Dusty Vawter's Channel Island Audio has made its reputation building high-performance audio components in extremely small packages, but we were still surprised to see how tiny CIA's new VDA-2 DAC ($599)is. How small? Try 4.4" W by 2.65" H by 4.4" D.
Penaudio's Tommi Forss was excited about the Finnish company's new Alba ($4000/pair). "We wanted a smaller floorstanding speaker than our Serenade, but a larger speaker than our Charisma, so we used the 1" SEAS Excel fabric dome tweeter from the Serenade and the 7" SEAS treated paper cone midrange/woofer in a compact time-aligned cabinet."
Anthony Gallo's new Reference 3.1 loudspeaker ($2995/pair) proved that it's better to set up a room properly than it is to try to beat it into submission with expensive components. Not to take anything away from Gallo's Ref 3.1, which sounded fantastic, but his demo proved that God truly is in the details, sounding bigger, realer, richer, and more dynamic than most of the googolbuck systems we heard today. In fact, one importer, who shall remain nameless, confessed that he had a pair in his living room rather than the costly lines he brings into the country.
Some think that the high-end audio business is a competitive, cut-throat endeavor, leading to animosities, but this picture of (l–r): EveAnna Manley (Manley Labs), Dennis Had (Cary Audio) and Kevin Deal (Prima Luna) shows that it isn't always that way, at least for purveyors of tube equipment.
DEQX (pronounced "decks") has been succesfully showing their active EQ system for several years now, and each time, they push the envelope forward with a better product and better demo. This year they topped themselves again and have teamed up with newcomer Wasatch Acoustics to create a state-of-the-art system comprised of a modular speaker system with amplification and active digital EQ.
Day Sequerra presented its newest FM/AM/HD Radio tuner, the Model M1 HD Broadcast Reference tuner in the Alexis Park. The basic chassis includes the option to receive High Definition (HD) FM digital radio and HD/AM radio in a modular package ($4995) with single-ended analog, balanced analog, and digital outputs. "We have begun to refer to this model as 'tuners," said David Day, seen in the photo with his new baby, "because it can be configured to accommodate 10 different audio and video receive modules, including: FM HD, a class-M output option that features current-feedback amplifiers), cable TV, an ultra high-end FM Reference Module front-end option, or HD TV." Two common options will be the M1 configured with a 2.75" oscilloscope
($6995), or the price-not-determined "Panalyzer" option, which provides a 5–500MHz spectrum display.
Soundsmith introduced a strain-gauge cartridge system in the Joseph Audio room at the Alexis Villas. The output of the dedicated battery-powered preamplifier can be fed to a preamp's line input as it does not require any equalization.
McIntosh demonstrated a vacuum-tube version of its C1000 preamplifier in its two-channel audio room at the Alexis Villas. Retailing for $9000 and weighing in at 54 lbs, the C-1000T has fully balanced, dual-mono, MC and MM phono stages, balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs, and a front-panel window to show off four of the eight 12AX7 tubes. Mirrors create a barbershop effect of endless reflections, suggesting the presence of many more tubes than are actually there. Even so, I found the effect pleasing.
Gingko Audio is a manufacturer I'm familiar with as a maker of component supports, but they also make a loudspeaker: the unusually named and unusual-looking Tubulous ($2450/pair). The enclosure consists of a pressed-paper tube, and there are three midrange/woofers inside, with a tweeter mounted on top. Very clean, transparent sound.
Prima Luna, Dutch maker of affordable tube electronics, had two new monoblock amplifiers: the EL34-equipped Model 6 and the KT88'd Model 7. What's particularly interesting is that the Model 7 can also be used with EL34s, so the indecisive audiophile can get a Model 7 with an extra set of EL34s, and, voilà! For the tube cost of $160 you effectively have a different amplifier.
Final Sound, the Dutch maker of electrostatic speakers, has been revamping their entire line, with increased sensitivity and reliability being among the claimed results. I was quite taken with sound of the top-of-the-line Model 1000i ($10,000/pair).
Dieter Burmester, president of Berlin-based Burmester Electronics, beamed as we listened to Madeleine Peyroux's Billy-Holiday-like rendition of "Dance
Me to the End of Love" (CD, Careless Love, Rounder, 1161-3192-2) being played over his new full-range loudspeaker, the B-100. I felt that it was the most holographic, three-dimensional reproduction of this song (a personal favorite of both mine and Dieter B.'s) that I have yet heard. Although the price has not been announced, the B-100 is taller and 40kg heavier than its predecessor, the B-99 and should exceed, by a proportional amount, that speaker's $49k/pair price. The B-100 features a new double-ribbon tweeter/horn arrangement that I feel accounts at least in part for the new speaker's jaw-dropping transparency and effortless highs.
The Krell EVO 505 SACD/CD player ($10,000), features matched 24-bit /192 kHz DACs and separate power supplies for the drive mechanism, digital, and analog circuitry as well as CAST and Current Mode. The EVO 525 ($13,500) adds a dual-channel video format converter, so it can output 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p via HDMI. There were also two multichannel preamp processors introduced, but I'll leave those to Kal Rubinson to report.