The folks at Simaudio were happy to leave the frozen tundra of Canada and bring their wares to the mild climate of Las Vegas. This year they showed off their new Moon 600i integrated amplifier ($8000). The 600i is a beautifully built, dual-mono amplifier that puts out 125Wpc into 8 ohms and sounded lovely.
Musical Fidelity, now distributed in the US by Tempo, had a room at the Mirage and were displaying lots of new equipment. As part of their newly released M series, Antony Michaelson's company showed off the M6i dual-mono integrated amplifier. The amps' circuitry design trickles down from the Musical Fidelity Titan amp reviewed last June by Michael Fremer. The amp puts out 200Wpc, retails for $3000, and, surprisingly, features a USB input.
Elsewhere in this report, Brian Damkroger writes about the new Audio Research DS-450 class-D power amplifier. However, I was more taken by the Minnesotan company's $5995 DSI200 integrated amplifier, which offers 200Wpc into 8 ohms, compared with the larger amplifier's 410W, and had its top off. (This is Las Vegas, after all.) The 93%-efficient class-D outputstage was developed in-house and is coupled with a hefty linear power supply.
Siltech's Edwin van der Kley handed me his new preamp. There were no wires attached, but the four tubes were glowing. "It's battery-powered, and I could use a low 25V voltage rail for the tubes because they are ECC86 dual-triodes, which were developed for car-audio and microphone use." Edwin went to explain that as this tube uses a 6.3V heater, he could run the heaters of the four tubes in series from the same 25V supply. It also offers very low 1/f noise for a small-signal tube, he told me. Siltech has a plentiful supply of the tubes and the preamp wil sell for $28,000.
"Have you heard the Devialet D-Premier amplifier?" asked UK high-end distributor Riccardo Franassovici when I bumped into him in the Magico room. (We were both there to check out the impressive new Q5 loudspeaker that Jason Serinus writes about elsewhere in this report.
Every time I see a Nagra piece I get lust in my heart, Jimmy Swaggart style. I think it all goes back to the old days when I produced CDs with JA and he used his Nagra D digital tape recorder. It was a great -sounding and awesome-looking recorder. Of course these days when we record, that old Nagra has, for better or worse, been replaced with a laptop or Mac mini or something else nowhere near as sexy.
Because of the Stereophile writers' need to share a cab (and keep costs down) I visited the Nagra suite at the Mirage hotel with JA, JI, KR, and LG. As we walked through the Mirage I felt like we weren't a group of audio writers, we were a posse. I kept humming the music Quintin Tarantino used in Kill Bill for the Crazy 88's whenever we walked around. All right, we weren't that bad ass.
I always look forward to Peter Ledermann's analog demos, because the sound of his cartridges, electronics, and speakers is consistently delicious. While it certainly was this time around, some surprising booming in the basssomething I do not recall hearing at any previous SoundSmith demoalerted me to the fact that the small rooms at THE Show, situated on the fourth floor of the Flamingo Hotel, were a bitch to control.
Two of my colleagues had waxed so enthusiastic about the Vienna Acoustics The Music loudspeaker ($27,000/pair), showcased in the huge Sumiko suite on the 34th floor, that I had to take a listen for myself. Sources were the Wadia 781 CD player and Project Xtension turntable ($6000) with Sumiko Palisantos Presentation cartridge ($3500), feeding an Aesthetix Calypso linestage, Aesthetix Io phono preamp, and Aesthetix Atlas amplifier. Also heard was a pair of REL G1 subwoofers ($3995 each), all connected by a mix of Transparent Audio and OCOS cabling.
"Go and hear the KEF Concept Blade Loudspeaker," encouraged John Atkinson, "it’s their current statement on the state of loudspeaker art." For reasons unclear, KEF selected a hard-to-find Hilton Hotel suite for their exhibit, far away from the high-end exhibits in the Venetian Hotel. But when I whispered the word "Blade," I was ushered into a dark room where the set of twin loudspeakers, looking like aircraft wings, were standing. The cabinet curvature eliminates cabinet resonances, I was told. The KEF engineer explained that the company had not set a price on the Blade because they regarded it like a concept car, a one-off, handbuilt test model.
On the fourth floor of THE Show, Tim Ryan of Simpli-Fi was demming the Gradient Helsinki 5.1 loudspeaker ($6500/pair, down from $8000 a year ago). This weird-looking loudspeaker produces anything but weird sound. Designed to avoid reflections from the sidewalls and floor, it has 85dB sensitivity, a nominal 6 ohm impedance, and a frequency range of 200Hz20kHz.
In the Laufer-Teknik room, I had the opportunity to audition the Ascendo C8 loudspeaker ($9800/pair) with stand. This three-way includes a rear-firing ribbon tweeter and upward-firing, internal woofer, and has a specified sensitivity of 88dB
I finished my first day at THE Show, at the Flamingo hotel. (It's wonderful that CES and THE Show are now within easy walking distance.) Over the years, Magnepan has built some of the best-sounding speakers I've heard, and most often ones that perform at the level of speakers several times their price. The MG 1.6 is one of the High End's true classics and has always been one of its most spectacular bargains. One of Magnepan's demo systems was the brand-new MG 1.7. It's physically identical to the 1.6 but rather than planar-magnetic drivers for the bass and tweeter, the 1.7 use Magnepan's "Quasi-Ribbon." Both planar-magnetic and quasi-ribbon drivers are lightweight diaphragms onto which a conducting element is attached, but in the case of the planar-magnetic, the element is wire. In the quasi-ribbon, it's a very fine ribbon, or foil. The latter is lighter and covers more area, so the performance approaches that of a ribbon, where the conducting elementis the diaphragm. The 1.7s sounded truly spectacular and at just $2000/pair, destined to be another winner for Magnepan.
In the middle of the King's Audio room sat the omni-directional King Tower ($4500/pair). The speaker was created specifically because, according to the distributor, there was no affordable omni on the market. Paired with same substandard cabling as was the King's Audio Prince II electrostat, a $99 Philips CD player, and the mbl Noble series 4004 preamp and 8011 monoblocks, the speakers sounded quite promising. This is a speaker that needs a better source component and better cabling to fully demonstrate what it can do.