EgglestonWorks, who manufacture loudspeakers in Memphis, Tennesee, introduced a all-new version of their 150 lb, Nine Signature loudspeaker ($18,900/pair). This is a three-way speaker that uses a 1” dome tweeter, a sealed midrange section that incorporates two all-new carbon-fiber 6" midrange drivers, and a new dual-ported 8" bass driver, and is spec'd from 25Hz20kHz, 3dB. This floorstander was powered by a new Rogue Audio Sphinx hybrid class-D integrated stereo amplifier ($1295), which played digital music files sourced through a dCS Puccini DAC and CD player.
Norwegian Manufacturer Electrocompaniet had two new digital products this year. The first is the ECD 2 Reference DAC retailing at $3,099 and available now. It features balanced and unbalanced outputs, 24/192 SPDIF Coax and new this year, USB. The ECD 2 upsamples and uses 24/192 processing throughout.
The EMP 3 is the company's latest version of an upgraded Oppo player and retails for $3,995 and is available now. They start with the Oppo 103, leave the video section alone, and rip everything else out. The put their own 24/192 DAC in the box and replace the Oppo op-amps with all discrete circuitry in a final design very similar to the previous EMP 2 model.
Being based on an Oppo means it will play just about any audio disc you have on hand and also do 3D Blu-ray and upscale video to 4K if you have a display to handle it. On the audio side, there is also a separate balanced stereo analog output added by Electrocompaniet.
EMM's new transport sports an Esoteric drive and is intended to mate with the company's DAC2X DAC. Retail price is $17,000 or $30,000 when bought together with the DAC2x. When the two are connected, "CDs and SACDs are automatically upsamples to 5.6 MHz, which is double SACD's standard sampling rate." There is an optical out for DSD and AES/EBU for PCM (from CD or SACD).
Enigmacoustics' Sopranino add-on electrostatic super-tweeter ($3900/pair) was innovative enough to garner a 2013 CES Design and Engineering Showcase Honors award. Mounted on a gray and white glass stand, the anodized aluminum cabinet and almost square speaker panel is small, measuring 7.2" x 7.7" x 8.3", and weighs 10.4 lbs each.
Esoteric unveiled the handsome C-03X stereo linestage preamplifier ($13,500). A fully balanced dual-mono design, it boasts a low-impedance, fast-response power circuit comprised of three transformers. So new that it was only available in static display at CES, it will soon be accompanied by an MM/MC-compatible phono module.
Although a number of speaker manufacturers use Heil AMT drivers, only one company has the rights to use the name of the original speaker company that used Heil drivers: ESS. Headquartered in South El Monte, CA, ESS Laboratories LLC (which we might call “ESS Reborn”) also owns the rights to the original slogan, “Sound As Clear As Light.” Unlike the speakers by ADAM Audio, GoldenEar, etc., these speakers look just like the original ones from ESS. President and CEO of ESS, Ricky “Rico” Caudillo, seen in the photo, told me that he wanted to stay with the original, highly-successful designs, but in recreating these designs managed to improve them in a number of ways, most notably in producing wider dispersion. A brief listen to the LD12 ($3295/pair), modeled on the original ESS Monitor, left me with a very positive impression.
I had auditioned the Estelon X-Diamond speakers ($65,000/pair) at the 2012 Newport Beach Show, but the room there was not allowing the speakers to sound at their best. Driven by top-of-the-line, class-A Vitus amplification, these speakers, which use the 1.2" Accuton inverted diamond-dome tweeter, along with a 7" Accuton ceramic-cone midrange unit and an 11" Accuton ceramic-cone woofer, sounded much better at CES, even though the dem room was one of the infamous split-level rooms at the Venetian.
Audioquest has filled out its series of ethernet cables. In the photo, the company's Shane Buettner holds the top of the line Diamond ($1095/1.5 meter) ethernet cable, which features 100% PSS (pure silver) and Audioquest's DBS dielectric bio-system, whose battery pack puts a DC bias on the cable's insulation. Also new is the cable right beneath it, the Vodka ($249/1.5 meter), composed of silver-plated copper. The cable's extremely solid connectors are a major step above the plastic terminations found on stock ethernet cables.
Pass Laboratories, who introduced the Xs line of flagship 150W and 300W amplifiers at last year's CES, brought out a new preamplifier, the Pass Labs Xs preamplifier (price to be determined). It features a single control chassis that carries the line level audio signal and an external power supply. The Xs preamplifier was used to drive a pair of Pass Labs Xs300 ($85,000/pair) power amps connected to a pair of Sony SS-ARI ($27,000/pair) loudspeakers. The Pass Lab team obliged me by playing a fresh vinyl pressing from Japan of the Proprius Cantate Domino recording. The dynamic range and control of the pipe organ pedal notes was remarkable, making the Pass Labs one of the best-sounding setups I heard at the show the first day.
Jim Fosgate plans to issue two new Signature products, the Fosgate Signature tube preamplifier (projected $3500) and 50Wpc Signature stereo tube power amplifier (projected $4000). Seen in prototype form, and expected in the 2nd quarter of the year, the nine-tube preamp combines a hybrid MM/MC phono stage with an all-tube line stage, and comes complete with remote control and six-position MC cartridge loading.
Standing in static display in the Audio Note room sat in full lotus position with eyes half shut the lovely G-70 stereo line preamplifier ($37,000). With a frequency response of 10 Hz240 kHz, four RCA inputs and two RCA outputs, this baby uses two 6072/12AY7 vacuum tubes and one 6X4.
This is the first time I've taken a close look at the Gato products from Denmark. Though the company has a rich history at home, tracing their roots back through GamuT to other brands, the Gato moniker is now making inroads around the US. They manufacture speakers, amps and the $8,000 CDD-1 that I spotted in their room at the Venetian.
Sandy Gross has done it again! At CES 2011 I was blown away by the sound quality and value offered by the GoldenEar Triton Two, my highly positive impression confirmed by more extended listening (see my review). At CES 2013, Sandy introduced a speaker with possibly an even greater quality/value combination: the Triton Seven. This is another floorstander, but much smaller than the Triton Two (or the Triton Three that was introduced last year). It uses similar drivers as the Triton Two, including the High Velocity Folded Ribbon (aka Heil) tweeter, but, unlike the Triton Two, the bass is not powered. The lack of a powered subwoofer has allowed Triton Seven to be priced at $1399/pair. Surprisingly, the bass, which is one of the major strengths of the Triton Two, does not appear to have suffered, and the speaker has the same sort of transparency and precise imaging that characterizes the Triton Two. The Triton Seven is expected to be available in May. Photo: Sandy Gross with the Triton Two and the Triton Seven.
My old friends, Big Mike and Anton of NFS Audio. Over at the Flamingo, exhibiting at T.H.E. Show, the pair were having a good time, listening to Lee Morgan through a system comprising Yamaha NS1000 and Infinity WTLC loudspeakers, a Yamaha CR3020 receiver, a Sony PSX800 turntable with Monster Sigma Genesis MC cartridge, and an Oppo disc player.