Antelope Audio is relatively new to the consumer audio market but relatively old to the pro audio market. Their first consumer product, the Zodiac line of DACs, is available in three levelsSilver ($1899), Black ($2899) and Gold ($4500). In use at T.H.E. Show was the Zodiac Gold with the optional Voltikus Analog Power Supply ($1000). Antelope Audio made their mark in the pro world with their jitter-free clocking products and they’ve brought this experience to the Zodiac line. The Gold features include a custom USB chip that streams audio up to 384kHz and the Antelope Oven Clock “for supreme stability.” Connections include: 2x headphone outputs on ¼" TRS, trimmable balanced analog outputs on XLR, unbalanced analog outputs on RCA, balanced analog Inputs on ¼" TRS, unbalanced analog Inputs on RCA, AES/EBU digital input, 2x S/PDIF coaxial Inputs, 2x optical Toslink inputs, USB on standard B type connector, Word Clock Input on BNC, de-jittered AES/EBU output, and de-jittered 2x S/PDIF outputs. Associated equipment in the room included. . .
The Channel Islands Audio room featured two brand spankin' new products; the Soul Sister loudspeakers ($5000/pair with an optional up-charge of $1000 for custom veneer) which reach down to 27Hz and have a 90dB sensitivity according to Dusty Vawter of CI Audio. They should be available within two months. The other new product is so new it showed up in prototype plain clothesthe upcoming Asynchronous USB DAC ($1500 projected price), which should be available in the near future and feature 3 coax inputs, 3 Toslink inputs, and a USB input and will handle resolutions up to 32 bits and sampling rates as high as 384kHz. All electronics were. . .
Yes, that ESS of Heil Air-Motion Transformer fame from the 1970s. On active display was a pair of the über-cool looking (especially nude) AMT Limited Edition loudspeakers ($5495/pair and pictured nearest to the side walls) which use the Heil Air-Motion Transformer for midrange and tweeter duties, while a 12" front-facing woofer and rear-firing passive radiator take care of the rest. The AMT Limited Editions were powered by a pair of CI Audio D-200 MkII monoblocks ($3500/pair), with a CI Audio PLC-1 MkII passive line controller ($900), CI Audio VDA-2 24-bit DAC ($599), and Sony NS3100ES SACD player following upstream. No one really wanted to talk abut cables here either.
Albert von Schweikert was showing his factory-direct VR-33 speakers ($3750/pair) with Jolida electronicsJolida JD 1000RC tube integrated amplifier ($2400) and the Jolida JD 100A vacuum-tube CD player ($1000). While I was in the room, we were treated to some real tape played by a United Home Audio UHA HQ open-reel deck (starting at $7998) and from my experience it’s really hard to make a decent tape sound bad. Interconnects and speaker cables were Master-Built Purple Line ($500/pair for the interconnects and $800/pair for the speaker cable).
With a system price of $8450 (not counting the tape deck), von Schweikert was calling his system “T.H.E. Show’s Best Value System,” at least on their literature, and I have no idea if that was the case or not (and I kinda doubt that anyone can know that kinda thing for sure). But I completely understand the impulse.
Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen, one the most photogenic men in hi-fi, is shown here with his Crescendo loudspeakers ($16,000/pair) and electronics from Triode Corporation (Tri)TRV-845SE amplifier ($6000), TRX-1 tube preamplifier ($3000), and the TRV-CD4SE tube CD player ($2200). Cables were from Acoustic Zen. I wrote down “gentle top end” in my scratch pad and that’s what I recallthis was an easy-to-like listen.
Distributor Grant Fidelity was showing a bevy of products from China. On active display were the 89dB-sensitive Shengya V218 Wood Horn Monitors ($1900/pair), the Grant Fidelity W-30 Integrated All-In-One tube amp, which includes a built-in 24/192 DAC (though the DAC-part was not being used), a Consonance D-Linear 7 HD Interface ($1250), and a Consonance D-Linear8 Wireless HD D/A converter. Cables were the Grant Fidelity MRCA-1 Gold Coated Copper Reference Interconnects ($350/1m) and the Grant Fidelity MSC-2.5 Pure Copper Reference Speaker Cables ($450/2.5m).
A new line of electronics from Grant Fidelity called Psvane come with Treasure Tubes vacuum tubes from Grant Fidelity. These tubes are made in the Shuguang tube factory. Sitting on the outside of the other amps in the picture are the so-new-no-one-knows-about-'em Psvane T845 monoblock amplifiers ($8995/pair).
Dynamic Contrasts manufactures the RTS Racking System, an equipment-support system that squeezes the bad vibes out of your gear. Okay, so that’s my interpretation but if you want to know what they’re talking about, I’d recommend a visit to their website. A three-shelf RTS Racking System will run you $12,900 and each additional shelf adds $2200. It's difficult to see in this picture (you can see part of an empty rack on the right side in front of the speaker), but this rack is very unconventional and instead of having support shelves, it has support arms that clamp your gear in place. So in effect, your gear is not "sitting," it's being gripped in place. Sort of like a medieval kind of rack. . .
Tonian Acoustics was showing its new loudspeaker, the TL-S1 ($4300/pair as shown and up to $5700/pair with alnico magnet and custom veneer), which uses a modified SEAS driver run full-range augmented with a modified Fountek ribbon tweeter in a semi-open baffle. The speaker comes with several panels that allow more or less sound through an opening in the back of the cabinet, thus the "semi-open" aspect. Driving the TL-S1s were a relatively modest pair of vintage 1980s componentsthe Audiolab 8000 integrated amp and the Magnavox 650 CD player. The system was wired with Tonian Acoustics cable, which is a copper, bronze, and brass composite with cotton insulation (8' speaker cable $480/pair, 1m interconnect $380/pair and power cords $370). Contrary to what you might expect from '80s-era digital (read harsh) and solid-state, this system was relaxed, smooth and easy to listen to.
RSL Speaker Systems is a direct-sales only company, started by speaker designer Howard Rodgers, the head honcho of 1980s retailer/speaker manufacturer Rogersound Labs. RSL was showing the CG Stereo System speakers ($1250/pair including a Speedwoofer 10 subwoofer, stands optional) that use its "patented Compression Guide Technology," which appears to be concerned with eliminating cabinet resonance and helps make a subwoofer speedy. RSL refers to this system as a "2.1 approach" (sub/satellite) and they believe that this configuration allows for optimum placement/room integration. In fact, the subwoofer we were hearing was not the one we were seeingthe Speedwoofer 10 (also available separately for $750) up front was on static display while the one in-use was hidden under a table on the opposite wall. RSL was using the PrimaLuna ProLogue Two integrated amp ($1999), which delivers 40Wpc from a quad of KT-88s, and the Acoustic Research CD5 ($5995).
Inex’s innovation involves the use of fiber-optic cable in its A200 preamp ($12500) and Inex CD Player ($7500). The Inex A100 monoblock amplifiers ($14,000/pair) were manhandling a pair of Märten Heritage Getz speakers ($20,000/pair) at light speed. Of course this could only be possible if the cables were up to task and luckily the Harmonic Technology Photon Amp interconnects ($2000/1.5m pair) use “analog domain laser and fiber optic technology” to convert the audio signal to light pulses and back again.
More ribbons this time, from Flat Panel Technologies. This company makes what its name suggests mainly for commercial installationsPA systems, car audio and more. Their tiny “Hybrid Speaker” uses a flat panel on one side and relies on the resonance of whatever it’s attached to on the other (metal and hard plastics work best according to FPS) for bass reinforcement. I guess resonance isn’t always bad.
The VMPS RM 30 Series II Ribbon Speaker ($3500/pair) marry dynamic woofers to push/pull planar-magnetic ribbon speakers for a claimed frequency response of 34Hz to “nearly” 40kHz. They were certainly moving a lot of musical air but also had to battle a very noisy and booming neighbor. Take it to another hotel! Associated gear included the Ampzilla 2000 Series II 300W monoblocks ($7500/pair), Ampzilla Ambrosia Series II preamp ($7500), W4S DAC 2 and Nuforce DAC9 converters ($1500$1695), Wywires interconnects and speaker cable, VMPS dedicated subwoofer with 500W amp ($979), a modified DCX2496 controller/processor ($1600) for room correction, and an Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner.
While there was nothing new to report on in the Audio Engine room, at least nothing I could tell you and let you live, it’s always worth reporting on the inexpensive and even better than good-sounding-for-the-money AudioEngine speakers. Our daughters each have a pair of the AudioEngine 2.0s ($199/pair) for use with their iDevices and even they brag about the sound quality.
A new-to-me line of battery-powered electronics from Veloce Audio from Ambler, PA, coupled to the YG Acoustics Carmel speakers ($18,000/pair) made some convincingly lovely music from vinyl and digital. The Veloce gear included the Platino SeriesLS1 linestage ($15,000), LP-1 Phono Module, which gets its power from the LS-1 but a stand-alone version is in the works, and the 120W into 8 ohms, class-D Platino V6 monoblock amplifier (projected price $14,000/pair). If the idea of batteries runs you down, the LS1 linestage can run for a claimed 100 hours on a charge and the V6 for 40 hours. Front end duties were handled by an Amazon 1 turntable and the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($2999.99) and DAC ($2999.99). I’d have rounded the prices one way or another if I was PS Audio but I’m not.
Hsu Research was showing off its reasonably priced HB-1 Mk2 Horn Bookshelf Speaker ($149/pair in black, $179/pair in real wood veneer) and the oh-so-subwoofery VTF-15H subwoofer ($879). One thing I’ve noticed about most subwoofer demos isvolume (that really should be in all caps but I don’t want to shout). Lots of volume. While this isn’t necessarily a criticism, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm in Hsu’s silent static-display room next door.