The Alexis Park Hotel, also known as the "AP," has been home to high-end audio exhibitors for the past decade. And by that we mean two-channel audio exhibitors. But the last couple of years has seen an increase in video and surround sound home theater demos on the grounds. And this year the hotel changed its name to Alexis Villas, or as we will now be calling it: The AV. Coincidence?
This is the second year I was impressed by the sound of the YG Acoustics modular loudspeaker. As configured, this one runs $90,000/pair, although, as Yoav Gonczarowski, the company sells more of the configuration that eschews the second bass module. That version sells for $60,000, and is the most popular loudspeaker in its price class in Japan, selling four pair each month.
It has been a while since we've seen a new electrostatic enter the fray, so we were surprised at the range of offerings from King's, which ran the gamut from tiny desktop models to a huge baby called the King ($6000). King's has a new angle on 'stats—DC input. The normal technique of using amplified AC voltage caused problems with vibration and interference, they found, so they came up with an efficient DC-driven panel that can be used with as little as 2W.
I always have time Hervé Delétraz, so we jumped into Blue Light's room, where Jonathan Tinn had assembled a system to show off darTZeel's new NHB-18Nspreamplifier ($23,250). It's battery powered, offering 15 hours of listening between charging sessions and includes a fairly sophisticated phono section. Hervé doesn't believe in contact switches, potentiometers, or stepped attenuators, so he came up with new solutions—including an analog passive signal attenuator, which, he claims, operates over 96dB in .5dB increments.
Sony's pre-Show press conference made little reference to sound quality, and SACD did not get even a mention. However, Sony's display did show their latest SACD player and the new MDR-V900HD headphones ($249), which have claimed frequency response extending to 80kHz. These 'phones sounded exceptionally smooth and well-balanced. Comfortable, too.
Telarc/Heads Up's Amanda Sweet displays the label's latest three discs: Ladysmith Black Mambazo's Long Walk to Freedom, Hiromi's Spiral, and Vilvaldi's Gloria paired with Bach's Magnificat. The Vivaldi/Handel disc is one of Wes' show demo discs, boasting extremely natural DSD surround.
Cayin's American distributor Sze Leung had three new units on display at the Acoustic Sounds booth: the Phono One ("under $2000"), a tube driven phono section, Citation Sound 1 ($3500) full-function preamplifier (phono section included), and the HA-1 ($700) tubed headphone amp/integrated amp (3Wpc). Jackson Mar and Anna Gao of Cayin's parent company, Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., Ltd., came over for CES and couldn't resist grinning when the price of the HA-1 caused bystanders to whistle in admiration.
Musical Fidelity's US distributor Signal Path invited John Atkinson and me to hear the American debut of the kW DM25 Transport ($3000) and kW DM25 DAC ($3500). I didn't know the prices of the separates, so when I saw how luxe they looked I added an extra zero to the prices. But no, they really do cost just $6500 together.
We were on a mission, of sorts. A mission to find a pair of small loudspeakers, which, as it turns out, is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Especially around these parts, where, it seems, size and volume are set to impress.
Continuing our mission to find some good-sounding, small loudspeakers, we wandered on over to the Margules Audio room, where I spotted some cute, little guys hanging out in the corner. Unfortunately, they weren't hooked up to anything that actually plays music. Only the larger speakers were prepared to rock, and after my time with the Piazettas, I really wasn't interested.