correcting for as many as 10 modes in the frequency range of 20400Hz.
Speakers in the VTL room were Rockport's new Atria ($21,500/pair). This is a three-way dsign using a 9" carbon fiber sandwich-cone woofer, a 6" carbon fiber sandwich-cone midrange unit, and a 1" beryllium-dome tweeter, with Transparent Audio internal cabling. The 43.5"-tall speaker has a specified frequency response of 28Hz30kHz, 3dB, a 4 ohm impedance, and a sensitivity of 87dB/W/m. Driven by VTL MB450s in triode mode, Peter Gabriel singing David Bowie's "Heroes: from LP had a delicious tangibility to the voice and a powerful but clean bass line. "Sweet" I commented in my notebook.
At $1295, Rogue Audio’s latest hybrid integrated amplifier is also the company’s most affordable amplifier. Don’t you love that? I do. The Sphinx is rated to deliver 100Wpc into 8 ohms; looks tough; has a phono stage, headphone amp, and an optional remote; and is handmade in Pennsylvania, USA.
With all the headphone options out there, it might be hard to find the one that’s right for you. If quality, rather than superficial associations with aging rock bands, is what you want, one outstanding option would be Sennheisera company that’s been perfecting the art of headphones even longer than Motorhead’s been playing “Ace of Spades.”
Although most of the products on display at CES Unveiled were not in the audio category, there were a few products that were of interest to Stereophile readers: winners in the Best of Innovations 2013 contest, which had products nominated in various categories of consumer electronics. The Sennheiser 800IE earbuds are the result of several years of research, and are claimed to have a frequency response of 8Hz41kHz, ±3dBan astonishing achievement for a single transducer. The price is $999. For many people, earbuds are almost a disposable item, and are often left on planes. I would be very afraid of losing these.
Shunyata’s Hydra AV power conditioner uses the same technologies found in the company’s Reference series Triton (reviewed by Michael Fremer in January 2012), but is intended for floor-mounted applications without sacrificing performance. Shown here is a prototype; final production should be complete in about one month and the price should be around $3000 to $4000.
Given that the folks at Pass Labs have never made a big deal about cabling, it's significant that they've given a major thumbs up to Silent Source Audio cables. Calling them "the best cables you've never heard," they use these hand-built-in-Texas cables to voice their products.
Though they were both at the CES last year, the MiND 180 and MOON 380D DAC with the MiND option have only recently started shipping. The MiND (Moon Intelligent Network Device) retails for $1,250 and adds basic network and NAS streaming functionality to your system. It can handle up to 24/192 through WiFi, ethernet, AES/EBU and Toslink. Control is handled via a free iOS and Android app that looked very user friendly and easy on the eyes.
I’m a big fan of Thinksound’s in-ear designs, but lately I’ve been listening more to on-ear and over-the-ear headphonesI find them more attractive, much more comfortable, and far easier to enjoy overall. So I was happy to learn that Thinksound is now working on its own on-ear design. The yet-to-be-named headphone will cost somewhere between $200 and $300, and should be available sometime this spring. Here we see an early prototypeThinksound is still working to perfect the overall ergonomics.
I heard a surprisingly engaging, well-balanced sound coming from SkullCandy’s new Navigator on-ear headphone ($99.95), a smaller, lighter version of the company’s popular Aviator ($149.95). I brought along my own review sample of the Aviator and enjoyed the attention it garnered from showgoers and exhibitors, but these headphones aren’t just about fashion. Stay tuned for reviews of the Navigator and Aviator in upcoming issues of Stereophile.