CES 2012

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Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
On Tuesday morning, at a very well-attended press conference held at the Embassy Suites, members of the press learned more about Fang Bian, founder of HiFiMan, makers of personal audio products, and were introduced to HiFiMan’s new HE-400 planar magnetic headphone ($399), EF-6 headphone amplifier ($1499), and HiFiMan Express HM-601 Slim portable music player (4GB, $199; 8GB, $249).
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Luke Manley and Bea Lam of VTL were on hand as host and hostess at the VTL exhibit suite at the Venetian Hotel to present their two new stereo tube amplifiers, the $33,500, 400Wpc S400 Series II amplifier, and the $10,000, 200Wpc S200 Stereo Signature amplifier shown in the photo. Although the S400 was configured into a floorstanding tower and the S200 in the rack-mounted chassis used for their MB-450 monoblock amplifier, both new products feature VTL's latest tube technology, including fully balanced, differential input stage, VTL's SmartTube technology with automatic bias and screen supply adjustments and fault sensing, and a new user-adjustable damping factor feedback control. The feedback loop amount can be precisely set to suite the listener's taste via three-position switches located between the input tubes on the top of the chassis.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
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.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
I know of speakers where, depending on the crossover, the same 5" or 6" driver is used as midrange or as woofer, but I've never encountered a speaker where a driver normally designated as a tweeter also functions as a midrange. This is the unusual design approach taken by McIntosh in some new speaker models, including the $10,000/pair XR100, and, judging by the sound, it certainly works for them. The driver is a 2" metal dome: eight of these are combined to serve as midrange, with two more as the tweeter flanking a supertweeter.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
Also in the Burmester room is the new 113 DAC which retails for $6k and is available now. The DAC is rather modest-sized next to the rest of the Burmester line and includes Toslink, 24/96 USB (24/192 on Mac only) and Bluetooth (wireless!) inputs and both balanced and unbalanced outputs. The Bluetooth input means you can stream from any Bluetooth audio device like a Blackberry or iPhone in the vicinity.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Brent Hefley, Marketing Manager of Ayre, walked me through the circuit layout of Ayre's newest amplifier, the $14,950, dual-mono, 200Wpc (8 ohms) VX-R. Based on the well-regarded and long-established MX-R monoblock and introduced at the 2011 CES, the VX-R uses Ayre's ultra-fast printed circuit board materials. Ayre is expecting great things, Brent told JA, from its recent hiring of ex-Classé and Linn engineer Alan Clark, who joins Charlie Hansen and Ariel Brown as the Colorado company's creative engine.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Easily winning the award for most outside-the-box chassis design, Light Harmonic's Da Vinci DAC is an amazing assembly of machined metal. In the photo is co-founder Henry Chew, which also gives you some perspective on how large this DAC is next to a smiling human.

Inputs include an asynch USB and SPDIF and the DAC can handle up to 32/384 at either input. Chew says that the DAC does not upsample and processes all streams at their native sampling rate. Chew feels that "the use of upsampling, oversampling, or any digital filters or signal-manipulations is ineffective". Available now for $20k

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Audio-Lineare hails from France, and although I haven't heard of the company before, they've been making speakers since 2001. The designer is Yves Poulichot, who has been devoted to this endeavour for 25 years. The Harmonie 16 ($6500/pair) on display uses an aluminum ribbon tweeter and two bass/midrange drivers in a "2.5-way" configuration. Nice sound with Viola electronics. The charming representatives are Alix Ribeault (Marketing Director, left) and Christelle Kabeya (International Sales Assistant, right).
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Each Xs channel has two chassis, one for the power supply and the other for signal amplification. The amplifier acts as a voltage source, and is rated at 300W into 8 ohms, 600W into 4 ohms, and 1200W into 2 ohms. It is biased to ensure make certain that the amplifier remains in class-A mode into all loads. Each channel has 122 output devices with a total rating of 10kW, and the extensive heatsinking allows the Xs 300 to deliver 2kW into a load "all day long." Though the Xs 300 stack was a silent exhibit, the company was using the more modest $65,000/pair Xs 150s to drive the Pass Lab RM2 loudspeakers, which showed a wide dynamic range and outstanding detailing.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Audio Research's Chris Ossanna proudly shows off the company's new $25,000/pair, two-chassis Reference 250 monoblocks, which employ the new KT-120 output tube. This amplifier has 50% more power-supply capacitance than their previous flagship, the Reference Anniversary 110, and uses the same type of Teflon coupling capacitors they sourced for their Reference Anniversary preamplifier. The front panel metering allows the consumer to check the bias and to adjust the speed of their response to either fast or slow.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 13, 2012 1 comments
Audio Technica's PR rep Frank Doris models the company's limited-edition, $1299.95, ATH3000 headphones, that feature Echizen wood frames, 53mm drivers, Spanish lamb wool cushions, and 7x9s copper wire.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Esoteric displayed the new K-05 SACD/CD player scheduled for release sometime in 2012 at a retail price of approximately $9,900. It will be a dual-mono design and feature 32-bit AKM4399 DACs, 24/192 digital inputs including asynch USB. CDs are upsampled to 24/176.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
For those just needing a DAC, the 100 has Wolfson WM8742 DAC chips, three digital inputs including 24/192 USB and a retail price of $399. Should be available in March.
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Jon Iverson Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Audioquest is known to the general public as a cable manufacturer and also to audiophiles for their phono cartridges. They will soon jump into the DAC market starting with the Dragonfly USB to miniplug DAC.

Steve Silberman was on hand to provide a demo of the new product in raw circuit board form, and I was able to grab an artist rendering of the finished product from his laptop as seen above. The light on the back of the dragonfly changes color depending on what sampling rate is being detected.

The asynch 24/96 USB DAC will be about the size of a finger and its electronics have been designed by Gordon Rankin. Price is estimated at around $300 and it should be available in April.

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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 13, 2012 0 comments
Pass Labs’ engineer Wayne Colburn insisted that the name of their latest amplifier, the Xs, was not a pun. He spent over an hour detailing the 3-year design project that culminated in the company's $85,000/pair, solid-state, two-chassis-per-channel, class-A amplifier. Leaning on the 4.5-foot stack of the amplifier's stereo configuration, Wayne spoke about how the design was based on the results of an examination of transfer characteristics of a diverse set of gain devices, including tubes and SITs (silicon-carbide devices that are exclusive, we believe, to Pass Labs for use in audio). The output stage was designed to reproduce the transfer characteristics preferred by a panel of listeners, who lived with a variety of different output stages for a lengthy period of time.

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