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.
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.
Also available in February for around $3.500, the Paris DAC features Toslink, SPDIF and USB inputs and the processing is built around the AKM DAC chips. Both balanced and unbalanced outputs are available.
Audio retailer Wes Bender Studio had a room set up in the Venetian to feature their selected product lines, and the Viola Crescendo caught my eye. It's both a preamp and DAC with both analog and digital inputs on the back. Digital includes 24/192 USB and SPDIF and the Crescendo should be available in the US in a Marchish kind of time frame. Retail is $19k and that includes an iPod touch.
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.
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.
VTL presented two systems at the 2012 CESa larger, more expensive system comprising VTL’s S-400 Series II Reference stereo amplifier ($33,500), TL7.5 Series II Reference line preamplifier ($20,000), TP6.5 Signature phono preamplifier ($10,500), and Rockport Technologies Avior loudspeakers ($29,500/pair); and a second system made of VTL’s S-200 Signature stereo amplifier ($10,000), TL5.5 II preamplifier ($9500), and Avalon Acoustics Indra loudspeakers ($21,995/pair). The systems shared digital and analog sourcesdCS Paganini DAC, player, clock, and upsampler ($53,500) and Spiral Groove SG-1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm ($35,000)as well as Transparent cables and Nordost AC products.
Harman Specialty Audio's Kevin Voecks demonstrated his latest portable room-response testing system, an iPad 2 running Studio Six Digital's "Audio Tools" iTunes app. (A favorite of JA’s.) The iPad 2 plus a $50 external mike and an accessory box from Studio Six becomes a portable audio test system with up to 1/48-octave resolution. Kevin used this tool to set up Revel's new M106 and F208 loudspeakers on the 35th Floor of the Venetian Hotel. He demonstrated frequency response graphs and a virtual SPL meterseen in detail as a graphic representation of a huge analog SPL meter on the iPad screen.
When Bermester jumps into the music server market, they jump in with both feet. The new 111 Musiccenter, which is scheduled to ship in April, will include an Apple iPad controller with custom app in the box (a first for Apple says the company), six digital inputs, three analog inputs, streaming services, UPnP via either WiFi or Ethernet, etc. etc.
All this and a robustly built box with gorgeous and bright front panel display for $50k.