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.
When reviewing the Music Player a couple years ago, I was impressed with the build quality, sound quality and thinking that went into the design. There were a few nitpicks, and T+A was eager to show me the latest version where they claim to have addressed these (what I considered very minor) concerns.
The Music Player is still the same gorgeous form factor which includes a CD drive, DAC and preamp functions, but there is a bigger display and it now handles 24/192 via SPDIF or over the LAN connection and a handy new remote (shown below). There are five digital inputs and the device is UPnP compliant. All for $4,400.
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’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.
Speaking of great things in small packages, here we see Parasound’s Zphono USB phono preamplifier ($349) and Zdac digital-to-analog converter ($450). Parasound’s Z Series products are handsome, truly affordable, and built like bricks. Interesting side note: The half-width, rack-mount design has its roots in a mic preamp that Parasound built for AMF bowling centers in the 1980s. I bet those mic preamps kicked butt, too.
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.)
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.
John Atkinson and Kal Rubinson became familiar with DEQX, an Australian company specializing in digital loudspeaker correction and room compensation, during their review of NHT’s Xd active loudspeaker system; I had the opportunity to become acquainted with DEQX at last year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.
Then, the company gave an impressive demo of their HDP-3 standalone processor mated to a pair of Gallo Reference loudspeakers and Parasound amplification, showing room interaction and examining how the sound of the system could be optimized in the frequency, phase, and, most important to DEQX, time domains.
This year, the company gave a similarly impressive demonstration of their new HDP-4 processor ($4995), which should be available in about two months.
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.
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.
The Genesis Advanced Technologies 7.2f claims to be the "new affordable reference for bringing true-to-life music into your home." And they have a formidable amount to technology in the speaker to support this claim. At the top, there is the latest version of the circular flat-ribbon tweeter that apparently has been steadily improved since it was first introduced in 1992 (and which, for once, owes nothing to Dr. Oskar Heil). A solid titanium-cone mid/woofer claims to deliver exceptional clarity and low distortion within its range (and the "oil-can" resonance is far outside the range where the driver is utilized), and a servo-controlled powered bass from an 8" side-firing aluminum-cone driver, is claimed to extend the response down to 22Hz. There is also a rear-firing tweeter, which can be turned off if desired. There is control over tweeter as well as woofer level. The price of all this technology is a very reasonable $9000/pair.
The Adam is yet another loudspeaker manufacturer that uses drivers that are descendants of the Heil AMT tweeter. Adam's Classic Mk.3 uses what they call Accelerated Ribbon Technology (X-ART) for the midrange as well as the tweeter, and 2x7.5" HexaCone midwoofers. The Classic Mk.3 is available in passive ($7000)/pair or active ($10,000/pair) form, the latter for the studio professional market. A brief demowith Cary Audio electronicssounded convincingly full-range and dynamic. I understand that Kal Rubinson is getting a pair of these for review in Stereophile.
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.
Bang & Olufsen's publicist sent me a "By Invitation Only & You Are Invited" email, promising to "unveil the newest innovations" and "the unveiling of a new, iconic product concept." (I pity the poor housekeeping staff at CES, having to clean up all the veils discarded by manufacturers.)
Reduced to its essentials, the "new, iconic product concept" is a division within B&O under a new brand, called "B&O Play." As I understand it, the products with the B&O Play brand will have all the traditional quality that B&O is known for, but they'll be less luxury-oriented, more "fun"and perhaps less expensive. The first product under this brand is the Beolit 12, a portable (battery-powered), AirPlay-equipped sound system.