While we’re on the topic of small things, TEAC America introduced their Reference 01 Series of budget-priced, room-friendly components, including the UD-H01 DAC, A-H01 stereo amplifier, and DS-H01 iPod docking station. (I’m waiting to hear back on the prices, but I’m fairly sure these products retail for hundreds, rather than thousands, of dollars.)
I like good hi-fi in small packages. Here we see the 25Wpc Napa Acoustic NA-208A hybrid integrated amplifier ($399). It measures a friendly 7” W by 5” H by 9.5” D and its stainless steel chassis and aluminum front panel seem solidly built. It uses a pair of 6N1 vacuum tubes and offers three inputs (two rear-panel RCA and one front-panel iPod mini jack).
I entered the Oracle room and the Split Enz "I See Red" started singing in my head. This is not a shy red. This is a red that if seen out of the corner of your eye flashes and vibrates until you look right at it.
The new disc spinner is based on a Philips drive and the same processing as in the Paris DAC and also includes two SPDIF 24/192 inputs. It should be available next month for around $3,500
dCS had no new products, but announced several updates at CES. The Debussy DAC now allows DSD to be passed over its asynchronous USB input. The USB update will also be applied to the Paganini and Scarlatti products this year.
dCS also revealed a new web site that it will be developing in the coming months at www.onlythemusic.com. "The idea behind the 'Only The Music' project is that great music playback is a combination of talented people, great music and cutting edge technology. The OTM site aims to highlight some of these people, wonderful pieces of music, and the bits of gear that help to create such great sound."
This very simple looking box is Swiss company Soulution's new USB to SPDIF/Toslink/AES converter that will set you back approximately $4k. It can handle streams up to 24/192 and can sync with the company's 745 and 540 players.
PrimaLuna is adding a new CD player/DAC to the Prologue Premium line available sometime in May at $3,999. In addition to playing discs, there is a 24/192 USB input with circuit design by M2Tech and two super tube clocks.
I’m always encouraged when I see families at hi-fi shows, so I was happy to meet Alexander Vitus Mogensen, son of Vitus Audio founder, Hans-Ole Vitus; and I was even happier to learn that the 20-year-old Mogensen has started his own company, AVM-TEC, devoted to affordable OEM and DIY amplifier modules.
Control of the T+A Music Player is now greatly improved with the new optional $900 remote. At the top of the remote is a color screen that will show you the metadata and album cover art from UPnP connected drives that you are controlling with the Music Player.
New to me at this show is the QAT MS5 music server using an iPad (shown here) or a slightly smaller custom RP5 touch panel for control. There is a built-in Teac CD drive and 1TB of storage (around 2,500 CDs using FLAC) and the system supports a multitude of file formats and data rates up to 24/192.
The product and interface looked pretty slick and the company's sales and marketing director, Vital Gbezo, said that QAT is currently looking for US distribution. The MS5 is priced at around $6,000.
Bladelius has released a new stripped-down version of the Embla shown last year at a very stripped-down price: $3,000. What they've taken out is the solid-state hard drives and disc player, leaving those items to the network. In addition to the front panel touchscreen, here is an UPnP server and custom iPad app as well.
I've had the new Peachtree DAC•iT at home for several months and a review will be showing up in Stereophile shortly. It's a great little product for the money ($449) and sports USB, SPDIF and Toslink input and features an ESS Sabre32 9022 chip.
Paul Stookey, now 74 years young, sounded optimistic, vibrant, and sweet, delivering a solo performance to the audiophile crowd at the Flamingo, as hosted by T.H.E. Show, Cary Audio, and PBN Audio. Somehow Paul has retained all the youthful energy and optimism that characterized his role when was a member of the Peter, Paul and Mary trio. Although I associate him more with the flower child, utopian, flower-child world of the 1960s, celebrating love, sex, freedom and occasionally drugs ("Puff the Magic Dragon"), he easily slipped into the role of audiophile troubador. Although his vocal range had narrowed with the years, his guitar accompaniment was superb.
The $25,000, 500W Mark Levinson No.53 digital-switching reference monoblock amplifier made its regular non-playing appearance at CES 2012 but this time with an illuminated cutaway display, allowing its lead design engineer, Mark Seiber, to walk me through its circuitry. The transparent panel, which the display used in place of heatsinks allowed me to easily see the No.53's four major subsections (analog input stage, modulation, amplifier output stage with its eight air-core inductors, and power supply section, which is at the bottom of the chassis.
MartinLogan is famous for speakers that use electrostatic driversfull-range or in combination with dynamic woofersbut they have more recently broadened their offerings to include non-electrostatic models. According to MartinLogan's Peter Soderberg, their aim is to produce speakers that approach the sound of their electrostatic models, but at a lower price and easier to drive. He says that this has become possible with their version of the Heil tweeter (the original Oskar Heil patent having expired). He did a comparison for me between their top-of-the-line electrostatic CLX ($25,000/pair), supplemented by the Depth 1 subwoofer ($2000), and the new Motion 40 ($1995), which uses the Folded Motion (aka Heil) tweeter, in both cases driven by Anthem's new class-D amplifier, top-of-the-line Conrad-Johnson preamp, with a laptop as source. With Patricia Barber singing "Norwegian Wood," the tonal balance of these physically very different speakers was surprisingly similar. Peter Soderberg is pictured here with the CLX and the Motion 40, after what must have been an exceptionally amusing quip on my part.