Parasound’s compact, high-value Z Series includes the 45Wpc Zamp power amplifier, four-input Zpre2 two-channel preamp, Ztuner AM/FM tuner, Zphono-USB phono preamp ($350; reviewed in our March issue), and the impressive Zcd CD player ($399; review to come later this year).
Here’s a look inside Human Audio’s Muto battery-powered DAC ($1299), handmade in Hungary. The Muto is compatible with resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz, has selectable S/PDIF inputs (RCA and BNC), has a fully discrete analog output stage with bipolar and JFET transistors, and employs two Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries capable of at least 12 hours of “green” operation. When the Muto is switched off, the batteries automatically recharge.
An editor’s job isn’t always light and easy, but not every moment during Saturday’s hour-long panel (repeated on Sunday) was. Yours truly, who could only stay long enough to snap a few photos, listened closely as John Atkinson spoke about what he wants and does not want from his equipment reviewers. Pictured, left to right: Dave Clark and David Robinson, Positive Feedback Online; JA and Michael Fremer, Stereophile; Robert Harley, Paul Seydor, and Neil Gader, The Absolute Sound.
In a handsomely equipped room that showcased the dual-mono lithium battery-powered Veloce LS-1 linestage ($18,000), Veloce V6 400Wpc monoblock amplifiers ($15,000/pair) with their tube input and class-D output stage, YG Acoustics Carmel loudspeakers ($18,000/pair), none-too-shabby Audio Aero “La Source” CD/SACD player (approx. $40,000), and Kubala-Sosna’s Emotion and Elation cabling (no price supplied), I initially thought the sound a tad dry. But then I warmed to the remarkably clear and unencumbered presentation of jazz, which was also distinguished by engaging three-dimensionality. On tracks by Tommy Flanagan and Holly Cole, I found the transparency remarkable, and greatly enjoyed the height and space of the images.
The Hegel room on the Irvine Hilton’s 5th floor was so packed that I was initially forced to sit outside the soundstage. While I feared that would leave me in no position to critically evaluate the system’s overall gestalt, eventually moving to the center enabled me to hear how solid the sound was.
RSL, the reincarnation of California speaker manufacturer Rogersound Labs, was showing its economical CG stereo system ($1250 with free shipping, stands optional). The system was making bearable a 24/96 file of Diana Krall singing “S’Wonderful.” Usually this particular selection has me crawling out of my skin. No mean feat that it didn’t this time. The system includes a single subwoofer that was hidden behind me. The good news is that the speaker system comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Induction Dynamics of Overland Park, KS was showing its S1.8T 3-way tower loudspeaker ($13,500/pair). Using as a source an Oppo 85SE, paired with McIntosh’s MX150 pre/pro, MC 207 amplifier, and MT10 turntable, and wired with Kimber Kable, the system sounded far more neutral than I was expecting. Playing an LP of Billie Holiday singing “A Foggy Day in London Town” (Songs for Distingué Lovers), I marveled at the beauty, clarity, and warmth of the sound. Like a proverbial Dorothy searching for her Toto, I didn’t want to leave home without it.
Finally, after encountering Israel Blume and his wife in the gym at several shows, I got a change to hear the Coincident speakers and electronics that have garnered so much praise in multiple publications. Although I may not have heard the system at its besta discussion with Israel during a serious morning workout revealed that his tube sound was fluctuating from clear to soft, depending upon where the Hilton’s voltage was at any particular momentI found the sound a bit warm and opaque, but remarkably extended on the low end.
. . .is a $4295 D/A integrated amplifier with a tubed line stage and solid-state output stage that offers 440Wpc into 8 ohms and 650Wpc into 4 ohms. Hooked up with Straightwire cable to a pair of Dynaudio Confidence C1 speakers and fed by a MacBook in the fourth of the Sunny’s Audio rooms, this system rocked hard on a surprisingly successful reggae treatment of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” (I am always amazed by the new music I discover at shows, thanks to the perverse taste of exhibitors!)
In the fourth of the Sunny’s Audio roomssee Jason Serinus’s stories earlier in this reportwas a jewel of an affordable system, being operated here by Peachtree’s David Solomon. Peachtree’s new decco65 D/A integrated amplifier ($899), which uses a 24-bit ESS Sabre DAC and offers 65Wpc into 8 ohms, drove Dynaudio DM2/6 bookshelf speakers, the system being completed with an Apple TV and cables to give a total cost of $2000. All you need add to get music is a PC.
Canadian speaker manufacturer Totem had a rather schizophrenic room, in which they had no fewer than three complete systems being demmed, one based on MBL electronics, the second on McIntosh electronics, and the third on Cary electronics. Totem’s Vince Bruzzese is shown here operating what I felt to be the best-sounding system, featuring a C31 CD player ($9200) and C51 300Wpc integrated amplifier ($11,100) from MBL’s Corona series driving the Earth speaker from Totem’s Element range ($9000/pair) via Clarus cables. The Earth uses the same tweeter and Torrent Technology woofer as the other Element designs, coupled to a passive radiator. There is no crossover in the woofer’s path, leading to an almost preternaturally clear midrange, but with big, almost too big bass.
Not a high-tech accordion being held by Wisdom Audio’s Jon Herron in retailer Digital Ear’s room, but one of the four magnetic planar modules used in each LS4 floor-standing on-wall speaker ($80,000/pair) seen in the background. The module’s central strip handles frequencies above 750Hz; the side panels cover the range from 80Hz to 750Hz. “So much magnetic energy driving so little mass” explained Herron, results in high sensitivity and very high power handling despite the fact that the backwave from the diaphragm is absorbed rather than allowing it to reinforce the frontal radiation as with a conventional panel speaker.
BSG Technologies' Larry Alan Kay, many years ago the publisher of Fi magazine, spent THE Show eagerly A/B-ing the effect of his Signal Completion Stage ($3995). This all-analog processor is claimed to undo the effect of all the deleterious phase shifts that have occurred during the making of a recording, restoring what Kay calls "the geography of the recorded sound."
Back in June 2010, I reviewed the DACPort USB D/A headphone amplifier and was very impressed by what I heard. CEntrance has since expanded their range of products, and at THE Show had a booth outside the Hilton's groundfloor ballrooms where they demmed a cute Audiophile Desktop system ($2000), which combines the MasterClass 2504 2-way coaxial speakers, the DACmini PX desktop amplifier and DAC, and a travel case.