It's always fun to drop in to the Burmester Suite. When Dieter Burmester, the firm's founder (left), and Udo Besser, the CEO (right), are not working on the latest sound system updates to the 1.2 million Euro Bugatti Veryon 16.4 supercar, they build massive loudspeakers and amplifiers for home consumers and audiophiles.
April Music's tremendous achievement deserves two blog entries. In one room at the Alexis Park, the Korean-based company demmed an absolutely amazing for the price Stello stack of low-cost, truly high-end mini components: the Stello CDT-100 transport ($695), DA100 Signature ($895), HP100 headphone amp/preamp ($595), and S100 50W/channel power amplifier ($745). Auditioning Harmonia Mundi's beautiful recording of Schubert's Arppeggione Sonata, this diminutive set-up (complete with B&W 805 loudspeakers and Red Rose cabling) created an amazingly deep, involving soundstage that would make many a manufacturer of components costing 10 times the Stello price envious. The system also did a fine job of capturing the complex harmonics of the piano. An I2S bus connection between components—shades of Audio Alchemy and Perpetual Technologies—sure helps matters. I wouldn't go as far as saying that this set-up fully captured the soul of every piece of music I auditioned, or that its solid-state pedigree wasn't apparent, but it blew the socks off most mass-market doo-doo and a helluva lot of supposedly audiophile-grade components.
I have seen few turntables, no any mechanical devices more likely to induce flat-out gadget lust than the $150,000 Transrotor Artus. It has a magnetically coupled drive assembly, which means no points of contact between motor and platter. It's machined from solid billets of high-grade aluminum, finished to an impeccable sheen. Its deck is gimbal-mounted to freakishly huge counterweights for absolute level and stability (think gyroscope here). Its power supply uses something called "Konstant M3," which I gather is pretty special, but my limited German and the Transrotor rep's far less limited English prevented me from determining in what way.
Hovland introduced a new preamp; in fact it was so new that it hasn't been named yet, and the price hasn't been determined ($16k–$18k range). The only thing known for sure is that it's a solid-state design, with balanced inputs and outputs, and has the blue back-lighting that Hovland is known for. It's another contender for the “Most Beautiful $18k Preamp” title.
I corresponded briefly a while back with Gary Koh, CEO of Genesis. Gary has owned the company for the past five years, and moved it from its original home in Colorado to Seattle, Washington. When he took over the company, he was aware that his background was in computer software, not electronics. He decided that this could be an advantage. "Not being an engineer, I didn't know what was impossible. This explains to some degree the types of projects I've decided to take on, and those that have been achieved."
Both the GT 1 bookshelf and GT 2 floorstander loudspeakers offer a handy tweeter control for "precise adjustment of the frequency response in relation to the listening room and associated equipment," said Thierry Comte.
"We don't have a price yet, because the TAD Compact Reference One Monitor loudspeaker is a prototype," stated Andrew Jones, lead engineer for loudspeakers at TAD Laboratories, Inc., shown here in John Atkinson's photo. "I can say that it will be somewhere between zero dollars and $60,000, the cost of a pair of our full-sized TAD Reference One speakers."
After days filled with wildly-shaped loudspeakers constructed from all sorts of fantastic materials, I must say it was refreshing to see a familiar facethe DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3, a speaker that looks like a speaker.
McIntosh had what was, for a high-end specialty audio company, a huge assortment of products on display at the Mandalay Bay, including several new models. The most interesting of these for me was the MC 2301 power amplifier. With price listed only as TBD ($24k–$30k being an educated guess), the MC 2301 is a 300Wpc monoblock, and, a first for McIntosh, fully balanced. Oh, and did I mention that this is a tube amplifier, using KT88s? Talk about returning to your roots.
Escalante Design's CEO and Founder, Matthew Waldron, and the company's design engineer, Tierry Budge, were on hand to introduce the $11,000/pair Pinyon, a lighter and less expensive version of their Fremont loudspeaker, which I review in the Febraury issue of Stereophile. Weighing 35 lbs each, the Pinyon includes two direct-coupled 6.5" woofers, and the same 1" ScanSpeak ring-radiator tweeter found in the Fremont. It comes with the Hoodooh Monitor stands that have a brushed aluminum inlay. Waldron had it playing with the 210 lb, 12", powered (500W), UINTA subwoofer, which is rated from 16–100Hz.
New Zealand-based Plinius is now using words drawn from the Maori language to name all of its new products. Making truly beautiful sounds in an all-Plinius line-up, the new Tautoro linestage preamplifier ($7300), set to ship in May, fulfilled its promise to "bridge the gap" from Plinius' top-of-the-line SA-Reference power amplifier to its CD-101 CD player and Koru phono stage (available as an option for $8600 total). When I asked Scott Markwell of Elite Audio Video Distribution how the preamp differs from its M8 predecessor, he pointed out that the M8 could only function as a linestage. "The more versatile Tautoro has an even bigger, more three dimensional soundstage. It also has much greater bass, more punch, and increased dynamics."