Visiting Kara Chafee of de Havilland, whose amplifiers invariably grace music with a wonderful sense of air, enabled me to take a first listen to Cable Research Lab (CRL) cables. CRL's mid-level "Silver" line is a very recent recipient of a "Product of the Year Award" from a certain publication known for its absolutism. Another very positive publication fed CRL an award in 2007.
Lamm was driving the new Wilson Maxx series 3 with its 32Wpc ML3 Signature SE triode monoblocks ($139,290/pair). It was my first chance to hear either, so I can't tell you if it was the speakers or the amps that were making the magic happen, but happen it did.
Siltech Importer Ethan Wood, who claims to be the biggest man in the high-end industry, gave me low-down on the family affair known as Siltech and Crystal Cable. (Note: Crystal Cable is in the process of choosing a new importer for its cable and speaker line). Siltech was founded by Edwin Van der Kleig, while Crystal is property of his wife Gabi. Both companies use highly pure silver and 24K gold in the majority of their products.
Tara Labs has so many levels of cables that factory manager Matthew Sellars, who assists designer Matthew Bond with cable design and oversees implementation, had to draw a four-tiered chart just to explain where the company's newest offerings fall in the Tara Labs hierarchy. That may be an exceedingly long opening sentence. But so is Tara Labs' product list.
Jim Aud of Purist Audio Design has released several new products. The diminutive Digital Isolation Adapter ($300) plugs into the S/PDIF output of a CD transport or music server with then the RCA digital cable that connects the transport and DAC plugged into it. The Adapter is claimed to electrically isolate the transport to the DAC, reduce jitter via control of the 75 ohm impedances, and reduce EMI/RF noise.
As I was heading out dazed from the Sennheiser headphone experience, Dynaudio’s Mike Manousselis invited me to briefly listen to their demo. In the middle of the Convention Center’s huge South Hall, and at a reasonable volume level that did not attempt to drown out the ubiquitous din, a very cool Patricia Barber had claimed the space as her own. Abetted by a Wadia player and Simaudio amplification, speakers that I think were the Focus 360Mike, help me out here; I hadn’t yet come down to earth from the Sennheiserswere doing a marvelous job of filling the space with inviting sound. If anything could entice me to transition from Richard Strauss’ Alpine heights to Patricia Barber’s sensual coolness, it was this speaker/electronics combo.
Stillpoints, a vibration-control company that has been making equipment support racks since 2003, has just introduced a 40"-wide, low mass, open-air rack that allows you to stack two components side by side on each support shelf. Each ultra long support shelf holds two 20"x16" equipment shelves, each of which can hold a separate component on the appropriate support technology. Each equipment shelf also contains six pockets of Stillpoints' multi-patented vibration damping technology, making for 12 pockets of vibration control per large support shelf. Stillpoints' Paul Wakeen claims that each time you add another layer of Stillpoint isolation, the sound of your system improves.
CES presented me with my first opportunity to make the acquaintance of Stephen Hill and Straight Wire. The Florida company has just released a "push prong" re-usable, solderless RCA plug that makes Straight Wire cable termination a snap. Especially appealing to custom installers, the termination actually leads to a higher level of performance by enabling quick silver-plated termination without piercing cable insulation.
Tenor's promised Tenor Pre preamplifier ($40,000) is a hybrid, using tubes for the input stage and MOSFETs for the output. It should be available in two months. As a whole, the Tenor system (fleshed out with Hansen Emperors and Kubala-Sosna cables) was outstanding.
Soundstring designer Leonard Miller, whose eight years in business has garnered a host of positive reviews and product awards, manufactures reasonably priced cables that boast a progressive geometric, multi-gauge/multi-conductor design. Rather than 75 models at 95 different price points, the company has one line, of cables, all of comparable quality, all manufactured in Connecticut. The power cables and speaker cables have three conductors each, the equivalent of 10.5 gauge copper. Interconnects have eight individual conductors, the equivalent of composite 22 gauge. A specific geometric progression promotes signal transmission in the fastest way possible, creating the fastest path for each frequency, thereby allowing components to function optimally with less effort. Soundstring's Tricor Maxial Speaker cables cost $425 for a 6' pair, and the power cord costs $450. Soundstring's HDMI, DVI, and USB cables were used to record Jim Merod's jazz albums, one of which I will soon sample. (Thanks, Jim. The proof is in the pudding, so they say). A line of digital cables is in development.
There are always live concerts at CES and the 2009 Show was no exception. Cable manufacturer Ultralink/XLO brought Showgoers virtuoso bass guitarist Dean Peer Friday evening. Dean, whose audiophile sound-quality CDs Ucross and Travelogue are being reissued by Ultralink/XLO, used artificial harmonics, flamenco right-hand techniques, and a battery of effects pedals to create complex yet funky soundscapes. Thanks for the sonic treat, Ultralink/XLO.JA
When John Atkinson requested that I check out the new state-of-the-art Sennheiser HD 800 headphones ($1399.95), which will debut next month, I dreaded descending into the madness of the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Little did I know that instead of encountering an impossible throng of tech-crazed computer geeks, I would have my peak sonic experience of CES 2009.
Ypsilon was showing a monster of an amplifierthe 120W SE-100 Mk. II($70,000/each). A single-ended hybrid, it uses a 5842 input tube and a row of MOSFET output devices. It's entirely wired point-to-point and sports custom power transformers. Of course, it's stuffed with boutique components.