Once US distribution is secured, Bladelius' Thomas Rosander (left) and Michael Bladelius (right) are set to hit the market running with the new Ymer Mk.II power amplifier ($12,000). This handsome baby delivers 300Wpc, and is said to maintain class-A operation for the first 45 watts. "It has a fuller, richer, more musical sound than its predecessor, and better control on the bottom," Bladelius told me. Don't we all wish we had better control of our bottom ends, especially as we age?
Naim had jumped early into the digital networking waters several years back, and their most recent state-of-the-art offering is the NDS Network Player. Retailing at $11,000, the NDS also requires purchase of a power supply; the company recommends the 555 PS at $9,000.
The NDS can stream music from your NAS drive (ethernet and WiFi), has a built-in vTuner for internet radio, connections for your iDevices, and plenty of input choices including three 32/192 SPDIF jacks.
There is a small monochrome display on the front panel, and a push-button remote. But most users will probably gravitate towards the Naim n-Stream app that runs your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
The first time I had come across a highly precise (and expensive) femto clock in a DAC was at last year's CES in the MSB room. This year Calyx says they have added a femto clock into their new DAC which is available now and retails for $6850. Inputs include two coax, two optical and two AES-EBU in addition to a BNC and USB jack. All inputs handle up to 24/192 and there are both balanced and unbalanced outputs.
Bel Canto has three asynchronous USB link converters new to CES this year starting with the mLink at $375, the uLink at $675 and the REFLink at $1,500. All three units can handle 24/192 sample rates and will isolate the music signal, and clocks, from the "harsh, noisy electrical environments of computers and music servers."
Thanks to using very precise and low-noise parts not originally designed for hi-fi applications, as well as silicon-germanium transistors, Hegel has been able to release its new entry-level P20 preamplifier ($2900). Equipped with a high quality system remote control, milled out of one solid piece of aluminum, it includes five regular inputs, both balanced and unbalanced; a special home theater input; and balanced, unbalanced, and fixed line-level outputs.
Unison Research is the latest company to offer a power booster for low wattage amplifiers whose sound you love, but whose power is insufficient for your speakers. The Unico UPower booster amplifier ($2695 in silver, $2895 in black), pictured with Bartolomeo Nasta, Unison Research's Export Manager (left), and Marc Phillips, US Importer for Colleen Cardas Imports (right), is a class-A booster amplifier can quadruple output power up to 100Wpc, and, as with the Musical Fidelity Superchargers from few years back, is claimed not to change the sonic signature of the electronics it's paired with.
Torus Power of Toronto has introduced two new power conditioners. The In-Wall Mount Power Conditioner (price TBD upon release in March), held by Matthew Roher, Business Development Manager, is an entry-level product that includes surge suppression, noise filtration. The black AVR2 ($4995), shows to Roher's right, offers an additional level of IP control to the company's AVR series, maintains a stable 120V, and includes an automatic shut-off designed to handle quick voltage changes.
Why is Bryston CEO Christopher Russell smiling? Because the company's new B135 integrated amplifier ($4695), which replaces the B100, offers improved quality without raising the price. "We learned a lot from designing the SP3 surround processor, and have managed reduce distortion by a level of 10 while also reducing noise," says Russell. "Our goal was musicality, and to promote music as a source of relaxation." (It sounds as though Russell favors Mozart over Mahler.) Part of the relaxation comes in the form of a full-function remote control.
Bryston showed a static model of its new loudspeaker system, the Model T Signature ($7495/pair), that is specified to handle 501100 watts into its 8 ohm impedance, with a frequency response from 25Hz22kHz, ±3dB. In active form, the Model T uses the AX1 external DSP crossover ($2995), but the passive version’s crossover features large, expensive air-coil inductors, as well as something brand new: Bryston capacitors. Working with Clarity, Bryston's James Tanner specified the exact requirements for these capacitors, which have both company's names featured on their blue exteriors. The Model T benefited from Bryston's close relationship with with Axiom, a speaker design company that has its own large anechoic chamber. The Model T is available in Black Ash, Boston Cherry, or Natural Cherry veneers.
Bryston's new product line-up for 2013 includes a replacement for its venerable 2B stereo amplifier, the 2.5B amplifier ($2995). Similar to the new BP-17 preamplifier ($3550, see below), the 2.5B amplifier is derived from the amplifier portion of its B-135 SST2 integrated amplifier (see related story). Bryston's James Tanner explained that the upgrade employs a much beefier power supply than its predecessor, allowing it to deliver 135Wpc into 8 ohm load impedances. Bryston's new BP-17 preamplifier ($3550) is derived from the preamplifier portion of its B-135 integrated amplifier, which features balanced outputs and advanced circuitry derived from the SP-3 surround processor. The B-17 closely resembles the B-135, differing externally only in not having heatsinks and speaker outputs on the rear panel. The BP17 utilizes a software controlled, motorized analog volume dial and integrated balance control.
Boulder Amplifiers, Inc., introduced its new Model 3060 Stereo balanced, class-A amplifier ($114,000), a huge, 900Wpc, solid-state amplifier that weighs 450 lbs! Sitting nearby was the company's flagship monoblock, the silver 3060 ($205,000/pair), a class-A 1500W power amplifier shown in my photograph. A large cylindrical tube, containing 4 large mineral-potted toroidal power transformers, runs down the inside middle of the chassis. This is said to dampen any transformer-induced vibration. The mono amplifier uses 120 high-temperature rated bipolar transistors and 48, 160V, high-temperature rated, 4700µuF electrolytic capacitors for energy storage. Large circuit boards slide into frames at the top of the chassis, each board containing hundreds of discrete parts. With a pair of these amplifiers weighing 440 lbs, Boulder does not want this amplifier to require service, and its build quality signifies that.
At 95 lbs, Dan D'Agostino’s 300W into 8 ohms, Momentum monoblock amplifier ($50,000/pair) doesn’t even come close to the weight of the big Boulders. Featured on the cover of Stereophile’s CES issue, the Momentum could be heard in many rooms at CES. This compact, energy-efficient design was driving the new YG Electronics Sonja 1.3 speakers ($106,800/pair). The resulting sound was dynamic, effortless, open, and had a wide, deep soundstage.
Peter Madnick's latest design for Constellation is the Virgo 2 preamplifier ($24,000), which uses an outboard power supply. It was shown with a Cygnus non-streaming Digital File Player ($24,000); Constellation's Centaur stereo amplifier ($28,000), Constellation's Centaur monoblocks ($56,000/pair). The Constellation amplifiers shown in the photo were driving the Magico Q7 loudspeakers ($165,000/pair) in biamped fashion, with a pair of Centaur monoblocks for the woofers, and a stereo Centaur for the midrange and tweeters. The resulting sound was smooth and very well controlled.
Pass Laboratories, who introduced the Xs line of flagship 150W and 300W amplifiers at last year's CES, brought out a new preamplifier, the Pass Labs Xs preamplifier (price to be determined). It features a single control chassis that carries the line level audio signal and an external power supply. The Xs preamplifier was used to drive a pair of Pass Labs Xs300 ($85,000/pair) power amps connected to a pair of Sony SS-ARI ($27,000/pair) loudspeakers. The Pass Lab team obliged me by playing a fresh vinyl pressing from Japan of the Proprius Cantate Domino recording. The dynamic range and control of the pipe organ pedal notes was remarkable, making the Pass Labs one of the best-sounding setups I heard at the show the first day.
MBL’s Corona Line C-15 class-D monoblock amplifiers ($12,500 each) are rated at 500W into 4 ohms with low distortion, and none of the rising distortion with frequency found in other class-D designs. In addition, the distortion is load independent. This is a result of the circuit design MBL calls a "Linear Analog Switching Amplifier Design” (LASA). MBL designer Jurgen Reis was proud that the amplifier had been designed to meet the stringent South Korean "KT" consumer standard regulations, and "was on the way" to meeting the even more stringent "CCC" Chinese consumer requirements. Although the switching occurs at 300kHz, the amplifier is free of RF emissions up through several MHz because of extensive mu-metal shielding. The amplifier and preamplifier are available in several different cosmetics including a white or black chassis with center section in gold or chassis color. Matching C-11 preamplifier and C31 CD player, with price points are also available.