Gato, a young Danish company whose products are distributed in the US by Aerial Acoustics, made its debut at CES 2013 with the handsome Gato integrated stereo Amp-150 ($7990 with remote). Outputting 150Wpc into 8 ohms, and 250 into 4, the integrated has 1 XLR input, 4 RCA inputs, and both XLR and RCA outputs. Frequency response is 20Hz20kHz ±0.5 dB, and 2Hz100 kHz ±3dB. The meter's needle shows the volume control setting. The choice of high gloss black, high gloss white, and or high gloss walnut veneer covers makes this 30.4 lb. integrated even more attractive.
Thanks to using very precise and low-noise parts not originally designed for hi-fi applications, as well as silicon-germanium transistors, Hegel has been able to release its new entry-level P20 preamplifier ($2900). Equipped with a high quality system remote control, milled out of one solid piece of aluminum, it includes five regular inputs, both balanced and unbalanced; a special home theater input; and balanced, unbalanced, and fixed line-level outputs.
Amidst the glorious sound of Scaena loudspeakers and Veloce's battery-powered electronics (among other goodies) ran Rick Schultz's new High Fidelity cables. Alan Eichenbaum of Scaena reports that when the Schultz sent him some samples, he gave them a try and thought they were "quite good." I'll say. Only available with RCA terminations, Eichenbaum used them as interconnects and speaker cable in his demo, mating them with Nordost Odin power cables. If you judge cables by the company they keep, High Fidelity's are surely upper class. Although Schultz was not present, I later discovered that his Texas-made cables are distributed in the US by Brian Ackerman of Aaudio Imports pictured above.
Harman International’s High-Performance Group’s exhibit featured a live demonstration of its most expensive equipment, including two Revel Rhythm 2 18" subwoofers ($10,000 each); two Revel Ultima2 Salons ($22,000/pair); a Macintosh MacBook Pro running Amarra software driving a Mark Levinson No.502 Sound Processor; a No.52 preamplifier ($30,000); two No.53 Reference monoblock amplifiers ($25,000 each); and Transparent power conditioners for the digital equipment and for the amplifiers. The rack also included a No.512 SACD player. The Revel Ultima2 Salons were crossed over to the subs at 80Hz with 4th-order slopes for both high-pass and low-pass filters. Listening to Diana Krall singing "I Used to Love You," I was struck by how all the loudspeakers and electronics disappeared leaving a holographic image of her voice, with a wide and deep soundstage.
USB Dongle DACs are taking off, and companies like HRT are attempting to combine small form factor with features and sound quality. Unlike Audioquest's Dragonfly, the microStreamer sports two output jacks, one fixed and optimized for line level destinations and the other with variable out for headphones.
The microStreamer will retail for $189.95, can handle streams up to 24/96 and is connected to your computer or source with a short USB cable. The company explains that this approach prevents mishaps where the dongle could damage your computer's USB connector if it was plugged straight in like the Dragonfly.
The Music Streamer HD has been upgraded to include both balanced and unbalanced output jacks (the previous model had one jack with a special adaptor) and can stream up to 24/192 via USB2. Retail price is $449.95
In the small DAC department is the iFi iDAC for $299 and for those that would like a better power supply, add the optional iUSB Power Plant for $199. Though this is the first CES for the iDAC, Michael Lavorgna has already reviewed it quite favorably over at AudioStream.com.
The iDAC sports a 24/192 USB asynch input with headphone amp, analog volume control and ESS Sabre DAC. Adding the Power Plant means your computer USB is no longer doing the heavy lifting and all of the iDAC components get a "super-regulated" filtered power supply.
Jeff Joseph was demming his new Pearl3 floorstanding speakers ($28,100/pair) in an all Bel Canto system (including their new USB converters), hooked up with Cardas cables. Jeff's music choice was decidedly idiosyncratic a duet for marimba and double bass, a recording of an African singer and sax player made in his backyard, Harry Belafonte live at Carnegie Hallbut with every kind of music, the Pearls allowed the music to speak most effectively.
In a large, acoustically untreated basement room at the Flamingo, KEF's "Brand Ambassador" Johann Coorg, was getting superb sound from the same orange pair of Blade speakers ($30,000/pair) that he had demmed at last October's RMAF. Again using Parasound Halo preamp and monoblock power amps, Johann was playing files from J River Media Center running in a Windows environment on his MacBook Pro, courtesy of Parallels, to feed a Parasound ZDAC. (That way, he could use the Mac's native USB2.0 driver.) Cabling was all WireWorld and AC was conditioned with a Torus transformer.
The Kimber Select line is sporting three new USB cables, whose prices are yet TBD: copper (approx. $500), hybrid (approx. $1000), and full silver (approx. $1500). Shipment is projected for late January. The cables, built entirely in Utah, feature a braided design, unique proprietary shielding, and a distinct ebony head shell chosen for its inert properties. Presumably, thoughts of the lovely sounds soon to be delivered by these new cables were enough to leave Kimber's photo-shy Nate Mansfeld smiling.
Though I was exhausted from a long day of walking through enormous casinos and down seemingly endless halls, I couldn’t resist the allure of flashing lights and loud dance music. I walked into the room and was startled by red-and-white-striped jump ropes spinning dizzying patterns to the music.
How lovely to again make the acquaintance of Eunice Kron of KR Audio and Roger DuNaier of KingSound. Driving the mighty King III full-range electrostats, with a generous assist from Clarity cable, were KR's VA910 160Wpc monoblock push-pull ultralinear, class-AB1 amplifiers ($18,000/pair). Chosen to enhance the King III at a lower cost than other KR Audio amps, they use Russian KT120s, which are more affordable than KR's own tubes, mated to a MOSFET class-A driver stage. Completing the chain was the KR P130 triode stereo line preamplifier ($4990), which comes with remote control.