Is the CD dying? Judging by the flurry of new CD player and transport news at the Venetian it's hard to tell. Or maybe this show is living proof that CD has joined vinyl as a legacy format that will forever inspire technical development.
Immedia's Allen Perkins was showing his 60Wpc class-A Spiral Groove E60A stereo power amplifier ("around" $15,000). "That's 'e' for Equinox, which is what I call Sonic Groove's spiral logo, "said Perkins. "Sixty, of course, is its output, and A is for class-A." It's a slick unit, hewn from a solid block of aluminum and employing an extremely low-noise fan to keep operating temperatures low. "For a class-A design, it's pretty energy efficient," Perkins added.
The original Coltrane speaker from Swedish company Mrten Design got the thumbs-up from Michael Fremer when he reviewed it three years ago, so I was not surprised to hear good sound in importer EAR USA's room from the new Coltrane Soprano ($45,000/pair). The Soprano combines a diamond tweeter from Jantzen Audio said to have a 55kHz bandwidth, with two 7" ceramic-cone woofers from Accuton. Other than the 56mm-thick front baffle, the stylin' gracefully curved enclosure is fabricated from carbon-fiber laminate.
Bel Canto's designer, John Stronczer, proudly showed off the the Minnesotan company's e.One s300 integrated amplifier ($2495), that was recently reviewed by Wes Phillips. A dual-mono design with a class-D output stage, it outputs 300Wpc into 4 ohms and 150Wpc into 8 ohms, the diminutive integrated amp features Bel Canto's single button control for inputs and volume, as well as a remote control.
Luke Manley was muttering about the problems he was having naming the latest iteration of the VTL TL-5.5 line preamplifier ($6000). "I've already done a signature version and I don't want to confuse peopleit really does represent major improvements in sound."
Go forth and find ye cables, tweaks, power products, and low-cost amplification, saith the Lord of Atkinson. Little did I realize how much fun my assignment would be. While I didn't run across any low-cost amplification on my first day at CES, there were cables and tweaks galore.
Possibly the most visually striking product I've seen at the show so far is the 20Wpc dual-mono integrated the LARS ($100,000). Designed by Lars Engstrom and hand-built in Sweden, the LARS has two separate chassis, one for each channelwith inputs also on each channel. An umbilical transmits control commands from the right channel to the left.
Audio Research is showing their new replacement for the CD7, the Reference CD8 CD player shipping now at $9,995. They've taken a Philips Pro-2 transport and attached it with isolation pads to a machined aluminum I-beam which in turn is bolted to a machined aluminum bottom plate.
I went into the Pass Labs room to check out the company's new amps. But what caught my eye was the SR-1 loudspeaker ($25,000/pair). SR-1 stands for "First Son of Rushmore," the Rushmore being Nelson Pass's original assault on the state of the speaker art. A conventional deign compared with the active quad-amplified Rushmore, the four-way SR-1 uses four top-line SEAS drive-units, including a 29mm Hexadym soft-dome tweeter,
Peachtree Audio has declared that "Computer Audio is here to stayso let's make it sound right." The 80Wpc Nova ($1199) includes an ESS 9006 Sabre DAc, which has a jitter reduction circuit and a 24-bit/96kHz upsampler. It employs a 6922 tube tas the driver for its class-A/B output stage. It decodes MP3, MP4, FLAC, AIFF, ALC, "plus all others. It even has a slot in the back to accommodate a Sonos ZP80/90. And did I mention that it has an HT pass-through? Or 11 regulated power supplies? That last is to isolate separate sections from digitally generated noise.
Gary Koh of Genesis was delighted to show me his Absolute Fidelity Foundation. These brand new, extremely attractive rack and amplifier stands are available in various sizes and support configurations.