Neil Sinclair gave me a tour of Theta’s new multi-channel amp, which keeps the signal exclusively in the digital domain from the S/PDIF inputs to the PWM output stage, the latter said to operate at the super-high frequency of 1MHz. Designed by veteran amp engineer Dave Reich, what is in effect a powerDAC—that’s what it says on the output-stage printed circuit boards—will find its way, I hope, into some two-channel products in due course.
It's official. I am a nerd! I couldn't resist snapping the interior of Theta's amplifier, which takes an audio input as PCM digital and transforms it into PWM digital without ever changing it back to analog until the music arrives at the speaker terminals.
File this under Only at CEDIA: Themeaddicts, Inc. is offering a Magic Message Mirror (also available as a talking pirate skull). The MMM looks like an ordinary mirror, but is integrated with your whole home automation system. It can update you on any changes within the system's ability to monitor.
It was only a couple of CEDIAs ago that Paradigm introduced its Signature series of high-performance speakers, and I was very impressed by the stand-mounted Signature S2 when I reviewed it for Stereophile in July 2005 (see http://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/705paradigm/). But the Canadian company’s big news of the Show was that they have redesigned, not just the Signature series but their entire line! The new models use beryllium-dome tweeters and midrange units with aluminum cones treated with cobalt to add stiffness. The looks of the Signature series are still to die for, however.
The amiable team of industry veterans David Solomon (left) and Jim Spainhour (right) make up Signal Path, who distributes Musical Fidelity products in the US. They are seen here with MF’s new “audio Swiss Army knife,” the kW250, which includes a CD player, an FM tuner, a preamp with an MM phono stage, and a 250Wpc power amplifier for its $9000 price. A digital input on the back takes the feed from your music server and yes, there is a jack for your iPod on the front. "An ‘exit-level’ component," is how Jim describes it, "for the middle-aged music lover who wants system simplicity without sacrificing sound quality."
Lenbrook Technologies' Mark Stone pops with pride over NAD's Master Series $1799 M5 SACD/CD Player, which employs separate signal paths for CD and SACD. The player's CD resolution is 24-bit, 192kHz. Since it's aimed at audio systems rather than HT applications, the M5 includes comprehensive bass management for multichannel SACDs and front-panel–accessible preset 5.1 speaker configurations.
One reason the NAD M5—indeed, all of the Master Series components—sound so good, Mark Stone says, is the gigando special NAD class-A gain modules, which "offer tremendous dynamic headroom and nearly immeasurable distortion." JA is working on a review of the M3 integrated amplifier, which also uses these modules.
I missed a call when I was showering this morning. It was producer Elliot Mazer (right) asking me to visit him at the Music Giants booth, where he and Halcro’s Philip O’Hanlon (left) had something they wanted to me to see (and hear). Music Giants specializes in hi-rez music downloads and Elliot, it turns out, has been spending a lot of time working on transcoding SACD masters to 24/96 or 24/88.2 LPCM for record companies who are starting to realize that they might not ever get back their investment in the new formats from sales of physical discs.
Jim Shannon and Stirling Trayle of Quartet Marketing pose with the $4200 T+A K1 AV,which combines CD/DVD playback with analog matrix room sound processing, analog preamp duties, an FM tuner, and two channels of 100W power plus one channel of 60W.
Eminent Technology’s Bruce Thigpen has always taken an interesting slant on how to design audio products—his air-bearing tonearm was one of the best-sounding back in the day and his push-pull planar magnetic speakers are thought by some to be unbeatable. But at THE Show, held next door to the official CEDIA venue, the Convention Center, in the Denver Athletic Club, Bruce was showing off his infrasonic subwoofer. Yes, that’s a fan, which rotates at a constant 800rpm. The wrinkle is that the audio signal is used to vary the pitch of the fan blades. Feathered with no signal, when driven with audio the twisting blades produce a massive acoustic wave with very little power input. The bandwidth is limited by the fan speed to below 30Hz or so—you have to rotate it faster to reproduce higher frequencies but then its self noise increases rapidly— but it will reproduce frequencies as low as 1Hz with a very high spl.
Canton's chief speaker designer Frank Göbl stands beside Canton's $30,000/pair Vento Reference One DC, a 3.5-way floorstander that's probably going to keep some high-priced speaker builders awake at night.
CEDIA is an installer's show at its core, so lots of exhibits have nothing to do with audio or video—many are about tools that make the installer's life easier. Some of them are small ideas, such as belt packs to carry cable ties in. Others,like the Little Giant folding ladder are big—and let me tell you, the Little Giants booth was hopping. Why not? It folds up small, and can be used as a straight ladder, step ladder, offset ladder, or staircase ladder.
A speaker brand new to me at THE Show was YG Acoustics. Seen here with his four-way Anat Reference Studio ($60k/pair with a single subwoofer per side) is YG's Yoav Gonczarowksi, who says that he doesn't "voice" his speaker—the perfect speaker shouldn't have a voice but should just reproduce what's on the recording.
Bolzano Villettri showed its new 3000 series Campanile speakers as a 5.1 system. I was extremely impressed by the $9000/pair BV 3005 Torre, which feature BV's "Roundstrem Technology" that focuses the up-firing and down-firing drivers in the upper and lower cabinets into a 360° soundfield. In a huge convention hallway, the 3005 Torres actually managed to sing. I'd love to hear them under more favorable circumstances.