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.
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!
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.
Walking through the halls of T.H.E. Show, Jon Iverson and I were caught by John DeVore as we tried to cruise the halls quickly. "You've got to hear this," he gushed. "This is probably the worst sound and the best music you'll hear at the show."
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.