"Do you have a low-cost amplifier that Stereophile hasn't reviewed that you'd like people to know about?" I asked VTL's glamorous Bea Lam. With a grace and surety usually reserved for Vannah White, the incomparable Ms. Lam glided over to the diminutive VTL ST-85 Performance Amplifier ($2750).
After years of attending shows where Nordost cabling was successfully paired with Raidho Acoustics speakers, I was surprised to learn that the Raidho Acoustics Ayra C-2 ($24,000) speakers are internally wired with Nordost Valhalla. No wonder the combination is so synergistic. Frankly, even a boom box would sound like a breakthrough product if it were wired with the Nordost Odin I heard in this room. Odin ain't cheapOdin power cables cost $11,000 for a decent length, interconnects $16,000 for 1m, and speaker wire starts at $20,000 for 1m, with the best sound said to come from 4 meter lengths of speaker cable and an investment of $38,000but the sound is as full, complete, neutral, and satisfying as anything I've yet heard. My own experience confirms that single Odin power cable can transform the sound of a system.
Kimber Kable was more than happy to show off the four latest additions to its very full line of cables. First came the 12TC Teflon-insulated speaker cables, which use 24 conductors. Terminated with WBT Nextgen, an 8' pair of 12TC costs $854. Next there's the Cadence Subwoofer cable, which costs $175 for 1 meter with the best terminations Kimber supplies. Finally, complementing Kimber's HD19 1.3 cable, which costs $239 for 4 meters are the new HD09 1.3 (5 meters for $159) and HD29 1.3 (5 meters for $557). Other lengths are, of course, available. The display in the Venetian may have been static, but the very live demo Kimber Kable was conducting simultaneously at The Alexis Park was reportedly producing great sound.
Innovation comes from surprising places. Esoteric has always focused on pushing the state of the art with their flagship and pricey digital players (the financially squeemish can skip to another post now), but they've also begun to accommodate digital media wherever it may be found.
Richard Rives, famous for tuning rooms around the world is now distributing audiophile products. Among those is the new Navison Audio Reference 228 CD Player which sports the latest Philips CD-Pro2M transport and 24 bit Delta Sigma DAC technology.
Mutoaki Ohmachi, Esoteric's founder and resident genius, is a man full of passion. At CES2009, he spoke about the importance of music in his life and how hewing true to he sound of music had always been the motivation for Esoteric products.
Upon hearing that I was looking for relatively inexpensive electronics to feature in our blog, Parasound's Richard Schram and publicist extraordinaire Gordon Sell immediately pointed to a static display of Parasound's Halo P 7 multichannel analog preamp. Designed by Finland's Juha Kuusama, the Halo P 7's origins lie in Juha's design for Parasound's first surround processor, which was released late in the last century.
E.A.R. USA took advantage of CES to announce the world premiere of the Origo cable line from Jorma Design of Sweden. Prices for loudspeaker cables start at $7000 for the first meter, while interconnects start at $5250 for a 1-meter pair. A cable that, I am told, counts Japan as its major market, two of Jorma's lines have been designated "Product of the Year" by a leading Japanese audiophile publication. Jorma's extensive line starts with Jorma No.3 ($1450 for a 1m pair of speaker cables), and proceeds to Jorma No.2 ($2860 for a 1m pair of speaker cables), Jorma No.1 ($5000 for that pair), the new Origo, and the top-of-the line Jorma Prime ($12,800 for a 1m pair of speaker cables). All lines include loudspeaker cables in both single and bi-wire terminations, RCA and XLR interconnects, and jumpers. An Origo power cable, aptly named Origo Power, is due out shortly.
Between 150 and 200 producers of cables and components rely on WBT for their terminations and connectors. Hence, any advance in their line has profound implications for audiophiles. This year, WBT was touting its Nextgen terminations. Composed of either pure copper or fine silver, Nextgen connectors s boast less mass than other WBT terminations, and are claimed to yield superior sound.
Luxman is another old-school, technology-driven Japanese company. Looking at the 250Wpc B-100F (80th Anniversary Commemoration) ($55,000/pair) is a reminder of the days when the great Asian manufacturers fought for the title "best." The B100F is huge and can deliver 2000W into 1 ohm.
Esoteric has upgraded the wiring and parts inside the flagship P-01 and D-01 SACD/CD transport and DAC and has renamed them the P01-VU and D01-VU respectively. Each DAC is a single channel and retails for $16k and the transport will run you $32k. These are superbly built and incredible sounding digital products. Even if you can't afford them, just be glad they exist in our world.