Silverline Audio's new Prelude is a slim floorstander combining an aluminum-dome tweeter with two 3.5" aluminum/magnesium-alloy mid/woofers. Designer Alan Yun was running the speakers with a pair of Pass X600s (600Wpc), an unusual combination intended to show the speaker's potential for dynamics and bass extension—and it certainly did that. Nice, smooth sound, too. The Prelude seems like a real bargain at $1200/pair.
Small seems to be the next big thing—the new black, maybe. Viola Audio Labs introduced its 9" W by 4.3" H by 16" D 75W Forte monoblocks ($10,000/pair). Like its big brothers, the Forte has a minimum of internal wiring, which along with its compact dimensions, keeps signal paths short. It has a 1M ohm input impedance, making it easy to drive, and this is said also to improve HF performance and transient response, according to designer Tom Colangelo's colleague Paul Jayson. It uses minimal negative feedback and a choke input filter power supply.
The fabled Threshold Stasis amplifier is back. The S/350 reissue, built in China by Threshold International Ltd., is said to have the same circuit as the original, but with updated components. The original cost $3900 in 1992, so for those who long to own this famous amplifier, the S/350 reissue at $2000 is a bargain!
This is Vegas, so you'll understand that when I say that Jon Iverson and I were simply rolling the dice when we entered Audiona's room at T.H.E. Show, I mean that in a good way. "Want to hear some actively crossovered, four-way loudspeakers?" Brian Quick asked us. Well, yeah, that's what we do.
Technical Audio Devices, better known as TAD, was showing a speaker that looked disturbingly familiar. It was the same size and seemed to feature the same drivers as TAD's Model-1, but it lacked that speaker's silver hood and upper front baffle. That's because Andrew Jones had come to Vegas with TAD's Model-2, which he said would come in between $35,000 and $40,000/pair.
Walking through the halls of T.H.E. Show, we stumbled across Ray Samuels (of Ray Samuels Audio) manning his table of headphone ecstasy. We listened to Samuels' Raptor ($1175) driving AKG's new K 701 headphones ($400), which HeadRoom's Tyll Hertsens told us were his new reference cans. Maybe ours, too, based on the sound Ray was getting. Wes has begged for a pair for review. Stay tuned.
We were on another mission from God—in other words, a request from Editor John Atkinson, which is the same thing for working journalists. "You have to check out Hovland's new power amplifier," JA gushed.
McIntosh displayed the full-range, $80,000/pair XRT2K speaker in their two-channel room at the Alexis Park. It sets a record for number of
drivers per side—110—with
40 tweeters, 64 midrange units, and six woofers. Frequency response is claimed to be 16Hz–45kHz. The system driven to full volume by the 495lb McIntosh MC2KW monoblock ($30,000), which can deliver 2kW, demonstrated awesome dynamic range.
Amphion's Anssi Hyvönen was happy to demo his tiny Ions ($1350/pair). The diminutive two-ways sport a 1" titanium tweeter and a 4.5" midrange/woofer, and weigh an easy to lift 10.5 pounds. They sound pretty darn big, though. I enjoyed them in a system with a T+A 1535 surround sound receiver and T+A SADV 1245 R DVD player, finding them spacious and three-dimensional. Then HeadRoom's Tyll Hertsens walked into the room and asked, "How do they sound as desktop speakers?"
High-end amplifier guru John Curl, well-known for his early designs at Mark Levinson Audio Systems and for the Vendetta phono preamplifier—some regard this as the finest head amp ever made— was at the Alexis Park to discuss his latest design for Parasound, the JC-2 preamplifier. [The price of the JC-2 has not been determined yet, but will be somewhere in the vicinity of $3200.] John was particularly pleased to point out that he had worked with the same circuit-board designer from the Vendetta days. He also pointed out the preamp’s "D-core" power transformer, which has an oval core at right angles to the winding. John believes that this is much quieter than a conventional toroidal transformer. However, he had persuaded Parasound to omit a phono stage because even the D-core transformer wasn't quiet enough for him. That brought up an obvious question—would he reintroduce the Vendetta? Although nothing was definite, he noted, "I'll probably have to do something because everyone is bugging me to bring it back."
"What's new?" we asked Halcro's Philip O'Hanlon. He ushered us into a room with the brand new ("North American premiere") dm88 250W monoblocks ($40,000/pair). Also in the room were Hanlon's own pair of Classic Audio Reproductions T-3s ($16,500/pair and up, depending on finish)—updated reproductions of James B. Lansing's Hartsfields.
Chinese OEM manufacturer Dissun was sharing a room with Tetra, so when we stopped by to see what Adrian Butts had wrought, we were pleasantly surprised to see the suite filled with interesting components—all of them looking well built and beautifully turned out.