While bunches 'o companies were hopping on the USB DAC bandwagon, Weiss quietly goes their own way, focusing on getting the audio out of your computer via FireWire. The company also sells professional audio equipment.
Music Hall was showing a new USB DAC wit a tube output stage. The Music Hall dac25.5 ($600) uses an Electro-Harmonix 6922 tube, a Texas Instruments PCM1796 24-bi/192kHz DAC chip, a TI SRC4192 Asynchronous sample-rate converter (with a high-precision active crystal oscillator master clock), and four digital inputs (S/PDIF, TOSLINK, XLR, and USB). It sports re-clocking and user-adjustable upsampling (96kHz or 192kHz). It outputs analog via XLR or RCA.
The Pass SCPI phono section ("under $4000") was an awfully slick looking piece of kit. "Basically, we took everything we learned in the Aleph Ono and improved upon it," said Pass engineer Wayne Colburn. The SCPI accommodates multiple inputs and has improved circuit traces, capacitors, and toroidal power supply.
While I was cruising NAD's booth, I noticed the M2 Direct Digital amplifierobviously part of NAD's Masters Series. I asked one Nad rep to tell me about it. "Oh, we didn't bring itit's not going to be released until spring."
All the wire used in DH Labs's products is manufactured in the USA; cables are manufactured in the same facility that manufactures for NASA. At least 11 major recording studios use the company's cables, and others will soon join the list. This, along with the nice sound albeit not ultimately detailed sound they were getting from their modest display system certainly suggests that they're doing something right.
Relatively affordable at $30,000/pair, that is, given the cost-no-object construction featured by TAD's new CR-1 "Compact Reference Monitor," seen here with its designer Andrew Jones and compared with the company's original floorstanding and superb-sounding Reference One from 2006. (Across the corridor from TAD, Ray Kimber was using four Reference Ones to demo his new IsoMike recordings in surround.)
Not an audiophile product per se, SE2 Labs ITC One "Integrated Theater Console" takes all the components typical in a high-end audio/video rack, and strips away everything but the circuit boards and transports and puts them all in a single climate-controlled chassis.
The speakers from Colorado-based Avalon Acoustics have either featured conventional, rectangular boxes (in the less-expensive NP series, like the Evolution 2.0 I reviewed last July) or the unique, multifaceted enclosures that I first saw in 1990's Eclipse, which are used in the cost-no-object designs like the Indra.
To judge by some of the comments that have been posted to this Show report, some American audiophiles resent the fact that so much audio manufacturing has been outsourced to China. But the fact remains that if you wish to be able to purchase high-end quality at rock-bottom pricing, manufacturers have little choice but to turn to China. The irony is that even when price is taken into account, the quality of Chinese manufacture is very often superb.
"It's like the Pearl but in a more easily digestible form," explained Jeff Joseph, as he demmed the Long Island's company's new Pulsar speaker for me. The stand-mounted speaker keeps as much as possible of the cost-no-object Pearl's qualities, but uses a new magnesium-cone woofer from SEAS with the same throw as the Pearl's 7" unit.
Loudspeaker manufacturer VMPS ran a series of live-vsrecorded dems throughout the four days of CES, at the Zeus Ballroom in T.H.E. Show's Alexis Park venue. In dems organized by VMPS's Brian Cheney, groups of musicians and singers first performed live while being recorded by some of Ray Kimber's staff in DSD, using crossed figure-8 mikes, Millennia Media mike preamps, and Meitner converters. The recording was then played back on VMPS speakers and subwoofers, driven by Ampzilla amplification, with Audience Adept Response power conditioning and Audience Au24 e cables. The playback level was matched to that of the original, allowing legitimate comparisons. (The mikes were close enough in the solo singer dem I witnessed to minimize the double contribution of the room acoustic.)
The omnidirectional MBL speakers, which use a unique pulsating quasi-spherical array of ribbons, make a strong argument for the benefits of this design approach. Featured in their room when I visited was the new 111F ($35,000/pair), which uses the "Radialstrahler" drivers for the treble and upper midrange, with conventional drive-units used for the lower frequencies. A big change from the earlier version I reviewed in 2002 was the use of side-firing direct radiators for the bass rather than the 111B's coupled-cavity LF enclosure. These are mechanically coupled to eliminate vibrational excitation of the enclosure.