Theta Digital, the pioneer of digital separates, announces the mighty Prometheus monoblocks ($12,000/pair). Heard in pre-production mode, with bass so strong and tight that it sent me into the hallway to discuss the product, the 200Wpc into 8 ohms monoblock is due out "within 90 days" (to quote a mantra oft-repeated at CES 2013).
Have you ever attended one of those speaker demos where a large pair of floorstanding speakers were supposedly playing, and then it was revealed that the speakers playing were small hidden ones? (I recall Joseph Audio doing one of these.) Well, it was something like that in the Totem room, but not intentionally. The speakers that I thought were playing were the Metal floorstanders ($12,000/pair) and I was particularly impressed by the deep, dynamic bass produced by these speakers.
And then . . . in discussing the performance of the speakers with designer Vince Bruzzese, I found out that the speakers playing were not the Metals but the much smaller bookself-type Fires ($6000/pair) . . .
The synergy is palpable between Triode Corporation's Japanese-made electronics, distributed by Santo Oropel's Twin AudioVideo, and Acoustic Zen's loudspeakers and cables, masterminded by Robert Lee. At CES, Triode premiered the imminently available TRX-M300 8W into 8 ohms triode monoblocks (approx. $14,000$15,000/pair). Built around a 300B tube driven by a 91A tubethere are one 300B, two 91As, and one 274Bthe 60 lb monoblock includes auto-bias, and has a frequency response of 10Hz50kHz, +0, 3dB.
We recently reviewed Dayton’s overachieving B652 loudspeaker ($39.80/pair), the least expensive loudspeaker ever to be covered in our pages. Dayton Audio also offers a line of amplifiers, made specifically to partner well with their drive units and complete speakers.
Many speaker manufacturers give their various speaker lines fanciful names that make it difficult to determine a given speaker's position in the manufacturer's intended quality range. Polk, in contrast, simply places their speakers in three categories: Good, Better, and Best. I suspect this helps sales staff in stores enormously in communicating what the differences are between various speakers from Polk.
Unison Research is the latest company to offer a power booster for low wattage amplifiers whose sound you love, but whose power is insufficient for your speakers. The Unico UPower booster amplifier ($2695 in silver, $2895 in black), pictured with Bartolomeo Nasta, Unison Research's Export Manager (left), and Marc Phillips, US Importer for Colleen Cardas Imports (right), is a class-A booster amplifier can quadruple output power up to 100Wpc, and, as with the Musical Fidelity Superchargers from few years back, is claimed not to change the sonic signature of the electronics it's paired with.
Valve Amplification Company's Brent F. Meyer (head of technical services) was bullish in his praise of the company's Statement 450 iQ monoblock amp[lifiers ($116,000/pair), shown here on the floor flanking each side of the Critical Mass equipment. The company claims that each tube in this amplifier's output stage is "held precisely at the optimal bias point, regardless of how loudly or softly the music is playing." The VAC iQ circuit also alerts the owner when the tube is growing weak or has failed, making "tube drama a thing of the past." VAC also showed their Statement line preamplifier ($46,000) and Statement phono preamplifier ($50,000), in a system that included Magico S5 loudspeakers ($29,500/pair).
To the growing number of USB cables on the market, Van den Hul now adds the USB Ultimate ($599/1.5m). Maarten Binnendijk, Managing Director of Van den Hul, claims that the company devoted two years to developing the cable to ensure that it "will beat all other USB cables." Only one way to find out. On your mark, get set, GO!
My photograph doesn't do justice to the lustrous blue finish or the immaculate interior construction, but Vandersteen's new M7-HPA power amplifier looks as gorgeous as the Vandersteen Model Seven and 5A loudspeakers with which it is intended to be used. As the HPA in its name implies, the M7-HPA provides a high-pass filtered output (>100Hz) to the upper-frequency drive-units of these two speakers, which have integral powered subwoofers. The amplifier uses a tube input stage and a two single-ended solid-state output amplifier stages operating in what Richard Vandersteen calls "push-push," all mounted with a sprung suspension and kept cool with a liquid cooling system. Price is projected to be between $30,000 and $40,000/pair.
Vienna Acoustics' Mozart loudspeaker was introduced at the 1996 CES, and it has stayed in the line ever sincealthough not, of course, without some changes/modifications. (My review of the original Mozart was in the January 1997 issue). The current Mozart Grand SE ($3500/pair, a not-unreasonable increase from the $2500 of the original), introduced at this year's CES, has a spider-cone low-frequency driver of similar design to Vienna Acoustics' more expensive models, a modified tweeter, changes in cabinet construction, and crossover changes. As demoed by Kevin Wolff of US distributor VANA (see photo), the Mozart Grand SE had the same sort of beguiling sound that I remember from lo these many years ago.
Vincent's new SV-800 integrated amplifier ($4999.95) outputs 100Wpc into 8 ohms, the first 50 of which are class-A. A tube hybrid design, it uses four 12AX7s, four 12AV7s, and six output transistors. Most of its inputs are RCA, but there is one pair of XLRs.
With Jon Iverson covering digital products for Stereophile, and me covering preamps and amps in the $2500$15,000 range, I tossed a virtual coin and went for the new Vitus RD-100 ($13,000). Billed as "Reference Digital to Analog Converter," it is 50% DAC, and 50% preamp. Hans-Ole Vitus himself displays the product, which includes a full-blown relay volume control with a single resistor in series to ensure a very short signal path and a consistent sonic signature at all volume levels. Built with separate internal modulesfour for the DAC, and four for the preampit is said to be fully upgradeable. The DAC handles files up to 32/192 via USB and has a total of four RCA and XLR inputs, while the preamp also includes two XLR and two RCA inputs and both XLR and RCA outputs.
There's nothing like a $118,600 system (excluding racks, Shakti Hallographs, equipment supports, and all the rest) to get the juices flowing. Such was the case in Jonathan Josephs' One World Audio room at T.H.E. Show, where the imposing redesigned Voce Audio VA-3 loudspeakers with Stillpoints Ultra Five supports ($35,635) were making beautiful music with MSB Technology's Analog DAC w/volume control ($7990), Data CD IV disc player w/power base ($7490), and 200W class-A 203 monoblock amplifiers ($27,500)the things that look like huge space heaters.
JA noted the new Weiss network player at Rocky Mountain, but this was the first time I had seen the production version. There are two options available: with DAC for $12,262 or without for $9,083. Either way the MAN301 uses an iPad app for remote control, has a CD slot on the front for ripping your discs, and the need for external storage.
Since this is a network player and not just a music server, the Weiss can handle internet radio and podcasts and has a variety of digital inputs. Both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs as well as digital complete the back panel.
Every CES witnesses something out of left field. In the case of the 2013 Show, it was the ViolinSpeaker, which uses the body of a real violin to emit frequencies above 2kHz. (A conventional 6.5" woofer is concealed in the plinth.) The ViolinSpeaker is offered at two prices: $7200/pair and $3800/pair, depending on the quality of the instrument chosen. The sound? Not as bad as I was expecting, but not very good either.