What a relief to revisit VTL electronics, and breathe in the mellow midrange of jazz vocalist Johnny Hartmann singing on the Original Recordings Group reissue of I Just Dropped by to Say Hello. There's a beauty and timbral truth to VTL electronics that you do not hear from many tube products that cost more than the $50,000/pair Siegfried monoblocks, and far more than the wonderful VTL MB450 Signature Series II monoblocks ($15,000/pair).
Some disc players simply look better than others when the lights go out. The Raysonic CD168 Tube CD-Player is one such machine and retails for $2,550. The CD168 uses 4 Russian 6922EH tubes and upconverts your CDs to 24 bit/192kHz to either balanced or unbalanced outputs.
Those who follow computer audio forums have probably heard the name Amarra a few times. If you have an Apple computer running iTunes and want to get the most out of high resolution audio, Sonic Studio's Amarra software offers a way around some of the inherent problems when switching resolutions and the way the Apple OS handles audio.
Denmark's Holm Acoustics set themselves up at the Flamingo with their beautifully-designed CD1 transport at $7,300 and DSPre 1 DAC/preamp/DSP starting at around $8,000 depending on the number of processing channels and analog output.
I hadn't seen this almost two-year-old company before, but was familiar with founders Andreas Koch, formerly with Studer ReVox and EMM labs, and Jonathan Tinn through his relationship with darTZeel. Sharing a room with darTZeel, Playback's MPS-5 was sitting in the center equipment rack spinning discs.
Theta Digital is at last showing the Compli-Blu universal player ($2995), which begins shipping the week after the Show. The successor to the old Compli universal player and Carmen II digital transport, the Compli-Blu can be used either as a digital transport (which is how I intend to use it with my Theta Gen. VIII Series 2 DAC/preamp), or as a stand-alone multi-format player.
The new Sonics Allegra speaker, shown here with Immedia's Allen Perkins (left) and designer Joachim Gerhardt (right in JA's pic), differs from the one I reviewed in January 2009, primarily in how the cabinets are attached. In the first series, the top, midrange and tweeter cabinet was solidly affixed to the top of the woofer box. Joachim Gerhardt decided to mechanically isolate the two cabinets to give the midrange and tweeter a cleaner environment in which to work, so they're now attached with an absorbent elastomer layer. To maintain the mass loading and resulting stability, however, there is now an approximately ½"-thick, stainless-steel plate attached to the bottom of the mid/tweeter cabinet. Simple, clever, and effective.
I started my first day at CES at the Immedia room, where Allen Perkins had a typically (for Immedia) great-sounding system, chock full of new gearsome so new that it doesn't even exist yet, as a product anyway. Starting from the top, there was the second-generation Spiral Groove SG-1.1 turntable fitted with a "production" version of his new tonearm. In this case, "production" means either "honestly, truly the very last prototype before production" or "the genuine first production version...that only differs from what we'll be shipping in a couple of non-functional details" take your pick. Either way, Immedia will begin shipping the arm immediately after the show.
Ever since blogging about the Magico V3 loudspeaker a few years back, and then interviewing Magico's Alon Wolf for a Stereophile feature, I've been eager to hear every sonic and technological advance that Alon and his team have come up with. Thus I made my way to the huge Magico suite on the Venetian's 35th floorwhose exquisite lighting and overall aesthetic were on another plane from most of the exhibits below itwhere Magico was unveiling the much-anticipated Magico Q5 ($54,000/pair), which has a heroically constructed all-aluminum enclosure.
I recently spent the past few months listening to and reviewing the new Manley Stingray iTube integrated amplifier (the review will appear the March issue of Stereophile). So when I stepped into the Manley room at CES, it felt a bit like I was back at my own listening room at home. The Stingray iTube is based on four EL84 tubes per channel and puts out 32Wpc in Ultralinear mode and 18Wpc in Triode mode. It features an Apple certified iPod dock in addition to its regular single-ended inputs.
One of my favorite things I experienced at CES this year was encountering new audio companies I'd never heard of, especially the ones that seem to be making high-quality components at real-world prices. One of these new surprises was Mystère Audio, distributed in the US by Kevin Deal. Made, like PrimaLuna, in China for Durob Audio, a Dutch company who has been making gear for over 30 years, Mystère showed a full line of amplification components but were playing their pa21 stereo power amplifier ($2995) and ca21 preamplifier ($2195).
One of my favorite sounds of the show came out of the PrimaLuna room. Their sound was full of dynamics, texture, body and balance. Kevin Deal of Prima Luna (seen here like a proud Papa) was one of the few people at CES who made sure that folks visiting his room got the right mix of information, listening time, and fun. At least that was the vibe when I visited. At Kevin's feet are the DiaLogue Seven monoblocks ($5499 per pair), which Art Dudley wrote about in the December 2009 issue of Stereophile.
NAD is well known for its traditional, high-quality, and relatively affordable integrated amplifiers. At this year's CES, NAD introduced a revolutionary new integrated, the M2 ($5999). NAD's Stephen DeFuria (right) told me that the M2 is what NAD calls a "Direct Digital" amplifierthere is no analog circuitry!
With 1TB of internal music storage, backup management program and Shoutcast internet radio capability, the Cary Audio Design Music Server appears to be a screaming deal at the estimated $2000-2500 price range. You can also add additional music storage via USB and control everything with an iPhone or Touch running their app.