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!
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.
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.
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.
Andrew and Lukas Lipinski, manufacturers of the L-707 monitor I reviewed in December, were fed up with poor room acoustics and slow foot traffic at trade shows. So they eliminated the room! Ray Kimber urged them to take the empty spot in the Alexis Park lunchroom for their demo setup. Andrew set up one of the few multi-channel demo systems at the Show using six L-707s, including the one for rear height information seen in the photo. Despite the din of the lunch crowd, all I had to do was sit in the nearfield, and I was bathed in sound from Andrew's multi-channel recordings, such as his new Republique SACD. For the photo, however, they kicked back with Telarc's recording of Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing "Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes." It definitely rocked the lunchroom!
Codenamed "ML-DVD" during its development, the Mark Levinson No.51 Media Player made its debut at CES. The $18,000, limited-edition player (only 150 will be offered for sale) is intended to get all there is to be gotten from CDs and DVD-Vs, but pointedly will not play SACDs or DVD-As (though it will, of course, play the video-zone Dolby Digital tracks of the latter). I listened to the No.51 in a system comprising the Mark Levinson No.40 controller, the new No.433 three-channel amplifier for the LCR speakers (a pair of Revel F52s and a C32) and a No.431 two-channel amp for the Revel M22 rears, along with two Revel F15 subs. Whether it was two-channel music—Greg Browne's "Who Killed Cock Robin?", which was everywhere at the Show—or film surround sound—Pleasantville—there was an addictive ease to the system's sound, coupled with extraordinary dynamic range.
We're suckers for Proacs, so we were delighted to hear importer Richard Gerberg explain that the Studio line was designed to be affordable. "Well, affordable for Proac," Gerberg said. Our hearts fell—until Gerberg told us that the handsome stand-mounted Studio 110s were $1500/pair and the floorstanding Studio 140s were $2800/pair. Not cheap, but in line with our expectations for the venerable Northamptonshire manufacturer.
The Audio Refinement brand of affordable components from France's YBA is no more—problems with their Asian manufacturing partner, I understand. But there’s good news: Audio Refinement has been reborn as YBA Design, with a new Asian manufacturing facility that promises to be more reliable. The first two products in the line—designed by Yves-Bernard André, Mr. YBA himself—are the YA201 integrated amp and YC201 CD player, each priced at $1499. The industrial design is stunning in its elegance and simplicity, and, judging by the sound of a pair of Focal-JMlab 1007Be loudspeakers driven by the YBA Design combo, the performance is up to YBA's usual high standards.
The German Clearaudio company, ever-reverent of James Bond's lineage of luxury philosophy, introduced the $17,000 Goldfinger cartridge. Magnets have been doubled up to eight pieces, and a dynamic range of an extraordinary 100dB is claimed. Eric Clapton's "Layla" on vinyl (Reprise 9362-4502-1) never sounded better, I thought.
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.
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.
At $9750/pair, Tetra's 506 ain't cheap, but they sounded awfully good with Dissun's Original electronics. An 8" midrange/woofer and a 1.25" fabric-dome tweeter were making pretty music in this rear-ported design. Wynton Marsalis and Herbie Hancock have already purchased pairs, we were told. We asked, "Where's [Tetra's designer] Adrian Butts?"
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.