The very first room I visited at CES featured VTL and dCS electronics powering Avalon Eidelon speakers via Transparent cabling. This was a good start. I had become an instant convert to VTL sound at HE2006 last May, where Wilson Sophia speakers, driven by VTL electronics via Cardas cable and a Jadis tranposrt and DAC delivered some of the best sound I heard at the show. Since then, I've heard VTL gear in three other environments, this being the fifth. Each time, it has sounded different, but always musical.
After encountering several rooms filled with overly warm, romanticized tube sound, it was a welcome shock to discover tube gear from Rogue that sounded far more neutral. Alas, the sound from Rogue’s Zeus amplifier (225Wpc, $7495) and prototype reference-level linestage preamp seemed a bit soft around the edges, lacking detail. However, who knows how much of what I heard was due to the plethora of Echo Buster paneling with which the exhibitors had tried to tame the room's acoustics. Paired with the Egglestonworks The Nine ($12,900/pair), introduced at the show, I heard much promise until competition from adjoining rooms forced me to retreat. What I did learn is the speaker uses an 8" Morel woofer, two of the same 6" Morel drivers featured in the company's earlier Andra 2, and an Eggleston favorite, the Dynaudio Ecostar tweeter. Available in virtually any automotive color, the speaker will start shipping in March.
Wanting to hear more of newest addition to the line that includes the Andra II, successor to Stereophile's 1997 "Loudspeaker of the Year," I visited Egglestonworks' second The Nine room after the Show's first day closed at 5pm. Here I discovered a wonderful depth to the presentation, thanks to McCormack's UDP-1 universal player and DNA-500 amplification, as well as to the Kubala-Sosna cabling. The treble was also nicely focused. Alas, despite another round of Echo Buster room treatment and a striking-looking Grand Prix rack, The Nine's bass control was defeated by the room's square dimensions.
English speaker company Monitor Audio has been producing a range of excellent affordable speakers since its managment buyout nine years ago, including the Silver RS6 tower that so impressed Bob Reina last March. Their suite at the Hilton, however, saw the Platinum series, an assault on the state of the speaker art from a design team led by Dean Hartley (above).
When Stereophile webmaster Jon Iverson speaks, I listen, so when, in a conversation the night before the Show opened, he mentioned that he felt wireless speakers would be big in 2007, I looked out for examples.
When I reviewed KEF's top-line Reference 207 loudspeaker in February 2004, it featured a supertweeter perched atop the module housing the coaxial Uni-Q tweeter/midrange driver to achieve true ultrasonic performance. A redesign of the Uni-Q driver, the tweeter in particular, has meant that the supertweeter could be dispensed with for the Mk.2 version, launched at the 2007 CES.
"I'm not done," Lew Johnson said. "I showed you our high-aspiration products, now here's one more from the heart: the ET250S is a more realistically priced product at $7500 for 250Wpc. At the heart of the amp is a single-ended triode amplifier that supplies the voltage gain. A high-current buffer stage couples that to the speaker load. That architecture gives you tube grace and finesse, but deliver all the brute force you need for any loudspeaker. We'll ship them in February."
"Here's something a little different for us," CJ's Lew Johnson continued his tour. "The $10,000 TEA1 triode equalization amplifier embodies our current understanding of the state-of-the-art in phono stage design. It's a zero loop feedback design with two tube gain stages and a passive equalization network. We put a high-current buffer stage isolates the unit from cable and other loading elements."
Lew Johnson pointed at the LP275M ($12,500). "This is something CJ hasn't done in a while: a high output tube monoblock. We use four pairs of 6550s to obtain 275W with our proprietary translinear transformers. We can configure it for 2, 4, 8, or 16 Ohm loads (standard is 4 Ohm). Like our most recent designs, we're using metal foil resistors and Teflon CJD capacitors. We'll be shipping them by February."
Bel Canto's John Stronczer made a bold decision to demonstrate exclusively with a music server streaming Music Giants. He ran the output from his laptop to the $2495 e.One DAC3 digital-to-analog processor and then directly to a pair of e.One REF1000 1000W monoblocks ($1995 each).
Zanden's Kazutoshi Yamada builds amplifiers like Medieval villages built cathedrals: To glorify the quintessence. Jon Iverson and I were lured into his room because his Model 9600s were so . . . shiny (hey, we're guys, we're not complicated). Then we heard 'em driving the Ascendo System Z-F3 loudspeakers. Wowsers.
VAS Audio's Sze Leung is the most consistently up audiophile we know—he's always raving about his latest listening session or discovery. "This one's incredible," he exclaimed, pointing to the 80Wpc Cayin H-80A Class-A tube hybrid integrated amplifier (approximately $4000)."