The evening before the show officially opened, I snuck into the Nola room at the Venetian. There I found the Long Island company's new Concert Grand Reference speakers ($197,000/pair), driven by an Audio Research CD8 CD player, Reference 10 preamplifier, and Reference 75 amplifier, hooked up with Nordost Odin cabling. A Quantum QX4 provided the system conditioning.
The new Octave V110 push-pull pentode integrated amplifier ($8300) from Germany, distributed by Dynaudio, is a KT120-based product whose protection circuit is described as “bullet proof.” To demonstrate what that means, speaker wire terminations on one of the channels were intentionally crossed; not only did nothing blow, but the left channel, which was properly connected to a loudspeaker, continued to play. The Octave V110 is thus the perfect amp for folks who use battery cables to jump-start their cars, and then celebrate by clapping both clamps together.
In the main system, the M6 DAC was holding court. Also Bluetooth capable, the M6 DAC runs USB, SPDIF and AES/EBU up to 24/192. All inputs are re-clocked and upsampled to 24/192 for processing and filtering. The filter has two user selectable settings and there are both balanced and unbalanced outputs. Retail price is $3,000 and the M6 DAC is available now.
This time John Quick decided we'd listen to an HD sample and cued up War's "The World is a Ghetto" from HDTracks.com to stunning effect.
Clarus Cable, launched less than two years ago at RMAF 2011, is based in Orlando, FL. Produced by Gordon J. Gow Technologies, and designed by Jay Victor, it was developed after Tributaries Cable dealers asked for a higher-end cable for their customers. According to Joey Perfito, National Product Specialist, the Ohno Continuous Casting Copper (OCCC) design consists of thick and thin-gauge conductors, each individually insulated, to transmit different frequencies, plus one long, flat conductor to help support the midrange. The boxes, designed for aesthetic purposes, conceal the start of silicon tubes on the terminations. Prices range from the Aqua interconnect ($500/1m RCA) to Crimson ($1000/1m RCA).
My photograph doesn't do justice to the lustrous blue finish or the immaculate interior construction, but Vandersteen's new M7-HPA power amplifier looks as gorgeous as the Vandersteen Model Seven and 5A loudspeakers with which it is intended to be used. As the HPA in its name implies, the M7-HPA provides a high-pass filtered output (>100Hz) to the upper-frequency drive-units of these two speakers, which have integral powered subwoofers. The amplifier uses a tube input stage and a two single-ended solid-state output amplifier stages operating in what Richard Vandersteen calls "push-push," all mounted with a sprung suspension and kept cool with a liquid cooling system. Price is projected to be between $30,000 and $40,000/pair.
Gary Koh was showing off his new Genesis Advanced Technologies 2.2 junior speaker ($80.000/pair) with a superbly natural-sounding track from Canadian chanteuse Anne Bisson. The 2.2jr combines a 48"-high midrange ribbon with 12 of the 1" circular-ribbon tweeters used in other Genesis designs and two servo-controlled 12" aluminum-cone woofers, these driven by their own 1kW amplifier. The rest of the system included Viola amplification and a Burmester phono preamplifier.
Have you ever attended one of those speaker demos where a large pair of floorstanding speakers were supposedly playing, and then it was revealed that the speakers playing were small hidden ones? (I recall Joseph Audio doing one of these.) Well, it was something like that in the Totem room, but not intentionally. The speakers that I thought were playing were the Metal floorstanders ($12,000/pair) and I was particularly impressed by the deep, dynamic bass produced by these speakers.
And then . . . in discussing the performance of the speakers with designer Vince Bruzzese, I found out that the speakers playing were not the Metals but the much smaller bookself-type Fires ($6000/pair) . . .
Over at T.H.E. Show, Audience were demming the ClairAudient 1+1 bipolar speaker ($1800/pair), which uses two of the small full-range A3S drive-units developed by Roger Sheker, one on the front, one on the back, loaded with two passive radiators on the speaker's sides. The sound was dynamic, with surprisingly extended low frequencies.
At the 2012 CES, Soulution Audio's Cyrill Hamer introduced me to the Swiss company's reference line of 700 monoblock amplifier ($130,000/pair) and the dual-mono, dual-differential 710 stereo (now $55,000) amplifier Michael Fremer reviewed and liked so much in August 2011. At this year's CES, Soulution presented its less-expensive 500 line. While keeping the same appearance as the Reference line, the 500 line features different internal designs, including the company's first integrated amplifier, the 530 integrated preamplifier/amplifier ($49,000).
For those of us in search of the best bang-for-the-buck enhancements to our systems, and the cables that best complement our components, Ultra Systems and the Cable Company are a favored one-stop gold mine. At his table at T.H.E. Show, the company’s Robert Stein (pictured above) spread the word that the excellent HiFi Tuning Supreme fuses he markets now incorporate Quantum level treatment from WA-Quantum. These are the folks who also make the Quantum chips that you put on components and speakers. I need to play with the latter some more before I get a handle on what they do or don’t do to the sound of the Wilson Audio Sashas currently in my reference system.
Knowing something about race car driving won't get you a good system in and of itself, but it will help you understand the genesis of the names of Alvin Lloyd's Grand Prix Audio's attractive equipment isolation racks. New is their Woodcote line, the company's first line of wooden racks. Made of true hardwoodno MDF herethe four-shelf cherry model with decoupled shelves costs $4495, and walnut, curly maple, and custom woods are also available.
Pro-Ject’s Media Box S ($359) is “basically a mini-computer,” Sumiko’s Norbert Schmied told me. It accepts a USB thumb drive (as shown), hard drive, or SD card containing MP3, WMA, AAC, or variable-bit-rate files up to 384kbps compression. It uses a 24-bit/96kHz upsampling D/A converter, and album metadata can be displayed and navigated via the front-panel display. Here we see it partnered with Pro-Ject’s Head Box S ($159) and the extremely lightweight and comfortable Hear It Two headphones ($79).
In his entry on Pro-Ject’s impressive DAC Box DS, Jon Iverson noted that the Sumiko suite showed an entire wall of the company’s cute but powerful Box components. Schmied gave me a detailed tour of the offerings. I’ve got three pages of notes on these nearly bite-sized components and every scribble is interesting, but here are the main points:
Sharing the room with Cayin was cable manufacturer Tara Labs. No one from Tara Labs was present when I was in the room, but I did learn that the rectangular solid-core RSC Air series has been redesigned with new red sleeving. Look for the new Air 1EX interconnects with anti-corrosion coated copper braid shield, as well as other new products.
Zanden displayed their prototype 3100 preamplifier (est. $12,500). Projected to ship in March, this one-piece unit uses one 5687 tube for amplification, and another 5687 for rectification. An output transformer design, it has one balanced and three single-ended inputs, and a unity-gain option for home theater set-ups. Keeping it company were the Zanden Audio KT-120 stereo amplifier ($20,990), prototype solid-sate phono stage with five selectable equalization curves (est. $7500), Signature CD player ($22,000), and the company's handmade cables. The room set-up was one of many to feature TAD loudspeakers, here the Ref.1 ($78,000/pair).