McIntosh kept the lights low in their room to show off the new C220 vacuum tube preamp. Who can resist the alluring glow of green tubes? Retail is $3,300 for the C220 which also features an ingenious headphone mute feature and electronic level adjustment for each of eight source inputs.
If Luke Manley of VTL arrived one Cardas power cable short, and Jeff Joseph arrived minus one set of Cardas speaker cables (see earlier reports), designer Alexander Gaiderov and distributor Victor Rakovich upped them by powering their visually arresting Bolzano speakers with a Muse stereo amp that proceeded to blow up. I wish I knew how these Russian engineered, Italian-designed omnidirectional speakers can sound when paired with other than a Pioneer amp that cannot accommodate their subwoofer. Hopefully, time will tell.
VTL announced a major upgrade to their TL-7.5 Reference Linestage Preamplifier (current gain technology, with dramatically lower noise floor), which is now the TL-7.5 Series II. They also have an upgraded version of the MB-450 monoblocks and a new 250Wpc MB-185. Pictured: VTL’s Bea Lam with the system that featured the TL-7.5/MB-450 combo driving Wilson Sophia 2s. Lovely sound.
Bob Reina stopped me in the halls and asked, "Have you heard the water-cooled triodes?" Huh? Turns out the $59,000/pair Von Gaylord Audio Uni Signature Editions monoblock power amplifiers use exterior transmission-grade tubes submerged in an oil coolant, I presume and you can really see the thermal motion of the coolant, so I'm guessing the tubes run hot.
For me, the highlight of HE2006 so far was sitting on the podium next to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's senior intellectual property attorney Fred Von Lohmann as he analyzed the threat restrictive digital rights management (DRM) poses to innovation of precisely the sort so beloved by us audiophiles.
Ping Gong, AAA Audio's energetic director, shyly told me he had brought "something special" to the show. Knowing AAA's penchant for high-value, low-cost hi-fi, I expected something modest, but impressive. What he had brought was just flat-out impressive.
Direct-marketer Aperion Audio was demonstrating its new $750/pair 533-T tower loudspeaker, built around two 5.25" mid/bass drivers and a 1" silk-dome tweeter. Aperion's cabinets employ 1" MDF and internal bracing, so they're extremely rigid. Aperion not only offers 30-day in-home auditions, but they pay return shipping if you choose not to buy—and they even offer a one year trade-up policy that refunds 100% of the cost of a speaker if you buy a better speaker from them.